After the third day, they returned to Galilee. They swam, fished, sang, slept on the beach, sat around the fire at night. Their Teacher—now their Lord–was with them, sitting among them, laughing. This was a season of rest between what they had witnessed and what they knew now they would do.
But in this joyous time, something gnawed at Nathanael. He waited until the others were out on the boat. Only the Lord and himself sat on the beach. He had to ask.
“Lord, what is the fate of my cousin, Judas?”
“What should be his fate?”
Nathanael hadn’t expected that. He had dreaded, but expected, to hear that Jude would be condemned on earth and in heaven. He had hoped that, perhaps, the Lord would say Jude was forgiven.
Jude had betrayed the Lord, despaired and encompassed both Jesus’s destruction and his own. Jude had given in, willingly forfeited all the ties that bound them.
But those ties had been real. Jude had walked with them, preached with him, been their friend and brother through it all (until the very end). Surely that must count for something.
Justice or mercy? Was this a test? If he answered wrong, would he also be condemned? Why was the Lord doing this to him?
Then he saw Jesus’s eyes and realized that whatever was in his heart, his Lord already knew it. He might as well say.
“I would see Judas forgiven, Lord. He was my beloved kin, and our beloved brother.”
For a moment he was afraid. Then the Lord spoke.
“Didn’t I say what you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven?” He clapped Nathanael on the shoulder. “Fear not. I have not lost one of those the Father gave me.”
Tears filled Nathanael’s eyes. When he cleared them, the Lord was no longer there.
The others rowed back in. They ate of the catch a great plenty.