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The Rich Young Man

by MICHAEL DICKINSON

CHARACTERS
(In order of appearance)

The Mother

Mary

Martha

Bartimaeus

Judas

Jesus

Lazarus

John

James

Peter

Darius

 

 

 

 

 

 

SCENE 1.

(The main living area of a home in Bethany, Roman-occupied Palestine, 32 A.D.

The white walls are lit by sunlight that spills in through narrow open windows.

Three women, THE MOTHER, MARY and MARTHA, squat on the floor, performing various tasks. The Mother is sewing a prayer shawl, Martha is rolling flat pieces of dough, and Mary is sorting and cleaning lentils from one basket to another. They work silently, occasionally shooing away a fly with their hands.

At the back of the room steps lead to a doorway onto the flat open roof of the house. A sudden burst of male laughter comes from there. The women look at each other and smile. They continue working. There is another burst of laughter.)

 

THE MOTHER
(Looking up fondly) He’s happy.

MARTHA
They’re excited. Who can blame them? In a few hours they’ll be in Jerusalem. Your son is in great form. It’s a joy to have him in our home.

MARY
Why can’t we share his company while he is here?

MARTHA
Household duties don’t perform themselves, Mary. Join the men if you wish. I’ll take over your task when I finish these loaves. There aren’t many left.

 

MARY
We may never see him again.

MARTHA
Do we want to hear that kind of gloomy talk on such a day as this? I don’t think so! Go and sit with him now, if you feel you must.

MARY
That careless laughter would end if I did. They resent me. Not him, of course, but the others. Why is she here? The whore!

MARTHA
You’re too sensitive, Mary. All of that has been forgiven and forgotten.

MARY
By him, perhaps. Not them.

THE MOTHER
Whore?

MARTHA
It’s nothing, Mother! Please don’t start, Mary!

MARY
‘Whore’ is just another excuse for their disdain! Being a woman is sin enough for them! They treat us like lepers! Segregated in the synagogue; barred from learning the Torah, not even allowed to pronounce blessing over a meal in our own homes! We slave our guts out while they laze and dispute. The birth of a son is greeted with celebration ­ commiserations for a daughter! We’re just submissive men-pleasers ­ dowry-getters, shifted from one family prison to another! The commandments even sanction our cattle status: ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s ox or ass or wife!” How do we tolerate it?

 

 

MARTHA
Mary, Mary. Patience has always been our motto. The Lord will change everything. Soon there’ll be equality. Truth and righteousness will reign! (To the Mother) Please let me say again what an honor it is to have the mother of the Messiah under our roof! Excuse my asking ­ I don’t know whether I should – but such tales we’ve heard of his conception! Is it true that an angel appeared to you?

THE MOTHER
That’s right.

MARTHA
It must have been an awesome sight! How did he look?

THE MOTHER
Beautiful.

MARTHA
And he announced that you were to bear the Son of God! I think I would have fainted or even died! How did you feel?

THE MOTHER
(After a pause) Excited.

(The Mother is silent.)

MARY
Leave it, Martha. How can you ask such questions?

MARTHA
I’m only curious. Who wouldn’t be? It’s the Lord we’re talking about! His birth, his being, his destiny!

(BARTIMAEUS, An old ragged tramp suddenly appears in the doorway.)

BARTIMAEUS
“The Lord” did you say? This must be the right place! Would you be referring to the prophet, Jesus of Nazareth? Also known to his followers and disciples as ‘the Lord’?

MARY
Welcome stranger! Yes, we were talking of him ­ our Lord. But what do you want? Can we help?

BARTIMAEUS
I want to see the Lord.

MARTHA
Is he expecting you?

BARTIMAEUS
I doubt it. But he knows me. Tell him it’s ‘Blind Bartimaeus’ from Jericho.

MARTHA
Is it important? He’s supposed to be here in secret. How did you find this address?

BARTIMAEUS
“Seek and ye shall find.” He said that, and I did.

MARY
I’ll tell him you’re here.

(She goes upstairs to the roof. Bartimaeus stands waiting. The Mother and Martha continue their tasks.)

MARTHA
Forgive Mary’s excitable tongue, Mother. It was always her way, even as a girl. Father used to whip her for it. That’s why she ran away. We hadn’t seen her for years, when suddenly about three months ago your son and his disciples appeared in Bethany, bringing Mary with them. She said he’d saved her life. How happy Lazarus and I were to have her home! Father was dead, so Mary decided to stay. Your son is the only man she respects. It’s not difficult to understand why. I became an immediate convert when he told us of his plan for God’s kingdom. My brother too. He’s completely changed our lives! At last we have something real to hope for. It’s amazing the effect he has on people. Our friend and neighbor Judas even became one of his disciples!

(JUDAS appears in the upper doorway and comes down the steps followed by Mary. He stops when he sees Bartimaeus.)

JUDAS
You?

BARTIMAEUS
Well, well! Speak of the devil! If it isn’t old Judas!

JUDAS
What do you want?

BARTIMAEUS
I want a word with this Lord of yours.

JUDAS
He’s not available.

BARTIMAEUS
I’m prepared to wait.

JUDAS
(Coming down into the room) If you’ll excuse us ladies, I’d like a word with this man in private.

MARTHA
(Gathering up her things) Come Mother. We can work downstairs in the courtyard.

(The women go out with their things, Mary last. She pauses in the doorway and looks back.)

JUDAS
(To Mary) See me later.
(Mary goes)
What’s all this about, Bartimaeus? Why aren’t you home in Jericho?

BARTIMAEUS
It’s the miracle worker I wish to speak to, not you.

JUDAS
He’s busy. He can’t be disturbed. I’ll pass on any message you might care to leave.

BARTIMAEUS
Well, how about asking if he’d kindly perform another of his amazing miracles and make me blind again?

JUDAS
(Angry) What are you trying to say? Explain yourself!

BARTIMAEUS
I’ve lost my role in life! Everyone knew me as ‘Blind Bartimaeus’. That’s who I was. I was comfortable with it. It wasn’t such a bad life, begging at the city gate with my fellow unfortunates – quite sociable with the gossip, and none of us ever went hungry. Everything changed after the miracle. People say I ought to get a proper job.

JUDAS
Quite right. So you should.

BARTIMAEUS
That’s all very well for you to say. But what can I do? I’m naturally lazy, and I’m too old to learn a trade.

 

JUDAS
How about acting? You’re good at that.

BARTIMAEUS
But only in that role. I inherited it from my father. I was still a babe in arms when I learned the knack of rolling back my eyeballs so that only the whites showed. Practice makes perfect, and I became an expert. I was making a fairly decent living until you came along.

JUDAS
And put a stop to your dishonesty.

BARTIMAEUS
You blackmailed me! You bribed me! Is that honest?

JUDAS
You should have looked around more carefully when you stepped into that olive grove to count your ill-gotten alms.

BARTIMAEUS
You were spying on me!

JUDAS
I was asleep. You stepped on a branch and woke me. I recognized you. One of the coins you were counting had come from my own pitying purse.

BARTIMAEUS
And then you blackmailed me.

JUDAS
All I did was ask you to inform people that the Messiah was here.

BARTIMAEUS
And if I didn’t – you’d tell everyone in Jericho that I was a phony.

JUDAS
But you believe in the Kingdom of Heaven, don’t you? You were full of enthusiasm when I told you about it.

BARTIMAEUS
Oh yes. All this talk of love and brotherhood and worldwide sharing and equality sounds very fine. But when’s it going to happen? Why are we waiting? Meanwhile it’s the same old dog eat dog world, and the only way to put food in our bellies is money. Give me some.

JUDAS
I’m sure the women will give you something to eat as you leave.

BARTIMAEUS
I meant money. I want money. Give me some or I’ll denounce your Lord as a fraud!

JUDAS
This is a much better example of blackmail! But it wouldn’t be very clever, would it, Bartimaeus? Because if you did that you’d be announcing that you are a fake yourself, and have been all your life. You’d find yourself in much direr straits than you are now.

BARTIMAEUS
You’re smarter than I thought.

JUDAS
Don’t blame the Lord for your situation, Bartimaeus. The miracle was my idea, not his. We were on a preaching tour and Jericho was the last stop. We’d heard stories about other self-proclaimed Messiahs gaining followers, healing the sick and casting out demons and so on. Our Master’s popularity was definitely on the up, but I thought it could do with a boost, and as we approached Jericho I suddenly remembered you’d be there begging at the gate ­ a perfect instant miracle waiting to happen! I dashed ahead to tell you what to do, then hurried back to rejoin the Lord. I told him to touch the eyes of a blind beggar who cried out to him as we entered the city.

 

BARTIMAEUS
Oh, that damned day, when I did as you bade! The crowd murmured his name as he approached, and I stood up shouting: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Over and over, till people got angry, telling me to shut up. But suddenly they go quiet and I’m led forward to your Lord. He asks what I want, and I say “I want to see!” He rubs my eyelids with his fingers and tells me to wash them in the water of a handy cattle- trough. I do, and abracadabra! ­ “I can see! I can see! I can see!”

JUDAS
A performance worthy of laurels! The crowd went wild, surging forward and demanding their own miracles. We had to flee the city for fear of being mobbed. Thanks to you, Bartimaeus, the Lord’s name became famous in Jericho.

BARTIMAEUS
I was famous myself for a while ­ the doors of hospitality opened wide. Food, friends, booze! Pointed at in the streets. “That’s the blind beggar the Galilean prophet cured!” It didn’t last long though. After a few days they started to say I was greedy. The Pharisees had me barred from the synagogue for saying your Master was the Messiah. They even threatened to have me stoned for blasphemy! But the final straw was when I went back to my old place at the gate. Those treacherous malingerers had turned their backs on me! They said I had no excuse to beg any more – just normal grinding poverty, like everybody else, no special handicap. You’re my only hope. I’m desperate. Give me some money for God’s sake!

JUDAS
All right, Bartimaeus. You’ve convinced me of your plight. But this is the last time. We survive on the charity of others ourselves, and we’ve been saving to buy a lamb for the Passover supper. (He counts out some coins from the purse at his belt) Here, take this. It’s not much, but it’s all we can spare.

