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King Of The Jews by William T. Stead


O Judas, art thou blinded quite
By untamed greed of gold and gear?
And would thou sell thy master dear
For base gain? Shudders not thy soul in dire affright? Thy lot has passed into the night,
Already doth thy doom appear.

|'Tis one of you that shall betray,|
Three times the Lord thus spoke to him --
Who's purposed his own soul to slay --
Yet is his conscience dull and dim,
For Satan rules his heart within
And lust for gold that's won by sin.

|Oh Judas! but one moment stay.
Oh! finish not this foulest deed!|
But no! for deaf and blind with greed,
To the council Judas hastes away,
And there repeats in evil trade,
The bargain once with Dathan made.

And it came to pass that when Peter and John were still on their way to Jerusalem, Baruch, the servant of Mark, came out into the street with a pitcher of water, which he went to get filled at the well.

As he went he said to himself, |There is a great deal of business today, there will be no lack of work this Passover; from the great crowd of pilgrims we can expect nothing else. My master must expect many guests as he is already making so much to-do in the house.| When he was drawing the water John and Peter came upon him.

|See,| said they, |there is someone at the well.|

Baruch, not noticing them, went on drawing the water, saying, |There must be something exceptional at this Passover, seeing the way in which the rulers of the council hasten about hither and thither.|

As he lifted the pitcher and turned to go Peter said, |This is he who carries the pitcher of water that our master gave us for a sign.|

Then said John, |Let us follow him.|

Baruch looked around as he came to the door of his master's house, and, seeing the disciples, said, |Will you come in with me, friends? You are welcome.|

|We wish,| said John, |to speak with your master.|

|Perhaps,| said Baruch, |you desire to take the Passover with us?|

|Yes,| said Peter, |the master desired us to bring this request to your master.|

Then said Baruch, |Come with me. It will be a joy to my master to take you into his house. There, see,| he said as Mark came out of his house, |there he is himself. See, master, I bring guests.|

|Welcome, strangers,| said Mark, |how can I serve you?|

Then said Peter unto him, |Our teacher sent us to say unto thee, 'My time is at hand. Where is the hall where I can eat the Passover with my disciples, for my time is at hand. I will keep the Passover in thy house with my disciples.'|

|Oh, joy!| exclaimed Mark, |now I recognize you as the disciples of the miracle-worker who restored to me the light of my eyes. How have I deserved that he should choose my house before all others that are in Jerusalem in which to celebrate the Passover? Oh, fortunate man that I am, that it should be my house which he honors with his presence. Come, dear friends, I will at once show you the hall.|

Peter and John replied, |Good friend, we follow thee.| And they went into the house and found all things as Jesus had said unto them.

* * * * * *

In the upper chamber which Mark had prepared for the Passover Jesus and his disciples stood around a long table. Jesus stood in the center with Peter on his right hand and John on his left. Judas, sullen and scowling, sat next to Peter, and the other disciples were arranged in their order. The table was covered with a white cloth with embroidered edges. On the cloth stood a flagon of wine and several cups, and a plate on which lay a loaf of bread. Jesus, standing in the midst, said unto them, |With longing have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I say unto you I will not any more eat thereof until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.| Jesus then took the cup, and lifting it with both hands, looked up to heaven and said, |I thank thee for this fruit of the vine.| Then drinking of it he passed the cup to Peter, who also drank and passed it to Judas, who in his turn, after drinking, passed it to the next disciple, and so on until it went all around. |Take this,| said Jesus, as he passed the cup to Peter, |and divide it amongst yourselves, for I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.|

[Illustration: |Drinking of it he passed the cup to Peter.|]

Then exclaimed all the disciples together, |Alas, Lord, is this then the last Passover?|

Jesus said unto them, |There is a cup which I will drink with you in the kingdom of God my Father. As it is written, 'Thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.'|

Then said Peter unto him, |Master, when this kingdom shall appear, how will the offices be portioned out?|

|Who amongst us,| said James the elder, |will have the first place?|

Then Thomas said, |Will each one of us have lordship over a separate land?|

|That would be the best,| said Bartholomew; |then no dispute would arise amongst us.|

