Judas Tale

(reduced cast version)

Copyright Reserved Stephen Charles Lovatt (2007)

Stephen.Lovatt-01@virginmedia.com

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The Cast

Act 1: Prelude and Fugue

Scene 1: Prelude

Judas stands centre stage, with a spotlight on him. He is wearing white jeans and a white, sleeveless vest. Lazarus is sitting to his right, in the dark. He is wearing black jeans and a black, sleeveless vest. Mary is standing to his left, in the dark. She is wearing a demure ankle length dove grey gown.

Judas: I used to have a good name, you know. Not any more! Judas Malchus Iscariot - everyone's heard of me. The man who betrayed Jesus - but the truth of my story isn't quite as you all think you know it.

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I was born into a priestly family, of the line of Zadok, and lived in Kirioth, a Judaen village, near to Jerusalem. I was good looking, though I say it myself, and had a pure heart. I was a Sadducee - devoted to the Law and Temple Worship and looked for the coming Messiah. Somehow, when I first met Jesus of Nazareth.... something clicked, something ran away with my mind, my heart and my soul. He smiled at me - a crooked smile that spoke of pain as well as love. Right from that day, I recognized his difference from other men - the spirit that burned within him.

A spotlight illuminates Lazarus.

Lazarus: He put you in charge of the money, and he always expected you to have everything organized. You ran the show, if the truth be known!

Judas [turning to Lazarus] : That's right, I did. Did you know what went wrong?

Lazarus: Of course I knew! At first I didn't realize what the matter was. Later on, I felt pity and even tried to help, but I think that only made things harder for you. I don't think it was my interfering that drove you to it, though. I think you were set on your course in spite of anything I could have done. After all, it wasn't me that was the issue. It was Him!

I suppose you were jealous of me, though. It would have been heroic of you not to have been! You must have suffered terribly to do such a thing.

Yes, we all knew - in the end. We also knew that we mustn't tell. Hence the silly stories that got put about.

Judas: Did anyone believe them at the time?

Lazarus: I doubt it!

It didn't matter, anyhow. As long as there was some explanation to occupy wagging tongues... that was all that mattered. Better that one man should suffer, than reputations should be sullied. The rumours we put about have Peter's name written all over them!

I went along with them, though - I'm not saying that I wasn't to blame. I knew better. I could have stopped it. I chose not to. I’m sorry, now.

Judas: Yes, reputations, that's what it was it all about. And that's why my story begins with you. You and your sisters. Now that was a house - famous throughout Judaea it was! [He means that it was a bordello.] The Master always mixed with that sort; tax collectors, pimps and prostitutes. He hadn't much time for the respectable. He always said that they had no need for him - were blind to their need, I'd say!

The first time we sampled your hospitality was after He'd rescued Mary from the mob - that day in the Temple, you remember. I think she fell for Him on first sight - she owed him her life, after all; and his presence was something else!

A spotlight illuminates Mary.

Mary [to audience]: You couldn't meet Him and not have your life changed - one way or another; and that was frightening. He was a sign of contradiction. You saw yourself in his eyes as He saw you, and it was never comfortable; but you also saw his unconditional love for you. At that moment you had to decide: whether you were for him - in spite of yourself; or against him - in spite of yourself.

Judas [to Lazarus]: I can still remember the look of amazement in your eyes when we turned up at your doors. Disbelief, fear, shame, defiance, capitulation; they all fled across your face in a moment, as the Master said "Peace be with you!"

Mary [to audience]: Then the house emptied! Our clients tumbled out onto the street in disarray.

Judas [grinning, to audience]: Bethany will never forgot the day that "Lazarus' House" was purged! All the "sisters" left, except Martha - and Mary. They were inseparable (like Naomi and Ruth of old, those two!) and they stood by you right till the end.

Lazarus [to audience]: That night the best wine came out, and we partied till the small hours.

--oOo--

Scene 2: The party at Bethany

Jesus sits with Lazarus, centre stage. A spotlight illuminates them. They are drinking wine. Judas stands off to one side, in the darkness. Jesus is wearing a white loin-cloth (or white linen/cotton breeches/jeans) and a brightly coloured wrap-around robe over; open at the front and loosely secured with a (white rope) belt.

Jesus: There was this rich pharisee called Dives. He lived for money and prestige. You know the type!

Lazarus: Is there any other?

Jesus: He had seven brothers and they all lived in a mansion at the top of a hill, with their wives and children. He had a distant cousin, who was a cripple - very poor and sickly too. Guess what his name was?

Lazarus [laughing]: How should I know?

Jesus: It was... Lazarus!

Jesus tousles Lazarus' hair.

Jesus: Any-how, Lazarus spent most of his days lurking at the back-door of the mansion; waiting for kitchen scraps to be thrown out. They ate well in that house, so he didn't do too badly.

Lazarus: Did his cousin know he was there?

Jesus: Oh, yes! He knew all right. Didn't care a bit, though. Very charitable fellow, all round - and all his brothers were just the same. Very law-abiding, but didn't care for a human soul. Any-how, one day Lazarus died and went to heaven...

Lazarus: With a name like that he'd have to!

Jesus pushes Lazarus, playfully.

Jesus: Don't interrupt! Lazarus went to heaven and rested his head on Father Abraham's bosom. He found peace and comfort at last. He was blest. Now later that same day, his cousin Dives also died; but he didn't go to heaven. Oh no! The Archangel Azeriel conducted him to the gates of Gehenna - where the fires are never extinguished and all the rubbish of the world is burned away.

Lazarus: That's horrible!

