ABC World Premiere of "Judas"--March 8th @ 9pm

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Sunday, March 8th, 2004

March 8th at 9pmJudas, one of the most complex characters in the Gospels, lived and died in a time of political and spiritual unrest. In his search for answers, he found Jesus Christ. But what led Judas to betray the man he called friend and Messiah? ABC's interpretive dramatization Judas covers the two years Judas spent with Jesus.

The story begins at the foot of a cross, where eight-year-old Judas witnesses the crucifixion of his father, an event that will change the young boy's life forever. Many years later we find Judas (Johnathon Schaech), now aged 30, working as a wine seller and living with his widowed mother, Rohab (Suzanne Bertish). Captured by hooded men and taken to The High Priest, Caiaphas (Bob Gunton), he is called an "agitator" and warned that rebellion will not be allowed to jeopardize the political movement.

Later still, in the Jerusalem temple, Judas looks on disdainfully as Roman tribune Flavius (Owen Teale) exchanges money with Caiaphas. Judas tells his two co-workers, Jeshura (Danny Scheinman) and Eliakim (Elliot Levey), that Caiaphas betrays Jews by collaborating with the "Roman bloodsuckers," declaring that it's time to retaliate, and that they can't wait forever for the prophesied Messiah to lead them from bondage. But then he encounters Jesus (Jonathan Scarfe) in the temple and, after witnessing Jesus' confrontation with the moneychangers and vendors, Judas becomes convinced that this is the man who will lead his people to victory.

Judas and eleven others become disciples of Jesus, following the Messiah throughout his public life and witnessing many miracles along the way. But Judas is increasingly troubled by Jesus' declaration that his kingdom is "not of this world." Though the apostles are beginning to distrust Judas, Jesus continues to love him and even gives him a position of
Judas authority as the keeper of the purse.

Caiaphas continues to meet with Judas, warning him to keep Jesus from starting any trouble and promising that they can "work out their differences." Judas, for his part, still believes that Jesus is ready to wage war against the Romans.

After visiting with his ailing mother, Judas returns to Jesus and the apostles. He understands now that Jesus is not heeding his counsel and, with his concern and disappointment growing, becomes more entangled with Caiaphas and his attempts to stop Jesus. Betrayal is at hand: When Pilate (Tim Matheson) meets with Caiaphas, he declares that his soldiers will arrest Jesus. Judas identifies Jesus to them, which leads to the arrest and ultimate death of the man he once called friend. Jesus is promptly taken prisoner, tortured and killed.

Realizing the consequences of his betrayal, a despondent Judas takes his own life, as James, Peter and Andrew find him later hanging from a tree. They take down the body and pray for Judas' soul, Peter reasoning that "He (Jesus) would've wanted us to."

Judas is the final project of the late Father Ellwood "Bud" Kieser, C.S.P. founder of the Humanitas Prize and Paulist Productions.

Judas is executive-produced by multi-Emmy Award-winning writer/ producer Tom Fontana, who also wrote the screenplay. Frank Desiderio, C.S.P., President of Paulist Productions, also serves as executive producer. The film, under the Paulist Productions banner, is directed by Charles Robert Carner. Ann Wingate is the producer.