Then Jesus looked upon them and said, |So long a time have I been amongst you and you are still entangled in earthly things? Verily, I appoint unto you, which have continued with me in my temptations, the kingdom which my Father has appointed unto me, that you may eat and drink with me in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. But, remember, the kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and they that exercise authority over them are called benefactors, but ye shall not be so. He that is greatest among you, let him be as the least, and the chief as your servant. For whether is greatest he that sitteth at meat or he that serveth? Is not he that sitteth at meat; but I am among you as one that serveth.|

Thereupon John removed the long purple robe from the shoulders of Jesus, and handed him a white linen towel, with which he girded himself round the middle. Then came Baruch in, carrying a ewer of water and a basin. As they looked in amazement one at another, Jesus said unto them, |Now sit down, beloved disciples.|

Then said the disciples one to another, |What is he going to do?|

Jesus, turning to Peter, said, |Peter, reach me thy foot.|

Peter, starting backward in amazement, said, |Lord, dost thou wash my feet?|

Then said Jesus, |What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.|

Peter replied stoutly, |Lord, thou shalt never to all eternity wash my feet!|

But Jesus said, |If I wash thee not thou shalt have no part with me.|

Peter said, |Lord, if it be so, then not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.|

But Jesus answered, |He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.| Then stooping down Baruch poured the water over the feet of Peter, and Jesus dried them with a towel. The other disciples took the sandals off their feet, whispering to themselves in wonder as to what this meant. Jesus washed the feet of Judas as those of the others. Last of all he washed the feet of John also. Then he washed his hands, Baruch pouring the water over them. After which he took off the towel, and John placed his mantle once more upon his shoulders. Looking round upon the twelve, he said, |Ye are now clean, but not all.| Jesus then seated himself in the midst of them.

Then said Jesus unto them, |Do you know what I have done unto you? Ye call me master and Lord, and ye do well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done unto you. Verily, verily, the servant is not greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.| Then Jesus stood up again and said, |Children, but for a little while shall I be with you. That my memory may never perish from among you, I will leave behind an everlasting memorial, and so I shall ever dwell with you and amongst you. The old covenant which my Father made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has reached its end and I say unto you, a new covenant begins, which I solemnly consecrate today with my blood, as the Father has commanded me, and this covenant will last until all be fulfilled.| Jesus then took the bread, lifted it up before him, and replacing it on the table, looked up to heaven and blessed it. Then, lifting it up again, he broke it in two, saying, |Take, eat, this is my body which was broken for you.| Then passing around the table, he placed a morsel of bread with his own hand in the mouth of each of his disciples. All took it reverently, but Judas bit at it almost as a dog snatcheth meat from its master's hands. After Jesus had returned to his place, he said, |This do in remembrance of me.| In like manner he took the cup and blest it and said, |Take this, and drink ye all of it; for this is the cup of the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins.| Then passing round the table again he gave each of them to drink, and returning to his place he said, |As often as ye do this, do it in remembrance of me.| During the time Jesus went round the table administering the bread and wine to his disciples, there was heard in the distance a chorus of angels singing:

Oh! the lowly love and tender!
See the Saviour kneeling still
At the feet of his disciples
Loving service to fulfil.
Oh! this love remember ever!
Love as he has loved, and so
Unto others render service
As your Lord has done to you.

Then John in an ecstacy of affection exclaimed, |Oh, best of masters, never will I forget thy love! Thou knowest that I love thee,| and leaning forward he laid his head on the breast of Jesus.

The rest of the twelve, who were sitting with clasped hands with the exception of Judas, who sat apart moody and sullen, exclaimed together, |O, Master, who art so full of love for us, ever will we remain united with thee.|

Then said Peter, |This holy meal of the new covenant shall ever be celebrated amongst us according to thy commandment.|

And Matthew added, |And as often as we shall keep it, we will remember thee!|

Then cried they all, |O, best teacher, O divine one! O best friend and teacher!|

And Jesus looking upon them said, |My children, abide in me, and I in you! As the Father has loved me, so have I also loved you, continue ye in my love. But, alas, must I say it! the hand of him who betrays me is with me at the table!| Judas started, but the confusion of the disciples caused his guilty look to be unnoticed.

