27th August 1946.
The weather has really kept its promise and turned into a gloomy persistent drizzle. Those who are in wagons are well protected. But those who are travelling on foot or on donkeys get wet and are annoyed at it, particularly those who are troubled not only by the water wetting their heads and shoulders, but also by the mud which is becoming more and more watery and thus soaks into their sandals, sticks to their ankles and splashes their garments. The pilgrims have pulled over their heads mantles or blankets, which they have folded double, and they look like hooded monks.
Jesus and John, who are on foot, are drenched. But they take more care in protecting their bags, containing their spare clothes, than themselves. They arrive thus at Engannim and they begin to look for the apostles, separating, in order to find them sooner.
And it is John who finds them, that is, he finds James of Zebedee, who had purchased provisions for the Sabbath.
« We were worried. And if you had not come, we were going to walk back, notwithstanding that it was the Sabbath... Where is the Master? »
« He is looking for you. The first to find you is to go near the blacksmith's. »
« Then... Look. We are staying in that house. She is a good woman with three daughters. Go to the Master at once and come back... » James lowers his voice and whispers looking around: « There are many Pharisees... and... they are certainly evil-minded. They asked us why He was not with us. They wanted to know whether He had gone ahead or was behind. At first we said: “We do not know.” They did not believe us. And they were right, because how can we say that we do not where He is? Then the Iscariot - he is not so scrupulous - said: “He is ahead of us” and as they were not convinced and asked with whom, with what, when He had gone, because they knew that last Friday He was near Giscala, he said: “He embarked at Ptolemais and so He preceded us. He will land at Joppa and will enter Jerusalem by the Damascus Gate, and will go at once to see Joseph of Arimathea in his house in Bezetha.” »
« But why so many lies? » asks John who is scandalised.
« Who knows?! We told him as well. But he laughed saying: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and lie for lie. Provided the Master is safe. They are looking for Him to hurt Him. I know.” Peter pointed out that by mentioning Joseph's name he might cause trouble for him. But Judas replied: “They will rush there and seeing Joseph's astonishment they will realise that it is not true.” “They will hate you, then, for making fools of them...” we objected. But he laughed and said: “Oh! I do not give a fig for their hatred. I know how to make it harmless...” But go, John. Try to find the Master and come with Him. The rain is helping us as the Pharisees are indoors in order not to wet their bulky garments... »
John gives his brother his bag and is about to run away, but James holds him back to say to him: « And do not mention Judas' lies to the Master. Even if they were told for a good purpose, they are still lies. And the Master hates falsehood... »
« I will not tell Him » and John runs away. What James said is true. Rich people are already at home. Only poor people are bustling about in the streets, looking for shelter...
Jesus is in a lobby near the forge. John approaches Him and says: « Come quickly. I found them. We shall be able to put on dry clothes. » He does not say anything else to justify his hurry.
They soon arrive at the house. They go in through the door left ajar. Immediately behind it are the eleven apostles who crowd round Jesus, as if they had not seen Him for months. The landlady, a little withered shrunken woman, peeps at them through a door ajar.
« Peace to you » says Jesus smiling and He embraces them all with the same fondness.
They all speak at the same time wishing to tell Him so many things. And Peter shouts: « Be quiet! And let Him go. Don't you see how wet and tired He is? » And he says to the Master: « I had a warm bath prepared for You... and give me Your wet mantle... and warm clothes. I took them from Your bag... » He then turns round towards the inner part of the house and he shouts: « Hey! woman! The Guest has arrived. Bring the water, because I will see to the rest. »
And the woman, as timid as everybody who has suffered - and it is clear from her countenance that she has suffered - passes through the corridor silently, followed by three girls who are like her in thinness and countenance, to go into the kitchen and get the cauldrons full of boiling water.
« Come, Master. And you, too, John. You are as cold as drowned bodies. I had some juniper boiled with vinegar and I put it in the water. It is good for you. » In fact the smell of vinegar and other aromas has spread from the cauldrons as they passed by.
Jesus, upon entering the little room in which are two large tubs (that is two small wooden vats probably used as wash-tubs) looks at the woman going out with her daughters and He greets her: « Peace to you and to your daughters. And may the Lord reward you. »
« Thank You, Lord... » she replies and she slips away.
Peter goes in with Jesus and John. He closes the door and whispers: « Remember that she does not know Who You are... We are pilgrims... all of us, and You are a rabbi, we are Your friends. Which is true, after all... It isn't... H'm! of course! it is but a half-hidden truth... Too many Pharisees... and too interested in You. Act accordingly... we shall speak later » and he leaves them alone and goes back to his companions who are sitting in a little room.
« And now? What shall we tell the Master? If we tell Him that we lied He will be grieved. But... we cannot hide the truth from Him » says Peter.
« Do not sacrifice yourself. I lied and I will tell Him. »
« And you will make Him even sadder. Have you not noticed how depressed He is? »
« Yes, I have. But that is because He is tired... In any case... I can also say to the Pharisees: “I told you a lie.” That is a trifle. The important thing is that He may not suffer. »
« I would not say anything to anybody. If you tell Him, you will not keep it a secret. If you tell them, you will not be able to save Him from their snares... » remarks Philip.
« We shall see » says Judas confidently.
A short time later Jesus comes in wearing dry clothes and refreshed by the bath. John follows Him.
