THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST

by John J. Boyer

Copyright 2010 | godtouches Digital Ministry, Inc. | www.godtouches.org | All rights reserved

Author's note: This is an alternate history or "what if" story. It investigates a possibility that has long intrigued me.

After investigating and considering all things carefully, I have decided to set down this narrative of how the first of the Teacher's disciples died as a martyr on the very day after the death of the Master. My own part in these events is hardly praiseworthy, but the fact that I am recounting them is itself a testimony to the influence of the Teacher and of what he taught.

The Plotter looked at the sky with satisfaction The sun was setting over the City. In the deep blue expanse a few puffy white clouds floated. It would be a fair but dark night until the full moon rose. His work that night would require darkness first, and then light.

The bustle of the City was lessening. With the others in his group the Plotter entered a particular room where, as in many other rooms, people were gathering for the evening meal. He knew that they were all apprehensive, despite the festive nature of the occasion. They milled about briefly, then began to sort themselves out. The Teacher sat at the head of the table, on his right the follower whom he had appointed as Foreman of the others, at his left the one who was his especial Friend. The Plotter took the place next to the Friend, where he could keep an eye on the Teacher. The others arranged themselves along the sides of the table, in no particular order.

A platter in the center of the table bore a roast lamb. It was surrounded by the special bread for the occasion with various dishes of vegetables and sauces.

The Plotter noted that the Teacher looked even more grave than usual. In recent days opposition to his teachings and to his approach had come to a head. The Plotter wondered how much he knew of his own activities. Sometimes the man seemed to be able to read minds. At least the others were behaving normally, though they all looked anxious.

They had left their cowhide sandals at the door, for they were soiled with the filth of the animals that provided transportation in the City. The Plotter looked at his feet with distaste, for they were hardly less filthy. The others were doing the same.

The slaves of the household had just lighted the lamp and departed. Following the Teacher's lead the followers raised their hands in prayer.

The Teacher intoned the traditional prayers, then added, "God our Father, look with favor on all of us here, and strengthen us for what is to come."

The Pllotter joined in the "Amen." As he sat down, he wondered what they were supposed to do about their dirty feet. They had been taught since childhood to wash their hands and their feet before each meal, and for this traditional feast this was doubly important. The room was in fact provided with all the things necessary for the accustomed ablusions, but the Teacher had dismissed the slaves for the night. Like the others, the Plotter waited to see what the Teacher would do next.

He got up, took off his outer garment and fastened a towel around his waist. Pouring water into the vessel from the jug he approached the Foreman.

Dead silence had fallen in the room. The Foreman broke it with an explosive exclamation. "No! You doing the work of a slave! You are not going to wash my feet!"

The Teacher replied solemnly, "Unless I wash your feet you cannot go where I go."

"Then," said the Foreman, "Wash all of me!"

Despite themselves, the others smiled. It was so like the impetuous big fellow. The Teacher laughed outright. Then he became serious again and said. "You need only your feet washed to be clean. All of you will be clean, though for a while it may seem otherwise."

The Plotter repressed an involuntary start. This turned to alarm as he saw the Teacher approaching him next. He could not help trying to draw his feet away. The Teacher looked into his eyes with that gaze which both fascinated and repelled him. He submitted for appearance' sake. The Teacher washed his feet with great care, almost caressing them. He said in a low voice, "You shall glorify my Father more than any of these others." The Plotter frowned. Then he was concerned when he saw that the Friend overheard and was looking puzzled. He was glad it wasn't the Foreman.

The Teacher went around to the others. All allowed him to take their feet without protest.

The task finished, the Teacher again took his place at the head of the table - but his own feet were dirty. He said, "You all try to be like me. So be like me in this also. I have been your servant. So you must be the servants of one another."

Without a word, the Friend arose, fetched water and a towel, and performed the ablutions for the Teacher. The Foreman remarked, "Well, I wish I had thought of that!" garnering another smile. The Plotter, looking on, kept his thoughts to himself. He would never be anyone's servant.

He was surprised to see that the Friend now washed his hands. Then, with clean hands, the man took up a clean basin, poured clean water into it, and offered it to the Teacher. The latter waved him away and pointed to the Plotter. A look of comprehension came on the Friend's face. The Plotter washed his hands as ritual required, but he kept his own face impassive. The Friend then went around the table, so that each one could wash his hands. Finally he again reached the Teacher, who washed his own hands.

When the Friend had again seated himself, the Teacher looked around at his followers and became suddenly grave.