BARTIMAEUS
A pittance! How long do you expect me to survive on this? More!

 

 

JUDAS
Sorry, but that’s it! (He takes Bartimaeus’ shoulder and leads him to the door.) We’ll be in Jerusalem for Passover. Our expectations are high. This could be the climax of the Lord’s mission, and the actual establishment of the Kingdom of God!

BARTIMAEUS
Well, hallelujah! He’d better get a move on establishing it. Otherwise I might just be forced to have a relapse and go blind again. That wouldn’t look very good for him, would it? Miracles are meant to last!

(Judas takes several more coins from the purse and puts them into Bartimaeus’ open hand.)

JUDAS
Farewell, Bartimaeus! Try to be good! And don’t come back!

(Bartimaeus goes out. Judas fingers the few coins left in the purse and looks worried. Mary enters.)

JUDAS
Didn’t I tell you the Lord was not to be disturbed! No one is supposed to know he’s here.

MARY
Oh, all of Bethany knows! How could this visit be kept secret after the sensation of his last? The villagers are being discreet, but they’re planning to give him a big send off today. Anyway, that old guy came up here without asking, demanding to see the Master. I thought you should vet him first.

JUDAS
You did right. The lord must be protected from needless disturbance, especially at this moment in time. Jerusalem awaits!

MARY
Do you really think he’s ready for it?

JUDAS
Without a doubt! Look how famous he’s become since your brother’s resurrection! For which I can’t thank you enough, by the way. You and Martha performed brilliantly!

MARY
The crying was exhausting. But are you sure it was worthwhile?

JUDAS
Absolutely! Important people sat up and took notice. We’ve made contacts in Jerusalem. You know where we’re staying for Passover? At the house of Joseph of Arimathea! He’s of one of the biggest cats in town! I tell you, people are going to know who the Lord is when we enter into Jerusalem.

MARY
I hope you’re right.

JUDAS
Of course I’m right. And if they don’t, we’re going to make them know it! Stay down on the front step, Mary. Don’t let anyone else in. The Lord is off limits, okay?

MARY
Understood.

(JESUS suddenly appears on the top steps from the rooftop with a cup of wine in his hand, closely followed by LAZARUS.)

JESUS
(Slightly drunk) Judas! Judas!

LAZARUS
No Lord! I insist! You are our guest! It’s a shame!

(Mary stands staring at Jesus.)

JUDAS
Go Mary. Totally restricted entry.

(Mary goes.)

JESUS
Nonsense, Lazarus! We have relied too long on your charity! Judas! Go out and buy a couple of flagons of wine. We’ve almost drunk Lazarus out of house and home!

LAZARUS
Please Lord; let me pay for the wine!

JESUS
After all your favors, Lazarus, it’s time we did a little in return. Go Judas. Don’t just stand there. Get the best. This is a special day.

JUDAS
I’m afraid we’re financially embarrassed, lord.

JESUS
How? Surely we have enough for some wine?

JUDAS
I’m afraid not. I gave the money to a beggar, lord. He just left. It was blind Bartimaeus from Jericho. The man you cured.

JESUS
Oh him! Did Judas tell you about that miracle Lazarus?

LAZARUS
No Lord.

 

 

JESUS
Another of his cunning brainwaves. They were both Judas’s ideas, you know, these miracles. I had nothing to do but perform them. Giving sight to poor blind Bartimaeus, and restoring life to dear dead you, Lazarus! That really was a stroke of genius!

LAZARUS
It was, wasn’t it? Amazing. Where did you get the idea, Judas?

JUDAS
A woman we met in Samaria. A dabbler in folk medicine, she showed me some of the powders and potions she’d made. One she described sounded just the kind of drug I was looking for. You know the one I mean, Lazarus. You took it.

LAZARUS
I didn’t know who or where I was when I woke. Everything was black and silent. Then I realized. I’m in the tomb. I could still taste the drug on my tongue. I remembered why ­ your plan and our pact, one swig from the phial while my sisters watched. Everything swirled before my eyes in a fizz of lights and I fell away to oblivion. And there I was ­ alive again after two days ‘dead’. It was stifling and I pulled the cloth away from my mouth to breathe. All I could hear was my heartbeat, and I remember thinking: What if I suffocate before they arrive? How embarrassing would that be – if I failed to rise on command? Or what if while I’d been in the coma, there’d been an earthquake, or you’d all been arrested and executed, and no one knew I was alive; I’d slowly die there gasping hungry and thirsty walled up inside the tomb, my fingers bloody stumps from futile scratching. And just as I was resigning myself to the worst, the stone suddenly grated aside; light poured in and I heard your voice.

JESUS
“Lazarus, come forth!”

LAZARUS
And I did, more grateful than I’ve ever been in my entire life. If you’re talking miracles, Lord, that was one for me. Resurrected from the darkness to the light, to sound and people! Magic!

JUDAS
The villagers who’d been at the funeral only two days before were amazed as you walked from the tomb alive. Everyone agreed that it was a miracle that only the Messiah could have performed.

JESUS
I’m grateful to you and your sisters for all the trouble you went to, Lazarus, but I didn’t ask for any of these wonderful inventions, and there are to be no more of them. The publicity may have boosted my popularity, but it’s mostly those looking for cures, or thrill-seekers, not serious repenters. Miracles attract the wrong sort.

JUDAS
And I’ve promised to stop contriving them. But you must admit that Lazarus’ resurrection was a masterpiece of planning and timing!

JESUS
Indeed. Which makes it even more extraordinary that the brain which arranged such a scheme should belong to the same individual who gave away all our money to a beggar?

JUDAS
I had to.

JESUS
You knew perfectly well I’d promised the men a lamb for Passover! Where is your logic? By your kind charity you’ve profited one and beggared thirteen!

LAZARUS
Well I’m glad you’re broke, Lord, because now you can’t refuse my offer to pay for the wine!

JESUS
Oh, Lazarus! In your debt again.

 

 

LAZARUS
There’s nothing to do but accept! And the best wine it shall be! There’s a wonderful vintner on the other side of the village. You stay. You shouldn’t be seen until you leave for the city. I’ll get a couple of boys to carry the flagons. Back soon!
(He runs out.)

JESUS
So. Today of all days we’re suddenly poor.

JUDAS
I’m sorry Lord. Bartimaeus was threatening to expose you. I had to protect your name.

JESUS
Me? What’s it got to do with me? You’re the one who created the ridiculous situation! What have I to do with miracles apart from the ultimate one of changing hearts and founding the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth!

JUDAS
I’m sorry, Lord.

JESUS
Well, it can’t be helped. I know you meant well, Judas, but from now on I’m asking you to follow my orders and do everything I ask. Agreed?

JUDAS
Of course. I already do everything you tell me! When have I not?

JESUS
I’ve been looking for a chance to speak to you alone. There’s something I want you to do. The men expect a lamb for the Passover feast. If you do as I ask we should easily afford one!

JUDAS
Do you want me to borrow money from Joseph of Arimathea?

JESUS
We don’t borrow. We receive. But in this case only ­ we sell.

JUDAS
We have nothing of value, Lord. All we have are the clothes we stand up in.

JESUS
We do have something which might fetch a reasonable price.

JUDAS
What Lord?

JESUS
Me.

JUDAS
You? What do you mean?

JESUS
When we get to Jerusalem I want you to go to the Temple priests and offer to betray me. They should pay a reasonable sum.

JUDAS
You’re joking, right?

JESUS
I’m serious. You’ll hand me over to them.

JUDAS
Have you gone mad? Why should I do such a thing? The priests hate you. You threaten their authority. They want rid of you. Remember the reaction to Lazarus’ resurrection? We just got out of Bethany in time before the Temple police arrived to bring you in for questioning. Thank God Joseph of Arimathea warned us they were on the way. Just as we’re on the eve of the Kingdom, after all your preaching, all the followers you’ve gained, why should you pull such a suicidal stunt and doom the movement to failure?

JESUS
Trust me. I’ve thought the whole thing out. Far from damning the mission, handing me over to them will result in our success!

JUDAS
How do you work that one out?

JESUS
The Sanhedrin are eager to bring me in for interrogation, it’s true, but they wouldn’t arrest me in the streets when I’m surrounded by followers, for fear of sparking a riot they’d find difficult explaining to the Romans. But if they had the chance to seize me in some unguarded place, they’d jump at it.

JUDAS
This doesn’t sound like success to me.

JESUS
Listen. Have you heard of the Passover Amnesty?

JUDAS
No. What’s that?

JESUS
It’s a special concession the Romans have granted the Jews. A prisoner of popular choice can be released to the people on the day of Passover. The release is made at the Praetorium. And who else would that popular prisoner be, but me!

JUDAS
Master. I

 

JESUS
Can’t you just see it, Judas? When news gets round that I’ve been arrested, all my followers will head for the Praetorium to raise their voices and demand my release, and on that day their demand cannot be refused by law. I will be freed by the will of the people, and the message of the Kingdom will be on the lips of every man in Jerusalem!

JUDAS
(Imagining) I can see it. Triumphant hallelujahs echo in the air as they carry you down the steps away from your captors, shoulder high to victory through the jubilant crowds!

JESUS
“The Kingdom of heaven is here!”

JUDAS
But at the same time I see risk of injury while in police custody. They’re sadistic pigs. Please reconsider, Lord. Think about it.

JESUS
I’m resolute, Judas. When we get to Jerusalem you will go to the temple, seek out the officials and come to an arrangement. Try to get a good price! I need hardly say that this matter is strictly between you and me. The men must have no inkling.

JUDAS
You can trust me with a secret, Lord. How much do the brothers know about our ‘miracles’? Nothing.

JESUS
That’s true. They actually believe I cured Bartimaeus and resurrected Lazarus, don’t they? Better to keep them ignorant rather than confuse them with the facts. They’re simple, trusting souls, and I love them for that! You’re quite a different kettle of fish, Judas. That’s why I chose you for this mission. You’ve a cool head on your shoulders, and you’re wily.

JUDAS
But they’ll think I’m a real traitor if I hand you over to the authorities and hate me!
JESUS
Not for long. When I’m released I’ll tell them you were merely following orders, and you’ll be admired and respected. In the meantime mum’s the word.

