whole Jerusalem trembled upon learning of the death of John, the prophet
of the desert, beheaded like a Paschal lamb in the prison cell of Machaerus.
Many wept for him, as if they had lost a father and become orphaned.
The news spread from house to house. Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor,
ordered that security be tightened in the streets of the city to prevent
any popular uprising. But the zealots were never intimidated by the
Zealot: Comrades, the blood of the son of Zechariah must be avenged.
Herod beheaded John. May the heads of all Herodians fall!
The revolutionary zealots had their daggers hidden under their tunics.
That night they went to the barrio of the silversmiths, near the tower
of the Angle, where Herod Antipas had his palace and where the Herodians,
followers of the king of Galilee, lived.
Zealot: Less one... Let’s go, hurry...!
The following day, dawn greeted the people with the heads of four Herodians
balancing between the arches of the aqueduct...
Woman: Damn! And next they’ll behead our children!
Woman: May God protect my neighbor, Ruth. She has a son who
is imprisoned in the Antonia Tower. The retaliation of the Romans, instigated
by the courtesans of King Herod, no sooner took place... At the first
hour in the afternoon, when the sun was at its height, and the black
and yellow flags waved atop the Antonia Tower, ten young Israelites,
and sympathizers of the zealots were crucified at the Skull, the macabre
hill where political prisoners were executed...
Man: Damn these Romans! You’ll all pay for this, someday.
Man: Shut up, imbecile, or you’ll be nailed like these unfortunate
In front of the ten who were condemned to death, a cryer was yelling,
cupping his mouth with his hands, for others to hear him and be forewarned...
Soldier: This is how those who rebel against Rome will end up!...
Your sons will suffer the same fate if they continue to conspire against
the Imperial eagle!... Long live the emperor and death to the rebels!
Man: Someday, you’ll pay for this, sons of a bitch!
The ten crucified men remained agonizing that whole night. Their desperate
cries and curses could be heard from the walls of the city. The victims’
mothers were pulling their hair and scratching their faces beside the
crosses, pleading clemency for their sons, in vain.... Jerusalem could
not sleep that night....
Zealot: Listen, Simon. We shall meet at Mark’s house at nighttime.
Is that okay with you? Tell Jesus, of Nazareth, and the rest of the
group. Don’t come together so as not to arouse suspicion. Hurry up.
Judas of Scariot, and Simon, the freckled one, who had contacts with
the zealots of the capital, brought us the message. Barrabas’ group
had a plan and they wanted to know if they could count on us...
Jesus: What’s wrong with you, Philip? Are you afraid?
Philip: Afraid, no, but horrified... Uff... Who ever asked me
to come with you to this city?
Jesus: He who doesn’t risk himself, accomplishes nothing, fat
head. Right friends, let’s go and find out what they want from us.
When the sun hid itself behind Mount Zion, we left by twos and passing
through different streets, came to Mark’s house, Peter’s friend, and
a sympathizer of the movement, who lived near the Gate of the Valley...
All lights were out so as not to call the attention of the soldiers
patrolling, ceaselessly, even to the last nook of the city. Greetings
were made in silence. Then we sat on the ground and this way, amid shadows,
Barrabas, the leader of the zealots, began to speak...
Barrabas: A tooth for a tooth, comrades. Herod beheaded the prophet,
John, in Machaerus, and we shall avenge his death by beheading four
traitors. We have hardly cleansed our daggers and now we have to use
them again. They have crucified ten of our best men.
Zealot: May their blood spill on Pontius Pilate’s head! God’s
curse be on him and Herod Antipas!
Barrabas: Pilate thinks we’ll be scared. Well, he’ll have all the
wood cut from Phoenicia for the cross of every man in Israel! For all
of us, when the moment comes!
Barrabas had been imprisoned before. Twice he had been trapped by the
Romans and twice he was able to escape, when he was about to be executed.
He was still the object of their manhunt in Perea...
Barrabas: Okay, what now, Galileans? Can we count on all of you?
Philip: What for?
Barrabas: What else! To get rid of a dozen Romans and a number
of treacherous Jews in our midst. We can’t allow these henchmen to overcome
us... So, what do you say? Can we count on you or not?
Jesus: Then what?
Barrabas: What did you say, Nazarene?
Jesus: I said, what happens next?
Jesus’ inquiry somehow surprised us....
Jesus: I don’t know, Barrabas.... After hearing you speak, I’m
reminded of the shepherd on top of the mountain, who throws a stone,
pushing another stone as it rolls down, and the two stones push down
another pair, then four and then ten, until finally, no one can prevent
the avalanche... The violence you’re talking about is dangerous, like
a stone thrown from the mountain top.
Barrabas: Enough of your stories, Jesus. It’s they who are violent,
do you understand?
Jesus: Of course I do. Yes, they beat us, they destroy us, and
they are the ones who sow death. But we shouldn’t allow ourselves to
be influenced by their thirst for blood. The height of all this is if
they succeed in making us clones of their own image, people who know
nothing but revenge...
Zealot: Okay, okay, fine, so what do you want now? Shall we just
put our arms akimbo?
Jesus: He who crosses his arms plays along with them too. No,
Moses didn’t have his arms akimbo before the Pharaoh.
Barrabas: Moses said: “ an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
Jesus: That’s right, Barrabas... but whose eyes and teeth? Those
of Herod’s men whom you beheaded yesterday? Who were those men, tell
me?... Were they the ones who killed the prophet, John?... Were they
responsible for all the injustices in our midst?... Or were they poor
creatures, like you and me, who were simply dragged into fighting against
us by powerful men?
