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Judas' Tale

Copyright Reserved Stephen Charles Lovatt (2007)

There is also a small cast version which requires only five players.

Click here for a monologue version.


  • Simon ben Micah

  • Luke, the evangelist

  • Jesus ben Joseph

  • His mother, Mary

  • His friends

    • Lazarus

    • Martha

    • Mary Magdalene

  • His Apostles

    • Judas Iscariot

    • John ben Zebadee

    • James, John's brother

    • Thomas

    • Matthew

    • Peter

    • Andrew, Peter's brother

  • The High Priest

  • The disciples

  • The sanhedrin
    The soldiers

Act 1: The Prelude

Scene 1: An interview

Luke is on stage, sitting in one of two chairs, set opposite each other.
The two chairs are in a spotlight, to the left side of the stage centre.
Luke has a note-book open on his lap.
John enters.

Luke: Ah John! Good of you to spare the time.

Luke beckons John to sit in the empty chair opposite him.
John sits down.

John: I'm happy to help, Luke. It's an important project - a bit delicate, though.

Luke: What do you mean?

John: Well, it's no accident that there are a lot of false rumours out there. You're going to have to decide how much of the truth the public will want to hear - and how much of it you can afford to use.

Luke: That's all part of the job.

John: Rather you than me!

Luke: Just tell me the truth - as you know it.

John: Oh, I will!

Luke: Did you know what was going on?

Luke starts to write in his book as John speaks to him.

John: Of course I knew, Luke! We all knew - in the end. We also knew that we mustn't tell. Hence the silly stories that got put about.

Luke: Did anyone believe them at the time?

John: 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. I suppose I can understand how it happened - why it happened. I suppose I've even forgiven... but I can never forget!

Luke: Were you jealous?

John: I had no need to be. At first I didn't realize what the matter was. After all, I was very young. Later on, I felt pity and even tried to help him; but I think that only made things harder for him. I don't think it was my interfering that drove him to it, though. I think he was set on his course in spite of anything I could have done. After all, it wasn't me that was the issue. It was him! I suppose he was jealous of me, though. It would have been heroic of him not to have been. He must have suffered terribly to do such a thing.

Luke: Did he ever forgive himself?

John: I don't know. Somehow I doubt it, he was too noble to do that - too proud. I pray that he finds peace. I owe him at least that. He has few others to pray for him.

Luke: What did Mary think of it all?

John: She was so innocent - unsullied by this world. In her heart she couldn't accept that anyone could have reason to harm her Son - least of all one of his friends; and we were all his friends, he told us that at the last.

Luke: And your brother?

John: I never really knew what James made of it all. He was part of the inner circle, but he never discussed these matters with me, and he died - was killed - not so long after. I wish it had been me.

Luke: And Peter?

John: Oh, he was out of his bumbling, well meaning depth. I don't think he ever really understood. Heart of gold, brains of straw. The rumours we put about have his 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.

Mary comes on stage.

John: But why don't you ask me about Lazarus? It all began with Lazarus - Lazarus and his sisters. Now that was a house - famous throughout Judaea it was! [He means that it was a bordello.]

John stands up.

Luke: What were you doing, visiting such a place?

John: The Master always mixed with that sort. He had no time for the respectable. He always said that they had no need for him - were blind to their need, I'd say! I think the first time we sampled Lazarus' hospitality was after he'd rescued Mary from the mob, that day in the Temple. I think she fell for him on first sight - she owed him her life after all, and his presence was something else!

Mary stands behind John's chair.

Mary: 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 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.

Luke: Yes, they all say that.

John: I can still remember the look of amazement in Lazarus' eyes when we turned up at his doors. Disbelief, fear, shame, defiance - and then surrender - all fled across his face in a moment, as the Master said "Shalom! Peace be with you!"

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

Luke: It was a bit of a riot, then?

John [grinning]: Bethany will never forgot the day that Lazarus' house was purged! All the sisters left, except Martha - and Mary, here. They were inseparable - like Naomi and Ruth of old, those two! - and they stood by Lazarus right till the end.