JUDAS
My lips are sealed.

JESUS
(Hugging Judas) I’m glad I chose you as my last disciple, Judas. You’ve proved most useful.
(He kisses him. Mary enters.)

MARY
Sorry to disturb. There’s a young man downstairs who wants to see the Master.

JUDAS
I thought we agreed no visitors?

MARY
I told him, but he was sore crestfallen. Said he’d been searching for months. There’s something strange about him. He’s dressed like a beggar but his voice is cultured.

JUDAS
I’ll go and vet him. God! This place is more like a caravanserai than a secret hideout!
(He goes out.)

MARY
Not so secret. The whole village knows you’re here. They’re planning a big send-off! (Pause) Another of your lightning visits. Always on the move. You’ll stay for lunch at least?

JESUS
If it’s ready before our transport arrives. The men are keen to get started. Their hopes are high.

 

MARY
And yours? Are you excited?

JESUS
The idea of the Kingdom has caught on. Crowds came out on our last tour. We’ve made contacts in Jerusalem too. A rich merchant is putting us up for Passover!

MARY
So I’ve heard. Congratulations.

JESUS
It’s the culmination of the mission. Passover in the Holy City. Time for the harvest!

MARY
It’s not yet spring. You’re brave. Or mad. (Pause) You know, this is the first time we’ve actually ever been alone together. You’re always surrounded.

JESUS
Except when I pray. I pray alone.

MARY
What else do you do alone?

JESUS
Crap and sleep, I suppose. And die, eventually.

MARY
I’m bored to death here in Bethany. There’s nothing to do. Or rather, there’s lots to do ­ but it’s all boring. Fetching water and firewood, feeding the animals, washing the clothes, grinding the corn, making the food, weaving, stitching, and mending. It reminds me of why I ran away in the first place. I love Lazarus and Martha, but we’re not really on the same wavelength. I’m beginning to wish you hadn’t brought me home.

 

JESUS
You asked us to. Bethany was on our way so it was no big deal.

MARY
Of course it’s better now our bastard father’s gone. Maybe it’s because it’s such a change in my lifestyle ­ from glamour and excitement to dull and dreary.

JESUS
Do you miss your former life?

MARY
God, no! It was false. False feelings, false friends, false fun, false everything! Selfish, greedy, vain; conniving in corruption without a thought for the poor and oppressed. You woke me up and saved my life ­ literally! Those filthy-minded Pharisees had been watching my place for weeks before they decided to break in and drag me out of bed screaming ‘Adulteress!” Pulling me through the streets by my hair as they gathered stones along the way, dumping me at the feet of you and your men, awaiting your agreement to my execution. Please say them again. The words you told them then. The cleverest retort ever!

JESUS
“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

MARY
Wham! Hypocrites! They slunk away with their tails between their legs, defeated! Could anyone in the world cast that first stone? Except you, perhaps? Are you sinless?

JESUS
I’ve never claimed to be.

MARY
You try to be, though. That’s enough. And you certainly seem to be sinless. There are no visible signs of greed or pride or wrath about you. What about lust? Do you know how hard it is for a man to resist a woman when she deliberately uses her charms to get what she wants?

JESUS
‘Lead us not into temptation’.

MARY
You’ve heard of how the princess Salome danced before King Herod and won the head of John the Baptist?

JESUS
Unfortunately, yes.

MARY
They say she stripped as she danced, seven silken veils plucked and tossed aside like petals until she stood there naked. (She begins to dance slowly and sensuously around Jesus as she speaks.) As she danced that night, young princess Salome, expert in her charms, beguiling, bewitching, seductive, and aiming all at the infatuated king, cast off her seven veils much as you have cast off the seven deadly sins of the spirit. (She dances each of the sins, casting them from her self.) Pride! Wrath! Envy! Gluttony! Avarice! Sloth! (She finishes her dance kneeling in front of Jesus.) Lust?
(She reaches for the hem of his robe.)

JESUS
(Sternly) Don’t touch.

MARY
Congratulations. You pass with flying colors. Seven out of seven. (She stands up.) I can see that the only time I’m likely to get my hands on your body is when it’s laid out for your funeral! (Pause) After her dance Herod granted Salome her wish. Does mine not deserve likewise?

JESUS
What would you ask?

 

 

MARY
Let me come with you to Jerusalem.

JESUS
No, Mary. You must stay here with Martha and my mother. The city will be crowded and noisy and there might be trouble

MARY
I want to be with you. Why can’t I be a disciple?

JESUS
We have the full quota. And of course, a woman disciple would be viewed with suspicion in this day and age.

MARY
Hypocrites! (Pause) When the Pharisees asked if I should be stoned you were quiet for a long time before you answered. You were writing something in the sand with your finger. What were you writing?

JESUS
I was drawing.

MARY
What?

JESUS
A circle.

MARY
Why?

JESUS
Why not?

MARY
Was it a circle that shut me out or a circle that drew me in?

JESUS
What do you think, Mary?

MARY
(After looking into his eyes searchingly) I think I’m going to give you something nice for your entry into Jerusalem. You may not look much but you’re going to smell like a million shekels! (She walks to the door, turns and smiles.) A surprise! (She goes out.)

(JAMES and JOHN enter from the roof, followed by PETER.)

JOHN
Lord! Lord! Please settle an argument between me and Peter. He says you won’t, but I say you will! Promise you’ll let James and me sit on either side of you in judgment of the sinners when you’re made king in Jerusalem! That would be so cool!

JESUS
Have you not learned from me yet that those who exalt themselves shall be humbled and those who are humble shall be exalted? Obviously not, if you can ask such a question!

PETER
I warned him not to.

JESUS
Blessed are the poor in spirit! The meek! Your request is just sheer pride and arrogance!

JOHN
Okay, okay. Sorry I asked.

(Martha enters with a pot of cooked lentils and the Mother follows with a platter of flat bread. They place them on the floor before the men. Then they fill the men’s cups with wine and retire to the side of the room.)

JAMES
I’m too excited to eat. When are we leaving?

JESUS
As soon as Thomas gets here with the donkeys.

PETER
Oh no lord! Not on a donkey! That’s no way for the Messiah to enter the city! You should be seated on a fiery Arab charger! Coming in victory!

JESUS
The horse is a symbol of war. I come in peace. Besides, it’s written in Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O. daughter of Jerusalem: behold thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.” The scriptures must be fulfilled.

JAMES
Which one do you intend to ride, Master? The ass or the foal? Or if the scriptures are to be fulfilled – both at the same time?

(They all laugh at the joke. JUDAS enters from the stairwell with DARIUS, a young man in beggars’ rags. Seeing Jesus, he goes to him and kneels, taking his hand and kissing it)

DARIUS
My Lord! At last!

JESUS
(Raising him to his feet) Stand up. No man should kneel to another.

JUDAS
Here’s a visitor I couldn’t bring myself to turn away. When you’ve heard his story you’ll know why.

DARIUS
I’ve done it, lord.

JESUS
What have you done?

DARIUS
I’ve done what you told me to. I sold all my possessions and gave the money to the poor. I’ve come to follow you. I’ve searched so long. Don’t you recognize me? I must look different now without my fine clothes and jewels.

JESUS
(Recognizing him) The rich young man? Could it be? You came to me after a sermon I gave in Galilee?

DARIUS
You remember. I asked you what I must do to ensure a place in Heaven.

JESUS
I told you to follow the Commandments.

DARIUS
(Repeating their conversation) “I always have.”

JESUS
“Then one thing remains. Renounce your wealth, sell all you have, give the money to the poor, then come and follow me.”

DARIUS
I walked away. What you asked seemed utterly impossible.

JESUS
And I used you as a perfect example of our main obstacle. “You see how difficult it is for a rich man to enter Heaven?” I announced to the crowd. “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.”

DARIUS
I spent many days in troubled contemplation before casting all doubt aside and deciding to follow your advice. I freed my slaves, sold all my possessions and property and distributed the money to the poor. My father cursed me for a fool and disowned me, but I didn’t care. I left home to search for you, exchanging my garments with a beggar I met on the way. I’m richer now with nothing. I am yours to command, Lord. Please say you will accept me?

JESUS
What is your name?

DARIUS
My name is Darius, lord.

 

 

JESUS
Welcome, Darius. (He smiles and embraces Darius warmly before turning to the others.) Observe closely brothers! This is a real miracle! A camel has passed through the eye of a needle! Here is a true believer who has sacrificed more than any of us to gain eternal life! Here is one who has humbled himself and is worthy of exaltation!

DARIUS

Thank God I’ve found you at last.
(He stumbles, almost fainting, and Jesus supports him.)

JESUS
You’re exhausted! Drink! (He holds his cup to Darius lips and helps him drink.)
Here, sit next to me and eat.

(The men squat down and eat, dipping bread into the pot of lentils. Jesus feeds Darius with his own hand.)

JOHN
That’s my place Lord! I always sit at your right.

JESUS
Don’t be jealous, John. Look at all that Darius sacrificed for my sake. He has humbled himself completely. He deserves the place of honor.

(John folds his arms and sits seething.
Mary appears from the stairwell and approaches Jesus. Standing behind him, she breaks open a small flask of nard (perfume) and pours it over his head. John pushes her roughly aside.)

JOHN
What do you think you’re doing?
JUDAS
That’s expensive perfume, Mary! You’d have done better to sell it and give us the money!

JAMES
Yeah! What a waste! If you know what I mean.

JESUS
Leave her. By this action Mary has fulfilled another of the prophecies. The word ‘Messiah’ means ‘the Anointed One’. She has made me that.

JOHN
Anointed by a whore? It’s an insult!

JAMES
She’s made you smell like one, too!

LAZARUS
(Entering) Thomas has arrived with the donkeys. He’s waiting in the street. Quite a crowd has gathered.

JESUS
(Rising) The time has come.

LAZARUS
Won’t you stay and take a cup for the road? The new wine is here.

 

JESUS
We’ll take it with us. James and John will carry a flagon each.