"You have all followed me since the day I chose you," he said. "But now one of you is plotting against me."

The Plotter had a sinking feeling, but then he saw that the other followers were just arguing uselessly about these words of the Teacher, as they often did. They were talking so loudly that they could hardly hear each other. The Plotter saw the Foreman make a questioning sign to the Friend, who put his head on the Teacher's shoulder and whispered to him. The Plotter could not quite see his lips, but he did see those of the Teacher as he said, "I'll give a tidbit to to him." Taking a choice piece of meat, the Teacher dipped it in sauce, reached across the Friend, and gave it to the man beside him. The Plotter accepted it silently. He watched the Foreman apprehensively, but was relieved to see that the big man did not understand. In his own heart he experienced a revulsion against the Teacher's seeming kindness. All doubts as to whether he should go ahead with his plans vanished.

The Teacher signaled for quiet and said to the Plotter with a grim smile, "It is time to begin your work. You will finish it successfully in two days." The plotter was too concerned about the questioning glances of the others to wonder what this might mean. He arose and left. Darkness had now fallen.

The servants of the house had cleaned his sandals. Putting them on, the Plotter quickly left the house. As he walked toward the palace of the Chief Priest, he wondered what the Teacher had meant by saying that he would give more glory to the Father than any of the others. That was the furthest thing from his mind, but the prediction made him uncomfortable, for he had seen other unlikely things that the Teacher had predicted actually happen.

The walk through the quiet streets took only about a quarter of an hour. From the houses came snatches of song where other groups were celebrating. The Plotter experienced a momentary pang of regret that ge could not take part in the feast he had just quitted. Never before had this happened. He went around to the postern gate of the Chief Priest's palace and knocked quietly. After a few moments the gate was opened by a servant and he was admitted. They had been expecting him, as planned.

Inside was a group of palace guards who had been detailed for this special duty. In a separate group was a contingent of troops from the local garrison of the Oppressors who had occupied the country.

The leader of the guards came up to the Plotter. "Do you have it?" the latter whispered. Two days ago, when he had approached the authorities with his offer to hand over the Teacher, they had paid him half the agreed-upon sum. The other half was to be delivered when the Teacher was actually arrested.

"Yes," whispred the other man, patting a bulge under his cloak, "When do we start?"

"In about an hour," said the plotter. "That will give them time to finish eating and go out to the orchard. It's one of his favorite haunts, and I'm sure that's where he will go tonight."

It was still dark when they set out. The Plotter led the guards and soldiers along paths that he had often trodden with the Teacher. In the midst of the orchard was a small glade with soft grass where he had often spent the night with the others. As he approached it, he could hear the Teacher's voice, and he knew the man had not slept.

In the glade the Teacher was standing in the midst of his followers, most of whom were still recumbent on the grass. But when they saw the light of the lanterns and heard the tramp of approaching soldiers they sprang up. The Plotter, followed by the leader of the guards, went up to the Teacher and gave him the customary kiss on the cheek. "You have started badly, but you will end well," said the Teacher. Immediately the rest of the guards sprang forward, pinioned the teacher's arms and began to tie them behind his back, for the kiss was the prearranged sign of recognition.

Seeing the successful arrest, the leader approached the Plotter and discreetly handed him a small heavy bag. The Plotter slipped it under his cloak, but not before the Foreman had seeen it. He had been standing close beside the Teacher. Now he balled up his fists. The Plotter got ready to dodge, for the Foreman had been a formidable fighter before he became a follower. Then the man seemed to remember the sword he had recently taken to wearing. Drawing it, he lunged clumsily at the Plotter. The latter ducked. The head guardsman was not so quick. Blood spurted from his partially severed ear.

"Enough!" said the Teacher. "Sheathe your sword! I, and you, are here to heal, not to hurt."

The leader of the guards raised his hand toward his head, but his ear was already healed, so he drew his own sword. His men followed suit. Seeing this, the Foreman took to his heels, leading the flight of the others. The Plotter grinned. He had always figured that the big braggart would turn tail as soon as things got tough.

Now he led the guards, with the Teacher walking bound in their midst, out of the orchard. The soldiers followed under their own commander.

When they reached the City the Plotter turned aside to lodgings he had hired for the night. In the morning he would depart for the country, where he would buy himself a small estate and live quietly. The Teacher would not come to any great harm. When he had bargained with the Chief Priest's servants he had extracted a promise that he would only be given the fright of his life and exiled. He did feel a bit sorry for him. After all, theirs had been a long association. But he wasn't going to lose any sleep over it.

