THE LAST WORDS OF A DEAD MAN

(By Edmund Baffour Awuah)
To Whom It May Concern If we can be honest, we are not flawless. We are not the men we envisioned. Those years you had in your eyes, always take you by surprise, and you wake up and you realize you’ve been living in a dream. And slowly we find ourselves becoming someone else that we would be. Sometimes when you lose your way, it’s really just this world, cos you find yourself and that when yourself.

If you’re reading this, then you must have found my lifeless body. If you’re crying then you must be a stranger. Others may be happy because they’re seeing me just as they wished for. You might be thanking God for your life; but somehow I just ended mine. Please don’t be in a haste to judge me till you know you can cast the first stone. For every person comes to this world with a destiny; to serve his fellow man and his maker but to live his own life. He hopes to have the best of life and to live at least the normal life everybody lives. To cry when sad and to laugh when happy; to do good and be done good; to work and enjoy the fruit of his labour; to love and be loved; to dream, to believe, to fight and to achieve. Every morning he would wake up to a beautiful day and step out to touch his dreams. To have friends to laugh out loud and free with; to have a companion to grow old with; to be looking into the eyes of that dear person till death do them part. To die in peace knowing he lived a fulfilled life. Others are blessed beyond normal; they are born to be great. They are blessed even before they born. God told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet unto the nations....” But be it the thunder or the lightning; the earthquake or the hurricane; the moon, the sun or the stars high up in the sky, I can’t tell what changed my destiny; what strange forces of nature conspired to dent my fate so cruelly.

Why I took the money you might think is greed. But for what I took the money and why it had to be me you’ll never know. Please don’t even try to understand. Even at the table of the last supper, only two people knew what it meant when the master said to me, “what you do, do quickly”. It was a very cold dawn. Outside the court yard people warmed themselves around kindled fires while others entertained themselves. The “king of the Jews” had just been captured and was been queried by Annas inside. Although from their own law, the accused were to be shielded from mistreatment until guilt was established, but they spat on his face and struck him with the palm of their hands. When Annas was done with him, he released him to the guards. They beat him and mocked him. And when it was day, they led him into the court where the chief priest and the scribes had gathered. The crowd waited outside for a verdict. And been permitted inside the court, here I was watching Jesus before Caiaphas and his jury bound like a criminal. Caiaphas, in defiance of all principles was trying to get my master to incriminate himself. He of all people knew better that putting the question to the accused, and finding a condemnation on his answer, was a violation of formal justice. And moreover, any fact finding should have taken place in open court, not behind closed doors. It was just so surprising how they could flout their own laws when the only reason they’re trying this man was for challenging its promulgation. A trial was in session, but the law was in detention. Instead of witnesses been examined and not the accused, all he was receiving was series of interrogation. Finally they charged him of blasphemy, and they led him away to Pontius Pilate. A conspiracy had just taken place; justice had just been assassinated by its own sentinel. Without fear of intimidation they once sang him “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.” And now they were calling for his head and I knew nothing was going to stop them till they’ve taken his life. “They are going to kill him; he’s innocent but they’re going to kill him”, I was shouting to nobody in particular. Then I ran back to court where I met the high priest. He was about to leave for the Praetorium too, but he was so happy to see me. He wouldn’t even let me talk. He stood up and met me with open arms.

He shook my shoulder gently and said “Son, well done. Cheer up, it’s over. Now let’s see if he can walk his talks”. But I said, “No Sir, I was wrong, he’s innocent. I’ve betrayed an innocent man.” I was on my knees now, weeping at his feet. He bent down and lifted me up; the smile was still there. I pleaded, “Sir, please help me. They’re going to kill him.” Still smiling he consoled me, “Son, don’t worry, it will all be over soon. Be proud of yourself. Your reward will be more than the money we gave.” I cried, “I have sinned; I have betrayed my master; I have betrayed an innocent blood. Please have mercy on me; have mercy on him.” He pulled himself from my grip and he looked down at me, “What is that to us? That’s your own business; you asked for money and now you have it. Whatever you’ve done is on only your head; see to it”. “Here’s all the money”, I reached for my purse; “I’ve not spent a piece. Please take it back and let him go.” He laughed, “Hahahaha!” and paused for a moment. Then he said to me shouting, “Oh what a fool. Do you think it’s about the money? It’s over, go home boy.” I threw the money on the floor scattering them at his feet. Now they were laughing so loudly, so loudly they won’t listen to me anymore. I sobbed on the floor; for now my heart was so heavy. I was sinking and I was sinking so deep; I was sinking in my guilt. I ran to the Praetorium where I learnt he had been delivered to Pilate, but the place was empty. A young servant asked me, “Whom do you seek? Do you also seek Jesus the king of the Jews?” “Yes”, I answered, “I seek my master”. “Sorry Sir”, he said, “you came too late, you just missed him”. “Please tell me what they did to him. I’m begging you in the name of God; please tell me where they’ve taken my master”.

