SCENE FOUR. Mary’s House the Next Morning.
Rabbi Yeshua, are the Pharisees possessed by Satan?
You have taught us to love our enemies.
What love can we give Satan?
How can we judge another’s hidden heart?
Some call the sick and poor the seed of Satan.
[Reads] Heaven’s Lord alone knows all.
Father and God of all, he chose to not
Disclose his mind. He’s not your neighbor, so
Near at hand to ask your questions. And he
Is perfect. You are clearly not. Would you
Be pure in everything? Cut out your jealous heart.
It can’t be done. Haven’t I said to love
Your neighbor as yourself? To pluck out your
Lustful eye? Amputate a thieving hand?
Don’t sin at all. Doesn’t the Law instruct
Thou shalt not? And the Pharisees will orate
Be ye pure! They don’t do it, can’t! So only
Succeed in making sick and miserable
Ones more wretched with fears of punishments
And pains in the prison house of the grave. Satan is served
In this. But shall we hate the Pharisees?
No. No. Oppose their words but not their bodies.
Civil war is children killing. Fight
The Pharisees with life but not with death.
What of the zealots then who fight with Rome?
Oppose the sea and drown. Drawing blood will drown us all in blood.
MARY MAGDALENE: Love is greatest.
There was a king who thought the only way to finally end the conflict between his land and his enemy’s was to send his son to marry his enemy’s daughter. So, with the prince the king sent his ablest minister, an Egyptian who ate only vegetables and had sworn to do no harm to living things. Once they were in the country of their enemy they met with the ruler and his daughter, who was surpassingly beautiful and by all accounts wise and generous of spirit. Her desire was first for peace and second to marry a worthy man. The offer of marriage greatly appealed to her as a good union of great houses. But her father would by no means allow it. He sent the minister and prince away rudely. And he told his chamber henchmen to go out disguised as common thieves and kill the prince before he returned to his own land. While the Egyptian minister and prince slept near the road leading home, the henchmen came wearing rags and beat the prince with rocks and fists, for they didn’t want to appear as agents of a wealthy ruler armed with kingly weapons. But the Egyptian had with him a strong arm and the sword from his lord the king. He awoke while they beat the prince but did nothing because of his oath. Later he came to the king and told him his son was dead. Hearing this, the king took the minister’s sword and struck him down where he stood.
MARY MAGDALENE: What does the parable mean?
Never trust no vegetarians. A good man’s hard to find. Oh, I woulda sawed ’im in half myself!
YESHUA: [Clears throat] What is love? Preserving life or taking it?
MARY MAGDALENE: It seems the minister loved an idea more than he loved the prince.
Are ideas embodied, are bodies ideas? What’s an idea without a body or a body without an idea?
BOY: [He enters] I have another message for Yeshua of Nazareth.
YESHUA: Give it then. Another?
BARTHOLOMEW: [Slaps his own head] Oh!!
BOY: Are you Yeshua?
YESHUA: I am.
BOY: Of Nazareth?
YESHUA: The same.
[To Yeshua] That kid’s a picky one. I wouldn’t trust him, Yeshua.
I have very pointed instructions to tell you from Judas Iscariot that he is on his way to Jerusalem where he will be for the Passover. He sends for you to meet him there.
ALL: What? [And similar reactions.]
Judas intends to pose as you before the Temple and all of Jerusalem, telling them that he is the Christ from Nazareth sent by God to clean the altar.
MOTHER MARY: Bastard!
MARY MAGDALENE: Betrayer!
YESHUA: The winds are fickle.
MOTHER MARY: God hides behind a will inscrutable. We always knew that.
BARTHOLOMEW: But what? But how?
MOTHER MARY: Or another sign, my son!
BARTHOLOMEW: Won’t the Sana-head-urn—
BOTH MARYS: Sanhedrin!
BOY: Sanhedrin. [Nodding his head confidently.]
BARTHOLOMEW: Won’t the Sanhedrin jail Judas right off?
You can count on it. Judas is dead before he passes through the gates if he calls himself the Christ. Dead and the gospel with him. The word Messiah means but one thing to the Roman Prefect: a revolutionary bandit.
We go and show up his lie. The Son of God must be revealed! With you in front of the Temple the earth will tremble, the skies will peel—
Don’t you ever have some doubts, Mary? [He exits. Others except Mother Mary exit after him.]
What is this mannish thing, this Magdalene?
That Night. Still Mary’s House. [“Nighttime” lighting is used. Mother Mary hasn’t left the stage. She has been the focus of the spotlight as the mood is changed around her through lighting effects. There is no full black out, no closed curtain.]
