Act 1 Scene 1. A secret minority

Only Joseph stands up for Jesus in his trial in absentia. The message to Nicodemus from his secret meeting with Jesus has finally sunk in, yet he lacks the courage to speak up, despite his skill in the law. Joseph realises that the actions of Jesus in the temple court have put him offside with both Roman administration and Temple hierarchy. Jesus, as a Rabbi would have known full well that visitors from afar needed to change their currency to that acceptable to the temple. It would have taken more that the presence of money changers to anger him. Both male and female prostitutes and orphan children for sale into slavery were what caused his temper to flare. Nevertheless, Joseph is only too aware that ‘they are blind to the place of this man in the history of our Race.’

Act 1 Scene 2. The Foreshadowing

In domestic quarters, Pilat is being dressed in order to conduct a Court with his invited guest Herod. Claudia makes her husband Pilat aware that Jesus has been condemned to death by the Sanhedrin, and that she is a follower of the new Christian Movement. But Pilat already knows these things. He sees the Christianity Movement as a positive force, as does Claudia. They know of the retributions in Rome after the fall of Lucius Sejanus. Both realise that the teachings of Jesus could benefit Roman society, yet are only too aware that they might be recalled to Rome at any time. That it is best to wait out their time here in Judea, away from the turmoil in Rome, and hope to retire honourably to Pilat’s estates outside of the city.

Claudia is determined to know what intelligence has been gathered by Rome’s spies about the leader Jesus and his followers. She disguises herself in the presidium. But her presence does not go unnoticed.

Act 1 Scene 3. Reports from the Countryside

Pilat has selected a seasoned senior soldier whom he trusts from their campaigns together for the gathering of intelligence about the new Christian Movement. Petronius speaks the language of northern Israel and has been given the task of reporting on Jesus and his Movement. It would be unthinkable that Pilat did not know of what was happening and that he needed to keep his finger on the pulse of civil unrest outside of his administered territory. This was also an opportunity to get to know Herod, to make sure they were on the same page on this matter.

Petronius gives both Pilat and Herod favourable news. Jesus is not a force against Rome, but rather the opposite, asking his followers to accept Rome and pay their taxes, thereby benefiting from the stability and prosperity this brought. But the news about Jesus is not all happy: some villages reject his radical teaching and expel him and his followers as madmen and charlatans.

The report shifts to the personal encounter between Jesus and the Centurion. Jesus would have deduced that Petronius’ servant had an epileptic seizure and was probably now awake and alert again. Yet the encounter showed Jesus that this soldier was no ordinary man, but a kind man who was willing to accept Faith. It was not to be their only meeting. Petronius then discusses the philosophies that are driving this radical Movement – love of one’s fellow man, and the concept of agape love. It is a concept foreign to both Pilat and Herod.

Finally, Petronius makes the point that the Christianity Following is one which will divide Jewish society. Both Pilat and Herod see this as an important advantage. Jesus and the Movement he has started are too important to allow the Sanhedrin to deal with as it wishes. Yet they are both concerned with civil unrest, knowing a serious revolt might damage their grip on power, so they command that their military forces be made ready.

Act 2 Scene 1. Tactics

Caiaphas, Ananias, and Saul discuss the development of the Christian Movement and the threat it poses to cultural solidarity of Jewish society. They are disgusted at the loss of temple revenues, but more importantly are worried that any civil disturbance could see the Roman armies strike. They want Jesus out of the way both quickly and quietly, and have Judas to take a bribe to reveal his location in the city.

Judas rejects the core of the Christianity Following’s teachings. He wants a warrior king to throw off the Roman occupation, and is prepared to take a bribe to rid the city of this radical man.

Act 2 Scene 2. The Final Realisation

Jesus realises that the optimism with which he came to Jerusalem has been badly misplaced. To the great concern and disbelief of those who love him, he defends his likely fate as something that is his duty to see out.  The agony he is feeling in his heart does not distract him from wanting to stand up to the Jewish authorities.

During the Last Supper there is a confrontation with Judas. The knock at the door announces the arrival of the Temple Guard to arrest Jesus.

Act 2 Scene 3. Star Chamber

The trial is over almost before it begins. Saul acts as Prosecutor. Jesus manages to impress upon the court that he is here to bring Light and Love. ‘The whole of civilisation groans with pain. Your Law has no answer for this.’

