The Cross Beyond Time

By John McNeil

Summary

This play has two principal aims:

  1. 1. To put the Easter story into its true cosmic and eternal context. The birth and death of Jesus Christ was not a fall-back plan by God because Adam and Eve sinned. It was planned even before the creation of the world. God knew before he even created Adam and Eve that mankind would need a Redeemer, and all history prior to Jesus served the purpose of bringing events to the precise point of Calvary.
  2. 2. To bring home a little better the real suffering of Jesus. We have become somewhat blasé about the physical pain and spiritual torture that Jesus experienced both on and off the cross. (And I suspect that Jesus also suffered further unspeakable tortures during the time he spent in hell.) Therefore, please take note: This play may not be suitable for young children. It is not intended as family entertainment.

This Internet document contains only the first 3 Acts of the play. A full copy may be obtained by contacting the author (see details at the foot of this page). A small royalty payment is requested.

Cast

(A number of the parts can be doubled)

Script

Prologue

VOICE
And there was war in the heavens. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the devil, and Satan, which deceived the whole world. He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

VOICE OF JESUS
How you are fallen from heaven, OI light-bringer and day-star, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened and laid prostrate the nations.

For you said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the most high. Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, tio the inmost recesses of the pit. Those who see you will gaze at you, saying, “Is this the one who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms? Who made the world like a wilderness and overthrew its cities?”

VOICE OF SATAN
Can it really be that God has said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”

VOICE of EVE
We may eat of the fruit of every tree except hte tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat that fruit, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”

VOICE OF SATAN
You shall not surely die. For God knows that in the day you weat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be as God, knowing the difference between good and evil.

VOICE OF EVE
Adam, come taste what I have discovered...

VOICE of SATAN
Eat your fill, my children, and become wise. For you are my children now. (Laughs.)

Act 1

MICHAEL
I sing a song that was old before it was new.

Cry aloud in wonder, O heavens, for the Lord has planned before creation the redemption of his people, and a way of salvation for those whom he has called. He knows the end from the beginning, and I, Michael, archangel of the one true God, bid you hearken to the prophets through whom he has spoken.

(During the following, there could be a dance depicting the birth of Jesus, his growth as a child and young man, the death of Joseph, his individuation (becoming old enough to choose his own path, including separation from Mary), and the full realisation of his call from God.)

The Lord himself will give you a sign.
Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
And his name shall be called Immanuel.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.
And the government shall be upon his shoulder.
And his name shall be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
There shall be no end.
He shall sit upon the throne of David (and over his kingdom)
To establish it and to uphold it with justice
And with righteousness
(From that time forth even for evermore.)
The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of
Counsel and Might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
It shall make him of quick understanding
And he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes,
Neither shall he reprove after the hearing of his ears.
But with righteousness and justice shall he judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the meek, the poor and
downtrodden of the earth.
And he shall smite the earth and the oppressor
With the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips
Shall he slay the wicked.
And righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist
And faithfulness the girdle of his loins.

JESUS
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
Because he has anointed me
To preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim
Release to the captives
And recovering of sight to the blind.
To set at liberty those who are oppressed
And to proclaim the day of the Lord's salvation.

MICHAEL
Sing a new song to the Lord. Give a festive shout all you heavens, on this day of great joy. For out of the desert has come the Forerunner, and the anointed of our God has gone forth to meet him.

JOHN
Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Prepare the road for the Lord, make straight the highways of our God. Confess your sins that He may forgive you, and turn from your old ways.
(John baptises several while speaking.)
Flee from the wrath that is to come. Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance. I baptise you now with water. But there is one coming after me who is mightier than I, who sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
(Jesus comes forward to be baptised. John stops in amazement.)
You! It is you! (As if he is seeing Jesus with new eyes.)

JESUS
Well met, cousin John. I would be baptised by you.

JOHN
No, it shall not be! Did I not leap in my mother's womb at the approach of your mother, Mary? It is I who need to be baptised by you. So how do you come to me?