On the contrary he would dream of living as a landed gentleman with servants to do his bidding. He smiled, remembering again the Teacher's words about serving each other. He repeated to himself that he would not be the servant of anyone, nor was he so simple-minded as to ignore the advantages of money, as the Teacher had done.

As he was eating breakfast the next morning he heard a commotion in the street. When questioned, the innkeeper said:

"You know that guy who's been doing miracles and bearding the bigwigs. Well, they grabbed him last night. It's said that one of his own inner circle betrayed him. Anywway, they put on a rigged trial, and of course they found him guilty. Now they're taking him to the Oppressors' Commandante to make everything nice and legal. They want to kill him, but they don't want to do the dirty work themselves. Everyone's running to see the show."

For a moment the Plotter sat stunned. Then he realized that the betrayer had been betrayed. Why, after all, should the Chief Priest consider himself bound by promises made by his servants? Wasn't that functionary himself a traitor? Hadn't he sold out to the Oppressors to obtain his officc? And why had he, the Plotter, allowed himself to believe what he wanted to hear. He had always prided himself on his knowledge of men and should have been alerted by the knowing smiles.

The two bags of money beneath his cloak suddenly seemed to be ten times their weight. They too had contributed to his self-deception. He had been so eager for the ease and security they seemed to promise that he had closed his eyes to the crime of betraying the man who had befriended him when he was penniless and despised. He remembered how he had been fired from his last job for embezzlement. Yet the Teacher had unaccountably chosen him to be one of his select group of followers. Often the Teacher had trusted him, though he must have known that he was betraying that trust and appropriating the money given to the group for his own purposes.

Springing up from the table he dashed outside. Perhaps he was a traitor, but the he would have something to say to the greater traitor. Moveover, the money that person had paid the Plotter through his servants was probably tainted to begin with.

The Plotter ran through the streets toward that great edifice that had once been rightly called the house of God but which the Chief Priest and his minions had made a house of iniquity. He remembered that it had happened before, long ago, and the Lord had destroyed it through other oppressors. It had been rebuilt, but only a few days ago the Teacher himself had predicted another eminent destruction. It was almost deserted, for everyone was at the local Oppressor Commandante's palaece to watch the proceedings.

The guards who were still reluctantly keeping watch outsidde the gate looked at his wild appearance and barred his way.

"Let me through!" he said, breathing hard. "I have to see the Chief Priest!"

"He's at the Commandante's palace on urgent business," said one of the guards, "and what makes you think he would bother with you anyway?"

"Then take this message for him," said the plotter. With that he threw the two bags over the wall with all his strength and took off again.

For a while he ran aimlessly about the streets, but finally he had to sit down to rest. As he tried to catch his breath, with his head in his hands, someone approached him.

"Why are you running?" asked a soft feminine voice, "I see no one pursuing you. Can I do something for you?"

Her tone of concern only deepened his despair and his self-loathing. He answered despondently, "Someone should be pursuing me. I'm worse than any thief. I've betrayed my friend and my Teacher."

"But if he is your friend you must know him well enough to realize that he will not take revenge. Go to him and ask forgiveness."

Even in his half-dazed state the Plotter wondered how she knew who he meant. Horrified, he exclaimed, "That's the last person I want to see right now!"

"Why? You know that one of the things the powers-that-be accuse him of is being friendly with sinners. Do you not qualify for his special care?"

"Don't YOU know that he's been condemned to death and those powers are now trying to get the Oppressors to confirm the sentence and carry it out? And it's all my fault!"

"Yes. They want it carried out this very day, but you yourself have seen him heal with a single glance. And why is it all your fault? They would have arrested him eventually in any case. What you did only made it happen differently."

"Who are you anyway?" the Plotter asked, raising his head.

She raised her veil. The Teacher's mother!

The Plotter sprang up again exclaiming, "What are you doing here? Surely you must hate me!"

"He does not, so how can I? In fact, he sent me to find you."

"He's on trial for his life. How could he send you? And why should I listen to you?"

"Remember how at the table last night he knew what you were plotting. He also knew that I could get you to talk to me. Remember too that he told you that you would give more glory to our Father than any of the others. He knew that in the end you would accept God's mercy. He had already made me the bearer of that mercy."

Her words were like a cup of cool water to the Plotter's fevered soul. But it was the gentle and loving tone of her voice which induced him to drink. Yet he still had doubts. "How can he forgive me when I have handed him over to death? and the Oppressors will certainly torture him before they kill him."