JUDAS
Lazarus, tell the villagers to break off palm branches and wave them along the route as we go. Singing hosannas.
(Lazarus goes out.)

THE MOTHER
(Wrapping the bread in a cloth) You’ve hardly eaten a thing. Take this bread with you. It would be a shame to waste it.

JESUS
Thank you, mother. Carry it Judas. Mother. (He holds her in his arms) Whatever happens, we will meet again in the Kingdom of Heaven. Preferably the one on earth.

THE MOTHER
God be with you son!

MARTHA
Let it be on earth! Thy kingdom come!

JESUS
Take good care of my mother. (To disciples) Now men, try to stick together when we get to Jerusalem. We’ve got brothers at the gates to announce our arrival. If anyone gets lost, which is highly possible with the multitudes there, ask for the address of Joseph of Arimathea, a rich merchant who lives in the upper city. He’s well-known. Some of you have tasks to perform once we get to the city which should be promptly carried out. (He winks at Judas) Darius, you shall ride beside me on the foal. You’re exhausted, and the trudge into Jerusalem would be too much for you.

(John exclaims angrily, but is silenced by a nudge from Peter.)

DARIUS
Oh no, Lord! I’m not worthy of such an honor!

JESUS
You are worthy of far more. If you prefer I shall ride the colt and you the she-ass.

DARIUS
No, no! I will take the colt.

JESUS
And so, may your Passover here in Bethany be as happy as the one we will celebrate – this year, at last, in Jerusalem!
(Jesus throws an arm around Darius and they go out followed by the men. There is the sound of a cheering crowd.)

MARTHA
Goodbye! Goodbye! We’ll watch here from the windows!

(The women go to look out of the windows at the side of the room. They wave as they talk)

MARY
Those donkeys are a mangy looking pair.

MARTHA
There aren’t as many people to send him off as I expected. Only a handful really. (Pause) Look! The wine vendor has his spread his cloak over the ass for the Master to sit on!

MARY
In appreciation for the roaring trade he does each time the Master visits us.

MARTHA
They’ve mounted.

MARY
The foal is too small for the rich young man. His feet nearly touch the ground. The children are laughing.

MARTHA
They’re off! (Shouting) Good luck! God bless! Success! Success!

MARY
There he goes. Like a lamb to the slaughter; another victim for “the city which murders the prophets and stones the messengers God sends to her.” Not only do the hypocrite priests await him, but the brutal occupying Romans as well. May his Father give him protection! He needs it!

 

THE MOTHER
Son! My son! Dear God forgive me!
(She faints. Martha and Mary catch and support her. Tableau.)

 

BLACKOUT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SCENE 2.

(Jerusalem. The store room above the stable of Joseph of Atrimathea. James, John and Peter sit slouched disconsolately. Darius is looking out of one of the narrow windows.)

JOHN
I’m starving!

JAMES
Me too.

PETER
Quit whining! We’re in Jerusalem, aren’t we?

JOHN
Looking at these blank stone walls, we could be anywhere. When the Master told us we were going to be entertained at the home of rich merchant Joseph of Arimathea, I wasn’t expecting it to be in the junk room above his stable!

PETER
Joseph apologized. He said it would be too risky for him to entertain the Lord in his own house. It could cause problems with the Sanhedrin. We should count our blessings on getting such a nice big space for our Passover feast. Most pilgrims are crammed together in inns.

 

 

 

JAMES
Like those mates of Matthew’s we met. We should have gone along with them when they invited us. I bet they’re knocking back the wine and stuffing themselves and having a great old time!

PETER
Everybody will be here to share supper. They all know the address.

JOHN
No wonder the others got lost, the way they were walking around staring and gaping at the sights like children! Embarrassing!

PETER
It’s the first time they’ve seen the city.

JAMES
It was when the Lord started shouting and turning over the stalls and freeing the birds in the temple courtyard that most of us got separated. In the panic.

JOHN
Yeah. When he suddenly went haywire! What was he shouting?

PETER
“My father’s house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves”!

 

 

JOHN
We’d have been killed if those merchants had caught us! Thank God we managed to outrun them!

JAMES
He made a point, though. It’s not right for them to be changing money and selling animals in the temple precincts. And did you see the price they were charging for pigeons! Daylight robbery!

JOHN
Well, at least we’re having lamb for supper. Judas is getting that, isn’t he? He should be here by now.

PETER
Count your blessings! Here we are in Jerusalem!

JOHN
I’m disappointed. I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t. Our entry was an anticlimax and it’s been downhill ever since.

JAMES
As we were coming through the gates shouting our hosannas this trader came up and asked what was going on. I told him the Messiah had come. “What, another one?” he exclaims. “That’s the fifth we’ve seen today! May the best man win!”

 

 

 

JOHN
That’s nothing. This guy asks me; “Which one is your Messiah? The one on the donkey or the one on the foal? Or is it a double act?” People laughed. We’re just another Passover distraction, and Jerusalem is full of them.

PETER
You watch your mouth! Our Lord is the Messiah! We’re here for the showdown!

JOHN
You’re quiet, Darius. What do you think? Have we backed a winner or not?

DARIUS
I’m sure that the lord is the true Messiah. We must put our faith in him.

JOHN
Well you would say that wouldn’t you? You’ve staked more than any of us to ensure your place in heaven. If he fails we can always return to our fishing nets in Galilee. But as for you ­ your bridges are charcoal.

(Judas enters.)

JAMES
Ah, Judas is here! Go and tell the Lord, Darius. He’s praying on the roof, but he said we should let him know as soon as Judas arrived.

(Exit Darius.)

JOHN
Where’s the lamb?

JUDAS
Hello, brothers. I’m afraid I haven’t been able to find one to suit our needs.

JOHN
What? Passover in Jerusalem without a lamb? You have got to be kidding!

(Jesus enters followed by Darius)

JESUS
Welcome Judas. What seems to be the problem?

JOHN
He hasn’t got us a lamb!

JESUS
Is this true Judas?

JUDAS
Lord! Such problems!

JESUS
Money?
(Judas drops out the few coins left in the purse.)

JESUS
Peter, take this and see what you can find to eat. It might buy a couple of chickens at least. We already have the bread and wine we brought from Bethany.

PETER
Yes Lord.

JESUS
Go with him all of you. Find the brothers and bring them here. We planned to celebrate Passover together in Jerusalem, and we’re damned well going to!

JOHN
Chicken for Passover in the holy city! This is the limit! How much lower can we sink?

PETER
You shut your mouth and come with me. See you later, Lord.

(He goes out followed by James and John. Darius remains.)

JESUS
Go with them Darius.
DARIUS
Yes Lord.
(He goes.)

 

JESUS
If only they were all like him! Now, Judas? What news? Have you done my bidding?

JUDAS
Oh my Lord! What a horrible experience!

JESUS
You spoke with the High Priests? Didn’t you come to an agreement?

JUDAS
We did, but they only do cash on delivery – no advance. They were so disdainful! A couple said they’d never heard of you, but others reminded them of ‘the man from Galilee’, and there were grunts of recognition. But said they’re not parting with the reward until you’re in their hands.

JESUS
Well at least they want me. How much are they prepared to pay?

JUDAS
Thirty pieces of silver.

JESUS
Is that all! What an insult! That’s the standard price for a slave!

JUDAS
You’re worth far more than that, Lord. So we’ll cancel the plan. I didn’t think much of it in the first place.
JESUS
The money is not important. We move on to stage two. The arrest. You will hand me over to them tonight!

JUDAS
I beg you Lord! Don’t go through with this! If you’d only seen those bloated hypocrites! They’re vicious! I can’t bear the thought of me being the instrument to deliver your precious body into their hands!

JESUS
Courage man! I won’t be in their clutches for long. How many times must I remind you of the Passover Amnesty? Keep repeating it to yourself. Bank on it! I will be released and they won’t be able to arrest me again. Thirty pieces of silver! How they’ll squirm on that day when they realize that their own greed and cunning has helped to release the Messiah onto the world and launched the Kingdom of God!

JUDAS
But lord!

JESUS
No buts, Judas. I am determined. You will share the Passover feast with us tonight. During the meal I’ll give you a signal to return to the priests. When I dip a piece of bread in the wine and give it to you, get up and go. You’ll find us in the Garden of Gethsemane, just outside the city walls, a nice quiet place for an easy arrest. I’ll separate myself a little from the others in the company of Peter, James and John. Oh, and Darius too, of course. In order to make quite sure they know whom to arrest, tell them it’ll be the one you kiss in greeting. Thus! (He kisses Judas) In that way only I will be seized and the others spared.

JUDAS
And then what will happen? Think what they might do!

JESUS
No speculation, Judas! What happens happens. It’s God’s will. Now I must go back to my prayer. Don’t let me down. I’m relying on you.

(Jesus goes off to pray. Judas watches him go, then slumps down in a dejected position. Darius enters.)

DARIUS
Where is the Lord?

JUDAS
Praying on the roof.

DARIUS
We found the others in a nearby tavern. They’re having a quick drink before coming back for supper. I preferred to be near the Lord. Are you all right, Judas? You look unhappy.

JUDAS
Don’t ask.

DARIUS
(Putting an arm around his shoulder) Come. A problem shared is half resolved. (Judas bursts into tears.) What is it, Judas? Tell me.

JUDAS
I can’t. I gave my word to tell no one!

DARIUS
If it concerns the Lord, you must tell me, Judas! You know how much he means to me!

JUDAS
Have you heard of the Passover Amnesty?

DARIUS
When the Romans free a prisoner of the people’s choice?

JUDAS
That’s right. The Lord wants me to organize his arrest tonight in the garden of Gethsemane. He’s sure the prisoner that the people choose will be him.

DARIUS
It’s suicide! Deliver him into their hands and it will be the end of the mission. They’ll find a way to get rid of him, even if the whole of Jerusalem clamors for his release!

JUDAS
I agree. But what can I do? The lord has ordered it.

DARIUS
(Rising) I’ll try to persuade him to change his mind.
JUDAS
(Clutching his sleeve) No, Darius, no! I have put up all arguments against the scheme, but he is determined, and he would be furious. He gave me strict instructions to tell no one else.