Jesus: What else is to be done with rubbish? The Divine Fire burns away all that is worthless, and if anything remains - well and good; but on with the story! Just before he enters the furnace, Dives catches a glimpse of Lazarus in the embrace of Abraham and he cries out: "Father Abraham! Father Abraham! Help me, Father Abraham!"

Lazarus: And what does Abraham say? Does he help him?

Jesus: How can he?

Abraham replies: "What do you want, you wicked man?"

Dives pipes up: "Please give me a draught of water, it is so burning hot here."

But Abraham replies: "That is not possible. Your sin is a barrier between us."

Dives persists. He says: "Well send my cousin Lazarus, then."

Now Abraham is angry and replies: "Your cousin Lazarus? Since when have you recognized this good man as being family? No! He cannot help you either."

Lazarus: So what happened?

Jesus: Well, Dives isn't giving in that easily. He isn't totally bad, after all. I think he might just survive that furnace, you know! He started to think of his family then - his brothers, and he asked: "Father Abraham, if I can't escape this fate, and if you can't help me; then please warn my brothers. Send Lazarus to them. Let Lazarus warn them of what awaits them if they don't amend their lives."

Lazarus: And how does Abraham reply?

Jesus: Now, Abraham is a reasonable fellow, you know; and he's taken aback by Dives' new found concern for someone other than himself...

Lazarus: So does Dives have his request granted?

Jesus [wagging his finger]: I told you not to interrupt! No. Dives does not get his way.

Lazarus: Why not?

Jesus: Not because it was impossible for Lazarus to return from the dead.

Lazarus: Of course not!

Jesus: Not because he couldn't have warned Dives' brothers of their fate.

Lazarus: Of course not!

Jesus: No! It is because they already have the Torah of Moses. If a man will not take account of that testimony, then he will never pay heed to a ghost.

Jesus waves his hands and fingers in the air in a half-hearted attempt to be "spooky".

Lazarus [laughs]: I suppose you're right about that!

Jesus [jokingly]: I say, Judas! I've just been warning Lazarus, here, not to expect anyone to believe him if, in the future, he ever tells them what has happened to him.

He apparently refers to Lazarus' recent conversion, but in fact means his future resurrection.

Judas [approaching the spotlight and speaking reticently]: Oh, have you - and why is that?

Jesus [as if this was a "punch line"]: Because this is a wicked generation, that does not care for God's truth.

Lazarus [playfully]: If they did, they'd pay attention to Moses and Elijah.

Judas [thoughtfully]: True, they read but chose not to understand. Their hearts are closed.

Mary enters and starts to listen to what is being said.

Jesus [slightly forlornly]: If only they would learn to be themselves - to love themselves.

Judas [doubtfully]: But isn't that self-centred?

Jesus [brightens up - treating Judas' question as a riddle]: If a man doesn't love himself, how can he love anyone else?

Judas [reluctantly]: I suppose so - but it still doesn't seem right. Shouldn't one put others first?

Lazarus [cheerfully, egging Jesus on]: Yes, you're always saying that self-sacrifice is the way to salvation.

Jesus [grinning]: Am I, indeed? What does the Torah say. It isn't my business to over-turn the Law!

Judas [confidently]: Moses teaches that we should love each other as we love ourselves.

Lazarus [pleased, that Jesus is vindicated]: That's right, both Jew and Gentile!

Jesus [clapping his hands]: Well said, the pair of you. That is Moses' good teaching. Not more, not less; but equally - and I add that you must love each other as much as I love you.

Judas [with mock sorrow at first, then with jocularity]: But we don't have your heart, Lord. It is difficult enough for me to try to love You as much as You love me - how can I possibly love Lazarus so much?

Judas pokes Lazarus in the ribs, and Lazarus pokes him back. They both laugh.

Jesus [pretending to scold Judas and Lazarus, then becoming very serious]: Behave, children! When you set down your own ideas of self, and put aside what passes in your mind for your life; when you account these as nothing: then you will find a new life and a new self growing in their place; and that new self will turn out to be your own true self, and that new life will turn out to be your own true life - a spiritual fountainhead welling up to quench the thirst of all who meet you.

Mary [confidently]: That's what you mean by "dying to self", isn't it Teacher?

Jesus [gently]: Yes, Mary. What I ask of you is very difficult; but be sure that with God's help all things are possible.

Mary [calmly]: Then we will try to love like you do, Master.

Jesus [authoritatively]: It is for this purpose that I come into your lives: that you might learn to live more abundantly than you could ever suspect was possible.

Lazarus [gently]: You are Love Itself, my Lord!

Jesus [smiles, becoming excited]: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life! Whosoever comes to me, shall not die forever; but on the Last Day, I shall raise them up to life, and they shall reign with me in glory.

Mary [beaming]: You are the Lord of life!

Jesus stands up and stretches out his arms.

Jesus [raises his voice, almost shouting]: Take my hands, then and enter with me into the Kingdom of the Friends of God!

Lazarus [to the audience]: We didn't sleep a wink that night, but when the sun rose I was as refreshed as if I'd spent the night on a feather bed in Herod's palace!

Lazarus and Jesus leave the stage, together.

Judas [to the audience]: After that we were at Bethany every other week, or so it seemed. The women waited on him hand and foot, and were thanked. More: they were involved in the most intimate conversations, along with the two who Jesus really loved: John and Lazarus! Not even Peter and James had a look in - let alone me!

More than once I sobbed myself to sleep. Once Nathaniel heard me, and asked what was wrong - sweet boy - but I couldn't bring myself to explain. I'm sorry to say that I was quite harsh with him. Towards the end I was clutching at straws. I thought of speaking to John, but couldn't summon up the courage - and what could I have said, anyhow? What good would it have done?