"He knew this would happen when he picked you as one of his special followers, and he had already planned to bring great benefits out of the evil you would do. The only price for his forgiveness is that you accept it - and that you forgive yourself."

"And do you forgive me?"

"How can I not? Could I refuse that to my son and my God? Let's go. I will take you to where you can hear the words of forgiveness from his own lips."

She started off, and the Plotter followed her, so amazed that he could do nothing except what she said.

As they passed an alleyway a man stepped out and fell into step beside him. The Plotter drew back as he recognized the Friend, but the latter made no hostile gesture, and the Mother called back that she had asked him to accompany them.

The roar of the crowd around the Commandante's palace was already audible. The words were indistinguishable, but it was evident that they were out for blood.

Several streets away they began to push through the press of people. Now the two men went first, making a way through the crowd. The Mother followed close behind, giving the Plotter encouragement. How, he wondered, would the Teacher even be able to see him when they did reach the open-air court.

The court was being held on a raised stone platform. Numerous guards stood around the edges, armed with spears, pikes and drawn swords, menacing anyone who showed an inclination to climb up on the platform. The Commandante was seated on a raised ornate chair. Before him stood a drooping prisoner. His back had been torn to ribbons by the whips which the Oppressors used on those already sentenced to excution. But there was something more. The soldiers had made a crude crown of the branches of a thorn tree and forced it brutally down on his head. The Commandante was getting ready to hand him over to the platoon which would crucify him, but even he seemed moved at the sight.

Not until the prisoner turned slightly did the Plotter recognize the Teacher. He leaped upon the platform, heedless of both the warning shouts of those around him and the brandished weapons of the guards. Before the latter could do anything, he had rushed up to the Teacher and embraced him. Tearing the cruel cornet from the Teacher's head, the Plotter kissed him, not on the cheek but on his cracked and bloody lips.

A dead silence had fallen upon the crowd. In it the Teacher's voice rang out, "Son, your sins are forgiven. Henceforth you shall be called the Penitent, and wherever in the world the Good News is proclaimed what you have done and shall do this day will be remembered."

"Arrest this man!" shouted the Commandante, alarmed.

Guards converged on the Penitent. They were about to kill him, but a crisp command told them to take him alive. They seized hm by the arms and shoved him before the Commandante.

White-faced, the latter said, "Don't you know that interfering in the action of the imperial court carries an automatic penalty of death? You will suffer the same punishment as this man to whom you seem so attached. Take him and prepare him."

The Penitent did not resist as the soldiers led him into the inner courtyard. The flagstones near the column at which prisoners were scourged were already wet with blood. Expertly the soldiers stripped and bound him. But the blows were fairly light and few, for their cruelty had already been largely expended on another.

Roughly throwing his tunic around him, they led him out to where the Teacher was still standing. Two crosses had been brought out, and these the prisoners were forced to shoulder. Sobered by the Penitent's act, the crowd parted quietly to let them through.

Ordinarily the walk to the place of execution would have been easy for these men accustomed to long journeys on foot, even though they were now carrying burdens, but they had been weakened by the "preparation." For the Teacher it was worse, because he had also endured the ordeal of the previous night. The Penitent watched him with sorrow, knowing that there was nothing he could do. Indeed, even the soldiers were unsure whether he could make it, but rather than taking up some of the burden themselves, they impressed a bystander to carry the Teacher's cross.

When they finally reached the place, the soldiers fastened the Teacher to the cross as they would any criminal. Expecting the same, the Penitent waited with apprehension. But suddenly someone approached the soldiers. The penitent recognized him as the leader of the palace guards who had arrested the Teacher in the orchard. Sardonically he thought that the man was nothing more than the Cat's-Paw of the Chief Priest. The fellow whispered to the soldiers. Sunlight flashed off coins passed from hand to hand. Were they being bribed to release him, the Penitent wondered. Surely not, for they themselves would be executed for so publicly flaunting the Commandante's orders. In any case, he would refuse to be parted from the Teacher in death, though he had been for a while in life.

But they threw him on the cross as they had the Teacher. Then, instead of driving in the nails immediately, they bound him tightly to it, taking many turnss of rope about his body and limbs. The platform for the feet was nailed at a place where he would be standing on it easily. Finally, they did drive the nails. The pain was terrible, but the Penitent gritted his teeth and said nothing. What did the Chief Priest have in mind? The cross was a fiendishly flexible instrument of torture. The way he had been fastened to it he could stay alive for days and would die of exprsure and thirst rather than his wounds.