Barrabas: Oh damn, why do you talk that way, you, of all people?
Have you forgotten about the death of your father, Joseph?
Jesus: That’s it, precisely, Barrabas. I suffered from the pain
of seeing my father beaten like a dog, for having hidden a few countrymen,
during the uprising in Sepphoris. I also felt in my flesh the desire
for revenge. But no. Now I think this road will bring us nowhere.
Zealot: Is there another way, Nazarene? Our country needs a way
out. And the only way is through the use of force.
Jesus: Are you sure? I dunno, but you, from the movement, want
a people’s rebellion. The way I see it, the people are still reticent
about it. We still have blinders on our eyes. Don’t you think we should
do something first, to make the blind see and the deaf hear?... What
do we gain from all this bloodshed if the people don’t understand what’s
Barrabas: We’re the people’s guide. They go where we lead them.
Jesus: Don’t you think that would be nothing more than changing
the yoke?... The people ought to stand
on their own two feet and learn to walk their own way. We must find
our own way out, the only true way that will set us free.
Barrabas: You talk like a dreamer. But God is not as much of a
dreamer as you. It is God who seeks revenge. In the name of God, we’ll
all end up with our enemies.
Jesus: You behead Herod’s men in God’s name. And they crucify
us in the name of the same God. Tell me, how many gods are there, anyway?
Barrabas: There’s only one, Jesus. The God of the poor. If you
are with God, then you’re with the poor. If you’re with the poor, then,
you’re with God.
Jesus: You’re right, Barrabas. I too, believe in the God of
the poor, He who set our ancestors free from slavery in Egypt. He’s
the only existing God. The rest are idols created by the Pharaohs, so
they could continue abusing their slaves. But....
Barrabas: But, what?
The waning moonlight creeped into the cracks of the house, shedding
somber light on the serious faces of the zealots…
Barrabas: But what?!
Jesus: You must learn to love them too.
Zealot: Love them?... Love whom?
Jesus: The Romans. Herod’s followers. Our enemies.
Barrabas: Is that meant to be a joke or... or we just didn’t get
Jesus: Listen to me. And forgive me if I can’t make myself clear.
But I think God makes the sun rise everyday, not only for the good but
also for the bad people. We, who believe in the God of the poor, must
be a little like Him. We mustn’t allow ourselves to fall into this trap
Barrabas: I can hardly see your face in the dark, Nazarene. I don’t
know if it’s really you talking to me, the one they say is the prophet
of justice, or you’re simply a crazy man pretending to be one.
Jesus: Look, Barrabas. If we fight for justice, we shall have
enemies, that’s for sure. And we’ll have the fight them, strip them
of their wealth and power, as our ancestors did, while getting out of
Egypt. Yeah, we’ll have enemies, but we can’t do what they’re doing,
we can’t be dragged into this evil act of revenge.
Barrabas: Okay, once and for all, let’s finish this off. All these
are bedtime stories. Tell me if you’re willing to kill.
Jesus: No, I’m not, Barrabas.
Zealot: And so they’ll kill you, imbecile. Then, everything will
have gone to perdition.
Jesus: When do you win and when do you lose? Can you tell me?
Barrabas: To hell with you, Jesus of Nazareth. You’re a crazy man,
a real crazy man. Or probably, you’re a good for nothing coward, I dunno.
And the rest of you, do you also think the same way as he, or are you
as crazy as he?
Peter was about to respond, but at that moment, all of us almost froze
Zealots: Soldiers! The soldiers are coming!
Zealot: The guards
of Pilate! They have discovered us.
Zealot: Damn! We’re all doomed...
Barrabas: Hurry! Flee through the garden....
Jesus: Peter, pass through that door.
Peter: What about you, Jesus?
Jesus: Go ahead. I can hold the soldiers back until you get
away from here.
Peter: You’re out of your mind, Jesus. They’ll kill you....
Jesus: Go away, go away fast...
Peter: What’ll you do?
Jesus: The same thing that David did to the Philistines...
The soldiers were already banging the door....
Soldier: Hey, who’s there?! Open the door!
Jesus: Go, go....!
Barrabas’ men ably leaped over the walls facing the other street.
We slipped through the garden of Mark’s house and disappeared in the
shadows. Jesus was left alone. He was trembling with fear as he opened
Soldier: Why is there so much noise around here, huh?
Jesus: Agu, agu, agu...! Ha, ha, ha...he..he!
this creature?... Hey, you, what are you doing here?
Jesus: Down with the soldiers, up with the Captains, down with
the centurions, up with the Generals! Ha, ha, ha...!
Jesus was beating over the door’s frame with his fingers and looked
at the soldiers with a blank smile, as saliva dripped from his mouth
over his beard, while he continued to tap the door with his palm...
Soldier: Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? You big, stupid fool!
Here, take this so you’ll learn...!
Jesus: Give it to me on the other cheek too! ha, ha!
Soldier: This man’s
crazy. As if we hadn’t enough of his type in Jerusalem! Let’s get out
Jesus: Ha, ha, he, he....! Ufff... What we should free ourselves
It was still dark when the group met at Lazarus’ inn, at Bethany. We
were still talking, when the cocks crowed. King David acted like a fool
in order to save his skin. The Moreno used the same trick, and saved
all of us that day. Yeah, at times, it was better to be astute than
to resort to violence.