“Dontchu wanna live in peace, Judas? Ain’t that what it’s all about?”
A desperate part of Judas: the conflict-resolver, the worrier, the mom-friend - as Thomas once described - wants to nod immediately and cry out: “Yes! Yes, all we want is peace!” However, for the first time since he ran to those damned Pharisees, Judas says what he’s really thinking.
“What the hell do you mean, no? You wanna massacre, Judas?”
His name is rancid on the man’s tongue. Judas. Like an awful slur. Peace is not what he wants. It’s not what anyone wants. Judas wants War; he wants Roman blood. Peace is worthless. Peace means kissing ass and beating innocent men. Only the Pharisees want peace. And Jesus, it seems. No, Judas wants God’s wrath to fall upon Rome as it had Egypt. He wants it to terrorize their kings, their governors, their innocent citizens.
Judas says none of that. Perhaps, if he were drunk, he would have. Recently, sober Judas is the one regretting all his decisions. If Judas were drunk, he would have already attempted to assault Pilate and gotten killed in the process. If he’d been drunk, that kiss with Jesus would’ve been a much different one, one those Roman soldiers couldn’t pull him away from.
Suddenly, a hand is twisting in his hair and yanking him up.
“Now, you’ve gotta know that when I ask you a question, you answer, motherfucker.”
“It’s not all about living in peace.” Judas can’t meet the governor’s eyes. “If Jesus gets hurt, I’ll be dead by sundown.”
“Scared of getting killed for your actions, huh?”
Judas stays silent. Biting his lip is all he can do to keep from whimpering.
Pilate tugs on his hair again. “What did I just say?”
“Not killed! Not- not scared! But if he dies, I’ll- I can’t-”
“Ohoho! So, you’re gonna play it like that now? ‘Think a suicide threat is gonna get your brother outta prison?”
“Take me instead,” Judas pleads, and it’s the first reasonable thing he’s said all this time.
“Huh.” Abruptly, Pilate releases him, and Judas collapses to the floor in a heap. He stands. “Tha’s cute. You think that’s gonna soften my heart, huh? Get me all sweetened up to let your boyfriend go?” The Roman gives Judas a kick in the ribs. It’s such a pitiful kick that Judas feels ashamed for wincing. Jesus could be receiving tenfold right now. “Give me a break.”
The soldiers jerk forward, anticipating the order to continue with their beatdown, but Pilate holds up a hand to still them. Silence pervades the room. Judas feels like he’s gonna be sick. The governor crouches in front of Judas again and seizes the broken man by the chin.
“You gonna answer me?”
Trembling in the Heg-e-mon’s grasp, Judas answers: “If Jesus is sentenced to crucifixion, I’ll be dead by sunrise.”
“Oh- BOO-HOO! Lissen. I ain’t got time for negotiations with some crazy ass Jew trying to recant when it’s already too late. You think we’re gonna crucify some nobody from Galilee calling himself a king?”
Judas doesn’t say it. He doesn’t say: “You’ve crucified countless before him.” He should. Maybe the disrespect would push the Romans to-
The grip on his chin tightens. “Pathetic. You know, that Jesus boy had class. Stood up to me like a man: like a Roman. He didn’t fall at my feet, sobbing like some whimpering, womanly bitch.” Judas cries out when Pilate squeezes his chin, leaning in far too close. “Look me in the damn face, Iscariot.”
And so, Judas, with no other option, obeys. Sniffling grossly, he looks into the eyes of the man who holds Jesus’ life in his hands. It may just be the tears blurring his vision, but he doesn’t know what he sees there. He doesn’t understand it, nor can he comprehend it.
Pilate scoffs. “I see then. You’re one of those loyal types, the ones that get jealous? So, you run out to the San-whatsits and turn in your tutor, your master, your… what did the Greeks call it?”
“Yeah, a-” Pilate paused and shot a judgemental look to the soldier who so-quickly answered. The soldier in question evaded his gaze and whistled a tune. Slowly, Pilate turned back to the man before him. “So, you turn in your little erastes and get cold feet when it comes time to kiss him, huh? But you do it anyway. After all, you got thirty silver pieces as payment.” Pilate leaned in close, whispering into Judas’ ear: “Lotsa girls would kill to be paid that much for just a kiss.”
Judas couldn’t help a sob in response as the Roman pulled away.
“So, you’re here now, trying to recant like a little bitch, because you’re too stupid to make the right move and too-” Pilate throws Judas down, “-cowardly to stand by the ones you’ve already made!” He stands once again. “Now, what do you gotta say, boy?”
Judas bites his lip. “Jesus is a pacifist. He’s not going to fight. He’ll let you kill him just to make a point! I should have known that!” No, he had known that- he just hoped it wasn’t true. Judas tries to look up at the Heg-e-mon, defiant and strong, as Jesus no-doubt did before him. He can’t. It’s ingrained in him: the rules he must follow, the unwilling respect he must show for tyrants. Jesus didn’t know that fear. Hell, none of the apostles knew that. None of them were raised here, in Judea.
Judas braces himself against the ground and, though shaking like a leaf, stands. He stares at Pontius Pilate’s feet with contempt. “Take me instead,” he pleads, blinking away his tears.
Pilate seizes his chin between his thumb and forefinger, forcing him to look up. It takes all the strength that Judas lacks to not collapse under the weight of the governor’s gaze. He gulps, puffing his chest as he looks up at who could be Jesus’ executioner.
For once, under the threat of death, Judas feels lacking in fear. It seems that some of the fear that plagued him… was now residing in Pilate’s eyes.
Pilate sneers and shoves Judas back. The man catches himself before his head can smash against the Roman tiles.
“Release the Nazarene boy,” Pilate hisses. “And put this Judean in his chains. He’s given me an idea for how to deal with our Jew problem.”
Two of the Roman soldiers approach and grab Judas by his arms, dragging him up to his knees.
The third steps towards Pilate with a small bag in hand, and when he raises it, it jingles. “Sir, what do we do with the money he came to recant with?” There’s a hopeful, greedy hunger in the soldier’s eyes as he asks.
Judas wants to spit at his feet. No Roman has earned the right to look like that. No Roman knows the painful, draining hunger that plagues Judea’s streets; they know only the bestial instinct to consume all in their path.
Pilate’s head snaps towards the questioning soldier, who immediately recoils into himself out of fear. Scoffing, Pilate gestures with a wave of the hand to the three. “Split it between the three of you. Ten silver each. A tip for your hard work.
The soldier, shameful, contemptible, nods eagerly as the Heg-e-mon exits. Before the governor is out of hearing range, the Roman steps forward and seizes Judas by the hair, causing him to cry out.
“Thanks for earning us our wages, Iscariot. Really kind of you.”
“Think of the things each of us can do with ten silver,” the one on his left says.
“Well, we can’t buy this Judean’s services.” The soldier on the right grabs his jaw and pouts. “Thirty silver for a kiss, huh?”
The one soldier crouches in front of him. “Must’ve been one hell of a kiss. But I don’t suppose he’s in any place to be fussy about payment, right? How about a free sample?” He smirks and inches closer.
Judas spits in the Roman soldier’s face.
The soldier hisses and wipes the spit from his face before growling and slamming Judas’ head against the floor tiles several times. The beating begins again as Judas’ vision falters.
Judas couldn’t force Jesus to act… but dammit, maybe this would convince him to run.