- Iscariot: Chapter 1 – In which we meet Pontius Pilate and learn about an obscure Goddess.
- Iscariot: Chapter 2 – In which we meet Jesus of Nazareth, his brother James, Simon the Zealot, and Donny, one of King Herod’s slaves
- Iscariot: Chapter 3 – In which Judas splits a bottle of wine with Mary Magdalene, daughter in law of the almighty.
- Iscariot: Chapter 4 – In which we learn that Jesus is not scared of lightning. Also Kelsey, the formerly barren lady from Chapter 2, has become fertile and now it’s a whole thing.
- Iscariot: Chapter 5 – In which we learn that just because you have love for all things, doesn’t mean you can’t get annoyed by certain peoples antics.
- Iscariot: Chapter 6 – In which Menahem asks, “Are you there, God? It’s me, Menahem.”
- Iscariot: Chapter 7 – In which Pontius Pilate learns who King Herod is and what King Herod do.
- Iscariot: Chapter 8 – In which we meet Martha, wife of Judas, and she’s a delight.
- Iscariot: Chapter 9 – In which we meet the remaining apostles at the Passover feast.
- Iscariot: Chapter 10 – In which Pontius Pilate reminisces about the good ol’ days.
- Iscariot: Chapter 11 – In which there’s a bit of exposition until the angel Lucifer shows up and has a brief chat with Judas.
- Iscariot: Chapter 12 – In which we are made aware of the political situation in Rome.
- Iscariot: Chapter 13 – In which the Passion of the Devil.
- Iscariot: Chapter 14 – In which we meet the rice goddess Inari and a fox named Mrs. Noodles.
- Iscariot: Chapter 15 – In which Mary, Martha, and Kelsey meet a Behemoth and the story passes the Bechdel test.
- Iscariot: Chapter 16 – In which Judas and Jesus travel through India and learn about road building.
- Iscariot: Chapter 17 – In which (much like in Game of Thrones, Season 3, Episode 8) there’s a wedding.
- Iscariot: Chapter 18 – In which crucifixion shmoosifixion. Jesus and Judas are back, baby!
- Iscariot: Chapter 19 – In which we extrapolate upon the Ascension a little bit.
- Iscariot: Chapter 20 – In which Judas and Mary have a pre dinner drink, and we leave them there.
What exactly is “Ascension”?
In plain terms, it’s when God is all, “You sir or madame, are so fantastic that you can come to heaven without dying first.” Then you float up into the sky all Matrix style. It happens a ton of times in the bible, and yet, whenever it happens it’s barely remarked upon. Even with Jesus.
In Acts 1:6-11 Jesus gives kind of a locker room pep talk. The apostles ask him if he’s ready to free Israel, or if he’s not ready, when that might occur. And he sort of says, “Eh. You know. Just be on the lookout.” Then he gets “taken up into a cloud” whereupon the apostles see two other guys, who sort of just say “The hell are you all looking at? Nothing to see here. Go home.”
Luke just says Jesus was standing outside of Bethany, blessing everyone, and then he got taken up. Two words. Jesus doesn’t even say “peace out”.
In Mark, it’s broadly assumed that any passages related to it were added, way later. And
John doesn’t even mention the event.
All accounts are super reserved. Which, if I’m being frank, I find really odd considering it’s a major basis of the religion. Of course, it’s not as important as the crucifixion or the resurrection, but it’s still key.
To me the lack of everyone freaking out about the event sort of proves that it didn’t happen. Or at least nobody ascended to heaven in a physical way. I don’t want to get into matters of the soul here; I’m not here to argue about Jesus’ divinity. But an actual body floating around in the clouds feels a bit allegorical and slightly on the nose. But since it happened in the bible, here it is. Enjoy the ascension story, everyone!
In which we extrapolate upon the Ascension a little bit.
The Ascension was upon the little group. Soon the leader of their band, and in the case of Mary, her husband, was going to depart on to the next phase of his existence. So too, the apostles were mentally preparing to begin theirs.
As such, the merriment which had marked Jesus and Judas’ return hadn’t lasted long. After all the questions and explanations which had ensued during the previous evening, everyone had gone to their homes for some much needed rest, prayer, and thought. The day after Jesus returned, everyone gathered at his home for a feast, which turned into something of a going away party.
The mood which had been present throughout the evening was one which none of them could quite describe. Even more so as they approached the end of the party. In short order, the sun would rise in the east, marking an official start to the last day which Jesus spent walking the mortal coil. As people were beginning to gather their jackets and their swords they spoke in hushed tones about the quickest route to Bethany. To the Mount of Olives. To their final moments with their friend.
Judas tried smiling at everyone as he walked around. He listened to the other apostles chatting about the future of the church. Nobody asked him what he had planned to do, which was just as well. Judas had no intentions of preaching with the rest of them. He had done his part for the world as far as he was concerned. He had long walked alongside Jesus but in a flash of light and broken crockery, decided that he was done.
In the middle of listening to what Peter had to say about the concepts of democracy and how the world would begin to work in a modern era, he excused himself and stepped outside into the fresh, pre dawn air. From a nearby alley, he saw a wisp of smoke. Walking towards it, he saw Lucifer, leaning against a wall and taking a drag from one of his cigarettes.
Lucifer looked towards him, smiled, and proffered one. “Not much time left, Judas. I may never wander this way again and with me go the cigarettes. You want one?”
Judas thought about the offer for a moment before reaching out and accepting.
“Yeah, why not,” he said.
With a snap from Lucifer’s finger, the cigarette was lit and Judas took a drag.
The two men smoked in silence for a moment. “Do you suppose it worked?” Judas finally asked.
“Do I suppose what worked, exactly?”