Then, one day at Khfar-Nahum Jesus announced that Lazarus was dead and we were going back to Bethany once more. Peter and James protested that it wasn't safe to go south so close to the Passover. The authorities were looking for any excuse to act against us. I knew they were right - they were only repeating the warning that Nichodemus had given us the week before; but I knew he'd take no notice.

Stubborn? When he decided on a course of action, woe betide anyone who stood in his way! "Begone, Satan!" that's what he'd likely say to anyone who dared to contradict him. Tolerance was not his prominent virtue. "Are you with me or against me?! that was more his line! We arrived at Bethany on the Friday. Mary met us on the way.

--oOo--

Scene 3: The resurrection of the dead

Jesus and Judas enter, stage right. Mary enters, stage left. She crosses the stage to meet Jesus and Judas.

Mary [bitterly]: How could you? Now the One you love is dead! If only you'd come sooner, everything would have been all right. Death couldn't abide your presence!"

Jesus [in great distress]: Ohhhhh!!! God!! Help me!

Judas [to the audience]: How did he know to come at all?

Jesus [recovering somewhat]: Show me... my dear One. [ambiguous - he means Lazarus]

Mary, takes Jesus by the hand, and leads him to the grave [stage left, rear]. Jesus weeps. After days of restraint, the tears well forth. His darling is dead.

Mary [to the audience]: His Heart began to break. I fear it will never heal.

Judas [to the audience]: But the blood that surges there is impotent to satisfy those who deny their love.

Jesus [tearfully]: Lazarus! Dead! How could I have allowed this evil thing. Can you forgive me, Lazarus? I knew what I was doing - but I didn't realize... I should have hurried to your side; but instead I let you die. Lazarus, I am so sorry...

Jesus rolls away the stone that blocks the tomb.

Jesus [shouts]: Lazarus, come out to me!

Jesus reaches down and raises up the corpse. Lazarus is enfolded in a long white sheet. It is tied about him at the shoulders, waste and knees with white ropes. Jesus unties these ropes and takes the sheet from about Lazarus. Lazarus opens his eyes, yawns and generally acts as if waking from a deep sleep. Jesus hugs Lazarus to him and kisses him. Lazarus is bemused, but he smiles a child's contented smile. Then the two walk from the grave, to centre stage, hand in hand. Mary remains by the open tomb.

Lazarus: Stay awhile with me, Lord of my Life!

Jesus: I will, my dear; then in seven days you must come to help raise me up.

Mary [to the audience]: Lazarus was the same - and yet different. At peace, and happy - like I've never seen anyone. No false grin, as you see on the face of a fanatic. A wistfulness; sorrow and regret were mixed in with the joy that danced just behind his eyes.

Judas [to the audience]: The feast we had that night was the second most memorable of my life. He was so tender with Lazarus. For once John made way at table and Lazarus shared the Rabbi’s couch. I yearned for his arms. No one dared ask or say anything. We'd seen miracles before, but now none of our certainties were certain! This man was more than Messiah - but I had known that all along. Now, he made my flesh creep. It was exciting and eerie and fearful to be near him; only love could cast out this fear.

Jesus and Lazarus exit, hand in hand, stage right.

Mary [to the audience]: Of course, once the rumours started to circulate, there was no hope for Jesus. This story was just too big and too well attested. The priests had put up with him till now. No more. They simply couldn't tolerate this!

Simon enters, stage right, and takes centre stage.

Judas [to the audience]: That's about it. Things all started to go obviously wrong when Simon Ben Micah invited us to dinner the next day. That was the Sabbath, of course. Simon was a leading Pharisee. I never was sure whether it was an honest invitation or a conscious attempt to cause trouble. Lazarus, Jesus and the Twelve were guests of honour; and Martha and Mary were invited to act as hostesses, alongside Simon's wife and two daughters.

Judas [to Simon]: So, Simon, why did you invite Jesus to your home?

Simon [to Judas]: The stories about Lazarus were just too much. Something simply had to be done! It was quite bad enough that he was said to have favoured a filthy Roman by healing his catamite - and complimented the gentile swine on his faith. Would you believe it? What do I care if the dog was sympathetic to our cause? They are all the same; dissipated, degenerate, depraved, perfidious!

Mary [to Simon, ironically]: You don't like foreigners, then?

Simon [annoyed, slightly camp]: It was insufferable that he sought the company of lowlifes: whores; pimps and collaborators - and made these outlaws his closest disciples! It cried to high heaven for vengeance how he consorted with Lazarus (corruption of corruptions!) and kept a boy himself! A pseudo rabbi following barbaric customs!

Judas [struggling to hide his amusement]: So, you didn't exactly approve of Jesus' lifestyle? He didn't think much of yours, either!

Simon [angrily]: He called us "whitened sepulchres" How dare he! Our only concern is to maintain the purity of the Faith, to preserve standards of public morality - and to uphold the Law! All that he said and did was contrary to this. Without order there is only chaos and morbidity. In attacking us he attacked the Law itself, and the principal of Law: family life; piety; deference to authority; and denial of self in favour of the common good. All these bulwarks of society he would have swept aside! No decent man could abide this.

Mary [entering into the spirit of things]: So I take it that you meant to - set a trap?

Simon [conspiratorially]: Yes, although to be honest, I hadn't much of a plan; but as the evening proceeded I couldn't believe my luck.

--oOo--

Act 2: Saturday in Bethany

Scene 1: The First Supper

 
Judas, Simon, Jesus and Lazarus are at table, lying on pallets before a low board.
Jesus : Lazarus : Simon : Judas

Simon: So, Judas, what brings you all to Judea?

Judas: The Master wants to attend the Festival, Simon.