DARIUS
(After a pause) How are you to identify him to the police?

JUDAS
With a kiss. They’ll arrest the one I kiss in greeting.

DARIUS
(After a thought) I can see a way of saving him.

JUDAS
For God’s sake, what is it?

DARIUS
A substitute.

JUDAS
What?

DARIUS
They don’t know what he looks like. Their orders are to arrest the one you kiss. Don’t kiss him. Kiss me.

 

JUDAS
(After a pause) Do you know what you’re suggesting? Would you be willing to go through the treatment they may inflict, thinking you him? Humiliation, torture, maybe even death?

DARIUS
The Lord is everything to me. For him I have renounced wealth, title and family. Every blow struck against me would be one spared the Lord, and my death in his place would be the ultimate blessing if it left him alive and free to continue preaching the message of the Kingdom. Didn’t he say that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend?

JUDAS
The priests only know the Lord by description, and you look similar enough. It just might work.
(In the distance we hear the slightly drunk brothers approaching, singing discordant psalms.)
Okay, it’s a deal. I’ll kiss you in the garden and spare the Lord. But while you are under arrest you must be silent and utter not a word to betray him, no matter how they provoke you. That way, no charges can be brought. If you behave gently and nobly you may win the respect of your captors. And there’s even the possibility that your release may be granted for the Passover Amnesty if the crowd believes that you are the Lord.

DARIUS
I’ll place my trust in God.
(Judas embraces Darius fondly, then breaks away as the slightly drunk disciples enter the room singing and swaying, ready for their Passover supper)

BLACKOUT.

SCENE 3
(The Garden of Gesthemane.)

(James and John are seated on the ground leaning against each other, asleep. Peter is also asleep. Darius sits crouched, his arms crossed, staring into space. Jesus enters and looks at the sleepers, then at Darius. He crouches beside him and puts an arm around his shoulder.)

JESUS
Cold, Darius?

DARIUS
No, Lord.

JESUS
You’re shivering. Take my cloak.
(He takes off his cloak and puts it around Darius)

DARIUS
No, Lord!

JESUS
I don’t need it. I feel hot. Like I’m sweating blood.

DARIUS
Have you finished praying?

 

 

JESUS
Not yet. I’m in the middle of a tough one and I needed a break. (Pause) Look at this lot! I asked them to stay alert while I prayed and I’ve hardly been gone an hour!

DARIUS
They’re exhausted Lord. It’s been a long day.

JESUS
They’re a bit disappointed too, aren’t they Darius? The day didn’t quite live up to their expectations. James and John had imagined me king of Jerusalem by now. And there weren’t as many followers here to greet us as we’d thought.

DARIUS
But just think how many new followers you will have gained by your presence in the city. The word will spread.

JESUS
Not quickly enough for James and John. They want the Kingdom now ­ yesterday! Still, they may yet be in for a surprise. (He smiles) But you have not fallen asleep, Darius. Are you not tired also?

DARIUS
You asked us to watch with you, Lord.

 

 

JESUS
(Putting an arm round Darius and kissing him) You are a true disciple, Darius. Watch and pray with me, that we enter not into temptation: the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak. (He kicks the men awake.) Wake up you louts! Could you not watch with me for one hour? (He storms off. They awake in sleepy confusion.)

PETER
That was the lord.

JAMES
He was angry. We’re supposed to be on lookout.

PETER
How could we let ourselves fall asleep? We’re supposed to be guarding him.

JOHN
Who from? We’re in a quiet little orchard outside the city walls and it’s the dead of night. The pigs are hardly likely to come looking for him here ­ and let’s face it, why should they? He’s done nothing to pose a real challenge today apart from kicking over a few stalls in the temple courtyard ­ hit and run. We ran! Why didn’t he stay and face them? That might have done it. The confrontation to spark the flame to light the torch to signal the dawning of the new world (Drifting off to sleep again)

PETER
(Shaking him) Don’t fall asleep you slut! Do you remember he said we would ‘all fall away from him’ tonight? For it has been written: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”
JOHN
Yeah, yeah, another quote from the scriptures! Very convenient, aren’t they, to keep us sheep in awe? I tell you, more and more I’m losing my awe.

JAMES
I know what you mean. Take tonight’s supper for instance. Apart from no lamb, as promised

JOHN
I’m starving!

JAMES
Me too. But the whole occasion was way over my head. He’s getting too symbolic. What was all that washing our feet at the beginning of the meal?

PETER
He was giving us an example of how we should humble ourselves to each other.

JOHN
Well I found it embarrassing. And confusing too. What kind of a lord is it who abases himself like that!

JAMES
And that stuff with the bread and wine. Saying it was his body and blood and that we were eating and drinking him! Like cannibals!

JOHN
Gross! Trying to make the meal special to compensate for the lack of lamb.

PETER
Be grateful we had something to eat! If he could hear you talking!

JOHN
Let him! We’ve come all this way together. I’ve as much right to speak my mind as anyone else. He’s on the defensive. What was all that about one of us going to betray him?

JAMES
Yeah. Like everybody gets suspicious all of a sudden!

JOHN
Me too! Like ­ oh my God! Suddenly a traitor in our midst!

 

JAMES
Darius asked who. Sitting in your place of honor, John, leaning his head on the Lord’s breast.

JOHN
Don’t rub it in!

PETER
It could be any of us.

JOHN
(Snuggling down) It could be me, if turncoat and traitor have the same meaning. I’ve had enough of sleeping under the stars with an empty belly for an empty dream. If nothing happens soon I’m off back to Galilee. At least I know I’ve got a job waiting there.

JAMES
(Snuggling down) It’s Judas. When Darius asked who was going to betray him, the Lord said: “He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it.” And when he’d dipped it, he gave it to Judas. He looked embarrassed. The Lord said: “That thou doest, do quickly.” And Judas got up and went out.

 

 

JOHN
I thought he was being sent to beg some scraps from Joseph of Arimathea’s kitchen. Anyway, the Master handed us all sops after that, so it could be anyone. My bet’s on Mark. I’ve always thought he had a shifty look.

PETER
Let’s not jump to conclusions. Whoever it is, I wouldn’t like to be in his shoes. “Woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed,” he said! “It had been good for that man if he had not been born!”

JOHN
At least we know we’re not the traitors. Maybe that’s why he chose us as his guards, away from the others? Whatever, this garden is safe enough. No one could find us here. I’m so tired. (He falls asleep.)

JAMES
(Imitating Jesus) “John, John! Can you not watch with me for one hour?” (He leans against John and falls asleep.)

PETER
I haven’t heard a single cock crow yet. (He falls asleep.)

(Darius remains awake, sitting upright with dull expressionless eyes.)
JESUS
(Entering, looking into the distance) “Sleep on now and take your rest. Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners!”
(Peter, James and John awake and rise to their feet.)

JAMES
Torches! Coming this way!

JOHN
The police! Look! It’s Judas! He’s leading them! Fly Lord, fly! They’re coming to arrest you!

PETER
Didn’t we expect this all along? Stand firm men!

JOHN
“He who turns and runs away, lives to fight another day!” Doesn’t that make sense to you? Come on now! There’s no time to waste! Lord!?
(Jesus stands resolute, awaiting the approach of Judas and the officers.)

 

JAMES
It makes sense to me brother! Let’s move it! (He runs away.)

JOHN
(Screaming) Lord, lord! Don’t be a fool! (He runs away, calling) Run, brothers! Run!
(Jesus, Darius and Peter stand resolutely. Judas enters followed by two uniformed officers. He puts up his hand and they halt.)

JESUS
“Friend, wherefore art thou come?”
(Judas walks forward.)

JUDAS
Hail Master!
(He kisses Darius. Immediately the policemen come forward and grab Darius, tying his hands behind his back.)
Leave the others! They are innocent. We have the one we came for.

(The soldiers march Darius away. Judas follows. He turns and looks back at Jesus. They stare at each other for a moment, and then Judas turns and follows the arrested Darius. Jesus stares after them, open mouthed.)

PETER
What happened Lord? Why has Darius been arrested? What is going on?

JESUS
Go after them Peter! Watch, listen and remember everything. I’ll be waiting for news in the room where we shared supper. If you get a chance to speak to Judas alone tell him I want to speak to him urgently. Hurry now! Follow them! Be quick! Go!
(Peter goes after the retreating police and their captive. Jesus stares after them, looks up to heaven then around himself, alone. He runs off.)

BLACKOUT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SCENE 4
(Night. The store room above the stable of Joseph of Arimathea. Jesus is pacing back and forward nervously. He goes to look out of the window. There is a knock at the door. Jesus rushes to open it, but stops suddenly cautious.)

JESUS
Who is it?

PETER
(Outside) It’s Peter.
(Jesus unbolts the door and Peter enters.)

JESUS
What happened? What did you see?

PETER
Well, Lord, I followed them as you asked. They came to this big mansion and marched through into the courtyard. I wasn’t allowed in, and had to stand outside. I asked the gatekeeper whose house it was and he said it belonged to the Chief Priest Caiaphas. They were waiting for members of the Sanhedrin to arrive for an emergency council meeting that had been called. I bet they weren’t very happy! Dragged out of their comfortable beds at that time of the morning!

JESUS
Is that all you learned?

PETER
Oh no! I managed to get inside the courtyard. I waved to Judas and got his attention. He came over and spoke to the gatekeeper, and he let me in. I told Judas you wanted to see him, so he knows. He told me to pretend not to know Darius, or I could get into serious trouble. I said okay. Because I don’t really know him, do I, Master? We only met yesterday.

JESUS
What happened next?

PETER
Judas sidled away into the shadows, but I went to join the police warming themselves around a charcoal brazier. It was pretty nippy out. Still is. One of the cops eyes me suspicious-like and asks if I’m a follower of this guy? He points to Darius standing there so quietly with his hands tied behind his back, head bowed. I said I wasn’t. I’m not, am I? Not a follower of him. I’m a follower of you, Lord! I said he was just a loser and I had nothing to do with him.

JESUS
Go on!

 

PETER
Well, suddenly they’re all looking at Darius. He’s the reason they’re losing sleep, and they decide to take revenge. “Apologize!” says one; and when Darius doesn’t answer he spits in his face.