JESUS
Permit it to be just for now. For this is how my Father would have it.

(John baptises Jesus. As they straighten up, a dove descends to alight on Jesus.)

GOD
Behold, this is my Son, my beloved, in whom I delight!

(All except Jesus and God move off. Through the following dialogue between God and Satan, Jesus remains still, apparently unaware of the conversation.)

SATAN
:Very touching!
(God says nothing, but holds his gaze.)
You think I have not read the Scriptures, ‘For unto us a child is born, a Son is given.' And I have to give you credit. Your chosen vessels did you proud, Mary and Joseph. But who wouldn't, with a camel-load of gold from some star-struck magi to start you off in life.

GOD
The gold is long gone, and so now is Joseph.

SATAN
On what will he live now, then? He has deserted his father's honest trade. For what? An expectation that those who can least afford it in this land will dip into their meagre store to feed the unproductive mouth of an itinerant preacher?

GOD V
He has been 40 days without food! Ask him. (Withdraws.)

SATAN
(To Jesus.) 40 days without food! You need hunger no longer. If you are God's son, command these stones to become loaves of bread.

JESUS
It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'

SATAN
Come with me. Behold! The city is spread before you. The city of God, do they not call it? from the farthest gate to this temple tower on which we stand. If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down to prove it. For it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge over you, and they will hold you up in their hands, in case you strike your foot on a stone.'

JESUS
On the other hand, it is also written, ‘You shall not unnecessarily test the Lord your God.'

SATAN
There is something you do not fully understand. Come, let me open your eyes. Look before you. In a moment of time you see all the kingdoms of this world. Do you see their glory, their radiance, their greatness. This is my domain, given to me by your father. I will in turn give them all to you, if you will pay me my due, and worship me as the king of this world.

JESUS
Begone, Satan! For it has been written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him alone will you serve.'

(Satan acknowledges he has lost this round, and withdraws. An angel brings Jesus food and water.)

(A song with the theme of the ministry of Jesus ?)

MICHAEL
Now there was a day when the angels of God came to present themselves before the Lord. And Satan also came among them.

GOD
From where have you come?

SATAN
From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.

GOD
And what do you think now of my son, my beloved son in whom I am well pleased? He has grown in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

SATAN
And why should he not? Have you not put a hedge around him and all that he does? Have you not blocked all his enemies, so that none can overthrow him? Have you not filled his mouth with an unnatural wisdom, so that none can stand against him, and stopped the mouths of those who would bring another truth? Who would not run after a man who gives free meals, who would not faun on a politician who makes those in religious authority look ridiculous, or call saviour one who makes a few cripples walk.

But take away these adulous crowds and these showman's gimmicks, and then see what you have left. Would he still praise you if you removed your hand of protection, if he had to suffer the afflictions of those he claims he will liberate? I think not.

GOD
You have many words, have you not? And those words have wrought much in that world that I would have spared it. Nevertheless, you may speak one more. Behold, I release him to your power. Do as you will, and see whether yet he holds faithful.

(Satan leaves, a triumphant look on his face.)

GOD
The heavens will crack, and the very earth will cry aloud in grief at this day. My son, my son, my heart is stricken, and my tears a deep wound that will not be covered. How I would spare you this cup, if there were any other who could drink it. There is none.

Act 2

(SCENE: The triumphal entry of Jesus to Jerusalem. The crowd spread branches and clothes in front of Jesus, and hail him with shouts of ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,' ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,' ‘Hosanna in the highest,' etc. Satan and one of his servants stand to one side watching.)

SERVANT
Master, what has happened to your plan? Far from turning against him he has the whole city behind him. Surely nothing can stop him now?

SATAN
Nothing? You overestimate the situation. He will overstep the mark any minute now, and then see how the cheering crowds scatter. This city is riding on a knife edge, and the thrust is about to be mine.

CROWD
(Chant) Who is this?
This is the prophet, Jesus of Nazareth! (Chant repeated)

SONG
Lift up your heads, o ye gates (???)