Simon: Ah, so it was an accident only that you happened to arrive at Bethany just as Lazarus' funeral rites were finished.

Judas: An accident you may call it.

Simon: A very fortunate one, it would appear, Judas.

Judas: Not so fortunate! [Lazarus had died, after all.]

Simon: Ah... well, indeed. Now [turning to Lazarus], my dear fellow: what do you remember of the time you... slept?

Lazarus: I don't recall anything at all clearly. It was very much like a dream.

Simon: Then you do remember something? You must tell us!

Lazarus: What does it matter? That was death. What matters is that now I am alive! Can't you see?

Simon: Come, now. You can offer hope to many, by your tale of what lies beyond death.

Lazarus: There is hope enough in what Moses and Elijah have to say.

Simon: But, my dear fellow - you have come back from the grave!

Jesus [interrupting]: Simon! Leave well alone. The living should concern themselves with life - and let death take care of itself.

Judas [to the audience]: I remember wondering how Simon would react. Unlike we Sadducees, the Pharisees were obsessed with life after death; and this sounded like a rejection of their beliefs - but he never had a chance to respond.

A commotion is heard off stage. Mary rushes on stage in tears, from the left. She falls down at Jesus' feet. She begins to anoint his feet with fragrant oil. The conversation grinds to a halt as the scent filled the room.

Simon: What on God's Earth are you doing, woman? That ointment must be worth a prince's ransom. Such waste doesn't become the Rabbi!

Jesus looks at Simon. A pained expression floods his face. Jesus beckons for Mary to approach his head. Jesus sits up and kisses Mary on the forehead. Jesus places Mary down at his side after indicating that Lazarus should get up to make room for her. Lazarus goes to take a place next to Judas. Judas takes in a sharp breath. It is unheard of for a man to share a dinner couch with a woman!

Jesus: Oh, simon! Are you such a stranger to love? I have freed this child from very much that was wrong in her life, and she loves me truly because of it. More than that; she knows that I shall soon be taken from her by those who spurn forgiveness, and her heart is breaking because of it.

Jesus strokes Mary's hair.

Jesus: How shall I deny her this service? In this loveless world, her act is as great a comfort to me as it is to her.

Judas: But Lord, what of our obligation to God's poor - to almsgiving?

Jesus: There will always be good causes for you to lavish your charity on - and be sure you all do so! - but I shall not be with you much longer; [Jesus pauses and looks straight into Judas's eyes] so take your opportunities as you may. I tell you that Mary will be remembered for this act of burning love until the end of the world; [Jesus pauses and looks towards Simon] and you, Simon, for your cold heart!

Simon is at first taken aback, then offended and finally angry. Jesus stands up, and exits with Mary stage left, holding her hand. He glances over his shoulder directly at Judas; who at first looks confused, but then hopeful.

--oOo--

Scene 2: The Ordination

It is dark. A single spotlight reveals Jesus lying asleep, centre stage. He is wearing a white loin-cloth (or white linen/cotton breeches/jeans) and a brightly coloured wrap-around robe over; open at the front and loosely secured with a (white rope) belt. Judas enters, stage right, but stands in the shadows. He is wearing only a white loin-cloth, or white linen/cotton britches/jeans.

Judas [to the audience]: That night I went to him. I had no scented ointment. Though I was charged with what little money we had, I didn't spend it on perfume. All I had was my love.

Jesus wakes, sees Judas, stands up and opens his arms to him. Judas steps forward into the spotlight.

Jesus: You have come, then. I was expecting you. I am glad.

Judas stands before Jesus. They hug and caress each other, gently; then kiss briefly.

Judas: You seemed so sad, Master. What did you mean? You said you would not be with us much longer. Please don't go! Please don't leave us - leave me. I don't think I could bare it.

Judas falls to his knees and starts to cry.

Jesus: Love leads us along strange paths, my friend. My way is set before me and I shall not turn aside from it. I wish I could spare you the cup that you will drink; but remember at the end that love is the whole of the meaning.

Judas continues to sob. Jesus reaches down and tousles Judas' hair.

Judas: With my body, I would worship you.

Jesus unties the rope that secures his robe.

Jesus: Then come to me, Judas, my priest.

Jesus lays his hands, crossed, on Judas' head, then stoops and kisses Judas on the forehead. Jesus' robe falls forward, partly engulfing Judas' form.

Jesus: Learn well my rites. I am the Bread of Life, Judas. If you eat my flesh and drink of the fount of my veins, you will share my life and live forever.

Jesus draws Judas' head towards his body, then gently lifts him back to his feet. Judas kisses Jesus abdomen, chest and lips as he is drawn upwards into Jesus' embrace. They kiss passionately, then Judas breaks away.

Judas: But you will soon forsake us?

Jesus: I will never forsake you, Judas - even when you forsake me.

Judas starts to regain his composure. Jesus reaches out his two hands and Judas takes them, while still standing apart from Jesus.

Judas: I love you, so much!

Jesus: And I you, Judas son of Zadok, son of Aaron. When I first saw you, my heart exploded in fearful recognition.

Judas: Oh, my Lord! But why did you fear me?

Jesus: I knew from the first that you recognized the Spirit within me.

Judas: Always, my Lord! Even now, the others do not see - not even Lazarus or John.

Jesus [smiling]: The priest knows his business, it is true.

Judas: Then I am your chosen priest, after all?

Jesus: Have I not already said so?

Jesus removes his robe and dresses Judas in it.

Jesus: Wear my vestment as a sign of your priesthood.

Judas: Always, my Lord. [and he does so, in all that follows; right to the end of the play.]

Jesus: I have always known that you were my destiny, my partner in the dance that must be danced.