The soldiers went back to the Teacher. They set the cross in the hole prepared for it. Immediately the body sagged down, its weight supported on the arms. They had tied the Teacher to the cross only enough so that he could not pull his hands off the nails. There was no platform for the feet, which were nailed directly to the upright.

The Penitent's cross was set up next. The soldiers had done their work well. He was immobilized, but he had firm footing and his arms were merely extended. For him, the wounds of the nails would be trivial.

Ignoring the pain, the Teacher pushed himself up, turned to the Penitent, and said, "Your trial shall be longer than mine. Do not be concerned. I shall strengthen you so that you can be faithful to the end and win others to repentance."

He gasped and sagged down again. The exertion had lacerated his feet. Blood flowed freely down the upright.

As always, a crowd of idlers, beggars and petty criminals had been drawn to the spectacle of the execution. The soldiers sat down on the ground to guard the prisoners. They gambled first for their clothing and then began to make bets on how long the Teacher would live. The Penitent himself had enjoyed executions before he had become a follower of the Teacher. But this crowd was a bit unusual. He recognized a few of the other followers, trying not to be noticed. But there were also some fairly well-dressed men. The Cat's-Paw was watching, of course, and so were others who must be guards. Still others he thought were minor priests, since they were particularly venomous in jeering at the Teacher.

After a while these last became strangely quiet and began to look at the sky. The sun was slowly fading, like a lamp running out of oil. The noise of the crowd diminished as everyone began to notice the decreased warmth. In the quiet the Penitent could hear the priests discussing the phenomenon. Some said it was an eclipse. Others pointed out that eclipses occurred only at new moon, and anyway, it did not look like any eclipse that annone had ever seen.

In the gathering darkness the Penitent saw two figures standing near the Teacher's cross. He was not surprised to see that one was the intripid Mother. With her was the Friend, whom she must have persuaded. Seeing them, the Teacher once again raised himself on his lacerated feet and said to his Mother:

"Here is the son you shall have henceforth on the earth."

And turning to his Friend he said:

"Here is the Mother that you shall have. Honor her above all women."

Then, seeing her looking also at the Penitent, he said:

"Yes. Strengthen him also. He shall be with me soon in Paradise, but he has work yet to do."

Once again he gasped. more blood was pouring down the upright. As his legs gave way, the Penitent could hear in the quiet the bones of the shoulders dislocate.

Straglers from the crowd were beginning to grope their way towards the City. Hours passed. The darkness grew intense. Suddenly the voice of the Teacher cried out:

"Father, I have finished the work you sent me to do. Receive my spirit."

A rumbling followed. The Penitent's cross jolted and swayed dangerously.

Light returned in a flood. The Penitent saw the body of the Teacher hanging inert beside him. The blood had ceased to flow. Yet he could still hear the Teacher's voice. Puzzled, he looked again at the body, then he realized that the voice was speaking in his heart. "My son"0 repeated the Teacher, "I give you my joy. May your joy be complete." At these words the Penitent's heart was filled with such joy that the sun again seemed to grow dim. Something dark screamed and fled. A weight lifted from his spirit. It was, he realized, the Evil one, who had deceived him and led him into self-deception.

When he again became aware of his surroundings, he saw that almost everyone was gone except the soldiers still keeping watch - and the Cat's-Paw.

Then two well-dressed men approached the soldiers. The Penitent recognized them as two of the Teacher's wealthier followers. Why had they come to this scene of violence and horror in spite of the danger? But the Mother was with them. And also a few of those who had been at the supper table. An argument broke out. The two men insisted that the Commandante had given them permission to take the body of the Teacher. For a consideration, the Penitent thought. The soldiers insisted that they must be sure the criminal was dead. The men pointed out the obvious, but the soldiers would not be persuaded. Finally the men let the soldiers see a glint of gold. One of them sprang up and thrust his spear into the Teacher's side. Now there was more blood, the last, followed by clear fluid.

The Penitent thought he would be next, but they ignored him. All except the Mother. She came up to his cross and said, "Take heart, my son, I know you have been given the strength to remain faithful to the end. You will be with my first Son before I am. Would I were in your place, but my work is not yet finished."

Now the soldiers took down the body and laid it on the bier which the group had brought. Everyone left. The Penitent waited, his muscles beginning to cramp painfully from immobility.

The darkness of night came again. Finally a small group approached with a lantern. Leading them was the Cat's-Paw. He said to the Penitent, "We have come to take you down, and we will treat your wounds. Moreover, you will receive double the money you threw away. But you must join us in denouncing that impostor whom you formerly called Teacher."

