(The sixth script in a series leading up to Easter. To start at the beginning, go here.)
Act Two, Scene Three
(SIMONE, ANNA, LEVI, MICHELLE, NICHOLAS, and JEREMIAH are having a little conference, when JOSEPHINE enters, whistling to herself.)
SIMONE: It’s risky, that’s the problem. We can’t just— (Stops when he sees JOSEPHINE.) Well, if it isn’t Josephine, the little heiress from Arimathea. Come down from your manor to join us?
JOSEPHINE: Surprisingly, I don’t sit around checking my bank account all day. Now, what do we have here? Some private sub-committee of the Sanhedrin I wasn’t appointed to?
JEREMIAH: We’re discussing a certain important matter of great…importance.
JOSEPHINE: What a coincidence. I happen to love discussing important matters of great importance. (Sit down, makes herself comfortable.) Anyone want to explain?
SIMONE: Lazarus from Bethany—you’ve heard of him, haven’t you?—has been parading around, telling the tale of how he (Air quotes) “rose from the dead.” Lots of people are believing in Jesus because of him. So…we’ve decided to kill him.
JOSEPHINE: Sorry, let me rephrase. Does anyone want to explain in a way that doesn’t sound like complete and utter stupidity?
JEREMIAH (Raises his hand): Oh, oh, I’ve got it. How many Pharisees does it take to kill a guy who already died?
MICHELLE: Seventy-nine. One to suggest the idea, seven to argue about it, and an entire Sanhedrin to figure how it should be done and what words to use to make it seem less like murder.
LEVI: How about these words: “Anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death.” That’s in the Scriptures, if you’ve forgotten.
JOSEPHINE: There you go. Maybe we don’t need the Sanhedrin after all. Maybe we just need you.
LEVI: You’re a member of the Sanhedrin, Josephine. We’ll all act together, won’t we?
JOSEPHINE: Excuse me for objecting to a plan to kill a man who defeated death. It’s insane.
SIMONE: And Lazarus is very popular with the people, too.
JOSEPHINE: I’m not talking about Lazarus. I’m talking about the man who, by all accounts, called a man three days dead to get up and walk out of his grave.
LEVI: Just because you earned a place on this Council because of your fortune in charitable donations doesn’t mean you can’t lose it because of your blasphemy!
JOSEPHINE: Keep throwing that word around, it won’t mean anything anymore. Someone insults your wife…blasphemy! Someone is rude to you early in the morning…blasphemy! Someone undercooks your salmon…blasphemy! I was only asking for an explanation.
NICHOLAS (Thoroughly uncomfortable): Josephine….
JOSEPHINE (Stands): No, no, I recognize when I’m not wanted. Let the rest of you chat about killing revived corpses and storytelling teachers. (Starts to leave, but slowly, still listening.)
SIMONE: Well, I agree with her in one way, at least. This business about killing Lazarus…it’s too distracting. We’ll have a hard enough time getting charges to stick to the teacher.
ANNA: We’ve already got that taken care of. (Calls.) Bring him in!
(A man escorts JUDE in, who stares, arms crossed.)
JUDE: All right. Here I am. What will you give me to lead you to him?
JOSEPHINE: Never mind. Things just got interesting. I’m staying. (Returns, sits again.)
LEVI: And who, exactly are you? How did you get in here?
JUDE: Through the door. Those priest friends of yours let me in. And my name is Jude. Now, I want to know, what will you give me to bring Jesus to you?
MICHELLE: Why? Why would you be so willing to betray him?
JUDE: Does it matter?
SIMONE: Actually, yes, it does. We have to know this isn’t a trick, that you won’t try to warn him.
JUDE: I don’t follow losers. I take the winning side, and it’s clear it’s time to switch. Is that enough of an answer?
ANNA: We’ll pay thirty pieces of silver. (Tosses him a bag.) Count them.
NICHOLAS: But…but…are we sure this is wise? Paying this young man…to bring in…oh dear.
ANNA: What’s the matter, Nicholas? Having second thoughts?
NICHOLAS: We’ll be murderers. Doesn’t…doesn’t that upset anyone else?
LEVI: Not murderers, Nicholas. Really! The idea. We are the hand of God’s justice.
MICHELLE: Conveniently, the hand of God’s justice raises us up as it pounds him down.
JUDE: I’ll wait for the right moment. When we’re away from the crowds. Then I’ll come find you, lead you to him. He’s here, anyway, in the city.
SIMONE: And you’ll make sure he doesn’t try to flee or escape?
JUDE: He won’t escape. I don’t think he wants to.
LEVI: That should make your task easy, then.
(JUDE stops to count the money, the others exit, except NICHOLAS, who paces nervously, and JOSEPHINE, who remains seated. MICHELLE turns back to speak with JUDE.)
MICHELLE: Betrayal is a very serious thing. Have you thought about what it’ll cost?
JUDE: I have. (Holds up bag) Thirty pieces of silver.
MICHELLE: Loyalty wasn’t meant to be bought and sold like that, Jude.
JUDE: Why should I expect you to understand, any of you? You haven’t looked at him, seen the judgment in his eyes when he catches you…well, I say he should turn that judgment on the people who really deserve it.
MICHELLE: And who do you think deserves it?
JUDE: The Romans, of course!
MICHELLE: There are Sadducees around here, you know. They don’t appreciate talk like that.
JUDE: Let them hear! It doesn’t matter now. They need me. (Laughs.) I’ll get Jesus to do something, finally. Don’t you see? He could be a great man, a great leader. He could be the Messiah! He just needs a little push.
MICHELLE: Now you’re the one edging on blasphemy.
JUDE: What right do you have to judge me? You don’t follow him. You’re just like all the rest. Do you deny it?
MICHELLE: No. No, I don’t deny it. It’s just…be careful how you choose, Jude.
JUDE: If I thought I had a choice, I might take that advice. (JUDE exits. MICHELLE follows.)
NICHOLAS: This cannot be happening. I don’t understand it. We’re priests and scholars, not back-alley conspirators!
JOSEPHINE (Studying her nails): This will not end well.
NICHOLAS: Ah! Josephine! You…ah…startled me. I didn’t know you were still here.
JOSEPHINE: Nicholas…what are we going to do?
NICHOLAS: I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.
JOSEPHINE: Don’t bother. I know you believe in Jesus too.
NICHOLAS: What? How?
JOSEPHINE: Word gets around. (She laughs at his startled expression.) Just Michelle telling me. Don’t worry. She’s not sure whose side she’s on at this point, but she doesn’t betray her friends. (Looking to where JUDE disappeared.) Unlike some others we know.
NICHOLAS: Why does it always have to be about sides?
JOSEPHINE: Because that’s the way things are, Nicholas. Joshua said the same thing to the people long ago: “Choose this day who you will serve.” And Elijah, “Why are you wavering so long between two opinions?” See, I can quote Scripture with all the rest of you.
NICHOLAS: Yes, well. That is to say…oh dear. Joshua and Elijah…they both said that before…before some terrible battle. People died, Josephine.
JOSEPHINE: They did, didn’t they? (They begin to exit.)
NICHOLAS: He won’t die. No. Not a man who raised another from the dead. Not if he’s really the Messiah…right?
JOSEPHINE: You’re the expert. You tell me.
NICHOLAS (Sighs): For once…I just don’t know. But may God have mercy on us all. (They exit.)