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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER VI. JUDAS HANGS HIMSELF.

King Of The Jews by William T. Stead

CHAPTER VI. JUDAS HANGS HIMSELF.

The guilty deed fails not to win its wages,
The guiltless blood he sold cries from the ground;
Driven to madness by the worm that rages
And scourged by furies, Judas ranges round
Wildly, and finds no rest
From the fire in his breast,
Till swept away by bitterest despair
He flings away in reckless haste
The load of life he can no longer bear.

When Jesus was being mocked and ill-treated by the soldiers in the guardroom of Caiaphas' palace, Judas wandered to and fro in despair. |Now my fearful foreboding has become a terrible certainty. Caiaphas has sentenced the Master to death, and the council has concurred in his sentence. All is over. There is no hope, no way of escape. Had the Master wished to save himself he would have made them feel his might a second time in the garden. As he did not do it then, he will now do so no more. What can I do for him, I, a miserable wretch who have delivered him into their hands? They shall have the money back, that blood money. They must give me my Master back again. I will go at once and make the demand. But, oh, will he be saved by that? Oh, vain, foolish hope. They will mock me, I know it. O cursed synagogue, thou hast tempted me through thy messengers, thou hast hidden from me thy bloody designs until thou hadst him in thy clutches. I will torture thee with bitter reproaches, ye unjust judges. I will have nothing to do with your devilish decision. I will have no share in the blood of this innocent. Oh, what tortures, what pains of hell, tear my inmost soul!| So saying he departed.

Now within the hall of the Sanhedrin were assembled the high priests, the scribes and the leaders. Caiaphas and Annas arrayed in their robes, sat in the high place of the council, and all the seats were filled except those of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Caiaphas spoke, saying, |I thought, fathers, that I could not wait till the morning to send the enemy of the synagogue to death.|

And Annas said, |I could not get a moment's rest for eagerness to hear the sentence pronounced.|

Then cried they all, |It is pronounced. He shall and must die.|

Caiaphas said, |I did not wish to trouble all the members of the Sanhedrin to come hither in the night time. But there was present the necessary number of judges to pronounce as the law prescribes. All as with one mouth declared the accused worthy of death, for all had heard with their own ears how this man blasphemed God in the most terrible way, and was impious enough to call himself the Son of God.|

The priests and Pharisees who had previously been present answered, |Yea, we bear witness to it. We have ourselves heard the impious blasphemy from his lips.|

|Then,| said Caiaphas, |I will have the criminal brought before you once more, so that you may be convinced of his being worthy of death. Then may the whole council pronounce the just sentence.|

As he was speaking, Judas, looking haggard and distracted, rushed into the midst of the council, crying wildly, |Is it true? Have you condemned my Master to death?|

Then said the rabbi unto him, |Why dost thou force thyself uncalled for in this assembly? Be off. We will call thee if we have need of thee.|

But Judas took no heed. |I must know it,| he said. |Have you condemned him?|

Then all in the council cried aloud, |He must die.|

|Woe, woe!| said Judas. |I have sinned. I have betrayed innocent blood. Oh, you blood-thirsty judges, to condemn the innocent blood.|

|Peace, peace, Judas,| cried the council.

|There will never, never more be peace for me,| said Judas, bitterly, |and none for you. The blood of the innocent cries aloud for vengeance.|

|What has driven you crazy? Speak, but speak with reverence -- thou standest before the Sanhedrin,| said Caiaphas.

Then said Judas passionately: |You are determined to deliver him up to death; him who is free from all guilt. You must not do it. I have a protest to make against it. You have made me a traitor. Your accursed pieces of silver!|

Annas interrupted him, saying, |Thou didst propose it thyself and close the bargain.|

Then said the priest unto him, |Recollect thyself, Judas, thou hast received what thou didst desire; and if thou behavest thyself decently thou canst still -- -- |

Judas interrupted him. |I will have nothing more. I tear up your shameful bargain. Let the innocent go.|

|Be off, madman,| said a rabbi angrily.

