Judas, My Son

For generations without shame
Iscariot had been a name
In Kirioth that everyone
Could trust, until the only son
Of Simon came of age and broke
His father's heart. The common folk
Had thought it strange that Simon stayed
Unmarried after Mary laid
Her fevered head on Simon's chest
And died before her swollen breast
Gave one day's milk. He never told
His parents why, nor did they scold
Or press him for another wife.
For thirty years he lived his life
A widower with one great goal:
To love his son and save his soul.
No one but Simon knew what she
Had said that night. It was a plea,
And full of boding pain. She said,
"I fear, my love, that we have bred
A child of woe. And I have dreamed
A dream this night wherein it seemed
That something out of the abyss
Is here, and if he should but kiss,
It would mean death. O Simon, what
Have I brought forth, and we begot?
What evil deed and endless blot
Upon the name Iscariot?"

He held her in the candlelight
And fearful quietness all night.

"Dear Simon, can you see the dawn?"
"Not yet. The night is not yet gone."
"For me it is," she said, "and O,
That I could take the boy and go!
Or second best: that he had not
Been born! O love, no matter what
He does . . . or is, do not despair
Or sink in utter gloom, or bear
What is not yours to bear. Come near.
Think not that you have failed, nor fear
That God's unworthy of your trust,
Or that in this he is unjust."

And thus she died. And Simon bowed
Above her restful face and vowed
That he would marry none, but give
His love as long as he might live
To show his son the path of life
And void the warnings of his wife.

For twenty-seven years he trained
His son in righteous ways, and drained
The reservoir of love and hope
So low at times he scarce could cope
With thankless days and brazen face
And haughty eyes and sore disgrace.
For years the boy stole offerings at
The synagogue, and once he spat
Into the Rabbi's face when he
Was caught. One time he said, "I'll be
The keeper of the king's account
Someday. You watch. And the amount
I steal from him will make this theft
Look like a petty thing." And so, bereft
Of conscience, Judas mocked the cares
And pain of Simon, and his prayers.
The young men in the village said,
"That Judas-boy would steal the bread
And cup right off Messiah's plate."
His father never laughed.

"It's late,
My son," he said one night. The men —
The older ones — they say, ‘How can
A twig, when it is bent, grow straight?'
O Judas, Judas, it is late.
Come, make with me a brand new start,
I love you, son, with all my heart."

For one last moment Judas stood
And looked into his father's good
And loving eyes. Then took his sack
And headed out the door, looked back
And said, "In three years I will own
More silver than you've ever known."
And he was gone. And Simon wept
For weeks, ate nothing, seldom slept,
And almost sank in utter gloom
But for the words on Mary's tomb:
"Sink not in darkness nor despair,
Bear not what yours is not to bear:
When you have loved and lost then trust;
The ways of God are always just."

And so three years went by until
One day, out on the northern hill
Of Kirioth, a large man walked
Before an ass-drawn cart, and talked
To no one on the way. He came
And asked, "Is there a man by name
Iscariot in town?" They showed
Him where the old man lived and bode
His days alone in simple trade.
"Are you Iscariot?" he laid
The rope across his burly frame.
"I am, and who are you?" "My name
Is Peter." "Yes? What brings you down
To Kirioth? We're not a town
That people come from Galilee
To see; what might your business be?"
"I knew your son." Old Simon stared
In Peter's face. "I knew you cared
About your son, and so I brought
Him home for burial. I thought
It would be easier to know
That he had died than just to go
On wondering." The old man stood
In silence staring at the wood-
Cased cart. "Is that my son?" he said.
"Yes sir." "How long has he been dead?"
"I'm not quite sure." "How did he die?"
"He hanged himself." "Do you know why?"
"The question ‘Why?' has many layers,
And, Simon, some are the affairs
Of men and some of God alone.
What we should know we have been shown.
The secret things belong to God
And there are paths we dare not trod."

The old man smiled beneath his tears,
"You sound like someone many years
Ago." "Yes, Simon, she spoke well.
My Master sent me here to tell
You that her dying words were true.
And I can vouch that he like you
Has wept beside the mouth of hell.
But, Simon, one is not to dwell
Forever weeping in that place
Nor contemplate the end of grace
Too long. Remember what she said,
And what you wrote when she was dead:
"Sink not in darkness nor despair,
Bear not what yours is not to bear:
When you have loved and lost then trust;
The ways of God are always just."

And so the light in candle two
Cannot suffice to answer you,
If you would know before its time
The deepest "why?" of every crime.
But trust for now what it reveals;
The time will come for opened seals.

©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org