Went to the synagogue with Mary today. She’s had a good rest and seems in good health. I heard her retching again this morning, which was a good sign all is well. She says the sickness is beginning to ease up, but like me she is relieved it is still there at all. People noticed us but, in the absence of an argumentative Jesus and entourage, didn’t seem bothered by our presence. Simon wanted to come but we made him stay behind, out of sight.
On our return, Simon revealed the other reason he had come here so quickly. While on tour with the apostles he had spent some time talking to Judas, our treasurer, who had related another disturbing story involving Cyrus.
It turned out that for some time Cyrus had been offering what he called a one-stop liquidation service when people wanted to sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor, prior to joining Jesus’ mission. This came as a surprise to me, not particularly because of what Cyrus had been doing but because I thought I knew about most things that went on in our group. Obviously not.
Anyway, people would often just sign over all their worldly goods to Cyrus, who would sell them off and hand over the money to Judas. He provided a service, took a cut and everyone was happy. Then one or two of the new recruits had checked how much Judas had eventually received and had expressed concern about how much Cyrus was skimming off.
Judas, anxious to protect the mission’s resources and ensure as much as possible was available to give to the poor, had dealt with this by insisting that Cyrus must pay him cash up front as soon as he acquired someone’s possessions, ensuring the mission obtained a guaranteed fair figure. Cyrus still made a gain in return for taking the financial risk, and should have had sufficient spare cash to finance the process, but it seems he started borrowing money to do more deals, especially where houses were involved, and then when he couldn’t sell quickly enough or at a high enough price he had become overstretched.
Even then, he managed to keep going by taking on yet more deals and recirculating money between them to keep everyone happy, but after Yom Kippur the supply of new converts and their possessions had dried up, resulting in what he called a financial crisis.
“When did Judas find out what was happening?” I asked.
“Well, apparently, not until Cyrus started stealing from the treasury to pay his debts,” said Simon. “He did a detailed count prior to leaving for Bethany and realised there was quite a bit missing. When he thought about it, Cyrus was the obvious culprit, and Judas confronted him. In return for keeping things quiet, Cyrus said he would do all he could to repay what he had taken, even though it was obvious there was little chance of anything coming back. After that, Judas became obsessed with guarding the mission’s money and never let it out of his sight, even on his travels.”
“But why didn’t Judas tell Jesus about this?” asked Mary.
“I don’t know. I think he felt guilty by association, and guilty about not guarding the money closely enough. He’s so honest and scrupulous too. I don’t suppose Jesus will ever find out anyway, and soon it won’t matter any more.”
“I can see that,” she said. “And I suppose your next thought was that Cyrus might return here to steal from me, and that was one reason you rushed over when you heard he was bankrupt.”
“Yes. Are you sure everything’s OK?”
“I think so. Maybe he was too chivalrous to steal from a lady. Oh dear, what an idiot.”
“Do any of the others know?” I managed to ask eventually.
“Only Matthew,” said Simon. “We agreed to keep it quiet till after Passover, if there is an ‘after’, if you know what I mean. We don’t need it disrupting the final stages of the mission, and we’ve more cash than we know what to do with anyway. You can imagine what Peter and his lot would do if they found out. They have a very black and white view of the world.”
“You can say that again.”
We locked up extra carefully tonight.