(The second script in a series leading up to Easter. To start at the beginning, go here.)
Act One, Scene Two
(MADDIE, JUDE, JONATHAN, and PETE are seated around a table, playing euchre. NICHOLAS enters right, walking slowly and nervously.)
NICHOLAS: All right, Nicholas, you’re going to march up to them and demand an audience with the teacher. No. That’s silly. No need to be rude. You’re going to march up to them and request an audience with the teacher. Yes. That’s it. Just one foot in front of the other, head up, and…
JUDE: Who’s there? (NICHOLAS jumps, startled, then coughs to cover it up.)
NICHOLAS: Good day! I mean…good night. I mean…greetings! To all of you…disciples.
PETE (As he gets closer): Well, well, look who’s here.
NICHOLAS: Nicholas, member of the Sanhedrin, actually. I…I have a business card! (Gives it.)
PETE (Crumples it): We know you who are. Question is, what’s a Pharisee like you doing in a place like this?
JONATHAN: Spying for your pals, is that it?
NICHOLAS: No, not exactly. (Gathering his courage.) And I’m not quite sure it’s really any of your business.
JONATHAN (Closing in with PETE): We don’t like spies.
NICHOLAS: You know, maybe I’ll just come by another night…
PETE: What’s the matter, Nic? Scared?
NICHOLAS: I just want to talk to him!
JONATHAN: Could’ve done that in the daytime like everyone else. (Shoves him.) Got to wait in line, even a Pharisee like you.
PETE: Oh, but that’s right. You’re too busy preaching judgment on people like us.
MADDIE (Stepping between them): Would you leave him alone, Pete? Jonathan? There is no harm in him asking a few questions. It’s not as if Jesus is hiding from them. He almost seems to be egging them on.
JUDE: Not enough, I say.
JONATHAN: Calm down, Maddie. We were just teasing him, that’s all.
PETE: Yeah, have it your way, IRS woman. Since the two of you both look down your noses at the rest of us, I guess you’ll get along just fine. (They exit.)
MADDIE (Points left): Jesus is over there. Probably praying. He does that sometimes—goes off by himself to pray. (Starts to exit.)
NICHOLAS: I appreciate your help. Maddie, I believe?
MADDIE: Save it. I know what your kind thinks of me. What everyone thinks of me. Even the other disciples.
NICHOLAS: Er, they seem to like you well enough.
MADDIE: Then explain to me why the resident accountant isn’t in charge of the money. They gave that job to Jude—one of the loyal, trustworthy ones. Not a traitor tax collector like me.
NICHOLAS: Well, I, ah…
MADDIE: And between you and me, sometimes the numbers just don’t add up. Like Jude is slipping a little off the side for himself. Of course, they’d never believe me if I tried to say so. My word against his…he’d win any day. That’s just the way it goes. Life isn’t fair sometimes.
NICHOLAS (Significantly): Yes, sometimes people judge you and your motives without knowing anything about you.
MADDIE (Smiling): Fair point, Mr. Pharisee. (Shakes his hand)
MADDIE: Nicholas, then. You should stand up for yourself more often.
NICHOLAS: It’s not as though I don’t try.
MADDIE: Good luck with your questions…keep in mind, the answers might not be exactly what you were expecting. Or what you were looking for. He tends to be that way. (She exits, NICHOLAS tentatively approaches JESUS.)
NICHOLAS (Clears throat): Excuse me…sir?
JESUS: Hello, Nicholas.
NICHOLAS: Ah! We…um…have we ever met? Officially? Never mind, we must have, or you wouldn’t know my name. Sorry, must have forgotten. Anyway, I’d just like…to talk to you. Ask some questions. If you don’t mind.
JESUS: Fine with me. I’m always up for good conversation and honest questions. (Both sit.)
NICHOLAS: Wonderful. Jesus, we know that you are a great teacher sent from God—
JESUS: We? Who are you talking about, Nicholas?
NICHOLAS: Hmm? Oh, I meant the…ah…the other Pharisees. But to be fair, I suppose not all of them would all agree with my assessment. Of you as a good teacher, I mean.
JESUS: By which you mean they all hate me.
NICHOLAS: Well…yes, actually. But in a very righteous way, of course.
JESUS (Dryly): Of course. (Pause.) Well, here we are. What do you want to know?
NICHOLAS: I…I’m really not sure, to be perfectly honest. Maybe just start somewhere. (Pulls out a notebook.) I’ll take notes.