But Judas, taking no heed, knelt and stretched his hands toward Caiaphas. |I demand the release of the innocent. My hands shall be free from his blood.|

|What,| said the rabbi, |thou contemptible traitor, wilt thou dictate to the Sanhedrin? Know this, thy Master must die, and thou hast delivered him to death.|

And all the priests and Pharisees cried aloud, |He must die.|

And Judas, with staring eyes, as one demented, repeated, |Die? Then I am a traitor. I have given him up to death!| He sank down like a man crushed by a blow, and then springing up and breaking out into wild passion, he shouted aloud: |May ten thousand devils from hell tear me in pieces! Let them grind me to powder! Here, ye bloodhounds, take your accursed blood money!| And with that he snatched the bag from his girdle and flung it violently before the seat of the high priest.

|Why didst thou let thyself be made the tool for a transaction which thou didst not weigh beforehand?| said Caiaphas.

|Yes,| cried several, |it is your own business.|

Then shouted Judas wildly, |May my soul be damned, my body burnt asunder, and ye -- |

|Silence and out from here,| cried all the priests together.

|And you,| shouted Judas, above them all, |you will sink with me into the lowest hell!| He then rushed from the hall.

After a pause, during which the chief priests and rulers looked at each other in silence, the money lay unnoticed on the floor. Caiaphas said, |What a fearful man!|

|I had some foreboding of this,| said Annas.

|It is his own fault,| remarked a priest.

Then said Caiaphas, |Let him expiate that fault himself. He has betrayed his friend, we pursue our enemy. I remain steadfast by my determination, and if anyone here should be of another opinion, let him stand up.|

|No,| cried they all with one voice, |what has been resolved upon, let it be carried out.|

Then said Caiaphas, |What shall we do with this money? It is blood money; it can no longer be put into the treasury of God.|

Annas said, |It might be used for some useful purpose under the sanction of the high council.|

All agreed to this, and a priest said, |A burying place for strangers is much wanted. With this money a field may be purchased for that purpose.|

|Is there such a one in the market?| asked Caiaphas.

|Yes,| said a priest, |a potter in the city has offered a piece of ground for sale at just this price.|

|Let Saras conclude the purchase,| said Caiaphas. They then picked up the money which had lain untouched on the floor.

|But now we will no longer delay to pronounce the capital sentence upon the prisoner,| continued Caiaphas.

Then said a rabbi, |I will have him brought in at once.|

|I shall see,| said Annas, |whether the scorn which he showed toward me has not yet left him. A real satisfaction will it be to me to share in the sentence. Let him die.|

Jesus then was brought in a second time before Caiaphas. Selpha, as before, preceded him, and Balbus and Malchus led him bound by the hands with a cord.

|Stand there,| said Selpha, |and show more respect to the council than thou didst before.| Then he added, |Venerable fathers, here we bring the prisoner.|

Then said Caiaphas, |Lead him into the middle.|

Balbus, laying his hand on the shoulder of Jesus, thrust him forward saying, |Step forward.|

Then Caiaphas spake unto Jesus, saying, |Jesus of Nazareth, dost thou stand by the words which thou hast pronounced this night before thy judges?|

Annas added, |If thou be the Christ, tell us!|

Then Jesus answered and said, |If I tell you ye will not believe; if I also ask you, ye will not answer me nor let me go. But hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of Almighty God.| A shudder ran through the Sanhedrin, and all cried excitedly, |Art thou the Son of God?|

Jesus answered, |Ye say it and so I am.|

Annas exclaimed, |It is enough; what need have we of any further witnesses?|

The priests and Pharisees who had not attended the night council, said, |We have now heard it out of his own mouth.|

Then said Caiaphas, |Fathers of the people of Israel, it is now your duty to come to a final decision as to the guilt and punishment of this man.|

Then cried they all, |He is guilty of blasphemy. He hath deserved death.|

Caiaphas said, |We will therefore lead him before the judgment seat of Pilate.|

And they all answered and said, |Yes, away with him. Let him die.|

|Pilate,| said Caiaphas, |must first be informed in order that he may proclaim the sentence before the feast.|

A rabbi said, |Could some one be sent from the council in order to give him timely information?|

|Thou thyself,| said Caiaphas, |together with Dariabbas and Rabinth shalt go before. We will speedily come after.|

When these three had departed Caiaphas said, |This day, then, will save the religion of our fathers, and exalt the honor of the synagogue, so that the echo of our fame shall reach our latest descendants.|

All shouted, |Men will speak of us centuries hence!| and Caiaphas resumed, |Lead him away; we follow.|

Once more they cried, |Down with the Galilean!| and departed.