Several of the disciples exclaimed, |What! a traitor amongst us!|

|Is it possible?| said Peter.

Then Jesus said, |Verily, verily, I say unto you, one of you shall betray me.|

|Lord,| said Andrew, |one of us twelve?|

|Yes,| replied Jesus, |one of the twelve who dipped his hand in the dish with me shall betray me. So the Scriptures shall be fulfilled. He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.|

Thomas and Simon, speaking together with the same thought and same words, asked, |Who can this faithless one be?| while Matthew said, |Lord, thou seest all hearts, thou knowest that it is not I| -- and the two James cried, |Name him publicly, the traitor!| Then while these words were on their lips, Judas, fearing lest his silence should be observed, started forward and asked furtively, |Lord, is it I?| but excepting by Jesus his words passed unnoticed.

Thaddeus exclaimed, |I would rather give my life for thee than that such a deed should be done;| and Bartholomew, |I would rather sink into the earth with shame.|

Jesus, looking toward Judas said, |Thou hast said it.| Turning to the rest, Jesus continued, |The son of man goeth indeed as it is written of him, but woe unto that man by whom the son of man is betrayed; better were it for him that he had never been born!|

Peter, leaning over to John, whispered to him to ask Jesus who it was. Then John whispered to Jesus, saying, |Lord, who is it?|

Jesus answered, speaking so low as to be heard by John alone, |He it is to whom I shall give a sop after having dipped it.|

The other apostles who had not heard this kept on asking, |Who can it be?|

Jesus, taking a piece of bread, dipped it into a cup, and placed it in the mouth of Judas, saying, |What thou doest, do quickly.|

Then Judas arose and hurried from the room. The disciples seeing his departure wondered among themselves, and Thomas said to Simon, |Why does Judas go away?|

Simon replied, |Probably the master has sent him to buy something,| while Thaddeus added, |Or to distribute alms to the poor.|

Judas being now gone, Jesus spoke to the eleven, saying, |If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself and shall straightway glorify him. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me; but as I have said to the Jews, whither I go you cannot come, even so now I say unto you.|

Then said Peter unto him, |Lord, whither goest thou?|

Jesus answered, |Whither I go thou canst not follow me now, but thou shalt follow me later.|

Peter passionately cried, |Why can I not follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.|

Then Jesus looked upon him with compassion and said, |Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Simon! Simon! Satan hath desired to have thee that he may sift thee as wheat, but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, strength thy brethren! This night all ye shall be offended because of me, for it is written, 'I shall smite the shepherd and the sheep of his flock shall be scattered abroad.'|

Peter answered, |Although all shall be offended, yet will not I. Lord, I am ready to go with thee to prison and to death.|

Jesus said unto him, |Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Peter, today, even this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.|

Then said Peter, rising and clasping his hands, |Even if I should die with thee, I would never deny thee,| and the other ten disciples said altogether with a loud voice, |Master, we also will always remain faithful to thee; none of us will ever deny thee.|

Then said Jesus unto them, |When I sent you out without purse or scrip, or shoes, lacked ye anything?|

All replied with one voice, |No, nothing.|

Then Jesus said, |But now I say unto you, let everyone take his purse and likewise his scrip, and whosoever hath not a sword, let him sell his coat and buy one, for now begins a time of trial; and I say unto you that thus it is written, and it must yet be accomplished in me, 'And he was reckoned among the transgressors!'|

Peter then and Philip each drew a sword from the scabbard which hung at his side under his cloak, exclaiming, |Lord, see here are two swords.|

Then said Jesus, |It is enough. Let us stand up and give thanks.| Then standing, Jesus and all the disciples said together with a loud voice, |Praise the Lord, all ye people! Praise him, all ye nations! for his merciful kindness is everlasting; the truth of the Lord endureth forever.|