Judas: What dance is that, my love?

Jesus: The dance of my glory. The dance of my love. Only one who loves me as well as you do can play this role.

Judas: My God! I would do anything for you.

Judas falls to his knees.

Jesus: Yes. You would die for me; but I do not ask that. What I shall ask of you is harder. You will wish instead to be cast into a torrent with a millstone tied about your neck.

Judas: Anything, Lord!

Jesus [smiling, sadly]: You are the only one who I can trust with my life - and my death.

Judas: Why speak of death, Lord - you are the Living One!

Jesus [sadly]: Yet I shall die.

Judas: Never, Lord!

Jesus [calmly]: Not at your hand, yet by your will, my priest.

Jesus pulls Judas to his feet.

Judas [becoming distraught]: My God! What are you saying?

Jesus [with great restraint]: All will become clear to you. When you know what you must do, only do it quickly!

Judas [desperately]: But I don't understand!

Jesus [gently]: You will, my love. [suddenly Jesus' demeanour changes, he continues sternly] Now go! Go - and do not seek my embrace again.

--oOo--

Act 3 Thursday in Jerusalem

Scene 1: An interview

Simon is sitting opposite to Lazarus, centre stage.

Lazarus: How did you feel about the situation?

Simon: The Council was becoming more and more concerned. Stories about you coming back to life were common place. We tried to put it about that it was all a trick - that you had never died and that Jesus was nothing more than a trickster; but somehow our propaganda wouldn't take root. Jesus was the talk of the City: how he was God's anointed and was coming to establish the Kingdom of God and kick out the Romans. The common folk reckoned that if the Nazarene could raise you from the dead, there was no limit to his power. We simply had to put a stop to this.

Lazarus: What did you make of the stories of Jesus' miracles?

Simon: We didn't pay any credence to the stories of miracles. Once you're dead, you're dead. Come dear boy, even you know that! The blind do not recover their sight, the deaf never hear again, lepers are not cleansed, the lame do not regain the ability to walk. Any-one that claims otherwise is either a charlatan or a fool. Neither the Temple priests nor the Rabbis have such powers: only the great prophets of old - Moses and Elijah - worked such wonders, and those days are long gone. Unfortunately, most of the citizens of Jerusalem are fools and they believed the fables which the Nazarene spun about himself.

Lazarus: But what exactly was the problem, as you saw it?

Simon: The Sanhedrin agreed that if things carried on unchecked we were liable to have a rebellion on our hands. Now we didn't like the Roman occupation one bit; but we liked the prospect of the Romans putting down a rebellion even less. We thought that it would be the end of our nation, once and for all. We decided that something simply had to be done. Passover was not exactly the ideal time for this, of course. Passions were aroused and patriotism was bubbling up to an imprudent... climax; but something simply had to be done about Jesus: before things went from bad to worse!

Lazarus: So what did you decide to do?

Simon: Well how things do turn out! Jesus played straight into our hands at that dinner. It was worth putting up with his insults, to have one of his own turn against him. Judas must have really thought that Jesus went too far. I could see the disillusionment in his face, that night; so I wasn't at all surprised when, on the Tuesday, he agreed to meet me. [He gloats, but doesn't really understand Judas' motives at all.]

Lazarus: What did you tell him?

Simon: I fed him the story which the Council had agreed. Jesus simply had to be taken down a peg or two. He was to be hauled up before the Sanhedrin and be made to look the fool he was; but first we'd need to spirit him away out of the sight of his adoring public - or there'd be a riot. We had to present the mob with a done deal. Then they'd react to the sad spectacle of a humiliated fake Messiah - rather than a wronged hero.

Lazarus: Did Judas believe you?

Simon: Oh, He lapped it up! [He is wrong. Judas was distraught and hardly understood what was said.] Naturally, we had no intention of letting Jesus off so lightly. The High Priest had already cleared the execution with the Procurator; but Judas wasn't to know that!

Lazarus: And what about the money?

Simon: He wasn't interested in payment, [He is right about this only.] but I insisted. The Council didn't want it looking as if Judas was on the inside of a conspiracy. Thirty pieces of Roman silver, he took.

Lazarus: So you were able to say that you'd bought him?

Simon: Exactly so! That way we could undermine his credibility, whatever he might say against us in the future. We needn't have bothered, though. His friends did all the dirty work for us!

Lazarus: You mean the suicide story?

Simon [gleefully]: Yes!

Lazarus: So, Judas agreed to help the Sanhedrin to abduct Jesus with as little fuss as possible, on the understanding that he would eventually be released after being publicly humiliated?

Simon: That's about it.

Lazarus [turns to the audience] : You know how the story continues, that bit of the folk-lore is true. Jesus took his disciples out through the Eye of the Needle to Gethsemane garden after supper, their usual custom when staying in Jerusalem. Unusually, Jesus insisted on staying there until the small hours. It was as if he was expecting something to happen - and it surely did!

When he was arrested we all fled. I can't rightly recall what I did those next few hours. All I know is that I eventually found my way back to our lodgings.

--oOo--

Scene 2: An icon speaks

Simon and Lazarus leave the stage. They are replaced by Judas, dressed in the coloured robe that was Jesus'; Jesus, dressed in a white or white and yellow gown and His mother, Mary, dressed in blue and red with a circlet of silver on her brow. All three stand facing the audience. They adopt formal static postures, like figures in an icon. Mary is in the centre. It is as if she has two sons, one on either hand.

Judas [to the audience]: From the heights - to the depths. I was shattered.

