(The last script in a series leading up to Easter. To start at the beginning, go here.)
Act Three, Scene Three
(MICHELLE is sweeping her porch, staring out at the street, when PETE runs on, clearly distracted by something. He nearly runs into her.)
PETE: Sorry about that. Gotta go!
MICHELLE: You again. Shouldn’t you be hiding with the rest of your friends until you can sneak out of Jerusalem?
PETE: Oh, we won’t be hiding now. Not after he showed up.
PETE: Guess you wouldn’t have heard. Of course not. How would you have?
MICHELLE: Trying to draw out the suspense. Well, it won’t work. Not on me. (Long pause, sighs.) All right, fine. What haven’t I heard?
PETE: I found a better ending.
MICHELLE: What, moved on to the next revolutionary already? You should stay away from those types. They’re nothing but trouble.
PETE: No, no, nothing like that. He’s alive. You and your Pharisee friends couldn’t keep him in the grave, not for long.
MICHELLE: You’ve been drinking.
PETE: I have not! I tell you, he’s alive! I didn’t believe it when I went to the tomb…listened to Mary and the other women’s ramblings…but he appeared to us! Just an hour ago, all of us gathered in the same room.
MICHELLE: Sorry, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
PETE (Snorts): You should be friends with Thomas. That’s exactly what he said. Except he wanted to touch Jesus’ bloody hands.
MICHELLE: I’ll pass on that, thanks.
PETE: Jesus said things about rising again. We thought it was a metaphor. He was big on metaphors, y’know. Trees, rocks, yeast…I didn’t usually get it. Anyway, I never guessed this one. Never thought death wouldn’t be the last of it.
MICHELLE: You’re completely sincere, aren’t you?
PETE: I’m not sincere, I’m right. I tell you, he is alive.
MICHELLE: I’m not sure if I should admire your courage or be appalled at your self-deception.
PETE: The other disciples are all talking, planning, trying to figure out what’s going on. I had to get away. I’m the only one who’s…I mean sure, I’m glad and all. But I don’t know how to talk to him anymore. After what I did. He was my friend. And I betrayed him. Do you know what that feels like?
MICHELLE: I’ve seen it…once. It’s a…very serious thing.
PETE: Is it too late, do you think?
MICHELLE: You seem to be missing something: we crucified your teacher. You’re begging forgiveness from a ghost.
PETE: He’s not a ghost, I tell you! We made him a sandwich, for goodness’s sake!
MICHELLE: Sorry if I don’t act convinced.
PETE: Why am I even talking to you? Pharisees. (Starts to exit.)
MICHELLE (Starts to exit, then chases after him): Pete?
MICHELLE: The father, in the story. He was waiting, watching for his son to come home. The one who had betrayed him.
PETE: He was, wasn’t he? (Slaps her on the back.) You’re not half bad. For a Pharisee. (He exits.)
MICHELLE: Well, that was…unexpected. Crazy fisherman. (She walks over to the door and knocks. JOSEPHINE opens it. Nicodemus is still frantically reading and taking notes.)
JOSEPHINE: Good. I’m glad you’re here. You’ve got to talk to him. He’ll listen to you.
MICHELLE: Talk to who about what?
JOSEPHINE: He’s barely slept since Friday. Searching the Scriptures, on this foolish quest to prove Jesus was the Messiah after all.
NICHOLAS: It is not foolish. Oh, look what you made me do! I blotted out King Hezekiah!
JOSEPHINE: He’s trying to make it all fit, forcing God to say the words he wants to hear.
NICHOLAS: No, no. It was here all along—see? In Isaiah. “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
JOSEPHINE: I told you not to get him started.
MICHELLE: Well, I have news too. The fisherman’s finally cracked. The one they call Pete. He’s going around claiming that Jesus is no longer dead.
MICHELLE: He said that some women met Jesus. Alive, but with nail marks where they…where we killed him. And he went to the tomb and found it empty. Isn’t that something?
NICHOLAS (Jumping up): Something…it’s…it’s a miracle! The final miracle!
JOSEPHINE: Why did you come back here, encouraging him like this? Don’t you see what you’ve done?
MICHELLE: I was reporting what I heard, Josephine. Now, if you’re going to snap at me—
NICHOLAS: Don’t you remember? He said this generation’s sign would be the sign of Jonah. Three days, three nights in the heart of the earth. And what happened to Jonah?
JOSEPHINE: He whined about a worm eating his plant and said he was so hot and sweaty he wanted to die. And people say I’m dramatic.
NICHOLAS: No, before that.
MICHELLE: He got spit up by the fish.
NICHOLAS: Yes. Exactly! Jesus got spit up by…by death and hell itself! That’s it! That’s the sign. Three days later! It’s Sunday, Michelle! It’s Sunday!
(JOSEPHINE, shaking her head, begins to exit.)
NICHOLAS: Where are you going?
JOSEPHINE: It’s my family tomb. I’m going to see for myself. (She exits.)