Then Jesus, leaving the table, advanced to the foreground and stood for some time with his eyes raised to heaven, the disciples standing on either side watching him with troubled faces. Shortly after he said unto them, |Children, why are ye so sad and why look ye on me so sorrowfully? Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you; and I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may be also. I leave you not as orphans. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. Keep my commandment. This is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you! By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another. Hereafter I will not talk much to you, for the prince of this world cometh, although he hath nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, so do I. Let us go hence.|

* * * * * *

The Sanhedrin was again in session. Caiaphas presided, Annas as before sat on his left hand and Nathanael on his right. No sooner had all the members of the assembly taken their seats than Caiaphas rose and with radiant countenance began, |Assembled fathers, I have a joyful piece of news to impart to you. The supposed prophet from Galilee will soon, we hope, be in our hands. Dathan, the zealous Israelite, has won over one of the most trusted companions of the Galilean, who will let himself be employed as a guide, so that we may surprise him by night. Both are here, only waiting a summons to appear before us.|

|Bring them in,| cried with eager voices the priests and Pharisees.

Josue volunteered, |I will call them.|

|Yes, call them,| said Caiaphas. When Josue left the room Caiaphas asked their counsel as to the price which should be given for the betrayal of Jesus.

Nathanael stood up and said, |The law of Moses gives direction for such a case; a slave is valued at thirty pieces of silver.|

The priests laughed thereat and said, |Yea, yea, it is just the price of a slave that the false Messiah is worth.|

Then came in Dathan and Judas, Josue conducting them into the presence of the Sanhedrin. Dathan stood forward and said, |Most learned council, I here fulfil the task entrusted to me, and present to the fathers a man who is determined for a suitable reward to deliver our and your enemy into our power. He is a trusted friend of the notorious Galilean and knows his ways and his secret abiding places.|

Then said Caiaphas to Judas, |Knowest thou the man whom the council seeks?|

Judas answered, |I have now been a long time in his company and know where he is accustomed to abide.|

Then said Caiaphas, |What is thy name?|

He replied, |My name is Judas, and I am one of the twelve.|

|Yes, yes,| cried several of the priests, |we saw thee often with him.|

Caiaphas asked him, |Art thou steadfastly resolved to do our will?|

Judas answered firmly, |I give you my word.|

|But,| continued Caiaphas, |wilt thou not repent of it? What induced thee to take this step?|

Judas answered, |The friendship between him and me has been cooling down for some time, and now I have quite broken with him.|

|What has led to this?| asked Caiaphas.

Judas replied, |There is nothing more to be got from him and indeed I am resolved to remain loyal to lawful authority, that is always the best. What will you give me if I deliver him up to you?|

Then Caiaphas, speaking as if they were promising great things, said, |Thirty pieces of silver, which shall be at once paid over to thee!|

|Hear that, Judas?| cried Dathan, |thirty pieces of silver, what a gain!|

Before Judas could reply, Nathanael sprang to his feet, saying, |And mark thee well, Judas, this is not all! If thou executest this work right well thou shalt be cared for still further.|

|And thou mayest become a rich and famous man,| added a priest.

Judas said aloud, |I am contented,| and added to himself, |Now the star of hope is rising for me.|

Then said Caiaphas to the rabbi who sat below the judgment seat arrayed in blue velvet and gold, |Bring the thirty pieces of silver out of the treasury, and pay it over in the presence of the council.|

|Is this your will?| he added, putting the question to the Sanhedrin.

A great shout went up of |Yes, yes, it is.|

But some there were present who did not join in that cry. One of these, Nicodemus, stood up and asked the Sanhedrin, |How can you conclude so godless a bargain?| Then turning to Judas, he said, |And thou, abject wretch, dost thou not blush to sell thy Lord and master, thou God-forgetting traitor whom the earth shall swallow up? For thirty pieces of silver wouldst thou now sell that most loving friend and benefactor? O, pause while there is yet time. That blood-money will cry to heaven for vengeance, will burn like hot iron thy avaricious soul!|

Judas, surprised by this sudden outburst, stood trembling and amazed. Dathan, Caiaphas and the rest of the Sanhedrin displayed unmistakable indignation at this unexpected intervention on the part of Nicodemus.