He said I was his priest and he taught me his mysteries. I thought for a moment that at last I had won his approval and love; but then it seemed as if he'd just been playing with me. He was everything to me and I was nothing to him! Some priest! Why had he ever taken me to him, shared the rites of love with me? My body ached to worship at his altar, yet he set me apart from him. From that day my heart was bitter inside me. Every sign of affection for anyone - especially Lazarus - twisted the sword that pierced my soul.

Mother [to the audience]: I shall always remember that last Passover. I had travelled to Jerusalem with James [not the brother of John, but "Jesus' brother"] to join the fellowship. Jesus had sent word that we should come, what may. As soon as I arrived I could tell that all was not right. Jesus was so quiet, and yet so impatient; and quite inseparable from John. I asked John what was the matter, but all he could tell me was that it was almost time for Jesus' glory to be revealed. I had no idea what that could mean.

Judas was in a very strange frame of mind. His eyes followed my son like beacons, and tears were never far from them. He seemed to be in great anguish of soul. My stomach turned over. Something told me that here before me was great peril, both for my son and for his friend. My heart went out to Judas and I spoke words of comfort to him. He collapsed on my breast. He couldn't speak, but somehow we seemed to share what was unspeakable. I was filled with a welling horror and an impulse to cast the man from me - but I refused. Somehow, I knew that this was my greatest test, and that if I pushed him from me a great harm would befall the world - so I hugged him tight and embraced the pain. A sword pierced my soul.

Mary turns to Judas.

Mother [to Judas]: Whatever happens, know that I will always be a mother for you, Judas. I don't know what you're feeling or why. It doesn't matter. It only matters that you love Him and that you're hurting.

Judas [to Mother]: I don't know what I said or did to offend Him. I couldn't have done anything, I didn't have the chance!

Mary turns back to the audience.

Mother [to audience]: I wiped away his tears. I never knew if I did the right thing, or if it helped. I can't understand why he should have done what he did. I shall never understand, but I forgive him.

Judas [to audience]: Was it fair, do you think?

Jesus [to audience]: No, I wasn't fair. It wasn't possible to be fair. Peter had a life of trouble and responsibility before him, and I had to place the strength to bear it within his heart. John would have to wait much too long, and our three brief years together were too brief for me. His brother was to die so soon, and I had to prepare him for that. I had to give him concrete hope: so Lazarus had to die in order to be raised again; also, it was necessary for me to know bereavement and grief. Second hand was not enough.

Mary turns to Jesus.

Mother [to Jesus]: Did you love him?

Jesus [to audience]: Of course I loved him - I loved them all!

Mother [to Jesus]: Did you love him?

Jesus [to audience]: There was a special place in my heart for Lazarus and another for John. They were my darlings - my consolations in this world - a reminder that the life my Father gives isn't meant to be trouble, pain and tears but only joy! Judas could never be that for me, he saw too deeply. His brilliant gaze was always the sword that pierced my soul.

Mother [to Jesus]: Did you love him?

Jesus turns to his mother.

Jesus [to Mother]: Yes, Mother. You are right, as always. I must not avoid the point. Yes, I loved him. I was as a naive virgin before him, for he was to overcome me - by my will, but also by his. This was a thrill for me as nothing else could be. For the Master to be mastered is a terrible thing. Not least for the Master.

Mother [to Jesus]: So why do this thing to him?

Jesus [to Mother]: It was necessary for me to plumb the depths, or I could not light up the darkest places. For that I was borne into the world. To deny the darkness. To shine truth's revealing light both where it is a comfort and where it is no such thing - for in the end truth is all that matters, and though it may hurt it always heals and brings peace and joy.

Judas breaks formation and confronts Jesus.

Judas: But why send me away, like that?

Jesus: You had to learn to accept that my my love cannot be exclusive. I love too much for that. My priest does not own me and dispense my grace at his will. Though he lives next to my heart and is well beloved, he is not favoured and lifted up above the many others who I also love. He may not cling to me, though he holds me in his hands. He can not come between me and my people; but must bring many others close to me and me close to them. You had to witness the depth of my love.

Judas: But You showed us that at supper.

Jesus: Also, it was necessary for me to know the kiss of betrayed love, the anguish of utter loss of friendship, even the loneliness of separation from My Father.

Judas: But why twist and deny and desecrate our love? Did you come to hate Yourself so much?

Jesus: You were my chosen priest. It was only because of our love that I could yield quietly to your embrace and kiss. It was only because of the money that you had taken that you were able to act as legal agent of the Temple.

Mother: Was it really necessary?

Jesus: Infinitely necessary, but infinitely regrettable.

Mother: Why?

Jesus: I have already said; but also I had to have the initiative. If I'd left things up to the Sanhedrin do you think they'd have arrested me that night - with the Great Sabbath in prospect? No! They'd have delayed to a time of their choice and convenience, when the pilgrims had left the City and its remaining inhabitants were more docile; but it was my choice to lay down my life - to perfect the Old Covenant and so make possible the New. There was a proper time for this work, and I would be sure that the sacrifice was offered at that time. By making Judas a double agent I was able to force their hand without them beginning to suspect that they were fulfilling my will.

Mother: Weren't you afraid?

Jesus: That night my heart broke utterly. I knew this fate would come upon me, and I welcomed it - but yet how could I not be afraid? I knew that soon my body would be wrenched from me in a torrent of agony and that I would be betrayed and denied and deserted. Worse, that night I had so much to tell my friends - and so little time - and I knew that they wouldn't understand me anyhow!

Judas: At least John would understand and remember something of your words.

Jesus: I knew that, and took comfort from the fact.

Judas: You gave me Your wine to drink and bread of life to eat; then You sent me on my way into the darkness. I fled that place of homely light and warmth, of comradeship and friendship.

Mother: You passed from the Kingdom of Love into the Kingdom of Madness.