Mary: That night the best wine came out, and we celebrated till the small hours.

Scene 2: The party at Bethany

Jesus, Lazarus, Judas, Peter, Thomas, Martha, and any other disciples come on stage.
John and Mary join them.
Luke watches the scene that unfolds, from his chair.
A party begins. At first it is quite raucous.
Jesus and Lazarus circulate.
As the evening progresses things quieten down.
It becomes obvious that something is going on.
Jesus and Lazarus huddle deep in conversation, on the right side of the stage.
Lazarus' face is radiant. Jesus is telling jokes.
Judas watches the following, from a distance with John [and any other disciples], standing near to where Luke is still seated.

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 families. 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 alright. Didn't care a bit, though. Very charitable fellow - 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 blessed. Now later that same day, his cousin Dives also died; but he didn't go to heaven. Oh no! The Archangel Azrael conducted him to the gates of Gehenna, where the fires are never extinguished and all the rubbish of the world is burned away.

Lazasus: That's horrible!

Jesus: What else is to be done with rubbish? The fire burns away all that is worthless, and if anything remains - well and good; but on with the story! Just before he falls into 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." But Dives persists. He says: "Well send my cousin Lazarus, then." Now Abraham is angry and replies: "Your cousin Lazarus? Since when have you recognised this good man as being family? No! He cannot help you either."

Lazarus: So what happened?

Jesus: Well, Dives wasn't giving in that easily. He wasn'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 if they don't start to live better 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: But because they already have the Sacred Lessons - the Torah of Moses; the writings of the Holy Prophets of God; and the wisdom of the Sages. If a man will not take account of that testimony, then he will not pay head 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!

For the first time in his life John knows what it is to be excluded.
Judas looks increasingly lonely, jealous and upset.
The other disciples are quite content, drinking and chatting with each other.
Then Jesus beckons to John, and Lazarus nods and smiles.
John knows that everything is all right.
He walks over to join Jesus and Lazarus.

Jesus [jokingly]: I, say, John! I've just been warning Lazarus, here, not to expect anyone to believe him if he tells them what has happened to him. [He apparently refers to Lazarus' recent conversion, but means Lazarus' future resurrection.]

John [reticently]: Oh - 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!

John [thoughtfully]: True, they read but choose not to understand.

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

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

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

John [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.

Mary and Martha join the group.
Jesus kisses them, as they join in the conversation.

Jesus [grinning]: Oh am I, indeed? What does the Torah say. It isn't my business to overturn the Law!

John [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.

John [with mock sorrow at first, then with glee]: But we don't have your heart, Master. It's impossible for me to love you as much as you love me, how can I hope to love Lazarus so much?

John pokes Lazarus in the ribs, and Lazarus pokes him back.
They both laugh.
Judas is now upset.

Jesus [pretending to scold John 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 Lord?

Jesus [gently]: Yes, Mary. It's very difficult for you all; but be sure that with God's help all things are possible.

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

Jesus [authoritatively]: It is for this 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 love!

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.

Martha [beaming]: You are the Lord of life and of death!

Jesus stands up and stretches out his arms.

Jesus [raised voice, almost shouting]: Take my hands, enter with me into the future-world of the Kingdom of the Friends of God!

John, Lazarus, Martha, Mary and any other disciples crowd around Jesus, grasping hold of his outstretched hands.
Judas still stands to one side, next to where Luke is seated.

Mary, 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!

Scene 3: An interview, resumed

Everyone except Luke and Judas leave the stage.
They sit in the two chairs, facing each other, in a spotlight.
Luke has his note-book again.

Luke [professionally]: Tell me about Lazarus.

Judas [defensively]: Lazarus? Oh yes, his darling Lazarus. Quite besotted he was, with Lazarus. I never could understand what he saw in that pimp - because that's what he was, a pimp! Too old to whore it any more with the legionaries!

Luke [unsympathetically]: You sound bitter.