PRIEST
(Confronting Jesus) Do you hear what these are saying?

JESUS
Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of children and infants you have made perfect praise'?

(Jesus continues on to the Temple, where the money- lenders tables are set up. In controlled anger, he overturns the tables, scattering the contents. Taking up a knotted cord, he drives out the money lenders.)

JESUS
The Scripture says, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer', but you have turned it into a den of robbers and thieves!

(The priests and scribes again confront Jesus.)

PRIEST
By what power are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?

JESUS
I will also ask you a question. If you give me the answer, I will tell you by what power and authority I do these things.
The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from men?

(The priests and scribes are perplexed.)

PRIESTS & SCRIBES
How do we answer him?
If we say, ‘From heaven,' he will then ask us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?'
But if we say, ‘From men,” then the crowd will turn against us. They all regard John as a prophet.
What are we to say?
(To Jesus)
We do not know.

JESUS
Then nor will I tell you by what power and authority I do these things.

(He leaves, followed by the crowd.)

P & S:
How do we deal with this man?
He must be stopped.
Arrest him!
But how? The people consider him an even greater prophet than John.
If we have him arrested, there will be a riot.
My friends, if it be God's will, we will find a way.
(They leave.)

SATAN
The knife is poised, Jesus. How keen is my blade, and how completely it will strip you bare! (They leave.)

(Enter Jesus and disciples)

DISCIPLES
(Excitedly) Master, Jerusalem is yours. You heard the people today.
Declare yourself, and nothing can stand in your way.
You have truly said, that we will see the Son of God come in His glory, to establish his kingdom. Now is the time.

JUDAS
There have been many others preparing secretly for this time. Their arms are not great, but their zeal is mighty, and they will lay down their lives willingly to see your kingdom established. The hope of Israel rests on you, Jesus. Say the word, and a tide will be unleashed that no opposition can withstand.

JESUS
Have you not understood, after all this time? Have I not told you that the Son of Man came to be a servant, not a master? I have come to do the will of my Father, not the will of man.

(Judas is bitterly disappointed at this reply. He leaves in disgust.)

Listen! In two days it is the Feast of the Passover, and all that has been planned before the foundation of the world will come to pass. But know this, that the Son of Man will be delivered up treacherously, and crucified. Then will you know the truth of the scripture, ‘Smite the shepherd, and scatter the sheep.'

(The disciples are puzzled, and ask themselves, ‘What does he mean?' ‘What is he saying?' etc.)

JESUS
Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?' No! It was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!

VOICE OF GOD
I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.

(SCENE: NIGHT. The chief priests and elders are gathered in the court of the palace of the High Priest, Caiaphas.)

PRIESTS
The whole world is running after him. A madness has gripped this nation.
He makes a mockery of us and of our traditions.
If he keeps this up there will be a riot, and then Pilate will have yet another excuse for blood letting.
For the good of everybody, he must be stopped.
But we must take him secretly, when the crowds are not around.
At night?
Yes, at night. But how do we lay hands on him then with certainty? We need someone to point him out.
(There is a knock. Judas enters.)
A spy!
Who are you? Why are you here? Seize him!
(They seize Judas.)

JUDAS
No, I not a spy. Let me go! I can help you.
(They keep hold, but relax their grip a little.)
My name is Judas.

PRIESTS
Judas! You are one of his disciples. Truly a spy! (They renew their grip.)

JUDAS
No, you don't understand. I have not come to spy, but to help.

PRIESTS
How can such a one as you help us?

JUDAS
You are looking for Jesus. I know where he may be found.

(The priests look at each other, with the realisation that this could be the solution to their problem.)

CAIAPHAS
(To those holding Judas) Release him. (To Judas) And why would you want to do that for us?

JUDAS
(Bitterly) I have my reasons. Let's leave it at that.

PRIEST
I have heard tell in the market of a certain Judas who has been running up more debts than he could afford.

JUDAS
Those who listen to the wind of gossip will soon suffer from earache.

PRIESTS
Tetchy! But if we were to offer a small recompense for your information, no doubt you would not object?