JESUS
In the face? He spat at him?

PETER
It gets worse. The others laughed. They thought it was hilarious. Then another one ties his dirty handkerchief around Darius’ eyes and says “this fellow fancies himself as a prophet and knows all kinds of things we don’t.” He spins him by his shoulders, slaps him across the face, and says: “Come on Prophet! Say which of us did that?!” Oh how they laughed!

JESUS
(Imagining it, crying) Leave him alone!

PETER
That’s what Judas said. But they ignored him. “Shut up and mind your own business or you’ll get some of the same!” one shouted. And they continued their game, pushing Darius around the circle, spinning him and hitting him. He made no sound as he whirled like a doll from punch to cheering punch. His silence seemed to make them madder and they started spitting and swearing as well, but they stopped when some serving maids came out with spiced wine. One wench stops and looks at me. “Is this one of the terrorist’s mates?” she asks. “No,” I say! “I don’t even know this guy!” Then I heard a cock crow somewhere and I remembered what you said about me denying you three times before the first cock crowed. But I hadn’t denied you lord. It was Darius I’d denied. He was the one standing there so quietly, with his nose and mouth bleeding, and his swollen eyes.

JESUS
Next! What happened next!

PETER
Then the doors of the mansion opened and Darius was escorted inside by the police. I managed to get inside and watched in the background with a few curious servants. The High Priests were seated in a circle around the hall, yawning and irritated. Darius stood in the middle. I could see Judas in the shadow of a pillar on the other side of the room. At first there was the testimony of a few witnesses, but the charges were against you, Lord! They called Darius ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. I didn’t understand. One witness said Darius claimed to be the Messiah and wanted people to worship him. Another said he’d called for the temple to be destroyed, which made the priests mutter angrily, but there was no real proof. Finally the Chief High Priest, Caiaphas stands up and slowly struts around Darius, looking him up and down and frowning and glaring. He asks why he doesn’t deny these accusations. But Darius remains silent, his eyes lowered. Then Caiaphas demands: “Answer me this one question. Are you Christ ­ the Son of God?” Darius slowly lifts his head and looks Caiaphas in the eye. “Yes,” he says quietly. “I am.” The priests gasped with horror and shouted oaths, and Caiaphas screams “Blasphemy! What need is there for further witnesses? You have all heard the blasphemy from his lips! What is your verdict?” And they all shout ‘Death! Death!” Many of them got up and surrounded Darius, spitting at him and slapping him. Then Caiaphas announced that the prisoner must be taken before the Roman procurator to be officially sentenced. The doors were thrown open and they all bustled out with Darius in the middle, spitefully pushing and pinching him. Could you explain what’s happening Lord? What was Judas doing with the police, why did they arrest Darius, and why is he pretending to be you? I’m confused.

JESUS
There’s no time to explain now. Go to the Praetorium. It’s the Roman governor’s residence. There’s to be an assembly in the courtyard there to choose a prisoner to be released. The Passover Amnesty. It must be Darius! Go and shout my name when they give the choice, not his! “Jesus of Nazareth!” Shout my name for Darius’ freedom! Return to me with the news as soon as you know who has been chosen. Pray God that it be he!

PETER
Yes, Lord.
(He runs out. Jesus watches him go, then turns and paces the floor, wringing his hands. Judas enters. Jesus stares at him.)

JESUS
Explain.

JUDAS
(Stammering) It was Darius’ idea. I confided in him about your plan and we both agreed that it would put you in mortal danger. He suggested taking your place. Oh Master! If you had see how the police treated him! I would have died rather than allow you to be submitted to such barbarous cruelty!

JESUS
(in anguish) Darius, oh Darius! (Pause, then fiercely) You broke your promise to me! Again you acted behind my back and deliberately defied me! I rue the day I took you as a disciple, and I will never trust you again!

JUDAS
They’ve taken Darius to the Roman Procurator to have him sentenced to death for blasphemy, Lord! That would have been you! We did it to save you! Don’t you understand?
(Suddenly Judas remembers the ransom money and holds out the purse to Jesus.)
Here’s the money! The thirty pieces of silver! They gave it to me!
(Jesus stares at it incredulously and backs away horrified. He flings open the door.)

JESUS
Take it back at once and tell them they have the wrong man! It was your mistake, you are sorry, but they must release Darius! He must be saved at all costs!

JUDAS
Yes, Master, yes! There is still a chance! And if worst comes to worst, we can always depend on the Passover Amnesty! Bank on it, you said!
Judas seizes Jesus’ hand and smothers it with kisses, but he pulls it away and wipes it on his tunic.

JESUS
Go! Now! Why are you still here? If they kill Darius I will hold you responsible! And you alone!
(Judas runs out of the room. Jesus closes his eyes, crumples to his knees and begins to pray.)

 

 

BLACKOUT.

 

 

SCENE 5

(Scene: the same room an hour later. Jesus is slowly pacing the floor, waiting for the news. Peter opens the door and comes in. They stare at each other.)

JESUS
Darius wasn’t freed?

PETER
No, Lord.

JESUS
(After a deep sigh) Did you find the place all right? The praetorium?

PETER
The courtyard was already packed when I got there. I managed to squeeze my way through till I got near the front. Roman soldiers stood on the steps with spears. Suddenly everyone went quiet as Puntius Pilate the procurator came out of the palace followed by two guards with Darius between them. What a state he was in! He had this crown of thorns stuck on his head. Blood ran down his face. His eyes were all puffed up and his nose looked like it was broken. They’d thrown a purple cloak around his shoulders, trying to make him look like a king. He swayed like a drunk. Pilate raises his hand and addresses the crowd. “I have questioned this prisoner,” he says, “And can find no criminal charges to bring against him. But since the Sanhedrin demand punishment – he has been scourged. Now, on this special day when I have the power to release one prisoner to you Jewish people; would you not wish to choose this self-styled ‘King of the Jews’ ­ Jesus of Nazareth?” A great murmur spread through the crowd, and the priests at the front demanded that he should die for his blasphemy. Pilate turned and spoke a few words to Darius but he didn’t answer. The priests start chanting for crucifixion. Pilate raises his hand for silence. He asks which prisoner he should release. Immediately the courtyard echoes with names. I started shouting ‘Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!’, and I’m sure I heard some others, but we were soon drowned out by the name the majority of the crowd began chanting in unison ­ ‘Barabbas! Barabbas! Barabbas!’ I asked a neighbour who Barabbas was, and he said he was a Zealot recently arrested at an anti-Roman demonstration; a great freedom fighter, far worthier of reprieve than the pacifict nobody Pilate was trying to palm off on us. The chant continued. “Barrabas! Barrabas! Barrabas!” Pilate spoke to a guard. He went into the palace and came out with a scruffy-looking prisoner who was greeted with wild cheers. The guard unshackled him and he walked down down the steps grinning. His jubilant supporters picked him up and carried him shoulder high out of the courtyard. Pilate washed his hands in a bowl held by a slave, then went back into the praetorium followed by Darius and the guards.

JESUS
What will happen to him?

PETER
He’s to be taken outside the city walls to a place called Golgotha and executed along with a couple of thieves. Crucified.

JESUS
(Anguished) Darius! Is this what you sought? So be it!
(Pulling himself together) Have you seen any of the brothers since the arrest in the garden?

PETER
No Lord. They all fled in panic. They may have left the city.

JESUS
_f you do meet any, forbid them to attend the execution. They think I was arrested. Let them believe it for the time being. Tell no one what really happened.

PETER
But Lord, the brothers would be so relieved to know that you are safe and free! I don’t understand. You still haven’t explained why Darius was arrested, and why he pretended to be you.

 

 

 

ESUS
I’ll answer your questions later. You must return to Galilee and await further orders. Be patient. I will come.

PETER
Yes Lord.

JESUS
Leave now. But before you go, seek out Joseph of Arimathea. Tell him that I’ve been crucified and ask for him to claim my body and give it a burial place. Darius deserves that respect at least.

PETER

Ah well. I suppose you both know what you’re doing. But it’ll be hard to take the sad news of your death back to Galilee when I know you’re alive. Lying doesn’t come easy for me.

JESUS
For my sake, Peter. You are my rock. Don’t forget that.

PETER
Trust me Lord. I will never deny or betray you.

JESUS
(Shaking his hand) I believe it. Now go. See you in Galilee.

(Peter leaves. Jesus covers his face with his hands and begins to weep.)

 

 

BLACKOUT.

 

 

 

 

 

SCENE 6

(A hillside overlooking Golgotha.)

. (Mary enters, followed by the Mother.)

MARY
This way, Mother. We’re nearly there.

MOTHER
(Looking back) Where is Martha? She seems to have disappeared.

MARY
She’s gone to see if she can find any disciples who might be left in the city.

MOTHER
(Staring ahead)
Behold! We are here.

MARY
(Staring out)
Ah! We are too late. But what could we have done to stop them? There are guards. What are they doing? Playing dice.

MOTHER
There are three crosses. Which one is his? My son.

MARY
The sun is setting behind them. They are in shadow. It’s difficult to tell.

MOTHER
Let us go closer. Let us get nearer.
(She totters forward. Mary takes her shoulders and holds her back.)

MARY
No, Mother. It would only add to his misery to witness your sorrow. We can see well enough from here. Your son is on the middle cross, of course. He would be given pride of place. The other two are only thieves.

MOTHER
(Beating her breast in anguish)
Jesus! It’s my fault that he has come to such an end! I am to blame!
MARY
That’s nonsense, Mother. Don’t say such a thing!

MOTHER
It is true. He grew up believing that he was special, and I let Joseph fill his head with the nonsense because I was afraid he would hate me if I told him the truth.

MARY
What are you talking about?

MOTHER
The angel! The angel! Surely you’ve heard of the blessed angel!