The Penitent was silent for a few moments. So, he siloloquized, the Chief Priest, that arch-traitor of the traditions of his people, thought that it took one to know one, that the Penitent would betray again for his life. "No," he said aloud.

"Think," said the Cat's-Paw. "Riches and acclaim will be yours. If you refuse, we will cut the ropes that are holding you up and knock the platform from under your feet. You will suffer horribly, as you have just seen, but after you have hung there long enough we will dispatch you, if necessary, in the same way as the other criminal, so that we can get rid of your corpse before morning."

"Of what use are riches and acclaim and a few more years of life to me," said the Penitent, "when I can be with the true Master of life, the deliverer of the People and of the world. You may destroy this body, but he will give me another and a better."

At a sign from the Cat's-Paw, the guards proceeded to cut the ropes. But as they were about to knock loose the platform on which the Penitent's feet rested, the Cat's-Paw stopped them.

"Now I hope you have had time for consideration," he said. "When we knock loose that platform, you will fall. Your shoulders will be dislocated and you will be unable to breathe. We will let you hang until the last moment, then make sure that you too are dead. Is this worth sacrificing all that I have offered you for?"

"I was unfaithful once," said the Penitent. "You think I will be unfaithful again. But the Teacher has put his Spirit into my heart. Nothing that you can offer is worth the prize he holds before me."

At this, the Cat's-Paw gave the final order. Hours passed as the Penitent hung silent. The guards grew restless, but the Cat's-Paw ordered them to be quiet. He held the lantern so that he could see the Penitent's face, watching the lips turn first blue and then ashen. As the sky began to lighten in the eass he went up to the cross and moved the legs. They were cold and stiff.

As we returned to the Chief Priest's palace after disposing of the body, I was moved in spite of myself. I had served the Chief Priest long and faithfully, but in the last few days I had been asked to take part in actions which I knew in my heart were ignoble. To be sure I had despised the Teacher as a friend of sinners. Well, wasn't I myself one now? I had aided a traitor, bribed soldiers, and finally been an executioner. The last role particularly galled me. In fact, I felt betrayed by the man I had served for so long. Wasn't the Chief Priest the greatest traitor after all? Suddenly I realized that the Chief Priest had used me as a cat's-paw to do his dirty work. Could I continue to serve such a man?

That day I went about my duties as though my heart were not in revolt. The night brought me no rest, for I had dreams of the man whom I had watched die hanging on his cross and upbraiding me for my cowardice, using that very name, Cat's-Paw.

With morning came more cause for disquiet. The Chief Priest had remembered the Teacher's prediction that he would rise from the dead and had gotten the Commandante to post soldiers at the tomb. I had been glad that the arch-traitor had found someone else to be a front for him. Now the soldiers came pelting into the Palace courtyard saying that they had seen strange bright beings. They had been temporarily blinded, and when they could see again the tomb was open and the body gone. I seethed inwardly, for I knew that my master would ask me to deal with the soldiers.

It was too much. I went to my quarters, packed a few things and what little money I had, and slipped out by a back gate. I breathed deeply, glad to be out of that pestilent place. But where could I go now? A memory came to me of the arrest in the orchard. I had thought that someone had cut off my ear, but when I touched it I could find nothing wrong. Yet there had been blood on my cloak when I returned to the palace. The Teacher had said something about healing. Would he heal his enemies? And then, when the sun was fading, the Teacher had said something about repentance. The man who had first betrayed him and then supported him at the cost of his own life had said something about a great prize. Perhaps there was something to this Teacher after all.

From my work for the Chief Priest I knew where some of the Teacher's followers stayed. Perhaps if I went to that young man who seemed particularly close to him and told him about how the former traitor had ended his life I might get a sympathetic hearing, maybe even help in starting over.

The Friend was indeed sympathetic. Even the Foreman accepted me, the Cat's-Paw, and began calling me the Repentant. For the Foreman had been chastened by his own failure to stand up for his Master and was in no mood to be harsh with anyone else.

I spread the story of the Plotter-turned-Penitent throughout the little community, and now I have incorporated it into the written record of those eventful days. Often I think of the Teacher's prediction that the Plotter would give more glory to God than any of the others gathered around that supper table. What can give greater glory than leading simners to repentance. Of these I was the first, and I have seen the story of the Penitent lead many others to trust in the mercy of God. Thus it will be wherever the good News of the Teacher Is proclaimed, just as he predicted.


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