There is a legend that after he had risen from the crucifixion, before he ascended to heaven, Jesus descended into hell to seek out his friend and forgive him:
After the kiss he wiped away his tears, ‘I didn’t expect to see you here.’
‘I searched for you.’
‘But I betrayed you.’
A shake of the head, ‘I forgave you.’
‘I knew you would. You were always the better man.’ He looked away, deep into the smouldering darkness, shamefaced, ‘How long have you got, before you have to return?’
‘As long as it takes to forgive.’
‘Who can forgive me?’ his voice a quiet wail of despair.
‘Forgive yourself. I did. You must.’
‘I can’t,’ his sobs almost silent, everything held inside, racking him, too ashamed to vent his grief and his shame.
‘Yes you can.’
‘I’m sorry, Lord,’ he said again, tears coming to his eyes. ‘I am so sorry. I thought you’d lost your way.’
‘I lost my way all the time.’
A smile, his eyes as sharp and clear as always, ‘Every day I lost my way, and I needed you and the others to remind me of myself, to guide me.’
‘But I didn’t guide you. I misled you. I conspired against. I betrayed you!’
‘You guided me, Judas. You reminded me what it was to be human.’
‘You are God. I’m just a man.’
‘I’m a man too,’ and he held out his hands, to show the ragged holes, ‘I bleed.’
They hugged again, the blood from His wounds smearing across his friend’s coat. Around them, the mills of hell belched and fumed, but between them there was only forgiveness.
‘Must you go?’ Judas whispered as they held onto each other, his eyes closed in prayer, ‘Must you go so soon?’