Judas [at first hurt, then wistful]: What do you expect? I had a good name - I come from a priestly family, you know? I had my looks - and a pure heart too.
Only John understood his soul as well - but he had time for John. Somehow, when we first met.... 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) but he never had time for me. Right from that day, I recognized his difference from other men - the spirit that burned within him.
Oh, he put me in charge of the money, Luke, and he always expected me to have everything organized (I ran the show, if the truth be told!) and he never criticized me - but he never thanked me. It was as if I wasn't there. At first I thought that if I poured out my soul for him, showed how I could anticipate his every desire - and I could - that he would come to appreciate me; but it was a thankless task.

Luke [impatiently]: I see, but what of Lazarus - and his sisters?

Judas [at first wistful, then sad]: 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 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 too 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 I couldn't summon up the courage - and what could I have said, anyhow? What good would it have done?

Luke [professionally]: That's when Jesus announced that Lazarus was dead and you were going to Bethany once more, I suppose?

Judas: That's right. Peter and James protested 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 style!

Scene 4: The Resurrection

Jesus, Thomas, John, Peter, and any other disciples come on stage right.
Lazarus lies hidden behind Luke's chair.
They are deep in conversation.
Judas joins them

Thomas[to Peter]: Look now, Peter; he's going - whether we approve or not!

Thomas turns to Jesus

Thomas: Who are we to tell you what to do, anyhow, Lord?

Thomas turns back to the other disciples.

Thomas: I don't know about the rest of you, but if the Master is going to Judea and if it's time for me to die by his side, then that's good enough for me!"

The others mutter doubtful agreement.
The group walks slowly across the stage, except for Judas who stays standing on the right of the stage.
Martha enters from the left of the stage and meets the group in its centre.
Her eyes are red with tears.

Judas [to the audience]: We arrived at Bethany on the Friday.

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

Jesus makes no answer.
He doesn't deny her confidence.
He doesn't defend his negligence.
He looks sad.

Thomas [sadly]: But Martha, dear, how could we have known to come any earlier?

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

Judas [bitterly, to the audience]: How did He know to come at all?

Now Mary comes on stage.

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

Mary nods, takes Jesus by the hand, and leads him to the grave, behind Luke's chair.
Martha follows.
Jesus weeps.
After days of restraint, the tears well forth.
His darling is dead.

Martha [to Mary]: His heart begins to break. I fear it will never heal.

Mary [to Martha]: 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 reached down and raises up the corpse.
Lazarus 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, hand in hand.

Lazarus: Stay a while with me, Lord of my Life!

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

John [to the audience]: Lazarus was the same - and yet different.

Mary [to the audience]: At peace, and happy - like I've never seen anyone.

Martha [to the audience]: 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.

Thomas [to the audience]: See! It all worked out. They should have just trusted him!

Scene 5: An interview, concluded

Everyone except Luke and Judas exit.
Simon joins them, bringing in a third chair.
They sit down on three chairs.
Luke is in the middle, with his note-book.

Luke [cautiously]: How did you feel?

Judas [angrily, then wistfully]: It wasn't fair! Why did He bother with these people anyway? They were the lowest sort! How can a few tears make up for a life's whoring?
How can tears make up for the betrayal of love; for the death of hope - when only cold faith remains? [He refers to himself, here.]

Luke [sympathetically]: What happened next?

Judas [regaining his composure]: 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 Master's couch. I yearned for his arms.
No one dared to 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.

Luke [knowledgeably]: 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!

Judas: 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 an 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.

Luke now turns to interview Simon.
Simon is an effete individual.
He is the only character who may be played with any camp accent.

Luke: So, Simon, why did you invite Jesus to your home?

Simon: 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!

Luke [ironically]: You don't like foreigners, then?

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

Luke [hiding his amusement]: So, you didn't exactly approve of Jesus' lifestyle? He didn't think much of yours, either!

Simon [angrily]: He called us "white-washed 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.

Luke [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.

Act 2: Saturday in Bethany

Scene 1: The First Supper

Luke now becomes Peter - if necessary.
Jesus, Lazarus, Judas, Thomas, John [and any other disciples] come on stage.
They lie down, on one elbow, upon mats laid about a low table.
John lies right next to Jesus, resting his head on his chest/abdomen.
Thomas : Peter : Simon : Lazarus : Jesus : John : James

Simon: So, Peter, what brought you all to Judea?