MARY
Of course. But ­ rumours. Idle gossip
MOTHER
I was thirteen when it happened. In Nazareth. But of course you know all that. I was happy that morning when I went to the well, earlier than usual before anyone else was up and about. The day before I had been officially betrothed to Joseph the carpenter, a good, gentle man. I was looking forward to the marriage so I could escape from my mean bad tempered father and the back of his hand. When I got to the well I was startled to see a figure sitting alone by the side, shining, glowing like gold. It was a Roman soldier, the rising sun reflecting on his helmet and breastplate. I’d never seen one so close up before. When I drew water he asked me for some and I gave him. He was friendly and handsome and his strange accent and sign language made me laugh. I tarried too long.
Suddenly without warning he picked me up and carried me into a little olive grove nearby. My heart beat wildly but I wasn’t afraid. I liked the feeling of his strong arms round me. He laid me down and whispered things. It all happened so quickly. It hurt but I didn’t cry out loud. I let him take me. He made me feel special.
But when he had spent himself and lay slumped, I realized how late it had become. I jumped up and ran back home with the water. Luckily no one else had risen so I was unseen.
I never saw the soldier again. He was my special secret, and I remembered his kisses fondly, but within a few weeks I discovered that I was with child.
What could I do to save myself? My father would have killed me! Or I’d be condemned by the elders to be stoned! I invented the most fantastic story to explain my condition. I went to Joseph and told him that an angel had appeared to me and announced that I was to bear the Son of God.
Miraculously, he believed me and we married earlier than planned, saving my life and reputation. No one ever knew or suspected the truth.
When Jesus was old enough to understand, Joseph told him of the angel that had announced his birth. He grew up believing he was different, destined one day to establish his Father’s kingdom on earth. I never talked about it with him and he never pressed me with questions, but now I wish to God that I had told him the truth! Even if he had hated and spurned me, he would have been spared this vile cruel death!
MARY
Oh Mother! What a life of pain you’ve led! But you mustn’t blame yourself. It makes no difference who his father was. Your son was a wise and intelligent man. He gave people hope and he challenged the authorities. He offered himself as a leader of justice and righteousness. It was inevitable that he should die this way.

DARIUS
(Wailing in the distance) My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?

MARTHA
(Arriving) None of the men are left in Jerusalem. All have fled like cowards! There is no one to help us! (On seeing the men she covers her eyes) Oh! They’re naked!

MOTHER
They die as they were born.

DARIUS
(Crying aloud in the distance) It is accomplished!

MARY
He’s dead.

MOTHER
(Weeping) Oh my son! My son!

(Martha puts her harm around the Mother, comforting her)

MARY
Dark clouds are approaching. There’s going to be a storm. The soldiers are getting ready to leave.

MARTHA
One has taken a hammer. What is he doing? Oh my God! (She covers her eyes. We hear the agonized screams of the other two prisoners.) He’s breaking their legs!

MARY
Sabbath is about to begin. It’s forbidden for Jews to be left on crosses then, so they smash the victims’ legs before they take them down and leave them to crawl away and die.

MARTHA
They’re not breaking the Master’s legs.

MARY
He’s already dead. It’s not worth the energy. But that other soldier has taken up his spear.
(The women react with cries of horror.)

MARTHA
The heartless brute! To ram him in the chest like that, as though he were a bale of hay!

MARY
He didn’t feel it. He feels nothing now. It’s we the living who are condemned to feel.

MARTHA
Look! Two men have arrived. They’re showing the guards a document.

MARY
They’re wrapping the body in a sheet. The men are picking it up. They’re carrying it away!

MARTHA
Come! Let’s follow them and find out where they’re taking it. Sabbath is almost upon us and we must get home, but we will return the day after and wash the body with due reverence. Until then let us hold back the tears, that they may burst forth the bitterer on the third day! Come! We must keep the men in sight!

(The women slowly go off, following the men who carry Darius’ corpse. A peal of thunder sounds in the distance.)

 

FADEOUT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SCENE 7

(The store room above the stable of Joseph of Arimathea. Night. The room is gloomy, lit by a lamp. Jesus sits on the floor, staring into space. There is a rapping at the door. Jesus ignores it. The rapping becomes a pounding.)

JUDAS
(Outside) Master! It’s me, Judas! Let me in! Please!

(Jesus gets up and unbolts the door. Judas enters. Jesus stands staring at Judas, his face emotionless.

JUDAS
Darius is dead. He died quite quickly. The body has been placed in a vacant tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. (Silence) Speak to me, Lord! Condemn me! Anything but this silent stare!

JESUS
(Calmly and coldly) I preach forgiveness, but I wonder if I could ever find it in my heart to forgive you for what you have done. Not only have you murdered my most devoted disciple, but you have destroyed the mission and perverted the prophecies as well!

JUDAS
If it weren’t for me, Lord, you’d be dead right now! “Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friend,” you said. Darius willingly took your place! The angels will rejoice at his arrival in Heaven instead of your own. Your mission on earth is far from over!
.

 

JESUS
(Groaning and burying his face in his hands) It should have been me! All is finished!

JUDAS
Not so! Everyone believes that it was you who was arrested, tried and crucified. What we have right here before us on a plate is a God-given opportunity for you to establish yourself once and for all as the true Messiah!

(Jesus removes his face from his hands and sits down on a bench.)

JESUS
Leave me. Your presence and the sound of your voice sicken me.

JUDAS
You are alive, yet none but Peter and I know that. You raised Lazarus from the dead, with many witnesses to vouch for it. If you wished, you could now perform the ultimate miracle of your career. Your own resurrection!

JESUS
What rubbish are you talking now!

JUDAS
If you reveal yourself after the Sabbath, whole and well, unvanquished even by death, who could refuse to believe that you are not truly the Anointed One – The Son of God? All is far from finished! Seize this opportunity that Darius has presented to you by his sacrifice!

JESUS
(After a pause) The body is in the tomb. My enemies could easily produce it as evidence.

JUDAS
(Laughing) That’s easily remedied! Due to the storm and the Sabbath few people are abroad tonight. No one will see me as I remove the corpse from the tomb and carry it to the city rubbish dump. The wild dogs that scavenge there will soon make short work of it.

JESUS
(Horrified) Ah, is that the final reward for his sacrifice? To be devoured by curs!

JUDAS
(Slightly impatient) Darius is dead, and his soul is certainly with God. He has no further need of his body, and it must disappear if this plan is to succeed. Let us benefit from the sacrifice. Your mother and the two sisters intend to anoint your body the day after Sabbath. Appear to them outside the empty tomb and they will be the first witnesses of your resurrection. The word will spread like wildfire ­ The Lord is risen! – And your kingdom will be as good as come!
(He kneels and kisses Jesus’ hands.)
Forgive me any pain I have caused you, Lord! I am your slave. My life is nothing without you.
(Jesus pulls his hands away.)

JESUS
Do as you wish. Past experience has shown me that once you have some scheme in your head, not even I can prevent you from carrying it out.
(Judas rises and makes for the door.)

JUDAS
I’ll be back as soon as I’ve accomplished the deed.

JESUS
Wait. I have a small task for you.

(Jesus rummages among a pile of tools in the corner and then turns holding out a mallet and a long iron nail. Judas understands and is horrified.)

JUDAS
No, Lord. That is not necessary.

JESUS
(Scornfully) It is if we wish to convince. I will be brave.

(Jesus seats himself on the bench and places his right hand palm-upward on the surface. He proffers Judas the hammer and nail. Judas backs away, revolted.)

JUDAS
No, Lord! Don’t ask me! How could I even think of causing you pain or scarring your blessed body!

JESUS
(In a fury) After the appalling torture that Darius endured for my sake do you think I am incapable of bearing a couple of paltry wounds?

(He flings the hammer and nail to the floor.)
Get out! You have thwarted me all along, acting behind my back and disobeying orders! Even this last simple request you refuse to perform! Traitor and coward, I detest you!

(Judas picks up the hammer and nail and approaches, trembling.)

JESUS
(Calmly) That’s more like it! Strike hard and quick. I will bear it.

(Judas holds the nail over Jesus’ unflinching palm with the mallet above it, frozen. Jesus kisses him on the cheek.)

JESUS
Don’t be afraid. Show that your love is strong enough to obey me unconditionally.

(Judas smashes the mallet down on the nail and it passes through Jesus’ hand. He screams.)

JUDAS
(Sobbing hysterically) Forgive me, Lord! Please forgive me!

JESUS
Pull it out and do the other!

(Judas pulls the nail out and hammers it through the other hand. He pulls it out and crumples to the floor, weeping. Jesus sits staring in fascination at the bleeding wounds in his hands. Gradually Judas stops sobbing and looks up. Jesus does not raise his eyes from his hands.

 

JESUS
(Quietly) Go and do what you have to do, and never let me see your face again for as long as I live.

(Judas crawls to the door, broken hearted. Before he goes he takes one last look at Jesus, who remains staring at his hands.)

JESUS
(Whispering) Darius! Darius!

BLACKOUT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SCENE 8
(The Garden of the Tomb. Martha enters carrying cloth and a vessel of myrrh.)

MARTHA
(Calling behind)
This is the place! I told you I’d be able to find it again!

(Mary enters supporting the limping Mother. They both carry pitchers of water.
The mother sinks to the ground exhausted.)

MOTHER
Let’s rest a while before we begin. It will take all our strength to move the stone.

(Martha puts a comforting arm around the Mother.)

MARY
I’ll see how difficult it is to shift.

(She goes off towards the tomb. The others put down their pitchers.)

MARTHA
The body has lain there two days. It will smell by now and be stiff.

MOTHER
It matters not. Just to hold his body one last time and wash it dead as I washed it newly born will be enough for me. I need to say goodbye.

(Mary’s scream is heard off. She comes running back.)

MARY
(Distraught) The tomb is open and empty! The Master’s body is gone!

(Martha and the Mother look at each other in surprise.)

MARTHA
Guard the myrrh, Mary. Let us go and see, Mother!

(Martha and the Mother hurry off to look at the tomb. Mary begins to weep in despair. Suddenly Jesus emerges from behind a tree and approaches her. The lower part of his face is covered with his scarf and his hands are bandaged. He approaches Mary and stops behind her.)

JESUS
(Softly) Why are you crying?

(Mary wheels around. She doesn’t recognize Jesus.)

MARY
Have you moved a body from that tomb, gardener? Please show us where it is so we can anoint it properly before burial!

