Jesus returns to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of dedication (Hanukkah). At the temple he is surrounded by a mob demanding to know if he really claims to be God. The enemies of Jesus decide that it is time to put a stop to his teaching and meet to discuss how they can deal with him. The answer comes as a surprise to them.
“There he is, over there! Come on, let's find out what he has to say for himself!”
Up in his office, Caiaphas the high priest heard the shouting and went over to the window to see what was going on. Down below a crowd of men were marching across the Temple courtyard. “I wonder where they're going?” he asked himself. Then looking in the direction they were headed he found the answer. Walking around the edge of the Temple, behind the row of pillars that stretched from one end of the courtyard to the other, was a man, all alone. “Ah yes,” murmured Caiaphas, “I might have known, the carpenter's son!”
Caiaphas left his office and hurried down the stairs and through the door that led out into the courtyard. He was going so fast he nearly crashed into a man coming the other way. It was Annas, his wife's father; he'd been high priest until he retired and handed the job over to Caiaphas.
“Have you seen him?” asked Annas.
“Yes,” replied Caiaphas.
“And the mob?”
“I've seen them too; I'm on my way to break it up.”
“Not so fast,” said Annas, “this Jesus from Nazareth is no friend of ours. Why don't we just wait and see what happens?”
So Caiaphas and Annas joined the back of the crowd and followed them over to where Jesus, who had now seen them all coming, was standing, waiting for them.
The crowd surrounded him and they began to push him and point their fingers at him. “Come on then,” they jeered, “what are you waiting for? If you really think you're the Son of God then just tell us.”
“I have told you;” said Jesus calmly, “but you don't believe me. The miracles I've done in the name of God my Father should be all the proof you need. The Father and I are one.”
When they heard his reply, the men in the crowd began to pick up stones from the ground. They were getting ready to throw them at Jesus. They wanted to kill him.
“I've shown you many great miracles,” said Jesus, “for which one of them am I being stoned?”
“We're not going to stone you because of the miracles,” they shouted back, “but because you, who's just a man, claim to be God. Get him outside!”
One of the men reached out to grab Jesus by the neck but as his hands closed ... he found himself holding nothing but air. Jesus was gone.
For a few moments nobody moved. Then they all looked at each other. They all wanted to know the same thing; where had Jesus gone? But nobody dared ask the question, they were too afraid of the answer. Without a word, the crowd drifted away in different directions leaving Caiaphas and Annas alone.
“What just happened?” asked Caiaphas.
“It was a trick,” Annas told him, “the man's some kind of magician, a cheat, a liar. It's time we put a stop to him. The next time you see him have the Temple guard arrest him immediately and bring him to me, I will see that ‘justice' is done.”
So Caiaphas ordered the captain of the Temple guard to be on the lookout for Jesus. But word soon came that Jesus was nowhere near the Temple, he wasn't even in Jerusalem. He was far away, across the River Jordan, living in the wilderness and great crowds of people were gathering there to hear what he had to say.
The festival of Passover was now only a few weeks away and within days Caiaphas was so busy making preparations that he forgot all about Jesus. Passover was the time of year when God's people, the Jews, remembered how he had rescued them from the land of Egypt long ago. The law said that every Jewish man must come to the city of Jerusalem for the festival and visit the Temple. While they were there they would get hungry and thirsty and they would want to offer gifts to God. So for some years now the priests had been allowing merchants to set up their stalls in the Temple courtyard and sell the visitors whatever they needed. Caiaphas knew that it was wrong to turn the Temple into a market-place and he knew that the merchants charged too much for what they sold, but every year they gave the high priest some of the money they'd made and Caiaphas wanted his share.
A few days before the festival began, Caiaphas was sitting in his office when once again he heard people shouting in the courtyard. “He's back!” thought Caiaphas and he got up to look out of the window, expecting to see Jesus surrounded by another crowd of angry people. What he saw made his heart turn cold. It was Jesus and there was a crowd of people, but this time it was Jesus who was angry. He was pushing over the stalls, sending them crashing to the ground, and chasing the merchants out of the Temple threatening to beat them with a whip. Caiaphas could hear him shouting – “God's Temple should be a house of prayer, but you've turned it into a den of thieves” – and the crowd was cheering him on.
“Excuse me, sir!”
Caiaphas looked round; the captain of the Temple guard was standing in the doorway.
“Shall I have the guards arrest him, sir?” asked the captain.
“No,” said Caiaphas, “the people are on his side, if we arrest him now it could start a riot. Send messengers to every religious leader in the city; tell them there will be a meeting tonight at my house to discuss the ‘Jesus problem'.”
By the time it was dark, Caiaphas' house was packed, full to bursting with the enemies of Jesus. They all agreed that he must be captured but that it must be done secretly so the people wouldn't get to hear of it. But then what? They couldn't keep him hidden away forever. “There's no choice,” they told each other, “we'll have to kill him. But how will we find him with so many people in the city for the Passover festival?”
At that moment there was a gentle tapping on the door. Caiaphas signalled to everyone to be quiet.
“Come in,” he called.
The door swung open and standing there was a man that none of them had ever met but who some of them recognised.
“I know you,” said Caiaphas, “I've seen you before; you're one of the followers of Jesus. Well? Have you come with some message from him?”
“He didn't send me,” the man answered, “he doesn't know I'm here. I've come to make you an offer.”
“An offer?” asked Caiaphas, “What kind of offer?”
“You want Jesus,” said the man, “I want money.”
“Thirty pieces of silver.”
“And what do we get in return?”
“I'll lead you to him, sometime when it's quiet, when there's not many people around, when you can arrest him without any ... fuss.”
Caiaphas looked around the room at the other men gathered there. One by one they nodded.
“Agreed,” said Caiaphas.
The man turned to leave the room.
“Wait!” Caiaphas commanded, “what's your name?”
“My name?” asked the man, “my name is Judas.”