Act 3 Scene 1. Roman Inquisition

Pilat is confronted by an angry crowd of Jewish patriots who demand the death penalty for Jesus. Pilat cannot establish any offence under Roman law and this is resented by the mob. Pilat also establishes that Jesus was born in Nazareth and therefore a citizen under Herod’s judgment. He is relieved to be able to send Jesus to Herod, thinking that Herod could therefore take responsibility for the judgment. Herod does not agree, and tests Pilat by sending Jesus back to the Presidium. Pilat knows he is being tested on every side – by Herod, by Rome, by the Jewish elite, and in a way by his wife Claudia.

Act 3 Scene 2. Pilat’s Choice

Jesus has been returned without a verdict from Herod, much to Pilat’s disappointment. A parchment is delivered from Claudia begging mercy for Jesus, and Pilat reacts angrily. He is cornered – he and he alone must make the choice: Offend the principles of Roman law for an innocent man who is on Rome’s side, or risk public dissent and a possible revolt or uprising thereby bringing his judgement and therefore his and his family’s future into question when the news inevitably reaches Rome. He decides that it is time to solve the problem ‘by walking around.’

The Easter full moon illuminates his veranda. Below in the courtyard the torches of the mob flare in the cool evening, mutterings present an ominous low chorus of hatred in the still air. He grasps the stone rail and begins a soliloquy regretting his situation, failing to understand the thinking of the Hebrews and their single God when his experience has been one of many Gods. He detests the Sicarii and their insidious presence. He longs for the green hills of his estates in Italy, and curses the desert and its malarial swamps and the strange irrational people who have created this civilisation.

His thoughts turn to Jesus and his Message of love – in trying to understand the meaning of the Greek word ‘agape’ he remembers his experience in his campaigns, with the old man begging mercy on his knees, with the village surrounded by his soldiers preparing for conquest. In this experience, the meaning of agape love begins to take shape in his mind – ‘Why would I burn a village if I could get the elders there to agree to pay taxes in return for stability and protection?’ Again he realises the nature of Jesus’ message: ‘Walk in the path of darkness, or in the light of love and prosperity.’

Yet despite this epiphany, he returns to his mindset of Military Administrator and Prefect. He feels as though Jesus is threatening his status and authority, and this is something he cannot bear. He reverts to his role as a politician, and does what every politician must do – try to satisfy the majority of people the majority of the time. He has made his choice. Claudia’s begging for mercy for the prisoner Jesus has not fallen on deaf ears.

Act 3 Scene 3. The Pleading

The Chief Priest Caiaphas leads a noisy delegation again confronting Pilat and asking for a guilty verdict for Jesus. Pilat already has made his mind up as to the course of action he wishes to adopt, and quickly agrees with the mob, symbolically washing his hands of the verdict. Special arrangements are to be made for Bar Abbas. Joseph and Nicodemus boldly ask for permission to take care of the body of Jesus, and Pilat sees the advantage in this immediately. It is something he has not given thought to, and he quickly assents to this request.

Yet there are details for the crucifixion which must be given to Petronius who is asked to take control of the situation and of the crucifixion detail tomorrow. Jesus is to be mocked and humiliated and tortured but they must avoid killing him. Petronius alerts Pilat to the possibility that the followers of Jesus will say he has risen from the dead. It suddenly dawns on Pilat that his judgment choice will create a myth that will sustain the Christian Movement. His choice has been more profound than he had come to realise. Yet he knows that the myth of Jesus rising from the dead is an enormous lie, and is comforted by that –‘the sweeter the meat of the lie the more they will savour it,’ he tells Petronius.

The centurion’s loyalty is also being tested. Here he is being asked to harm a man he admires. Pilat senses this, and brings the matter up. Petronius assures his obedience to Pilat’s commands. He is then given instructions on the execution of Bar Abbas, one of the hated Sicarii. It would be disrespectful to his role as Prefect to free a rebel who had resisted arrest and killed a Roman soldier in doing so. To let this rebel go free would have had a devastating effect on his army’s morale, and furthermore release a dangerous man into the population where he could stir up more trouble and perform further murders of Roman collaborators.