They speak of everything that happened to the apostolic group and to the Master and John. But no one mentions the Pharisees until Judas says: « Master, I know for certain that those who hate You are looking for You. And in order to save You I spread the rumour that You are not going to Jerusalem along the usual route, but by sea as far as Joppa... They will rush there, aha! aha! »
« But why lie? »
« And why do they lie? »
« But they are they, and you are not, you ought not be like them... »
« Master, I am only one thing: one who knows them and who is fond of You. Do You want to be ruined? I am ready to prevent that. Listen to me carefully and hear my heart speak to You through my words. You shall not go out of here tomorrow... »
« Tomorrow is the Sabbath... »
« All right. But You shall not go out. You will rest, You... »
« Everything but sin, Judas. No consideration will make Me agree to neglect sanctifying the Sabbath. »
« They... »
« Let them do what they want. I will not sin. If I did, in addition to My sin which would weigh on Me, I would put in their hands a weapon to ruin Me. Do you not remember that they already say that I violate the Sabbath? »
« The Master is right » say the others.
« All right... You can do what You like on the Sabbath. But not with regard to the road. Do not let us take the road that everybody takes, Master. Listen to me. Disorientate them... »
« Now, listen! What do you know exactly, since you speak so much? » shouts Simon shaking his short arms. « Master, tell him to speak! »
« Peace, Simon. If your brother has got knowledge of a danger, which may be a risk for him, too, and he warns us about it, we must not treat him as an enemy, but we must be grateful to him. If he cannot tell us everything, because that might involve third persons who are not bold enough to take the initiative in speaking, but are still honest enough not to allow a crime, why do you want to force him to speak? So let him speak, and I will accept what is good in his project and reject what might not be good. Speak, Judas. »
« Thanks, Master. You are the only One Who knows me for what I am. I was saying. We could proceed safely within the borders of Samaria. Because Rome rules more in Samaria than in Galilee and Judaea and those who hate You, do not wish to get into trouble with Rome. But I say that in order to puzzle spies we should not follow the direct route, but, departing from here, we should turn our steps towards Dothan and then, without going to Samaria, we should cut across the country and pass through Shechem, then down to Ephraim, along Mount Adummim and Cherith and then proceed to Bethany. »
« A long and difficult road, particularly if it rains. »
« Dangerous! The Adummim... »
« You seem to be seeking danger... »
The apostles are not enthusiastic. But Jesus says: « Judas is right. We shall go that way. Afterwards we shall have time to rest. I have still other things to do before the hour comes and is perfect, and I must not, out of stupidity, put Myself in their hands, until everything is accomplished. We shall thus call on Lazarus. He is certainly very ill and is waiting for Me... You may have your meal. I am withdrawing. I am tired... »
« Not even a little food? You are not ill, are You? »
« No, Simon. But I have not slept in a bed for seven nights. Goodbye, My friends. Peace be with you... » And he withdraws.
Judas is overjoyed: « See? He is humble and just and He does not reject what He feels is right... »
« Yes... but... Do you think that He is happy? Really happy? »
« I don't... But He realises that I am right... »
« I would like to know how you managed to become acquainted with so many things. And yet... you have always been with us!... »
« Yes. And you watch over me as if I were a dangerous beast. I know. But it does not matter. Bear this in mind: also a beggar, and even a thief may be useful to find out things, and a woman as well. I spoke to a beggar and I helped him. And I spoke to a robber and I found out... And to... a woman and... how many things a woman may know! »
The astonished apostles look at one another. They cast inquisitive glances at one another. When? Where did Judas find out and get in touch with?...
He laughs and says: « And I spoke to a soldier! Yes. Because the woman had said so much as to make me go to the soldier. And he confirmed. And I made people know... Everything is permitted when it is necessary: also courtesans and soldiers! »
« You are... you are...! » exclaims Bartholomew repressing what he was about to say.
« Yes. I am I. Nothing more than myself. A sinner according to you. But I, with all my sins, serve the Master much better than you do. In any case... If a courtesan knows what Jesus' enemies want to do, it means that they go to courtesans or they have them, ballerine or mimes, to amuse themselves... And if they have them close at hand... I can have them as well. See? She... she was useful to me. You must consider that at the borders of Judaea He might have been caught. And since I avoided that you ought to say that I was wise... »
They are all pensive and take their food listlessly. Then Bartholomew stands up.
« Where are you going? »
« To look for Him... I do not believe that He is sleeping. I will take Him some warm milk... and I shall see. »
He goes out and is absent for some time. He comes back.
« He was sitting on the bed... and was weeping... You have grieved Him, Judas. Just as I thought. »
« Did He say that? I will go and explain. »
« No. He did not say that. On the contrary He said that you have your merits, too. But I understood Him. Do not go. Leave Him in peace. »
« You are all fools. He suffers because He is persecuted and hindered in His mission. That is the reason » replies Judas in a rebellious tone.
And John confirms: « That is true. He wept also before joining you. He is suffering bitterly, also because of His Mother, His brothers, the unhappy peasants. Oh! such deep grief!... »
« Tell us... »
« It is grievous to leave His Mother... and to see that He is not understood, that no one understands Him. And it grieves Him that Johanan's peasants... »
« Yes! It is really sad to see them!... I am glad that Marjiam did not see them. He would have suffered and hated the Pharisee... » says Peter.
« But have my brothers made Jesus suffer again? » asks Judas Thaddeus severely.
« No, on the contrary. They met and spoke affectionately and they parted in peace and with good promises. But He would like them to be like us... and more than us all... He would like us all to be convinced of His Kingdom and of its nature. And we... » But John says no more... And silence descends upon the little room lit up by a double-flame lamp which illuminates twelve differently pensive faces.