The three messengers sent by the Sanhedrin drew near to the house of Pilate, and as they went they spoke among themselves. The rabbi said: |At last we breathe more freely again; we have been insulted long enough.|

Dariabbas replied, |It was indeed high time; his following was becoming very large.|

|Now,| said the rabbi, |there is nothing more to be feared from him. The traders have in these days displayed the most creditable activity, to have gained for us a crowd of determined people. You will see if it comes to anything, they will effectively take the lead. The waverers will concur with them, and the followers of the Nazarene will find it well to be silent, and take themselves off.|

Then said Rabinth, seeing they had approached the place of Pilate, |How shall we bring our message to Pilate? We dare not enter the house of the Gentile today, as in that case we should become unclean and could not eat the Passover?|

|We will send a message through one of his own people,| said the rabbi, and going up the stairs to the balcony of Pilate's house, he knocked gently at the door.

Standing and listening, he said, |Surely, there is some one there? Yes, there is some one coming,| and retired a little way down the steps, so as to avoid any contact with the Gentile.

A servant of Pilate opened it and said, |Welcome, rabbi, will you not come in?|

|The precepts of the law will not allow us so to do today,| said the rabbi.

The servant said, |Is that so? Can I carry your message?|

|The high priest sends us to bring a petition to the viceroy of Caesar to ask if he will allow the council to appear before him and to bring before him a malefactor for the confirmation of his sentence.|

|I will deliver the message at once to my lord; wait here in the meantime,| said the servant, and went into Pilate.

The rabbi returning down the steps joined Dariabbas and Rabinth, who stood below. |It is very sad,| said Dariabbas, |that we must knock at the door of a Gentile in order to get the behests of our holy law executed.|

|Take courage,| said the rabbi, |when once this domestic enemy is removed out of the way, who knows whether we might not soon free ourselves from the foreign foe?|

Rabinth exclaimed, |Oh, may I live to see the day which will bring freedom to the children of Israel!|

Pilate's servant returned and spoke unto them saying, |The governor greets you. You are to inform the high priest that Pilate is ready to receive the petition of the Sanhedrin.|

|Accept our thanks for thy kindness,| said the rabbi. |Now let us hasten to report to the high priest the result of our errand.| The servant then returned and closed the door behind him.

The three messengers then returned. Rabinth remarked anxiously, |Pilate will surely agree to the demand of the council.|

|He must,| said the rabbi, |how could he resist it when the Sanhedrin and the whole people demand with one voice the death of this man?|

|And besides,| said Dariabbas, |what does the governor care about the life of a single Galilean? Were it merely to please the high priest, who is of great importance to him, he would not hesitate to permit the execution.|

Now, Judas, being distracted by remorse, found himself, after wandering to and fro, in the potter's field, purchased with the thirty pieces of silver, in the midst of which stood a blasted tree. Then after wildly looking around to see if anyone was near, he said: |Oh, where, where can I go to hide my shame, to escape the torments of conscience? No forest is dark enough! No rocky cavern deep enough! O, earth, open and swallow me up! I can no longer exist. O, my dear Master! Him, best of all men, have I sold, giving him up to ill treatment, to a most painful death of torture. I, detestable betrayer -- oh! where is there another man on whom such guilt of blood doth rest? Alas! nevermore can I appear before the face of the brethren. An outcast, hated and abhorred everywhere -- branded as a traitor by those who led me astray -- I wander about alone with this burning fire in my heart. There is still one left. Oh! might I look on the Master's face once more, I would cling to him as my only anchor. But he lies in prison, has perhaps been already slain by the rage of his enemies, although by my guilt, by my fault. I am the abhorred one who has brought him to prison and to death. Woe to me, the scum of men! There is no hope for me, my crimes can be expiated by no penance. For he is dead -- and I, I am his murderer! Thrice unhappy hour in which my mother gave me to the world! Must I still drag on this life of agony and bear these tortures about with me? -- as one pest stricken, flee from men, and be despised and shunned by all the world? No! I can bear it no longer! Not one step further! Here, O life accursed, here will I end thee! On these branches let the most disastrous fruit hang!| He untwined his girdle and twined it about his neck. |Ha, ha! come, thou serpent, entwine my neck and strangle the betrayer!|

As Judas spoke the last words he tied with convulsive and feverish agony the long girdle around his neck, fastened it to the branch of the tree, and swung himself off.

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