[Somewhat absently to Magdalene.] “God willing,” yes. It’s always “God willing.” Yeshua’s work is good. God rewards the good at heart.
MARY MAGDALENE: What reward found John the Baptist?
[In an access of sudden rage.] What have I told you about saying that name?
Finding it upsetting makes no difference. Worry changes nothing. Worry can’t blow out candles, the master says. I just wondered what reward John found. I can’t remember what his last days were like. I wasn’t there, of course. It was a long time ago, anyway.
I think Judas has boiled his brain fasting on a dune.
Dunes, pure dunes. Harmful, poisoned gales called harmattan rush over crystal crests, and with blistering force hit a wadi where one prays to Ahriman, or Asmodeus, Semihazah, Beliar. [Mary Magdalene lists names of various demons.] Hurricane prayers and demonic heat can curdle every last sinew and nerve.
Stop-it!-Stop-it!-Stop-it! [She stops, panting. There is a pause.]
MARY MAGDALENE: Someone’s coming.
YESHUA: [Enters] Mother.
MOTHER MARY: Yes. [The other Mary starts to go.]
MARY MAGDALENE: Yeshua.
[He turns to Mary Magdalene. She looks like she is about to say something but then turns and exits.]
[Without waiting to see if Yeshua and Mary Magdalene will speak to one another.] Wouldn’t it be good, a great blessing, to spend Passover in Jerusalem? We could find a Succoth hut like when I was a girl. I haven’t been to Temple in so long. The Seder –
Mother. [Reads] Some say in sleep our spirits stray
Free, exploring things we awake can’t see.
Death, sleep’s brother, they say, is freer still.
Freely released, the soul goes home to liberation.
“Many of the sleepers who slumber in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to life everlasting, and some to shame, unending punishment. The wise shall shine just as the brightness of the heavens. And those who turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the scroll, even to the end of time: many shall run to and fro, and evil shall increase.”
Daniel is the Bible and that’s good. The other sounds like more Greek foolishness. You should pay no attention to that. We might as well take advice from those hairy Gauls that are always pestering the Romans. If they’re even real. They say their skin is made of snow and their hair is fire. [After a long pause.] Jerusalem. To make an offering there.
Your father took us once. Remember?
Caesar’s thousand thousand eyes await
The shadow of sedition’s first half gesture, an aspect around the eyes of one being about to speak out against their power. They are jealous gods.
Yeshu, you are good. You teach no war, no harm.
You preach a marriage feast
For God and man. You’ve shown the hardness of
A husband’s heart, the harshness of the master with his slave,
The wealthy well oblivious to the sick impoverished,
Heaven’s indifference toward prosperity.
What fault could Rome find with such sermons?
Much. And Herod too. My crime is being no Caesar. They are not gods but they will prove we aren’t either by crushing us. But I will go to Jerusalem.
MOTHER MARY: Good, son. Good. [She exits.]
How can I leave Judas hanging. If we fail, Israel fails. And all the hope is strangled.
[Enters.] Yeshua, I have bad . . . premonitions, Yeshua, about Jerusalem.
It’s a pit of tangled pythons for me.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” You taught us that. I’ve become confused lately. It used to seem as clear as a bank of lilies or a hillside of almond blooms. [Laughs nervously; then, after a pause, in a reverie] I digress into nectar. Into jacinth and rose scent I digress. [Suddenly frightened] But now… I’m not sure of anything, Yeshua. I’m scared. I’m—
Hush. [He embraces her silently for a moment.] God is pure. Who else can be pure enough to see God and have no doubts, no fears? “Truly, you are a hidden God.” How many times did the psalmists sing out to a silent God? Listen to me, Mary. We do not see the dark end of our path. So we must strive for the light. We must act in faith through unbelieving darkness.
I could do it if…. Oh, if things were otherwise. [Looks him in the eye.]
[They break apart] I have to go to Jerusalem. They’ll kill Judas otherwise.
[Flatly] They will kill you both. [Suddenly with more emotion] I don’t think there’s enough world to hold all I want to say!
You have found it on your own.
Why, why then can’t you let the rest find it on their own? You’ve done so much—
I’ve done so little. It’s too late now to say it, but, I’ve done so little.
But enough to be murdered for it? [Accusing him now] Or is it murder if you walk knowingly into a trap? That doesn’t sound like martyrdom, it sounds like suicide!
YESHUA: If there is any means of escape I will take it.