“The plan we made. Jesus sacrificing himself to save the children of Eve.”
“Oh that. Probably. We’ll know if he ascends, I guess.”
“Is anyone taking odds?”
“Probably. I’ve actually seen it play out both ways. However, I honestly never know with the guy upstairs. The Lord has been known to be a wholly vindictive prick in the past. It’s like the nonsense in Egypt. Did you know that Pharoah wanted to let the Jewish people go after the first plague?”
“So I have read.”
“You’ve read a very biased version of the story. Pharoah actually quite liked the Jews. He was using you to be sure, but it’s not like your people were indentured servants. Pharoah liked you all being a buffer zone of good warriors who lived between his kingdom and the neighboring kingdoms. It made his job considerably easier with you living where you were, but he wasn’t willing to sacrifice everything to keep you there. He actually tried to let the Jewish people go after each plague yet after each one, God came down and hardened the Pharoah’s resolve.”
“Being a god is complicated business.”
“To be sure. We can never know the will of the gods or the reasons behind their actions. I don’t even think He knows his own reasons half the time. Although I’m pretty sure I know about this one.”
“Yeah. I think the only reason he did that was because a few years before everything went down, he held a summit. It’s something he does all the time. He gathers all of the angels and gods and such together. It’s a pain to get there and it’s never for anything important. Once it was to talk about how much a single human worshipped him.”
“The same. And you saw how that worked out for poor, old, Job. Anyway, he’s having one of these things. I think he invented some new type of animal or something and wanted to show it off. So we’re all there and milling about and drinking when this Egyptian fellow, God by the name of Osiris, accidentally spilled a pretty large goblet of beer on Him. That’s it. That caused an argument, and then he did what he always does, which was to blow things way out of proportion. One thing lead to another, and he’s murdering all the first born children of every home that didn’t have blood smeared above the door. Just to prove that he could. Just for spite. Of course, he’s mellowed out a lot in his old age.”
Judas merely nodded.
“In any case, regarding Jesus? Yeah. I think it worked. And the more I think about it, the more I think it was his plan all along. These days, he just won’t admit when he screws something up. Even if it was a mistake from thousands of years ago, he’s incapable of admitting any sort of error. So he had to make this long and convoluted scheme to get other people to do things for him and make it seem like he’s done nothing at all. He could have just snapped his fingers and removed original sin. That’s the definition of omnipotence. Why would he need to sacrifice his own son? Or have a son in the first place?”
“Good question. Of course it circles back to what we’ve already said. We can never know the will of the gods or the reasons behind their actions. We’re only human.”
“Speak for yourself, kiddo.”
“Judas?” another voice said. He looked over to see Mary, eyes red from the occasional bout of tears, but putting on a brave face. “It’s time.”
Judas smiled at her before turning back to Lucifer. “Coming along, angel?”
“I’ve never been one for religious ceremonies. Safe travels, Iscariot.”
Judas nodded to him as he and Mary walked back towards the party. Everyone was gathered outside and as the first ray of dawn crept over the city, the retinue began making their way out of the city limits of Jerusalem to the small village of Bethany. (Luke 24).
It was not a long journey and most of it was in silence. It reminded Judas once again of the early days of their church, walking in contemplation, but with purpose. The sun was risen fully and lazing behind some clouds when they reached the Mount of Olives, and when they got to a nice clearing, Jesus turned to his troop.
“Well. It’s been a good ride everyone. I didn’t think it was going to go down like this, exactly. Funny old thing, life. Am I right? But if all goes according to plan, we’ll have done something good. Something that people will be talking about for years to come. Before I go, I would like to say a few last things, so that there’s no confusion. Simon? Dictation.”
Simon took out a parchment and quill.
“First of all, the holy bonds of marriage can be between any two people who are of age and who love each other. Or alternatively if their marriage can secure a treaty of some sort. Or really whatever reason they want to. Regardless of gender, sex, or anything else, I want that to be clear.”
“Surely, you mean any two people as long as they are a man and a woman?” Peter asked.
“Did I stutter, Peter? Man and woman, man and man, woman and woman. It’s all good with me. Secondly, it is the duty of all people to help out the poor. If someone is poor, then they should be able to eat. I don’t care if they’re on drugs, or have some sort of mental thing. Seriously. Give poor people food and shelter. And don’t shame people for needing those things. Additionally, if someone is begging, don’t ask them what they plan on spending the money on. Who cares if they spend the money on wine? Don’t be a dick. Know that those people have it way harder than you. Just give them a couple of coins and let them have a little dignity.”
“Of course, brother.” James replied.
“Try not to be a dick to anyone, actually. Regardless of what they look like or their creed. Let them believe whatever they want to. Allow for your differences and do not impose your own beliefs on anyone. Live and let live.”
“We will, Jesus.”
“Good,” Jesus said. “Mary. Again. I’m really sorry about all this. Be strong for me and please help James to take care of mother.”
“I’ll be ok, my love. Just promise to watch down on me from your perch.”
“I will. I love you. I love all of you.”
With a final kiss to Mary, Jesus stepped back from his wife and the group at large. Through the clouds a sunbeam bathed him in light and he began to rise. “Await the coming of the holy spirit!” he shouted down to them.
“Hey, real quick. Do you know when that might be, Your Grace?” Peter yelled.
“Nope. Just be on the lookout!” he shouted back. He was getting high enough that it was getting hard to hear him.
Without warning, two angels appeared on either side of him, and smiled down upon the group. “Watch your eyes, everyone. This is going to be super bright,” they shouted.
And with those words and a flash of light, Jesus was gone. The apostles kneeled and worshipped at the spot of ascension before finally returning to Jerusalem with joy in their hearts.