For He Loved So Much

Judas reached over and took hold of Jesus' fingers, clasping three of them loosely in his own. He was terrified to hold more tightly, for fear he might crush them. They were alone and none were expected back until morning, so Judas felt free to speak.

"Please," he whispered, and looked back up into Jesus' face. "Don't do this."

"I have to," Jesus' quiet voice replied.

Judas shook his head. They'd said these same things over so many times, but he had to say them again. He knew what the answers would be, but he could not simply let it happen. "Why? You don't have to. Not like this."

Jesus nodded. "It's the only way." His voice gained a bit of strength as he said, "They'll never see. Never let go the guilt and pain of their mistakes if I don't do this, if I don't give them somewhere to put it."

"That isn't the only reason you're doing this," Judas accused. This argument, they'd had before as well. Just as often.

"I must," Jesus said, and his eyes shone with pain. Judas knew how badly he hurt; the difference was that Judas' pain was for Jesus. Jesus felt the pains of the world -- everyone's but Judas' own, he thought bitterly.

"Please," Judas begged again. He leant forward, and his head came to rest on his beloved friend's shoulder.

"I must," Jesus whispered in his ear. Then he gave Judas back his own words, which he had never said before. "Please. Let me."

The words cut into him, and Judas straightened up, placed his hand on Jesus' face. Looked into those warm, loving eyes that now held only fear and hurt and determination. He traced his thumb along the lines of Jesus' cheek, and remembered when such things brought only joy to them both. He felt his voice crack, but forced himself to speak. "Then I will do this for you. Because I love you. But I will not stay here afterwards, do you understand?"

Jesus nodded, and Judas nearly wept at the relief he saw in Jesus' face. Instead Judas embraced him and held him tight, and tried in those last hours to impress upon his body the memory of love.

~~~~~

Seven days later Judas held a rope in his hands. A simple loop in one end, and enough knots to ensure it would be swift.

Jesus was dead. Judas bowed his head.

"Forgive me, Father."

Then he stepped off into the abyss, and there he waited for Jesus.