Daniel had said it: “Was the betrayal by Judas part of Jesus's plan of self-sacrifice on the cross? “Yes? Then did Jesus condemn Judas? “No? Then wouldn't Jesus have tried to turn Judas from sin?
“Earth's Kingdom is real,” Daniel said. “It's here, It’s all around you.” “But Earth's Kingdom hath many imperfections. Too often it combines tyranny with injustice and corruption and discrimination. "The Kingdom of Earth suffers violence, and the violent possess it.”
From the desert, John can see all this. In this Age of Caesar, Earth's Kingdom here in the Holy Land is Herod—a puppet king of the occupying Roman Empire. How much longer will Heaven tolerate this world’s abiding evil and injustice? Perhaps Heaven's own kingdom will come soon, a kingdom of fairness and decency. So John begins to preach this, and to baptize in ritual cleansing those destined for the coming Kingdom. John even baptizes Jesus. Then it happens. The very evil John preaches against reaches out to destroy him. Herod is afraid that John’s followers may revolt. Herod arrests and decapitates John, either because of a drunken promise Herod had made to a dancing girl, or because he sees John as a potential embarrassment. Now Jesus assumes John’s mission, and at first He preaches John’s message, that the Kingdom of Heaven is about to come of its own volition. And the charisma and eloquence and brilliance and wisdom of Jesus’s teachings gathers a multitude, who follow Him.
But the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven is somehow delayed. And it proves difficult, or even impossible, to care for such a multitude in the desert or semi-desert. And now it's fall, the harvest in, and winter coming on. How can all these people be fed? Thus Jesus terminates Phase One of His mission. He leaves Galilee and goes north to the coast, to Tyre. And when He returns, He will tend to avoid large crowds, and teach only to a small group of His closest followers—men such as Simon and James and John, as well as Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus.
The Ultimate Sacrifice
This is what Nathanial said: “Now bear with me, for many will call what I am about to say heresy. But not if they will read the Scriptures with the unblemished and unprejudiced eyes of a child...as I believe Jesus Himself would wish. “Jesus is now midway in His ministry. But now the message of Jesus has become so transcendent that it stuns the imagination. This winter and coming spring will be one of the most critical moments in human history. The social movement that Jesus is about to launch will far surpass in importance that which Caesar launched when he created the Roman Empire a half century ago. “The Kingdom of Heaven had not come on its own, so man must make it come. The task had descended from Heaven onto individual men. The Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. Jesus must make it happen by sacrificing Himself. “For this act of self-sacrifice, Jesus will choose the central location of the Holy Land, Jerusalem. And He will choose the most important days of the Jewish calendar, the feast of the Passover—the time when Jerusalem will be most populated by true believers coming from all over the Holy Land.
“The most important of Jesus’s followers—for example, Simon and James and John—are rock-solid. They are upright and admirable men; and Simon Peter, in particular, is a man of great leadership ability and common sense. But when Jesus reveals His plan to these Apostles—His plan to sacrifice Himself—they are horrified. “It seems that what Jesus needs to assist Him is a man of almost preternatural vision, just short of His own. A man of great subtlety, boldness and immense imagination. A man who has perhaps already engaged in undercover deeds and secret actions against the Empire of Rome, that current foreign occupier of the Holy Land.
“There does happen to be another close follower of Jesus who might fit that description. That man is Judas. Judas, to put it mildly, is something of a mystery—quite a bit of a mystery. Was he ever a Zealot—a revolutionary working against Roman domination? And what does the word Iscariot even mean? “Does Judas come from the village of Kerioth? “Or is Iscariot really a garbling of the Roman Latin word sicarius, which means freedom-fighter-assassin? “In any case, consider the following, admittedly as merely speculative: does Jesus recognize that Judas has the intelligence, the boldness, the cunning and the dedication to assist Jesus in His world-revolutionary plan? If the authorities need to be worked and played so that they arrest Jesus at precisely the right place and time, Jerusalem at the Passover, then Judas has the skills to help bring this about. Simon, James and John, and other normal, honest, good followers, would not perhaps be as subtle, and as suitable . . . for such a gambit and stratagem.”