Josue said: |Don't trouble yourself, Judas, about the speech of this zealot; let him go and be a follower of the false prophet. Thou dost thy duty as a disciple of Moses in serving the rightful authorities.|

Then came in the rabbi with the silver in a dish. |Come, Judas,| said he, |take the thirty pieces of silver and play the man,| counting the coins out on a stone table so that they chinked merrily as they fell.

Judas snatched them up eagerly, testing them now and then to see if they were genuine, and then transferred them piece by piece with feverish haste to his bag, which he tied up when filled and replaced in his girdle. Then, resuming his place on the left of the judgment seat, he exclaimed: |You can rely upon my word.|

|But,| said the priests, |the work must be accomplished before the feast.|

Judas answered and said: |Even now the fairest opportunity offers itself. This very night he shall be in your hands. Give me an armed band so that he can be duly surrounded and every road of escape cut off.|

Then said Annas, who up to now had not broken silence: |Let us send with him the Temple Watch.|

|Yes, yes,| cried all the priests, |let us order them to go.|

Caiaphas said: |It would also be advisable to send some members of the Holy Sanhedrin with them.|

Half the assembly sprang to their feet crying: |We are ready.|

Caiaphas said: |If the choice is left to me I appoint Nathan, Josaphat, Solomon and Ptolomaus.| Each of the four, as he was named, rose and bowed low.

Then, Caiaphas, turning to Judas, said: |But, Judas, how will the band be able to distinguish the Master in the darkness?|

Judas answered: |They must come with torches and lanterns and I will give them a sign.|

|Excellent, Judas,| cried the priests in approving chorus.

|Now,| said Judas, |I will hasten away to spy out everything. Then I will come back to fetch the armed men.|

|I will go with you, Judas,| said Dathan, |and will not leave your side until this work is finished.|

|At the gate of Bethpage I will meet your people,| said Judas, as he departed, taking with him Dathan and the four priests to accompany him.

When they had left the Sanhedrin Caiaphas addressed the assembly: |All goes admirably, venerable fathers, but now we are called to look the great question frankly in the face. What shall we do with this man when God has delivered him into our hands?|

Then: said Zadok: |Let us throw him into the deepest and darkest of dungeons and keep him well watched and laden down with chains. Let him be buried while still alive.|

This, however, did not please Caiaphas, so using the full might of his eloquence and authority he continued: |Which of you would guarantee that his friends would not raise a tumult and free him, or that the guard might not be corrupted, or could he not break his fetters with his abhorred magic arts?| The priests were silent. Caiaphas replied in tones of the deepest conviction: |I see that ye neither know nor understand. Then listen to the high priest. It is better that one man should die and the whole nation perish not. He must die!| And as the fatal words fell from the lips of Caiaphas the whole Sanhedrin was moved. Caiaphas continued: |Until he is dead there is no peace in Israel, no security for the law of Moses, and no quiet hours for us.|

Hardly had Caiaphas ended than the rabbi sprang to his feet exclaiming in excited tones: |God has spoken through our high priest! Only by the death of Jesus of Nazareth can and must the people of Israel be delivered!|

Nathanael exclaimed: |Long has the word lain upon my tongue! Now is it uttered. Let him die, the foe of our fathers!| Then sprang all the priests from their seats and with uplifted hands and eager voices exclaimed: |Yes, he must die; in his death is our salvation!| When they sat down, Annas, the aged high priest arose, and speaking with intense bitterness, declared: |By my gray hairs let it be sworn, I will never rest until our shame is washed out in the blood of this deceiver.|