He hesitated for some time. Now he was gazing at something I couldn’t tell behind me. I went on my knees, held his legs and pleaded, “Please have.............” “Shhhhhhhhh”, he hushed as he bent down quickly to lift me up. “I’m afraid your master must be standing in front of Herod now. Since he is a Galilean and falls under Herod’s jurisdiction, my master sent him to Herod since he found no fault with him but the people were calling for his head. Now will you please get up Sir? My master looks on”. He left me and I looked up behind me only to see Pilate starring at me from his window. As I got closer, I realised he wasn’t starring at me; he was starring at nothing. I bowed and greeted him. He was now awakened and he asked, “And who are you also? Did you also come to testify against him?” I cried, “No my Lord, he’s my master. Whatever that happened before you was just a suborn act, it’s all been a lie. I did it; I betrayed my master; I betrayed an innocent man”. “What!” he shouted. “You call him your master and you betrayed him? Oh you traitor, just what did he do to you?” Now my face was wet with tears, I couldn’t even speak, I was choked with sobs. “They deceived me. The high priests and elders deceived me. For just thirty pieces of silver I fell for their lies”, I replied softly with my head bent down in shame. I couldn’t look into his eyes, but I could feel I disgusted him. The stigma was such so intense. “So what do you seek now, it’s over. You must be rich, go home and celebrate your success”, he shouted at me. I was now flat on the ground weeping, “Have mercy on me my Lord, have mercy on the poor man I beg in the name of God. I caused it, please save him and have me”. “You just don’t get it, do you? Once you betray a person to destruction, you don’t only give away the trust he had in you, you become sullied, your honesty appears specious, and you squander even the chance of saving him even in your regretted moment. It’s over, go home”, he turned and disappeared. After some time they brought him back to Pilate. From a distant I could see him sway from side to side. And the crowd, with their sere hearts, all doing their best to see to his end. They just couldn’t kill him; the law forbids them. They

needed the Romans to do it, and this can only be possible when his execution appears to be legal. And that’s what they’ve been trying to do since his capture. They sought for witnesses but couldn’t find even two whose testimony agreed. They charged him of blasphemy but it meant nothing to Pilate. So they had to falsely accuse him of forbidding the paying of taxes. They had to lie so he can be charged of treason but Pilate still saw no wrong in my master. Pilate wanted to set him free. He gave them Barabbas and Jesus but it was obvious they were going to choose Barabbas, a rebel who has fought and killed for the justice and freedom of the Jewish peasants. He was only a notorious robber and murderer to the Romans and the High Class Jews, but to them, he was their hero. Again Pilate had my master scourged, dressed in purple, crowned with thorns, beaten, and mocked. Hoping these could satisfy the lust for vengeance or appeal to the compassion of the priests, but it did not. They threatened him with blackmail, and now not only did he fear for his position, he feared for his life, knowing how callous Caesar could be to his enemies. So he washed his hands and handed Jesus, an innocent man, to be murdered. So this was his trial, an absurd and shockingly unbelievable misrepresentation of the law. And just like a lamb to the slaughter, my master submitted himself to this charade and became a victim to the darkest crime ever committed in the history of legal systems. This is the leadership man has always wanted; man leading man; where we’re entangled in our own laws. Leadership without standards; where the masses decide what is right or wrong. One day they’re idolizing people, hoisting flags and raising monuments. Then one day they are taking the liberty of others, deciding whether they should exist or not. Man’s wisdom at its best; just insanity at its worst. At this point I knew it was truly over. I just lost my only hope. At a distant I watched, as they led my master to his torture. The sky was so bright now as all the clouds had run for cover. Not a bird could fly in the sky. The sun stood still and the wind paused for a while. A murder was in progress, and nature was in so much shock. Man was about to kill his God. He chanted in great pleasure; he chanted at his own funeral. I saw him when they stripped him naked; I was present when they whipped him. I heard his moans and I saw him cry. I

