18th December 1946.
A large imposing group of Judaeans enter Bethany on magnificent mounts. They are scribes and Pharisees, some Sadducees and Herodians, whom I have seen previously, if I am not mistaken, at the banquet in Chuza's house to induce Jesus to proclaim Himself king. They are followed by servants on foot.
The riding-party go slowly through the little town, and the hoofs resounding on the hard ground, the jingling of the trappings and the voices of the men draw out of their houses the inhabitants, who look and with evident astonishment bow humbly, then they rise again and gather in groups whispering.
« Have you seen that? »
« All the members of the Sanhedrin from Jerusalem. »
« No. Joseph the Elder, Nicodemus and others were not there. »
« Nor the most famous Pharisees. »
« Nor the scribes. »
« And who was the one on horseback? »
« They are certainly going to Lazarus' house. »
« He must be on the point of dying. »
« I don't understand why the Rabbi is not here. »
« How can you expect Him to be here, if those in Jerusalem want to kill Him? »
« You are right. Nay, I am sure that those snakes who have just gone by, have come to see whether the Rabbi is here. »
« Praised be the Lord that He isn't! »
« Do you know what they said to my husband, at the market in Jerusalem? To be ready, because He will soon proclaim Himself king, and we shall all have to help Him to... What did they say? Well! A word that meant something like... if I said that I will send everybody away from the house, and make myself the landlady. »
« A plot?... A conspiracy?... A rebellion?... » they ask, making suggestions at the same time.
A man says: « Yes. They told me as well. But I don't believe it. »
« But those who say that, are disciples of the Rabbi!... »
« H'm! I am not prepared to believe that the Rabbi will make use of violence and remove the Tetrarchs, usurping a throne that, rightly or wrongly, belongs to the Herodians. You ought to tell Joachim not to believe all the rumours... »
« But do you know that those who help Him will be rewarded on the Earth and in Heaven? I would be very happy if my husband were one of them. I have a large family and life is difficult. If he could have a job among the servants of the King of Israel! »
« Listen, Rachel, I think it is better for me to look after my kitchen garden and my dates. Oh! if He should tell me, then I would leave everything to follow Him. But if other people tell me!... »
« But they are His disciples. »
« I have never seen them with Him and then... No. They pretend to be lambs, but their scoundrelly faces do not convince me. »
« That is true. Strange things have happened for some time and they always say that the Rabbi's disciples are the cause of them. The day before the Sabbath, some of them manhandled a woman who was taking eggs to the market, and they said: We want them in the name of the Galilean Rabbi. »
« Do you think it can be Him Who wants such things, as He always gives and never takes? And just Him Who could live among rich people and prefers to be with the poor, and He gave away His mantle, as that leprous woman, who was cured and whom Jacob met, told everybody? »
Another man who approached the group and has been listening says: « You are right. And what about the other thing they say? That the Rabbi will bring about great trouble, because the Romans will punish us all owing to His urging the crowds? Do you believe it? I say and I don't think I am wrong because I am old and wise I say that those who tell us poor people that the Rabbi wants to usurp the throne and drive away the Romans I wish He did! if it were possible to do so! and those who do violence in His name, and those who incite us to rebel promising future profit, and those who would like us to hate the Rabbi as a dangerous person who will lead us into trouble, are all enemies of the Rabbi and they are anxious to ruin Him so that they may triumph. Don't believe them! Don't believe the false friends of the poor people! Did you notice how arrogantly they passed by? They almost gave me a blow with a cudgel, because I had difficulty in moving the sheep aside and I was preventing them from proceeding... And you say they are our friends? Never. They are our vampires, and, God forbid it, they are also His vampires. »
« As you live near Lazarus' fields, do you know whether he is dead? »
« No. He is not dead. He is between life and death... I asked Sarah who was picking aromatic leaves to wash him. »
« Well, why did they come? »
« Who knows! They went right round the house, then round the leper's house, then they went away towards Bethlehem. »
« I told you! They came to see whether the Rabbi is here! To do Him wrong. Do you realise what it meant to them to be able to harm Him? And just in Lazarus' house? Tell me, Nathan. That Herodian... was he not the lover of Mary of Theophilus some time ago? »
« He was. Perhaps that is how he wanted to revenge himself on Mary... »
A little boy runs towards them. He shouts: « How many people there are in Lazarus' house! I was coming from the stream with Levi, Marcus and Isaiah, and we saw them. The servants opened the gate and took the mounts. And Maximinus ran to meet the Judaeans and other servants came making low bows. And Martha and Mary came out of the house to greet them with their maidservants. We wanted to go on watching, but they closed the gate and they all went into the house. » The boy is very excited because of the news he has brought and of what he has seen...
The adults are commenting.