"Weeping, she wet His feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair.."
Peter, John and Andrew, talking with Thomas, Judas and Matthew.
Peter is pacing up and down, obviously upset over something. Judas and Thomas share a bench and are leaning against the wall, relaxed and semi-reclining, a wine cup in front of each of them. Sitting opposite them is John, the youngest, and Andrew, leaning on the table. Matthew is across the room, resting his tall frame against the window frame, deep in thought. But it’s Peter who's holding forth.
“I can’t believe it! He let that whore su.. su.. lick him. Lick his.. It’s disgusting! Outrageous! He just sat there! Just sat there and let her.. ”
“I thought you said she was washing His feet?” Says John.
Matthew looks at him, his face a picture of benevolent amazement,
“You really need to get out more.” He says, face creased in a wry smile.
“I think the word you’re looking for is slut.” Says Judas.
“What? What the hell are you talking about?” Says Peter.
“If she’s anything so terrible she’s a slut, not a whore.
A whore would have charged him money for it.”
“You.. you.. hair-splitting asshole!” says Peter.
“Charmed I’m sure. But it’s important. Not the money, but being precise with the words.”
“Oh, shut up. Ever since He gave you five minutes of one-on-one ‘secret’ teaching you’ve been acting like you’re his one man fan club, and the rest of us are idiots.” Says Peter.
“Nevertheless, the words matter.”
“She’s disgusting, unclean, whatever the right word is.” Says John.
“Oh, and you’re not?” Says Matthew. “Being a virgin doesn’t make you pure, John. You can only reach purity via the long route, by being born in the flesh, born into this filthy world. It’s rising above it makes you clean.”
“You have to start from a pure heart, and undefiled body.” Says John.
“Oh, grow up!” says Thomas.
“You think he doesn’t shit like the rest of us?” says Judas, “What do you think he does when he wanders off in the morning? Lets out a little scented puff of wind and a stream of white wine? ”
“No it bloody isn’t.” Says Peter. “She’s a slag. A worthless piece of garbage.”
“What’s not right for you isn’t what’s not right for Him, John. Or me or anyone else for that matter. If we all had to live within what you could cope with we wouldn’t last five minutes.” Says Matthew.
‘You really don’t get it do you?” Says Judas. “You really think it’s about performing miracles and being worshipped by the mob, by the well-meaning but clueless, all desperate to see the Messiah so he can sort out their petty little problems. Like Solomon with time on his hands. If he’s really God in one man none of that matters.”
“Well how else are we supposed to know, you arrogant ass? It’s all been written, been prophesied. He’s the One because he fulfils the prophets.” Says Peter.
“Wrong way round. He fulfils the prophets because He’s the One.” Says Thomas.
“Oh, don’t you start! I’m sick of the pair of you.” Says Peter.
“It’s still the truth, or haven’t you noticed? He’s doing it deliberately, checking off all the things the prophets foretold, turning up at the right time, being in the right place, doing what there is to do, just so people know, so it’s obvious even to someone as thick as you, Peter.” Says Thomas.
“But that could mean anyone could be Him. Anyone could just go around ticking off the prophesies like it was a shopping list. He could be anyone!” Says John.
“Yes. That’s the point, for God’s sake.” Says Thomas. “Don’t you get it? That’s what He’s doing. It’s sad and foolish, but only because we’re sad and foolish and need to have it spelled out, put on a plate, shoved in our idiot faces. Until we can see what’s right there in front of us.”
“You don’t actually believe at all, do you?” Says Andrew. “You don’t love Him at all. You’re just hanging on for your own intellectual pleasure, playing your stupid mind-games. It’s all a big joke to you, you pompous windbag.”
“No, that’s not true. I have trouble with blind faith that’s all. Blind faith could believe in any old rubbish; flying carpets, djinns and giants, and genies in bottles, and silly stories to frighten children. I prefer to deal with truth I can see in front of me, thanks, not wish-fulfilment and fairy-dust. That, and the application of mind and principle to problems of a spiritual nature. What’s wrong with that?” Says Thomas.
“I still say she should be thrown out, she has way too much influence on Him.” Says Peter.
“I agree. She’s a bad influence, and she should go.” Says John.
“You do know she’s been paying for everything you’ve eaten this week, don’t you?” Says Judas, quietly.
Peter’s face is reddening, rage comes off him like steam, little bits of spittle flying out with his words,
“Oh, here we go. It’s always about money with you, isn’t it, Judas? Sooner or later it comes down to money, you grubby little man. How do we know you’re telling the truth, eh? How do we know where you get the money from? Or where it all goes, for that matter..”
“So what if she does pay, she should be grateful just to be allowed to even be with us.” Says John.
Judas is on his feet now and turns towards Peter, his hands balling into fists.
“Listen, Mister Moral-High-Ground. He gave me the job of looking after it. It means bugger-all to me and I could well and truly live without the hassle, thank you very much. Why don’t you ask Him to give you the job? Or maybe you can’t be trusted? Or maybe you just can’t count!”