followed as he was walking to the Place of a Skull; I could count his heavy steps. At a distant he paused, he gave a step and he paused again. He tried it one more time and down he went. He lost his balance and upon dropping to the ground the cross landed on his head bouncing to his side. He screamed but not a voice could come out. His legs just failed him, and now his voice also has given up on him. He was all covered with dust. I stepped forward out of the crowd and hurried to his side. I was on my knees now looking into his eyes. I wiped his face with my cloak. Although I was partly blinded by tears, I wasn’t ever going to forget that look. I felt so naked; it was as if he could see right through me. I wanted to help him but how could I have done it? His words came echoing in my head, “What you do, do quickly”. I got back on my feet still gazing into his eyes. He gave me a brief smile and I could read from his eyes, “friend, be strong”. It was a look of pity, but a look of assurance. He lifted up his hand to me but a whip went for his face and the hand suddenly dropped. Blood oozed from his nose and mouth and the soldiers rolled his cross on top of him. I sobbed loudly and I cried in my heart, “Oh wretched soul, who would ever know my repented heart? Who would ever understand my hurting heart?” I was terrified and scared to death. I ran into the crowd and behind me I heard an officer scream, “Hey you! Get that cross”. It was Simon the Cyrenian, the old man returning from the country side. He was the only one unconcerned at the scene, but strangely enough he was the only one who had a share of what my master went through. At Golgotha they laid him on the cross. From afar I saw the hammer swing. With each blow he screamed. He couldn’t keep his head on the wood. He was restless; he was in so much pain. Blood poured out, now he was all wet with blood and sweat. For some time he laid still on the blood stained cross, his face disfigured, and his body battered. They raised the cross and he was thrust down by his weight. Close to the cross stood the three Mary(s) of his life. And I saw John the beloved console them as they wailed. I could hear them clearly from where I stood. Tears ran down my face. My heart was broken; my world suddenly darkened. I had no friends; they all despised me. They would even kill me if they should lay hands on me now. I cast my mind back to the day I met this man. It was one beautiful morning and somewhere in a crowd I saw this man

passing by. The way he walked, elegance with nobility; and the way he talked, eloquence with mastery. The Pharisees hid their faces and honourable men bowed before him. His preaching just embarrassed the religious establishment of the day. With just a touch the blind could see and with just a word the possessed are set free. I watched till I was lost in amazement. It was just impossible to ignore his presence. “Some say he’s John the Baptist, others say he’s Elijah reincarnated. What he does, no man can understand”, my brother interrupted. So I turned to him and asked, “Could he be the saviour, could this man be the Christ?” “Yes he is; yes I am”, a voice came from behind. I turned quickly and here he stood looking straight into my eyes. I bowed my head. Be it shock, fear or shame, for I didn’t know what to feel. “Will you be my friend?” I heard him ask. I turned to look at my brother but he said again, “Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, will you be my friend?” Now I was in shock. “My Lord, it will be an honour, but I’m not worthy to even talk to you”, I said to him. Then he said, “If you call me Lord, then will you please follow me?” “No you don’t understand; I’m not a good person, even just my presence around you will make people despise you. Please take my brother; he’s youth and good hearted. He’ll be of more use to you than me”, I replied. Then he said, “oh son of man, if only you knew. I need you, and believe me, you need me more. Friend, follow me”. I didn’t know if I was ready but somehow I felt I could trust him. I never understood whatever he said but I heard him call me friend, and that broke all my defences. He called me friend to the end. Even at the garden over the Brook Kidron, when I went up to him and said, “Greetings Rabbi!” and I kissed him. He said to me, “friend why have you come? Do you betray me with a kiss?”

I followed him. I never knew what I could gain but I followed him. Even when many of the disciples left I still followed him. I was there when he walked on the sea; I saw it when he raised that little girl from death. I saw cripples walk and lepers made whole. I saw him angry, and I was with him when he wept. I never knew why but he kept me so close. He was just so interested in me. We ate from the same bowl and I kept the money box; that was how much he trusted me. I took care of our everyday needs, made donations to the poor and needy; I just had my way with the spending of the money. Keeping me by his side, all the attention and freedom, was an important lesson he was teaching me. But little did I know; I was too blind to see. He wanted me to know the essence of money and most importantly, the value of love. He was trying to save me from the seduction of money; he was trying to change me, but I didn’t change. He gave me a family, but I never belonged. He gave me meaning to my life, but I disregarded it. My destiny was shouted from roof tops; my dirges were song in my presence and I never heard it. I was a menace to my own life; I was fighting myself at my own peril. Now there I stood, cursed and condemned. I felt so alone, dejected and rejected. The only person who could understand me was on the tree dying. And suddenly I heard him cry out, “Father! Father! Why have you forsaken me?” He kept on looking into the sky, and he shouted, “It is finished! Father into your hands I commit my spirit.” Then he breathed his last and bowed his head. He was dead, and that was when I also died. This is a dead man writing. My heart is beating but my soul just died. I’m lifeless and I guess there’s no turning back now. The earth just quaked and rocks are splitting everywhere. Somewhere in a beautiful cave my master will be laid peacefully, but somewhere on a tree you’ll also find my dangling body. I killed my saviour, and I have killed myself. This is Judas Iscariot; and this is every man.