[Very sane] None. There is none! There is Herod and there is Rome. One is stone, one is steel. Herod. Rome: choose your executioner, Yeshua. Or maybe you won’t even get to choose that.
The gospel suffers, is compromised, if I turn away.
[Becoming tired] What good news does a martyr bring? Or is martyrdom for everyone the only good news there is? [Suddenly resigned] It’s settled then. You will go to the Temple.
YESHUA: I have decided. [He hears a noise] Who’s there?
A tired traveler. I am looking for Yeshua of Nazareth.
YESHUA: Then praise God.
YESHUA: You’ve found him. I’m Yeshua.
Praise God, indeed. I have come from John and Peter. They send their greetings and would like to know where they can rejoin you.
Plans have changed. Tell them we are going ahead to Jerusalem. They should stay where they are and do as they have been doing. Tell them to continue and flourish.
MESSENGER: They won’t like that.
YESHUA: That’s the message.
I’ll convey it. But could I ask why you are going into the lion’s pride – into Jerusalem? Herod has made it very dangerous and Pilate is the Emperor’s pirate. His chief amusement is torture and maiming of his enemies. Nothing delights him more than extending the death of those he hates. You would be like a lone antelope on the plain there. Those are the rumors, anyway.
I don’t really have a choice! My father is prompting me, it seems. This is not your area of expertise, is it? Or are you a wise man? Are you a messiah? Are you the spirit of Elijah raised from the dead?
Forgive me, I . . . I only wanted to convey what – I only want to know what to tell Peter and John. They will wonder why you are going into Satan’s stronghold.
I go for a word. Tell them that. The word is life. Or perhaps the word is Yeshua, since Judas Iscariot has decided to steal my name and take his own life with it. I’m going to murderous Jerusalem to save one single man’s little life.
[Sad but practical] Rabbi, it’s late. You should get some sleep now. [The messenger exits.]
YESHUA: I’ll sleep outside tonight.
MARY MAGDALENE: Then, I will join—
[Petulantly.] No! [Recovering himself.] No. I need to be alone. [She exits .] How do we see at all being so blind? [He takes his jacket and uses it as a pillow, lies down.] Father, let my spirit rest in your hands. [He tosses and turns, unable to get comfortable.]
GHOST of JOHN THE BAPTIST: [Enters.] Where, where am I?
YESHUA: What? Who’s that?
YESHUA: John! John!
GHOST: Yeshua, what are you doing here?
YESHUA: John, what should I do? Should I confront the High Priest face to face?
Jerusalem will ruin you and douse
Your gospel’s flame. Darkness returns, Yeshua.
YESHUA: But the truth burns bright!
Jerusalem is death to fools. The city belongs to Rome and Rome will bury you. A wave of steel will drown you and will thrust out your pupils in confusion.
YESHUA: But you resist Herod’s power.
And drank my own life. What gospel did that serve? I baptized myself in death but left no message, no comfort for my followers. [He sets a chalice and a bottle on the stage.] Don’t drink this elixir if you need to stay safe. There is danger in this infusion. The blood. The blood. [Exits.]
John! John! Do I hallucinate? [He picks up the bottle and the chalice and examines them, then hides them in his pack.] What can I know if my eyes and ears and hands cannot be trusted?
[Enters with other Mary.] Yeshua! Yeshua! What’s wrong? What’s wrong?
Cluck-cluck! Cluck-cluck! I’m not your brood! Fool hens! Clutch at someone else.
MARY MAGDALENE: [Terrified] What’s that sound? Something’s coming!
[Enters drunk.] Woo! Woo-hoo! Whom! Hoomah goes thar? Stand and fold yourself out or uh, or uh, origami – what is origami? Or I’ll a-grammar ye!
MOTHER MARY: He picks a great time to get shit-faced.
I’m sack-sackree, religiously, pressimented: Good ole No-ee took consolation in the fruit of the vine. An’ I’ll survive this flood too! I won’t grow old all unconsoled. [Others help him exit.] Unhand me, ya crazy bitch! [To Mary Magdalene. She does and he falls.]
MOTHER: What should we— ?[unsaid word is “do,” obviously]
Wait for the dawn like grinding death,
Devour the road between here and Jerusalem,
See if our movement prospers or declines.
Between ambition and detachment lies
This zaftig land, its seminal people.
How I hate their chutzpah fits of faith and crave a balmy
Island dwelling, where there’s jonquil girls with
Palm-frond, oil hands, warmed up, becalmed.
YESHUA: Go get some rest.
MOTHER MARY: Go, as the lord commands.
Renounce your dreams, sweet Mary Magdalene. [All exit. Lights go down.]