JUDAS
How small?

PRIESTS
Shall we say, 20 pieces of silver.

JUDAS
Shall we say something a bit more realistic! What do you take me for?

PRIESTS
I think we know the answer to that. All we are haggling over is the price.

JUDAS
30 pieces is not too small a price for the information I can give you.

PRIESTS
30 pieces then. But it had better be worth it. We could buy and sell half of Jerusalem for that.

(SCENE: The Upper Room. Jesus and the disciples are reclining on couches, celebrating the Passover.)

JESUS
I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfilment in the kingdom of God.
(The disciples are still obviously not understanding.)
My spirit is troubled. I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me- one who is eating with me.

DISCIPLES
(Exclaiming among themselves, and to Jesus) Who could it be? Surely not I? (etc)

JESUS
It is one of the Twelve. One who dips bread into the bowl with me. Pass me the cup of wine. (He takes it.) Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.

(Jesus takes bread) This unleavened bread reminds us of the bread that the children of Israel made the night before Moses led them out of Egypt. Father, I thank you for your provision and your perfect ways.

(He breaks the bread, and gives some to the disciples.) This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.

PETER
(To John) Ask him which one he means.

JOHN
Lord, who is it?

JESUS
It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.

(Dipping the piece of bread, Jesus gives it to Judas.) What you are about to do, do quickly.

(Judas takes the bread, and then leaves.)

JESUS
Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him. My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going you cannot come, but you will follow later.

PETER
Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you!

JESUS
Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.

THOMAS
Lord, if you won't tell us where you are going, how can we know the way?

JESUS
I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

I have told you all this now, before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not speak with you for much longer, because the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded. Come, let us now leave. (They arise and start to leave.) We are going to the garden. What shall we sing along the way? (Someone begins a song as they exit.)

(SCENE: THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE.

(Jesus and disciples enter.)

JESUS
Sit here while I go and pray. Peter, James, John - you come with me.

(Jesus is beginning to feel deeply distressed.)

My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow, to the point of death. (To Peter, James and John) Stay here and keep watch.

(Jesus goes a little further and falls to the ground.)

Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me, that this hour might pass from me. Yet, not what I will, but what you will.

(An angel comes and encourages Jesus. Jesus returns to the three disciples, to find them sleeping.)

Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.

(Jesus returns to his previous lone vigil, slumping to the ground.)

Father, again I pray, if it is at all possible, please take this cup from me. It is almost more than I can bear. Is there no other way?

(Jesus again goes back to the three disciples, to find them still sleeping. He bends and shakes them.)

Do you not know how quickly the hour approaches? Awake, lest the tide catches you unawares. Have you nothing to say, no word of comfort for me?

(The disciples, their eyes heavy with sleep, can find no words to answer him. Jesus, in real anguish, returns for the last time to his vigil.)

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. O Father, hear my voice. My spirit grows faint within me, my sweat is like blood in my anguish. My bones burn like glowing embers, my heart is blighted and withered like grass. Yet, though my whole being cries out against this, I will not bend from your task. Father, thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.

(Jesus returns to the three disciples.)

Are you still sleeping and resting? (He kicks them awake, not too gently.) Wake up quickly, the time has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of his enemies. Get up! Here comes my betrayer! (Judas comes into the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They are carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus goes forward to meet them. Judas goes up to Jesus, and greets him with a kiss.)

JESUS
Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss? (To the soldiers) Who is it you want?

SOLDIERS
We seek Jesus of Nazareth.

JESUS
I am he. (When Jesus says this, the party fall to the ground. They recover themselves, rise to their feet, and begin seizing some of the disciples.)

JESUS
Who is it you want?

SOLDIERS
We want Jesus of Nazareth.

JESUS
I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these other men go.

PETER
Lord, should we strike with our swords? (He draws a sword, and swinging it, cuts off the ear of a servant of the high priest.)

JESUS
No more of this! Put your sword away. (He touches the ear of the injured man, and it is healed.)
Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour, when darkness reigns.