Peter: The Master wanted to attend the Festival, Simon.

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

Thomas: An accident you may call it.

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

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 respond.
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 offstage.
Mary rushes on stage in tears.
She falls down at the foot of Jesus' couch.
She began 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 your master!

Jesus looks at Simon.
A pained expression floods his face.
Jesus beckons for Mary to approach him.
Jesus kisses Mary on the mouth.
Jesus sits Mary down on his mat, after indicating that John should get up to make room for her.
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 refuse 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 alms-giving?

Jesus: There will always be good causes for you to lavish your charity on - and be sure that you all do so - but I shall not be with you much longer…

Jesus pauses and looks straight into Judas's eyes.

Jesus: …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.

Jesus: …and you, for your cold heart!

John breaks down in tears.
Peter looks very worried.
Simon is at first taken aback, then offended and finally angry.
Jesus stands up, and leads Mary from the stage, holding her hand.
He glances over his shoulder at Judas; who at first looks confused, but then hopeful.
The disciples all follow Jesus off stage.

Scene 2: The Ordination

It is dark.
A single spotlight reveals Jesus lying asleep. He is wearing a white loin-cloth or white linen/cotton breeches/jeans and a brightly-coloured wrap-around robe, open at the front and loosely secured with a white rope belt.
Judas comes on stage, 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, stands up and opens his arms.
Judas steps forward into the spotlight.

Jesus: You have come, then. I am glad.

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

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 you will drink, but remember at the end that love is 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 of 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 love you, Judas son of Zadok. 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 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, in all that follows, right to the end of the play.]

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

Judas: What dance, my love?

Jesus: The dance of my glory. Only one who loves me as well as you 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 that I can trust with my life - and my death.

Judas: Why speak of death - you are the Lord of Life!

Jesus [sadly]: Truly! 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. I will give you a sign. [suddenly Jesus' demeanour changes, he continues sternly] Now go! Go and do not seek my embrace again.

Act 3 Thursday in Jerusalem

Scene 1: An interview

Luke, Simon and Matthew come on stage.
They sit down on three chairs.
Luke sits in the middle, with his note-book.
Luke turns to Simon.

Luke: So, Simon; how did Judas come to betray Jesus?

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 understand Judas' motives at all.]

Luke: What did you tell him?

Simon: I fed him the story that 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.

Luke: 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. Caiaphas had already cleared the execution with Pilate, but Judas wasn't to know that!

Luke: 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. He sold himself for thirty pieces of Roman silver - the price of a slave!

Luke: 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!

Luke: You mean the suicide story?

Simon: Yes.

Luke turns to Matthew.

Luke: Matthew, why do you think Judas betrayed the Master?

Matthew: I don't know what went through his mind. When he came to me in the end he wasn't talking much sense. Anyhow, I hardly cared to listen to him after what he'd done! My instinct was to swing my sword and have done with it; but I knew that was not what the Master would have wanted.

Luke: Well then, was he at least sorry for what he'd done?

Matthew: Yes, he was sorry. Of course he was sorry! You don't kill the thing you love without living to regret it. I tried to comfort him, though - to be honest - I felt like tearing his heart out.

Luke: So why did he do it?

Matthew: Judas felt that the Master had slighted him, [He is partly right here.] and in his desperation to revenge himself [He is wrong here.] he allowed himself to believe the half-truths fed him by Simon Ben Micah. I suppose Simon had noted Judas' unease at the fiasco at Bethany, and had made the opportunity to approach him with a proposal to "take Jesus down a few pegs".

Luke: 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?

Matthew: That's about it. You know how the story continues, that bit of the folk-lore is true. We went to Gethsemane after supper, our 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 - Mark's house - and there bumped into Judas, briefly before he fled again.

Luke [sceptically]: And you say he was sorry?

Matthew: Yes he was sorry, but I don't know if he was able to forgive himself.

Luke [insincerely]: There is always hope.