Jesus: The scape-goat for all eternity. Always to be blamed, to be held responsible, to be dismissed and berated.

Judas returns to his original iconic place and pose.

Mother [to the audience]: Love is a terrible thing. It so easily becomes jealousy and hatred and resentment and revenge.

Judas [to the audience]: But you know that, I think!

--oOo--

Scene 3: The last supper

Judas: Before our last supper together, we were all squabbling as to who was to sit where.

Jesus [In a loud voice]: Enough! Lazarus, come to my side; Judas at my right; Peter lie there. The rest of you: gather round my table!

They lie down upon mats laid about a low table. Each is propped up on one elbow, leaving the other arm and hand free for eating. Lazarus lies right next to Jesus, resting his head on Jesus' chest. Judas has the place of honour, on Jesus' right.

Jesus [gently]: Sometimes, I despair of you all!

Judas: What command do you have for us, Lord?

Jesus: God is Love. You must live this in your lives. You must cherish each other; serve each other; seek to understand and affirm each other; rejoice in each other.

Lazarus: But how should we serve you, Lord?

Jesus strips off his white tunic. He is as vulnerable as a slave. He takes up a water bowl and towel. Jesus washes Lazarus' feet.

Jesus [to Lazarus]: I do not want your service. I do not need it. Only your love.

Peter [to Jesus]: Why do you humiliate yourself, Master?

Peter stands up and backs away from Jesus.

Peter [to Jesus]: I am not worthy of this, Lord!

Jesus [to Peter, gently]: Unless you allow this, Simon son of Nahum, you can have no part in what follows.

Peter [to Jesus]:  Then wash my head and hands, too Lord - my whole wretched body!

Peter stretches out his arms.

Jesus [to Peter]: Peace, Peter my Rock - the feet will do. [Jesus smiles.] You are quite clean enough for me!

Peter lies down again. Jesus washes Peter's feet.

Jesus [to Peter]:  It is no humiliation to serve those I love. Only be sure to follow my example. My heart longs that you understand what Love is.

Jesus washes Judas' feet. Judas flinches when Jesus touches him feet, as if a snake had bitten his heel. Jesus shows no sign of noticing this. Jesus kisses the palms of both of Judas' hands.

Jesus [to Judas]: I am your Lover and your Beloved, Judas son of Zadok, son of Aaron.

Jesus puts aside the water bowl and towel and puts his tunic back on. He then takes his place at table and picks up the chalice that is placed there.

Jesus: Blessed Art Thou, Lord of the Universe! From Thy abundance comes this chalice of wine. It is joy for our hearts and solace for our souls! I shall not drink it again with you, my friends, until the coming of the Kingdom.

Jesus passes the chalice to Judas and then to Lazarus, and their last supper together begins.

Jesus: One of you is to pass me over to wicked men.

Peter : I would never betray you, Lord!

Jesus: My destiny lies before me, and I freely accept it: but sorrowful is the heart and sad the path of he who paves my way.

Lazarus [to Jesus]: Who will it be, Master?

Jesus [to Lazarus]: He who I now honour - my beloved. [Ambiguous: sounds as if he addresses Lazarus, but he means to indicate Judas]

Jesus takes a pitta bread, tears it in two and offers one part of it to Judas.

Jesus [to Judas, kindly]: Take and eat this living bread, Judas. My body is broken for you.

Judas [to Jesus, plaintively]: I don't understand you. Do you mean to ridicule me?

Judas takes the morsel from Jesus and eats it, with a grimace. Jesus starts to reach out his hand, to caress Judas, but jerks it back before touching him.

Jesus [to Judas, calmly]: What you must do, now go and do it quickly!

Judas [to Jesus, forlornly]: But I love you!

Judas [to Jesus, hissing]: And yet, I hate you!

The lights go out. Everyone leaves the stage, except Judas.

--oOo--

Scene 4: The passion

A dim spotlight reveals Judas, standing alone stage right.

Judas [to the audience]: I met with the captain of the temple guard, as I'd agreed with Simon. I told him to have his cohort ready, then I returned to wait outside Mark's house for the fellowship to emerge. The wait was an eternity. Within me, my blood ran cold.

Jesus appears, stage left. Jesus is in a second bright spotlight, he takes centre stage. Judas makes to hide in a doorway.

Jesus [to the audience]: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life!

Judas [to the audience]: I'm sure that he saw me.

Jesus holds out his arms to the audience.

Jesus [to the audience]: I am the Bread of Life! He who eats me shall never hunger.

Judas [to the audience]: If only he'd beckoned me - I'd have run to him, and I'd have poured out my soul at his feet, and I'd have begged his forgiveness with my tears, and he'd have lifted me up, and he'd have held me in his strong arms - but he made me no sign.

Jesus [to the audience]: I am the Light of the World!

Judas [to the audience]: He made me no sign. Still, I followed him. I knew where he was going.

Jesus [to the audience]: He who has seen me, has seen The Father!

Jesus lowers his arms.

Judas [to the audience]: Once the fellowship had passed through the gate they started to sing psalms.

Jesus [sings]: I will bless The Lord at all times, His praise shall be always on my lips. My soul boasts in the Lord, let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Come, magnify the Lord with me; together let us sing His praise! This poor man called on the Lord's name and He heard me in my distress.

Jesus moves to the left of the stage. Judas follows Jesus, skirting around the stage, furtively; finishing up behind Jesus, to the rear left of the stage.

Jesus [apparently to Judas]: Stay awake and hold vigil with me tonight. Do not fall prey to the darkness!

Jesus falls on his knees in anguished prayer.