The Secretary interrupts Pilat reminding his that there are additional decisions to be made during the Prefect’s stay in Jerusalem. It has been just another day in the life of the military administrator, an extraordinary day nevertheless, but the business has been taken care of!

Later Claudia apprehends Petronius as he leaves the Presidium – he realises that this is the woman who has been attempting to hide while judgments and discussions about the verdict have been made. Petronius immediately understands from her accent and spoken language that she is Pilat’s wife, and that he must be very careful as to what he says to her. Nevertheless, she receives news that is both good and bad, and the two agree to meet again.

Act 4 Scene 1. The Spoils of Ministry

It is difficult to believe that the temple leadership would pay a bribe to a member of Jesus’ ministry group whom they regarded with contempt, and not want to retrieve that money.

It is also difficult to believe that Judas was filled with remorse after taking the bribe, and arranged his own suicide by hanging. This is a more probable scenario.

Act 4 Scene 2. Golgotha

The crucifixion detail is cooking their breakfast after completing their gruesome task. It seems just like another day’s work. They discuss their senior soldier’s new boy slave, purchased at the temple. They find it hard to believe that crucifixion instructions for Jesus were different from those applied to the rebels. The sergeant comments about a woman with the Roman accent offering Jesus a sponge on a long reed, and sends a soldier to find out, thinking it may be poison. The Centurion enters and requests half of the detail to come with him to execute Bar Abbas, and commands that they find adequate shelter from the imminent storm.

Checking that Jesus is still alive, the sergeant discovers that the soldier sent to check on this has cut Jesus to prove to the woman with the sponge that he was still alive. Enraged at this soldier’s stupidity, he knocks him to the ground when Jesus suddenly begins to call out. The sergeant asks one of his personnel to interpret what Jesus is saying, and discovering that he may be almost dead, commands that Jesus be taken down and given to the waiting Nicodemus and Joseph. The remaining soldiers despatch the other two prisoners.

Act 4 Scene 3. Accidental Deceit

Joseph and Nicodemus find that Jesus is still breathing when they remove the shroud into which his body was lowered from the cross. Shocked, they toss the soiled cloth into the tomb and Nicodemus rolls the stone across to seal it, and they hurry away with Jesus in the embalmment shroud to Joseph’s residence.  The soldiers posted to guard the tomb follow the trail of blood and realise that the tomb is closed, so seal the door stone quickly with mud as was their custom, and hurry away to find shelter. Later the Centurion as supervising officer would be expected to place his ring imprint on the mud seal certifying its closure.

Act 5 Scene 1. The Compassion

Petronius has rendezvoused with Claudia and they go together to Joseph’s residence where others have also heard the news about Jesus’ survival, and have gathered together while Jesus’ wounds are being attended to.  Jesus becomes aware that both the Centurion and Claudia have visited. The Centurion assures the crowd that Jesus should live but is concerned that his presence in Jerusalem will be detected, and so has made arrangements for Jesus to be transported by horse to Emmaus to be cared for by his friend Cornelius.

Jesus finds the strength to bless both Claudia and Petronius, realising that they have completed a conspiracy against the verdict of the Sanhedrin. He assures them of a place in Heaven alongside him.

Act 5 Scene 2. The Wilderness

Paul is travelling to Damascus to continue his persecution of the members of the Christianity Movement, but by now is aware of Jesus’ survival. He is filled with anger about the outcome of the crucifixion, and realises that the Romans have duped him and the temple authorities. He is as well concerned with his own survival, knowing that failure could mean retribution. Escaping to Damascus might buy him some time while the dust settles in Jerusalem. But his blood pressure is so high, he cannot see through the haemorrhages in his retinas.

Jesus, accompanied by his step brother James, and one of his most beloved disciples Phillip confronts Paul. Jesus reminds Paul of his previledged education by the revered teacher Gamaliel and that he has forgotten his teacher’s advice about compassion and tolerance. Shocked at the realisation that he is taking to a man who should have been killed, Paul wilts at his now total defeat in his mission to persecute the Christians.

Jesus tells the assembled party that he is dying. And that it will not be long before that happens. He instructs the temple soldiers to take Paul to Damascus to receive care for his blindness, and instruction in his teachings. There, says Jesus, “his eyes will be opened.” Exhausted and feverish, Jesus is carried away by his two supporters.