Scene 2: An icon speaks

The three leave the stage.
They are replaced by Judas, Jesus and Mary his mother.
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] all stand facing the audience.
They adopt formal static postures, like figures in a byzantine icon.
Mary, the Mother of Jesus, 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 John - 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. My son had sent word that we should come, what may.
As soon as I arrived I could tell that all was not right. My son 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 something unspeakable. I was filled with a welling horror and an impulse to cast this man from me, but I refused. Somehow, I knew that this was my greatest test, and that if I pushed this man 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. 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, 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 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; but it was my choice to lay down my life - to perfect the Old Covenant and to 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 even suspecting that they were fulfilling my will.

Mother: Weren't you afraid?

Jesus: That night my heart broke utterly. I knew it 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, that I would be betrayed and denied and deserted.
Worse, that night I had so much to tell them and so little time - and they wouldn't understand 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 wine to drink, then bread to eat, then 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.

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

Jesus [to the audience]: As if you haven't done the same yourself.

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!

Scene 3: The last supper

Jesus, Peter, Judas, Matthew, John, James, Andrew [and any other disciples] come on stage.

Matthew: Who is sitting where?

Andrew: Peter: you should be at the Master's right.

Peter: No, Andrew - not tonight.

James: Then I will!

Andrew: That's right - the sons of Zebeddee on his right and left. Nothing ever changes!

Matthew: If you're so bothered; why don't you take the place of honour?

Jesus [In a loud voice]: Enough! John, 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.
As always, John shares Jesus' couch.
John lies right next to Jesus, resting his head on Jesus' chest.
Judas has the place of honour, on Jesus' right.
Matthew : James : Judas : Jesus : John : Peter : Andrew

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

James: 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.

Matthew: But you are the Master; The Blessed One! How should we serve you, Lord?

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

Jesus: I do not want your service, Matthew son of Levi. I do not need it. Only your love.

Jesus washes James' feet.

Jesus: Once more, I show myself to you, James son of Zebeddee. Only believe, and always have hope!

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 pays particular attention to Judas.
Jesus kisses the palms of both of Judas' hands.

Jesus: I am your Lover and your Beloved, Judas son of Zadok.

Jesus washes John's feet.

Jesus: Listen and remember, John son of Zebeddee: I will always be your friend.

John: And I yours, sweet Master.

Jesus smiles and kisses John on the cheek.

Jesus: I know.

Peter stands up and backs away from Jesus.

Peter: I am not worthy of this, Lord!

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

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

Peter stretches out his arms.

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

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

Andrew: Why do you humiliate yourself, Master?

Jesus: It is no humiliation to serve those I love, Andrew son of Nahum. Only be sure to follow my example. My heart longs that you understand what Love is.

Jesus washes Andrew's feet.
Jesus puts aside the water bowl and towel.
Jesus puts his tunic back on.
Jesus takes his place at table.
Jesus picks up a chalice.

Jesus: Blessed Art Thou, King 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 again with you, my friends, until the coming of the Kingdom.

Jesus passes the chalice to Judas (who then passes it on), and their last supper together begins.

Jesus: One of you is to betray me.

Andrew : I would never betray you, Lord!

Peter [simultaneously]: Nor I!

James [simultaneously]: Not me!

Matthew: Will it be me, Lord?

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

At last Peter dares to nudge John and whisper.

Peter [gently, to John]: Ask him who, boy!

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

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

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

Jesus [kindly]: Take and eat, Judas. I break this for you.

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

Jesus [calmly]: What you must do, go do it quickly!

Judas [forlornly]: I love you!

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.

Judas [hisses]: And yet, I hate you!

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

Scene 4: The passion

A dim spotlight reveals Judas, standing at one side of the stage.

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.

At last Jesus and his disciples appear on the other side of the stage.
Jesus is in a second bright spotlight.
Judas hides 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.

Jesus [to the audience]: I am the Bread of Life!

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 no sign.

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

Judas [to the audience]: He made no sign. 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 city gate, they started to sing psalms.

Jesus and Apostles [sing]: 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.