(They seize Jesus, bind him, and lead him off. When the others see what happens, they run away in the opposite direction.)

Act 3

(SCENE: Jesus is standing before Annas and Caiaphas.)

CAIAPHAS
Tell us more about this rabble of yours - these disciples - and the blasphemy you have been spreading through the land.

JESUS
I have always taught openly, in the synagogues or the temple. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.

(An official standing by Jesus strikes him in the face.)

OFFICIAL
Is this the way you answer the high priest?

JESUS
If I said something wrong, testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?

ANNAS
Do we not have any witnesses to the lies this man has told?

(Two men come forward.)

MAN 1
We have evidence. We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this man-made temple, and in three days will build another, not made by man.

MAN 2
No, he said, ‘In three days this temple will be destroyed by the Romans, but I will build another.'

CAIAPHAS
What is this testimony these men bring against you? (Jesus is silent.) Are you not going to answer? (Jesus remains silent. Caiaphas is now in desparation.) Tell me this, then. Are you the Christ, the son of the Blessed One?

JESUS
I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.

CAIAPHAS
(Tears his clothes) Why do we need any more witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy from his own lips. What do you think?

PRIESTS
(Cries of ‘He must die,' ‘He is worthy of death', ‘Condemn him', etc. Some begin to spit on him. One blindfolds him, and they strike Jesus with their fists, saying, ‘Prophecy for us now.' They drag Jesus off.)

(SCENE: JESUS BEFORE PILATE.)

PILATE
Jesus of Nazareth! I have heard of you. (To the priests) Why have you brought him here? What charges are you bringing against this man?

PRIESTS
If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.

PILATE
Take him yourselves, and judge him by your own laws.

PRIESTS
But we have no right to execute anyone.

PILATE
What has he done that deserves death?

PRIESTS
We found this man subverting our nation.
He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar.
He claims to be Christ, a king.

PILATE
And what have you to say? (Jesus is silent.)
Aren't you going to answer? See how many things they accuse you of? (Jesus still makes no answer.)
Are you the King of the Jews?

JESUS
Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me?

PILATE
Am I a Jew? It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?

JESUS
My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest. But now my kingdom is from another place.

PILATE
You are a king, then?

JESUS
Yes. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.

PILATE
(Cynically) What is truth? (Shrugs.) I find no basis for a charge against this man.

PRIESTS
Your excellency. He cannot go free.
He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching.
He started in Galilee, and has come all the way here.

PILATE
You begin to exhaust my patience. You have brought this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence, and have have found no basis for your charges against him. He has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore I will punish him and then release him.

ALL
Away with this man. He deserves to die.

PILATE
I tell you, I find him innocent of your charges.

ALL
If you let him go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.

PILATE
(Pauses) It is a custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of your Passover. Besides Jesus, I have in my dungeon one called Barabbas, whom I have found guilty of taking part in a rebellion, and of murder. Who do wish me to release? This man, or Barabbas?

CROWD
Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.

PILATE
(To himself) Obstinate fools! (To the crowd) What then shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ?

CROWD
Crucify him! Crucify him!

PILATE
Why? What crime has he committed?

CROWD
Crucify him! Crucify him!

(Pilate sees that he is getting nowhere. He takes a bowl of water and washes his hands in front of the crowd.)

PILATE
See, I am innocent of this man's blood. It is your responsibility.

CROWD
Let his blood be on us and on our children.

PILATE
(To his guard) Release Barabbas, and take this Jesus and flog him.

(SCENE: Jesus is dragged in front of a group of soldiers. They strip him, and tie his hands to a post above his head so he is stretched. One soldier comes forward with a scourge. This scourge has multiple tails, into which are woven shards of bone, pieces of jagged metal, broken glass, and lumps of lead. As the soldier measures a whip's distance from Jesus' back, Satan enters, and stands in front of Jesus, mocking him. The soldiers do not see him, but their actions freeze each time that Satan speaks. Each lash is interspersed by a comment from Satan.)