Then stood up Nicodemus and said: |O, fathers, is it allowed to say one word?| And all cried: |Yes, yes, speak, speak!| Then said Nicodemus: |Is the sentence already pronounced upon this man before there has been an examination or hearing of the witnesses? Is this a proceeding worthy of the fathers of the people of God?| Nathanael said: |What! Wilt thou accuse the council of injustice?| Zadok exclaimed: |Dost thou know the holy law? Compare -- -- | Nicodemus replied: |I know the law; therefore also I know that the judge may not pass sentence before witnesses are heard.| |What need we any further witnesses?| cried Josue. |We ourselves have often enough been witnesses to his speech and his actions, by which he blasphemously outraged the law.| Nicodemus answered, unmoved by the clamor of the assembly: |Then you yourselves are at once the accusers, the witnesses and the judges. I have listened to his sublime teachings; I have seen his mighty deeds. They call for belief and admiration; not for contempt and punishment.|

|What,| exclaimed Caiaphas indignantly, |this scoundrel deserves admiration! Thou wilt cleave to Moses and yet defendest thou that which the law condemns? Ha! Fathers of Israel, the impious words call for vengeance.|

The priests shouted: |Out with thee from our assembly, if thou persist in this way of speaking!| when another voice is heard.

Joseph of Arimathea stood forth on the opposite side of the hall and said: |I must also agree with Nicodemus. No one has imputed any deed to Jesus which makes him worthy of death; he has done nothing but good.|

Then said Caiaphas: |Dost thou also speak in this wise? Is it not known everywhere how he desecrated the Sabbath; how he has misled the people by his seditious speeches? Hath he not also as a deceiver worked his pretended miracles by the aid of Beelzebub? Has he not given himself out as a God, when he is nothing but a man?|

|You hear that?| cried the priests to Joseph. He remained standing and continued saying: |Envy and malice have misrepresented his words and imputed evil motives to the noblest acts. That he is a man come from God his God-like acts testify.|

|Ha,| cried Nathanael, with a laugh of scorn, |now we know thee. Already for a long time hast thou been a secret follower of this Galilean! Now, thou hast shown thyself in thy true colors!|

Aged Annas, without leaving his seat, remarked: |So, then, we have in our very midst traitors to our holy law, and even here has the deceiver cast his net.|

|What do ye here, apostates?| cried Caiaphas. |Be off to your prophet, to see him once more, before the hour strikes when he must die, for that is irrevocably determined.|

|Yes,| cried all the priests. |Yes! die he must; that is our resolve.|

Then said Nicodemus, |I curse this resolution; I will neither have part nor lot in this shameful condemnation.|

|And I also,| said Joseph of Arimathea, |will quit this place where the innocent are condemned to death. By God, I swear that my hands are clean!|

Gathering their robes together, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea walked slowly out of the Sanhedrin.

Then said Josue, |At last we are rid of these traitors. Now we can speak out freely.| Caiaphas, however, profiting by the protests of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, said to the assembly: |It will certainly be necessary that we should sit formally in judgment upon this man, to try him and to bring forth witnesses against him, otherwise the people will believe that we have only persecuted him from envy and hatred.|

Then said one Jacob, |Two witnesses at least the law requires,| and Samuel answered: |These shall not be lacking; I will provide them myself.|

Then said Dariabbas, |Our decision stands firm, but in order not to offend the weak it would be well to observe the usual forms of justice.|

|And,| added Ezekiel complacently, |should these forms not suffice the strength of our will we must supply what is lacking.|

And a rabbi said, |A little more or less guilty matters little, since once for all the public weal demands that he should be removed.|

Then Caiaphas said, |In securing the execution of our sentences it would be safest if we could so contrive that the sentence of death should be pronounced by the governor; then we should be clear of all responsibility.|

|We can try,| said Nathanael. |If it miscarries, it is still always open to us to have our sentence carried out by our trusty friends in the commotion of a great tumult, without ourselves being openly responsible for anything.|

|And then,| said the rabbi, |if the worst come we should have him in our hands, and in the silence of a dungeon it will not be difficult to find a more sure hand to deliver the Sanhedrin from its enemy.|

Then Caiaphas arose and said, |Circumstances will teach us what should be done. Now let us break up. But hold yourselves ready at any hour of the night to be called together. There is no time to be lost. Our resolution is, he must die.|

And all the members of the high council cried tumultuously: |Let him die! Let him die! The enemy of our holy land!|

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