Judas follows in silence and hides.
Jesus, Peter, James,John and Matthew [and any other disciples] arrive at Gethsemane.
The disciples (other than Peter, James and John) lie down and go to sleep.
Jesus smiles and shakes his head.
Jesus walks towards Judas' hiding place.
Jesus turns and beckons for Peter, James and John to follow him half way.
Jesus indicates that they should kneel down.

Jesus: 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.
Peter, James and John fall asleep.
The figure of Lazarus looms out of the dark.
Lazarus is wearing only a linen sheet.
It looks like a shroud, and Lazarus appears somewhat like a ghost.

Lazarus [to Jesus]: I am here, my love. It will be all right.

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

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

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

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

Lazarus, Peter, John and James wake with a start.
Judas comes on stage, with Simon and soldiers [the audience?]
Lazarus recognizes Judas.

Lazarus: It's Judas!

John [sorrowfully]: He is back from the errand the Master sent him on.

Peter [indicating the audience]: Those must be friends of Nichodemus, eager to meet the Master. This Passover will surely see the Lord acclaimed by the Sanhedrin!

Judas approaches Jesus.

Jesus [to Judas]: My friend, what is your intention?

Jesus has a pained expression on his face.
Judas bows and smiles.

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

Judas kisses Jesus on the mouth, passionately.
Jesus returns the kiss.
They embrace.
Then there is uproar, as it became clear that the crowd following Judas [the audience?] is a cohort of soldiers.
Jesus breaks away from Judas' embrace.

Jesus [loudly]: Whom do you seek?

Simon: Jesus of Nazareth!

Jesus [loudly]: Well, here -I-AM-

There is a shocked silence.

Jesus [quietly]:-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 and the crowd fall back, deterred by nothing more than the command in Jesus' voice.
Apart from Peter, Lazarus and John, any other disciples have fled already.
Peter panics, draw his sword and lashes out at Judas' head.
Judas dodges and squeals in pain, as Peter takes off his ear.

Jesus: Put the sword away, Peter. Shall I not drink this cup, that The Father has given me?

Jesus reaches out, and Judas' ear is restored.
Then Peter, Lazarus and John flee too.
Lazarus is almost caught, and looses his linen sheet.
Jesus leaves with Simon and the soldiers meekly.
The lights go out.
A single spotlight comes on, revealing Judas, alone stage right.

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 Caiaphas, 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, Caiaphas the High Priest [dressed, if possible, as a byzantine bishop, with dalmatic, external wrap-around stole and crown]
and the rest of the Sanhedrin come on stage left.
A second spotlight comes on to reveal this group gathered around Caiaphas.

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

Caiaphas ignores him.

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

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

Judas throws the blood money at their feet and flees.

Caiaphas: Good, by this money the priest has purchased from us the life of this man who will die in place of the Nation. He is no longer our affair, we are free of Him!

Simon: But what shall we do with these unclean coins?

Caiaphas: After the feast, go and buy a plot of land with the money; where the dead of the gentiles may be laid to rest. Let the heathens benefit from this betrayal, not us!

Act 4 The Homecoming

Scene 1: An interview

Luke and Lazarus are on stage, sitting in two chairs on stage left, facing each other, in a spotlight.
Luke has his note-book open.
Luke writes in it as John speaks to him.
Judas cowers in the foetal position, stage right, in the dark.
Mary kneels next to him, passively offering comfort.

Luke: What happened to Judas?

Lazarus: I found him 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 night and held him in my arms.

Luke: How did the sisters react?

Lazarus: 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…

Luke [interrupts]: What about Mary?

Lazarus: Oh, Mary - she 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.

Luke: What did they make of Judas?

Lazarus: They shunned him. "How can you harbour him, after what he has done?" Nathaniel demanded.

Luke: I can understand that! What kind of a state was Judas in?

Lazarus: He 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.
Luke watches, silently. He puts his pen down.

Lazarus [to the audience]: 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 time I slept, perhaps it was simple compassion.

Lazarus kneels next to Judas, and attempts to hug him.
At first Judas resists, then he falls 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, joyfully]: On the third day - he came to us!