JESUS
Mary.

(Amazed, Mary falls to the ground, stretching her hands out towards him.
Jesus steps back.)

 

 

JESUS
Don’t touch. Go and tell Peter and the others in Galilee that you’ve seen me. They must stay there until I come and give instructions. (He turns to go.)

MARY
No! Jesus! Wait! Stay and show yourself to your mother! She’ll be overjoyed to see you!
(Mary scrambles to her feet and runs towards the tomb calling. As soon as she is gone Jesus turns and walks quickly away out of the garden. Mary returns, excitedly pulling Martha and the Mother by their hands. She stops in dismay when she sees that Jesus has gone, looking around in bewilderment.)

MARY
He was here! He talked to me! I touched him!

MARTHA
You imagined it. The shock of finding the tomb empty. Grief can play strange tricks upon the mind.
(She puts an arm around her sister, but Mary shakes it off.)

MARY
I didn’t imagine it! The Master is alive, I tell you! He appeared to me! He said I must go to Galilee and tell the disciples! The Lord is risen! Risen! Truly risen from the grave!
(She kisses Martha and the Mother, and laughing and clapping, she dances out of the garden.
Martha and the Mother look sadly at each other and shake their heads. They follow her. The Mother is carrying the bloodstained shroud that wrapped the corpse of Darius.)
FADEOUT
SCENE 9

(The seashore of Galilee. Midday. Peter, James and John sit mending nets.)

JOHN
I’m starving!

JAMES
Me too.

PETER
Lunch’ll be here in a minute. Mary’s bringing it.

JOHN
Oh, her. She’s staying at your place, isn’t she? How is it?

PETER
She’s company for the wife. And she’s a good cook.

JOHN
But isn’t she all: “The lord is risen! The lord is risen?”

JAMES
Yeah! “I saw him! I touched him!” Loopy!

PETER
She’s not as excited as she was when she arrived, but she’s still convinced that she saw and spoke to the Lord.

JOHN
It’s sad. I used to think she was an embarrassment. Now I feel sorry for her.

JAMES
Cracked. Everyone knows he was crucified, dead and buried. End of story.

PETER
What about Lazarus? The lord resurrected him!

JAMES
Yeah, but that was different.

PETER
How so?

JAMES
Well There were a lot of witnesses. Us, for a start. And -you may be able to resurrect others but how can you resurrect yourself?

JOHN
Remember that night? The Lord in his prime! That was the kind of thing that made up for the hungry nights and the hardship! He was at his crest then. Curing that blind guy in Jericho, supplying wine for the wedding in Cana, and then the emergency call from Bethany to come and ‘waken’ sleeping Lazarus! Boy that was a night! We caroused till dawn!

PETER
Sounds like you’re missing the old days.

JOHN
I am in a way. Sure, things weren’t perfect, but there was always something happening. We had a bit of excitement in our lives. Now all we have is the smell of fish and the dream of what might have been.

PETER
Would you go back to the old life if you had the chance? Preaching the message?

 

 

 

JOHN
It wouldn’t be the same without the Lord. But I’ve been thinking about writing a book about our adventures. It would make a good story.

JAMES
You can’t write!

JOHN
I’ll get Matthew to teach me. And I’ll put down everything that the Lord said and did. We’ll all be in it and all the things that happened.

PETER
Don’t you go making yourself out some kind of hero!

JOHN
I won’t. Have I not learned that “those who exalt themselves shall be humbled and those who are humble shall be exalted”? The lord will be the hero.

JAMES
It’s a pretty depressing story though, when the hero dies at the end.

JESUS
(Walking towards them) Have you had a good catch, friends?

JOHN
Oh my God!

JAMES
Jesus!

PETER
Lord! You’re here!

 

JESUS
Did you think they could get rid of me that easily?

JOHN
How? How?

JESUS
You sound rather like a dog, John.

JAMES
Mary told us you were alive. I never doubted her for a minute!

JESUS
Unlike some of the other disciples I’ve visited recently. Thomas was extremely doubtful until I showed him my wounds.
(He pulls back his sleeves and shows his bloody bandaged hands.)
Do you want to check, yourselves? Would you care to dip your fingers in the holes?

JAMES
No. Lord, no!

PETER
That won’t be necessary, Master. We can all see you’ve been crucified.

JOHN
Crucified, dead, buried and risen!
(He falls to his knees.)
Oh Lord, Lord! Forgive us for fleeing that night! I would have stayed, but James panicked and I had to run after him!

JAMES
I would have stayed! It was you who said run!

 

JESUS
Never mind all that now. Are you prepared to begin the mission again?

JOHN
Oh yes Lord! Twice as much! You are indeed ­ you must be ­ the chosen one of God – the Messiah ­ otherwise how could you have done it? – To die yet live again!

JAMES
Amen!

JESUS
Good. Go and get what you need. Bid farewell to your families again and assemble here presently. You’re going back to Jerusalem and you’re going to preach the kingdom! Only this time you have a new slogan ­ “The Lord is Risen!”

JAMES AND JOHN
(Jumping up excited) The Lord is Risen!

JESUS
Whenever I am not with you, Peter will be in charge. You’ll take orders from him. Is that understood?

JAMES
Yes Lord!

JESUS
Go on now, you rascal! Get to it!

(James runs off. John hesitates.)

JOHN
That night When we fled I said: ‘He who turns and runs away lives to fight another day.’ You didn’t run, Lord, and yet here you stand I won’t run away again. You’ve proved yourself. My faith is solid and I’m going to prove it! Wait and see!

JESUS
Just do your best.

(John runs off.)

JESUS
I’m off, Peter. I may be away for some time.

PETER
Where are you going?

JESUS
“Where I’m going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow hereafter.”

PETER
Okay Lord. But I still don’t understand. Judas? Darius? What happened? You said you’d explain.

JESUS
All will be revealed when I return. In the meantime continue spreading the message of the kingdom and sowing the seeds of love. Let’s pray for a bumper crop when I return at harvest time.

PETER
Yes, Lord. But this new slogan – “The Lord is Risen”?

JESUS
Well I’m here aren’t I? They think I died and came back to life. If the story helps to win new recruits we may as well make use of it. Something good should come from Darius’ sacrifice. The others think he ran away that night in the garden. Perhaps it would be better if his part in the story was forgotten. I rely on your silence, Peter. What are you to me?

 

PETER
I’m your rock, Lord.

JESUS
That’s right. I’ve always relied on you. Farewell Peter. I don’t know when I’ll be back. Warn the disciples not to slouch, and to keep on spreading the word, because I may suddenly appear just when they least expect it ­ “like a bolt of lightning from the east”!

PETER
Yes Lord. We’ll be waiting.

JESUS
I must go.
(He walks away slowly, and then turns with a clenched fist.)
Peace! Love! Freedom! Thanks.

(He disappears. Peter stares after him. Mary arrives from the other direction carrying a basket of food and a flagon of wine.)

 

MARY
Lunchtime! Sorry to have kept you waiting, but my sister and the Lord’s mother arrived. They want to take me back to Bethany, but I said I must wait here until the Lord appears.

 

PETER
He was here, Mary.

 

MARY
When?

 

 

PETER
Just now. He told us to go back to Jerusalem and preach. James and John are so excited. They’ve gone to get ready.

MARY
Where is he?

 

PETER
He’s gone. Said he wanted to get away for a while. But he’ll be back.

MARY
Which way did he go?

PETER
(Pointing) That way. But he said we cannot follow.

(Mary puts down the basket and wine and walks in the direction Peter has pointed. She stops and turns.)

MARY
I’ll keep my distance at first, but I must follow. He drew a circle once in the sand, and when I asked if it shut me out or took me in, he didn’t answer. I know he doesn’t want me for sex, but that’s no big deal; I’ve had plenty of that, and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe now his circle shuts me out, but he’s taught me how to love and I can draw circles too. Perhaps one day he’ll realize that he’s been drawn within mine and turn to me for companionship. I’ll be waiting if he does. And when he’s old and feeble, and needs a nurse to care for him during his last days on earth, God-willing I’ll still have strength to do that. Goodbye Peter. Remember us in your prayers.
(She smiles and goes.)

(Peter stares after her. Blind Bartimaeus enters with a stick feeling his way ­ blind again!)

 

BARTIMAEUS
Alms for a poor blind beggar! Alms for pity’s sake!

PETER
(Going to Bartimaeus and helping him) Come old man; sit down and take your rest. I’ve no money but there’s food and wine to share.

 

BARTIMAEUS
Thank you kindly sir. (He sits down and takes a slug of wine.) Are you sure you haven’t you got even a farthing to spare?

PETER
Sorry. But I’ve got something even more valuable to give you than money! Have you ever heard of a prophet called Jesus of Nazareth?

BARTIMAEUS
Who me? No! Why should I? Never heard of him.

PETER
Oh my dear sir! If you haven’t heard of my Lord, you are in for such a treat! There’s a good time coming, man, there’s a good time coming! Hope for all mankind! Peace, love, brotherhood, righteousness ­ you name it! The kingdom of heaven on earth! We’re on our way back to Jerusalem to carry on our preaching mission. The Master’s put me in charge because he’s gone away for a while. But he’s coming back, and when he does he’ll be triumphant and glorious and powerful and will sit in judgment of the sinners of the world! Wait here while I go bid farewell to my wife. She’s used to me taking off on the Master’s business. I did from the start. I knew he was the Messiah from the moment I met him. ‘Fishers of men’, he said he’d make us! And that’s what we do ­ we catch souls! I’ll tell you all about it when I get back. Won’t be long!
(He runs off.)

After making sure that Peter has gone Bartimaeus gets to his feet. He picks up the basket of food and the flagon of wine.)

BARTIMAEUS
(Looking off after Peter) Sucker!

(He exits in the opposite direction. A peal of thunder is heard in the distance.)

 

BLACKOUT.

 

MICHAEL DICKINSON is an English teacher working in Istanbul Turkey. He can be contacted atwww.stuckism.com/Dickinson/Index.html or mdickinson@kablonet.com.tr

 

 

More articles by:

Michael Dickinson can be contacted at michaelyabanji@gmail.com.

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