He turns to face John,
“And as for you, you pathetic little virgin. Been away from Mummy too long, have we? Scared of the big nasty women and what they might do to you? Afraid she might have teeth and circumcise you a second time? You’re a long, long way from being a man and you should hold your tongue like a woman, or the little boy you are. You make me sick. Little Miss Run-After-The-Man they should call you.”
Thomas, puts a hand on his arm,
“Pack it in, Judas. Don’t let them wind you up with their nonsense. It’s not worth it, you know that. And it’s beside the point anyway.”
“Yeah, well it’s always ‘Judas get this, Judas get that’ whenever we travel, isn’t it? Always me has to find somewhere for everyone to stay, find food for us all, find the cash, pay for it all, and what thanks do I get? Bugger all from these clowns.”
He glares at John,
“She’s twice the man you’ll ever be, little boy. And He loves her, has that thought never occurred to you? HE LOVES HER. And she loves Him in ways you’ll never be able to. Even if you were a girl.”
“You can’t say that! You can’t get away with that, you pig!”
John is angry now, his voice shrill. He’s on his feet and ready to push back, should nudge come to shove,
“You can’t imply that and just walk away, you foul-mouthed swine!”
Even at his full five feet two inches and red-faced with rage John isn’t a very scary sight. But Thomas has a firm hand on Judas, and Peter and Andrew have hold of John.
They’re tired, weary and fractious, all of them. It’s been a long day in a long week. Miriam of Magdala upsets them all in one way or another. There’s something about her that looks deep inside you and says,
“I know what you think, in your heart of hearts, in your secret fantasies. I know what you want, what turns you on. And I can do it. I can do anything. Anything you can imagine, I can do it. So what do you want, little man?”
And it’s been wearing on them as He drew closer to her by the hour. The more time they spent together, the two of them, talking into the night alone. When it used to be them He’d sit up with, them He talked the night through with.
She scares them. And tonight, after dinner, when they’d gone into where He was without knocking, without checking to see who was with Him, what they might be doing. Well, that had shocked most of them to the core. And when the others heard, when they arrived and found out what had happened, well, it was a tale that was only going to get bigger with the telling wasn’t it? Every time, every iteration was going to make it all sound worse.
“Oh, knock it off, the pair of you.” Says Matthew. “Judas, say you’re sorry.”
“Why me? It’s not as if I’ve said anything that anybody with half a brain could take as offensive.”
They exchange looks. They look ridiculous, the pair of them.
“Oh alright, I apologise .. Princess.”
“You bastard!” Said John, and lunged at him.
John’s wild swing misses Judas, who sways back with a grin on his face. John is furious, but he isn’t a match for Judas, or any of them for that matter. He’s too young to begin with, too short and inexperienced, and it only takes a few seconds for the scuffle to die down. And after it’s over and enough time has passed, Matthew, who’s been leaning against the window frame the whole time says,
“What did you mean, ‘it’s beside the point’?”
“What?” Says Peter.
“Not you. Thomas. What did you mean when you said ‘it’s beside the point anyway’?”
“I meant it doesn’t make any difference what Peter or John or any of us think. About her, I mean. We’re not Athenians. It’s not a democracy. We don’t get to vote on it.”
“But He’d listen to us, wouldn’t he, Peter?” says John, “He’d see that it wasn’t right, that she’s trouble, that she’s always pushing herself forward, poking her nose in .. ”
“It’s not her nose was the problem.” Smiles Judas.
“You really are a gutter-mouth, you know that?” Says Andrew.
“The point remains.” Says Thomas. “We can’t tell him what to do.”
“He’ll see reason.” Says Peter. “If we explain ourselves well, He’ll know that we’re saying it for the right reasons. He’s just too compassionate sometimes, that’s all, too willing to let people impose on His time, to monopolise His attention when He should be doing other things.”
“Wow, you really do think that don’t you?” Says Judas, “Nothing anyone says gets into that thick head of yours, does it? Haven’t you been listening? The Master loves her. He loves her more than any of us. I wouldn’t be surprised if He threw you out and told you to go back to bothering fish. What the hell, go for it. I might like to see that.”
“He’s right Peter,” Says Matthew, “He does love her. That’s pretty clear.”
“But she’s disgusting!” Says John, “How could He love a woman like that!”
“I don’t think you understand what love is, John.” Says Thomas.
“Glory, Hallelujah! You got that right.” Says Judas.
“I don’t claim to either, Judas, and I daresay you don’t, for that matter.” Says Thomas.
“So what are we going to do?” Says John.
“What’s this ‘we’, little man?” Says Matthew, “You can include me out if you want to confront Him. I think I’ll just keep my peace until events unfold. You want Him to turn her away, you go right ahead and tell Him. Just don’t ask me to join in with your petty bullshit.”
“Well that’s just cowardice.” Says Peter.
“No, I just don’t think I understand what’s unfolding very well, and I’d rather find out before I draw any conclusions.” Says Matthew.
“Oh, so it’s intellectual cowardice then?” Says Judas.
“No, I agree with Matthew,” Says Thomas. “She’s important to Him in ways we don’t understand yet. She makes me nervous, but I don’t think she has malice in her.”
“How very generous of you.”