A tale of two traitors

By dipping bread and placing it in the hand of a beloved brother, the greatest traitor of all time was revealed. It happened at this same time of year, nearly 2,000 years ago. This act set in motion a dramatic chain of events that changed the history of the world forever. And the shame of Judas Iscariot has never been forgotten.

In 1901 a close relative led a farm-burning British column to the home of my great-grandmother. The soldiers smashed and looted before setting the house alight. With her frightened little children huddled around her, my young great-grandmother stood and watched her entire world go up in flames. One soldier was so touched by this dramatic image that he quietly pressed a shilling into the hand of the small boy standing at her side. A shilling was a full day's wage for an ordinary soldier. But Rooi Jan Grobler saw it, and took the money from the little boy. Noticing this, the soldier then gave the boy another shilling. But Rooi Jan took that one also.

After the war he often came to visit the family in their new home. Great-grandmother always received him with grace and compassion. But my grandmother and her sisters ran into the veld whenever he came. They were prepared to tolerate him, but they refused to serve him.

Great-grandmother never said an evil word about Rooi Jan, except once when my grandmother asked her: "Mommy, why is Uncle Jan's eyes so red?" To which her mother sadly sighed: "Probably because he has shed so much innocent blood, my child."

Great-grandmother had forgiven the traitor long before his social shame made him an outcast. It was their Christian duty, she said. I often wondered about Judas. This time of year I wonder even more…