Judas [to the audience]: I made to go, but his presence held me. The world stopped in its tracks. Nature would not allow that I would do what I had determined to do - but do it I would. I would make Him notice me. I would make Him take account of me! I would make Him mine!

Jesus: Father, please take this bitter cup away from Me!

Jesus prostrates himself, face down. The figure of Lazarus looms out of the dark, entering from stage right. Lazarus is wearing only a linen sheet, wrapped around his form. It is the shroud that he wore in his grave. Lazarus appears somewhat like a ghost.

Lazarus [to Jesus]: I am here, my love.

Lazarus lifts Jesus up from the ground and enfolds Jesus in his arms. Jesus sobs.
Judas flees, exiting stage right. After a while, Jesus calms down.

Jesus [to Lazarus]: When Judas returns, be sure to care for him.

Jesus and Lazarus lie down in each other's arms. Lazarus falls asleep. After a while, Jesus stirs - he has seen Judas in the distance.

Jesus: Enough! He is come for me, and I must be on my way.

Lazarus, wakes with a start. Judas enters, stage right, with Simon following.

Lazarus: It's only Judas!

Judas approaches Jesus. Simon holds back. Jesus stands up, holding his ground. Lazarus stands up and retreats a few steps.

Jesus [to Judas, a pained expression on his face]: My friend, what is your purpose?

Judas [bows to Jesus and smiles]: To make you notice me!

Judas kisses Jesus on the mouth, passionately. Jesus returns the kiss. They embrace. Then Jesus breaks away from Judas' embrace.

Jesus [loudly, to the audience]: Whom do you seek?


Simon [to Jesus]: Jesus of Nazareth!

Jesus [loudly, to the audience]: Well, here I AM.

There is a shocked silence.

Jesus [loudly, to the audience]: I AM He who you seek. Let My people go!

Judas does not move. He is rooted to the ground. He looks to be in shock. Simon falls back, at first - deterred by nothing more than the command in Jesus' voice. Lazarus flees, naked, loosing his linen sheet. He exits stage left. Then Simon approaches Jesus and grabs him. Jesus leaves with Simon, meekly, exiting stage right. The lights go out.
A single spotlight comes on, revealing Judas, alone centre stage.

Judas [to the audience]: He went like a lamb selected by the priest - taken by the Levites from the field to the Temple, not knowing its fate - but He knew! He consented to the sacrifice.

I found myself alone in the garden. The soldiers were well on their way back up the valley, the din of their passage fading into the distance. The others had fled in fear for their lives. The pascal moon shone still and certain in the sky. The stars were dimmed by its brilliance. I was alone - so alone. I made my way back to the City; to the palace of the High Priest, but I was refused admittance.

A dread dawned upon my soul. Hours later the doors burst open and there He was. He had been beaten and was manacled. He was marched off in the direction of the Roman Prefecture. Then I knew the truth of it - what I had done. They were going to pass my Master over to their master as I had passed Him over to them!

Simon [dressed, if possible, as a byzantine bishop, with dalmatic, external wrap-around stole and crown] enters, stage left. A second spotlight comes on to reveal him.

Judas [to Simon]: God help me! I have innocent blood on my hands, I have betrayed the One I love!

Simon [to Judas]: What affair is that of mine? You have your price, be on your way!

Judas: I will not be your slave, your dog - your temple whore!

Judas throws the blood money at his feet and flees.

Simon: Good! By this money Judas - that foolish priest! - has purchased the life of this man who will die instead of the Nation. Jesus is no longer our affair. Praise God, we are free of Him! Judas has bought Him from us, we have no part in the Nazarine's death. It is all Judas' business, now. After the feast, I shall buy a plot of land with this money; where dead foreigners may be laid to rest. Let the gentiles benefit from this most delightful betrayal!

--oOo--

Act 4 Sunday in Bethany

Judas cowers in the foetal position, stage right, in the dark. Mary kneels next to him, passively offering comfort. Lazarus stands alone, stage left. A spotlight holds him.

Lazarus [to the audience, but looking at Judas]: I found Judas wandering the streets, just outside Mark's house. He came home with me. Where else could he go? We had both loved, and been beloved. We belonged to each other. It is what My Love told me to do; when I came to Him that woeful night and held Him quivering in my arms.

At first Martha couldn't understand his story. He seemed quite mad to her. Then the truth gradually forced itself on her and she was beside herself. Mary took it much better. Her love sustained her, even though Her Love was dead.

By the time we decided to make our way back to Jerusalem it was all over. First Thomas, then Andrew and Nathaniel arrived with the news that Jesus was dead and buried. They shunned him. "How can you harbour him, after what he has done?" Nathaniel demanded.

Judas was devastated. He wouldn't show his face. He cowered in a darkened room at the rear of the house - refusing food and drink. Mary watched over him; but he never spoke, and hardly moved.

Lazarus stands up and walks across to Judas and Mary. The spotlight follows him.

Lazarus [to the audience, but looking at Judas]: Still, I went to him. I didn't speak (what was there to say?) but somehow my heart understood. Perhaps it was some intuition from the three days I slept, perhaps it was simple compassion.

Lazarus kneels next to Judas, and attempts to hug him. At first Judas resists, then he relaxes into Lazarus' arms, sobbing uncontrollably.

Mary [to the audience]: We kept silent vigil with Judas. In that silence, heart spoke to heart.

Jesus comes on stage left. A second spotlight follows Jesus as he approaches Mary, Lazarus and Judas. Jesus lifts them to their feet and hugs each of them in turn: first Lazarus, then Mary and finally Judas. Then they all hold hands and turn to the audience. [Mary : Jesus : Judas : Lazarus]

Judas [to the audience, with great joy]: On the third day: He came to us.