JESUS: All right. How about this: unless a person is born again, he can’t enter the kingdom of God.
NICHOLAS: Excuse me, but…I think I lost you at the, ah, “born again” part. I’m not an expert on these things, Teacher, but wouldn’t you say that reentering a mother’s womb might prove to be a bit…difficult?
JESUS: Let me put it this way: someone who is just born physically is only halfway there. But someone who is born physically and spiritually belongs to the physical world and to the Spirit.
NICHOLAS: Yes, but…how? I mean, I don’t want to get into any details if it’s not…well, if it’s not appropriate. I’m not actually used to speaking of childbirth in public.
JESUS: You still don’t understand, do you? And you’re one of the teachers of Israel?
NICHOLAS: Yes, I am. I have a business card! (Reaches for it.) Or…I used to.
JESUS: If I talk to you about things here on earth and you and your fellow teachers don’t believe me, how am I supposed to move on to heavenly things?
NICHOLAS: I hope I don’t seem rude, but: what in heaven’s name gives you the right to teach about the…ah…the heavens?
JESUS: Well, I don’t have a business card, if that’s what you mean. No one has gone into heaven except the one who came down from heaven: the Son of Man. But God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that anyone who believes in him wouldn’t die, but live. God didn’t send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world could be saved through him. (Pause.)
NICHOLAS: I…I stopped taking notes.
JESUS: I noticed.
NICHOLAS: That’s—it’s just all very new. I don’t have categories for it.
JESUS: Maybe you should make new ones.
NICHOLAS: Except I don’t really like change, that’s all. None of us do. I guess that’s why so many of us—the Pharisees, I mean—don’t, er, respond enthusiastically to your teaching.
JESUS: I think it’s more than that. Here’s the bottom line: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness instead of the light because their actions were evil. People who do evil things hate the light and will avoid it at all costs, because the light will expose them for what they really are. But whoever does what is true comes to the light for everyone to see.
NICHOLAS: It’s ah…dark now.
JESUS: It tends to do that once the sun goes down.
NICHOLAS: Well, I mean…you weren’t saying…well it’s not that I’m trying to hide anything evil. I’m just…trying to…hide.
JESUS: It won’t be nighttime forever, Nicholas.
NICHOLAS: Yes. Yes, I suppose you’re right. What will I do then?
JESUS: I was going to ask you that.
NICHOLAS: Well, I really don’t know. Apparently I don’t know much of anything, according to you. (Shakes head, stands.) I really must be going. Very late and all.
JESUS: Yes, it is. Goodnight, Nicholas. (NICHOLAS starts to leave, then stops.)
NICHOLAS: Just…just one more thing. Back there…did you say that God…loves us?
JESUS: I did.
NICHOLAS: Oh. Well. That’s…something.
JESUS: Yes, it is. (Pause.) Anything else?
NICHOLAS: No, no that’s all. Goodnight, then.
JESUS: Goodnight. (JESUS exits left, NICHOLAS begins to exit right, passing JUDE who is lurking in the shadows.)
NICHOLAS: Light and dark…spiritual birth. For heaven’s sake! What does the man think he’s doing?
JUDE: Good talk with the teacher?
NICHOLAS: Ahh! You startled me.
NICHOLAS: Well, we talked. I don’t know that you’d call it good. Sometimes I stare at him in amazement like all the rest, wondering at the authority he teaches with. And other times, he… It’s just that sometimes, he can be, well…
NICHOLAS: Yes. That. Whenever he defies everyone’s expectations.
JUDE: Ah. I was talking about the times when he conforms to them.
NICHOLAS: I just want him to be a good teacher.
JUDE: And I just want him to be a revolutionary.
BOTH: Is that so much to ask?
NICHOLAS: Well, it’s been nice chatting with you, but I really must be going, Mr…ah…what did you say your name was again?
JUDE: I didn’t. But it’s Jude.
NICHOLAS: Nice to meet you, I’m sure. (Starts to leave, glances back and sighs.) Oh, but what do you do with a man like that? With one who insists on disturbing the peace?
JUDE: Or who doesn’t disturb it enough. (To NICHOLAS) You wait, I guess. See what happens next. Because that’s one thing you can count on with Jesus: something will always be happening.
NICHOLAS: Yes. Yes, that’s what I’m afraid of. (Both exit in opposite directions.)