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Page 4 of 16


Scene 2

Caiphas’ house.
Wednesday night.
Caiphas, Annas, Nicodemus, Horathiel, Azraim, Galadas, other priests
Too long we’ve planned, too long we’ve dallied in
Weak-kneed procrastination; debate must give place
To strong-armed deeds. One sole resolve
Must clinch the course of further argument
This Jesus, who by lying signs and words
Has captivated vulgar minds and hearts,
Must suffer for his blasphemy.
The man is good
He preaches simple goodness and he observes
The Law. Are such things criminal?
Is Nicodemus then enamoured of this vagrant seer,
Whose low unhallowed origin makes plain
The base pretence behind his preaching?
Is God our Lord so shortened in his arm
That Israel having waited such an age
Should find no nobler saviour than a man
Whose haunts are sinners’ homes and wine-drenched feasts?
A man who heaps contempt upon the priests?
Who bids the people listen to our words
But shuns our deeds as poisoned at their source?
His censure strikes not at the priestly state
But at unworthiness in its pursuit.
Nor is there aught to blame but much to praise
If he with sinners sinless doth consort.
No man can handle pitch but be defiled.
To publicans, adulterers, unjust and grasping men
Of every rank and race, to all mankind
He promises eternal life, a life divine,
If they but show repentance and consent
To be ‘re-born" in some mysterious way.
(Laughing scornfully –others follow suit)
His kinsfolk speak the truth; they say he’s mad.
What son of Israel needs to be reborn?
Eternal life is promised to our people.
Is not the seed of Abraham divine? Go preach
This doctrine of rebirth to Gentile ears.
Time tests all truth; if Jesus truly claim
To own eternal life, he need not fear our testing.
But that’s unjust!
Dost thou presume to educate the priests
In their profession?
(Turning to Caiphas)
One alone, God’s high priest
In words divinely guided must make clear
Our path of duty.
Our meeting has been robbed of precious time
By superficial words and random talk.
I shall be brief, and briefly will repeat
My former argument. This man doth many signs
That daily lure the fickle multitude
Enticing them from loyalty to us.
If he proceed unhindered in this path
Our power will wane, our prestige will decrease,
And opportunist Rome will take the chance
To outlaw our religion and enthrone
Obscene gods even in the Temple!

(Rumble of outraged feeling around the table)
And so you choose this holy man as scapegoat—
A victim on the altar of your pride?
‘Tis proof of grossest ignorance if you
Should shut your mind to simple-staring truth –
That for the people one should suffer death
And perish not the nation.
‘Tis well approved by all!
If ye intend
To murder innocence and steep your hands
In guilty blood, I’ll have no part therein.

(Nicodemus rises and leaves angrily)
What other traitors lurk here need not stay
Nor cloak their leaving by apology.
Good; are we of one mind in this enterprise?
Aye, aye,
Tell us the manner of the deed.
Our way is strewn with traps for indiscretion
And caution must preside o’er every step.
If his arrest occur within the Pasch
When all Jerusalem’s thronged with worshippers
There is danger of a tumult.
But once the feast is ended and the crowds
Are streaming homewards, then let us strike.
You magnify the dangers of the mob.
No more propitious moment could we find
Than these full days, so that the gathered host
May see his condemnation, and going home
Will broadcast his defeat through Palestine.
But can we quench enthusiastic hearts
Which four days hence tore off their mantles
To carpet his approach; and waving palms
They chanted ‘Jesus’—‘Messiah’—‘King’?
They cheered and sang and strewed their filthy rags
Not wholly in devotion to his name
But for their pleasure. Mobs love to shout
Make noisy demonstration and parade
For every novel gaudy-painted scheme.
They called him ‘King’ and named him their Messiah.
The wish is often parent to the thought.
Drunk with festal joy and exaltation
They longed to see the promised saviour come.
Infatuation swayed their minds so far
As falsely to conceive and falsely name
This Jesus as their king. This peasant carpenter!
Weak sounds the voice of reason to a mob,
Like to a timid seabird chirping in a gale.
When once they see their hero apprehended,
Accused, defenceless, wholly in our power,
Their loyalty will melt like April snow.
My mind is still unsure.

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