MICHELLE: Nicholas, I understand that these past few days have been hard for you. But he can’t be alive. It just isn’t possible. (ANNA, JEREMIAH, SIMONE, and LEVI enter.)
ANNA: Ah. I see you’ve heard the rumors. Those followers of his can be industrious when they set their minds to it. If they applied the same effort to their work as they did to their lying, our nation’s fish market would be booming.
LEVI: Someone is circulating reports that this Jesus is alive. We’re trying to contain the rumors as best we can, of course. Can you imagine the panic if it hits the press? Why, the very idea is theologically disastrous, completely pagan!
NICHOLAS: I don’t suppose there’s any…truth to them? The rumors, I mean.
SIMONE: Nicholas, I watched him die. The man was a bloody carcass, barely able to draw breath. And that was before he was nailed to the cross.
NICHOLAS: Do you have to put it so…crudely?
SIMONE: That’s how it was.
MICHELLE: Didn’t you pester Pilate to post a guard at the tomb? In case anything…unexpected happened?
LEVI: Yes, and they fell asleep. They came back to tell us the disciples had stolen his body.
MICHELLE: You have to feel sorry for them, don’t you?
LEVI: Excuse me?
MICHELLE: If they fell asleep on their watch, of course they were executed. Right? That’s the way those pagan Romans do things. I’m surprised they confessed, knowing that.
JEREMIAH: No, they’re still alive. How else could we make sure they spread our story?
JEREMIAH: I mean the story. Yep. The completely true, absolutely factual, saw-it-with-my-own-eyes true story.
NICHOLAS: I see. I see. Well, I’m going back to my study of the Scriptures. You’ll never believe the verse I found, buried in the book of Job: “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes.”
NICHOLAS: Yes, Levi? Is something wrong?
LEVI: I’d like to ask that you abandon this.
NICHOLAS: I love the Scriptures, Levi. I love the truth. Can you blame me for that?
LEVI: No…No, I suppose I can’t. Good day to you. (They exit, except MICHELLE and NICHOLAS.)
NICHOLAS: Yes. It is a good day. A very, very good day. The third day.
MICHELLE: Well done, Nicholas. I’ve been waiting a long time for someone to stand up to him. I never thought it would be you.
NICHOLAS: What? Well, yes…I suppose I did. So, what do you think? About the news? The resurrection?
MICHELLE: I’m not sure what to think anymore. The Messiah was supposed to be a conqueror. The resurrection was supposed to happen at the end of the age.
NICHOLAS: “I am the resurrection and the life.” He said that, you know. Lazarus told me.
JOSEPHINE (Entering): Oh, yes, the dead man they wanted to re-kill. I suppose he’d be the authority on the subject, wouldn’t he?
JOSEPHINE: If you’re waiting on me to notice your new shoes, I already did, and the reason I didn’t comment was because they’re hideous.
NICHOLAS: The tomb, Josephine!
NICHOLAS: I knew it!
JOSEPHINE: The grave clothes were just sitting there…if they stole his body, why take the time to unwind him like that? It takes a while. I should know. I had to do the whole thing basically by myself because Nicholas wasn’t any good at it. (Sniffs.) My hands still smell like aloe.
MICHELLE: But it’s not possible!
JOSEPHINE: I’m just not sure how else to explain it.
MICHELLE: But…a criminal executed on a pagan cross…can’t be the Messiah.
NICHOLAS: I tell you, it’s all there, in the Scriptures. It was there all along. We just didn’t see it. We didn’t want to see it.
MICHELLE: He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
JOSEPHINE: If you could work out all of the prophecies, if you could sort out the hows and whens and whys…would you believe it?
MICHELLE: I don’t know.
JOSEPHINE: Why not?
MICHELLE: Because…because I want to believe I’m good. And when I looked at him…I felt like I wasn’t anymore. (Sighs.) It sounds terrible, just said straight out like that.
JOSEPHINE: It sounds honest.
MICHELLE: You talked about my certainty once, Josephine. And you’re right, I am always very certain. Or I was. Before him. All of his riddles and stories and…I don’t know. I don’t know anything, anymore.
JOSEPHINE: Come on, you must know something.
MICHELLE (Straightening): Yes. I know one thing. “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” How can this Jesus be God, then?
NICHOLAS: I haven’t sorted it out yet, exactly. I may…I may never be able to.
MICHELLE: And you, Nicholas, scholar of scholars…you’re okay with that?
NICHOLAS: “The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness instead of the light because their actions were evil.” Haven’t we had enough darkness, Michelle? Friday was dark. The Sabbath…was quiet. So very quiet. The quiet of death. But it’s Sunday now.
MICHELLE: Yes. It’s Sunday now.
NICHOLAS: And he’s alive. I really believe it. I put him in that tomb and he is not there.
MICHELLE: So you say. So you say. Nicholas, Josephine, if you wouldn’t mind, I need to be alone.
JOSEPHINE: I understand. I have a lot to think about myself. (They both exit.)
MICHELLE: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” So close to the kingdom, he said. But the kingdom of God can’t lead to a cross. Can’t go through an empty tomb. (Pause.) Can it?