SATAN
Well met, my friend. Have you another scripture for me? Perhaps if you were to worship me, even yet there may still be time for me to save you. Oh, but I see it is a little difficult for you to fall down before me just now. Pity. Have you seen the lash with which you are about to be scourged? A beautiful instrument. It has 12 tails - I thought you might find that nicely symbolic - and into each one is braided pieces of jagged metal, bone, and broken glass. And at the end of each tail are two small balls of lead. (To the soldier, although the soldier does not hear Satan) But be my guest.

(The soldier starts raining heavy blows on Jesus.)

SATAN
You notice how these first blows only cut through the skin. However, in a moment they will go deeper, cutting the arteries and muscles.
The small balls of lead only produce bruising. But I must complement this soldier on his technique. At the end of each stroke he gives a flick to his wrist, so that the barbs of metal, bone and glass dig in to the skin. Then when he pulls back the whip, it tears the skin away nicely.
Courage, my dear Jesus. Consider this just another wilderness experience.
The Jews have an ancient law prohibiting more than 40 lashes. You will be pleased to know that they customarily give one less - 39 - just in case they miscount and break the law.
On the other hand, the Romans don't set much store by that law. But they have been ordered not to kill you just yet. So they will stop before you die.
The end is near now, Jesus. Your flesh is hanging in long ribbons from your back. In fact, it is quite unrecognisable from that strong figure that drove out the moneylenders from the temple. You have fainted several times. Perhaps they had better untie you before we lose you altogether.

(The soldiers untie Jesus, who slumps to the floor. But they have not finished with him. They see him as the possible target for a joke.)

SOLDIERS
Behold him, my brothers, the King of the Jews. But we have been remiss, and not given him his due. (They prop him up.)
If he is a king, he should have a kingly robe. (One is thrown over Jesus.)
And a sceptre. (A stick is thrust into his hand.)
And a crown. (A coronet of plaited thorns is rammed onto Jesus head.)

(They mock Jesus, bowing down before him, and crying out such things as ‘All hail, king Jesus', ‘Hosanna in the highest', ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord‘, etc.)

SOLDIERS
But what sort of king is this, who commands no subjects? (They begin to beat him around the face.)

King Jesus, is it? Call on your army quickly. Bid your servants come to your aid. What kind of king is this. (Etc.)

(They tear the robe off Jesus, reopening the wounds. He cries out in agony. The soldiers drag in the heavy bar of the cross, and lash it to his shoulders. Two thieves are brought on, also with cross pieces lashed to their shoulders, and a procession begins up Calvary hill. Satan follows in the rear.)

(In spite of his efforts to walk erect, the weight of the cross is too heavy for Jesus. He stumbles and falls, and cannot get up. The Centurion, anxious to get on with the job, grabs a bystander.)

CENTURION
Here you, what's your name, and where do you come from?

SIMON
Simon, from Cyrene.

CENTURION
Not a Roman citizen, are you?

SIMON
No.

CENTURION
Good. (To his soldiers) Untie that cross. (To Simon) Now you carry it for him. (They move on.)

(At the crucifixion site, they stop. Jesus is offered wine mixed with Myrrh, but he refuses to drink. The two thieves do take some.)

THIEF
It's not much, but it may help. (To the Romans) Curse you and all your descendants.

CENTURION
(To Simon) Put the cross down there.

(The soldiers throw Jesus backward, with his shoulders against the wood. A soldier feels for the hollow in Jesus wrist, and drives a heavy nail through into the wood. He does the same on the other side, leaving some room for Jesus to flex himself when he is upright. The feet are then nailed, leaving some bend in the knees. A sign is then fixed to the top. It reads, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews'. The soldiers raise the cross, and drop it down, sending a tearing wave of agony through Jesus. The two thieves are also raised., one on either side. Several soldiers sit at the foot of Jesus' cross, playing dice, with Jesus' cloak as one of the prizes. Off to one side are several of disciples, particularly John, and Jesus' mother.)

JESUS
(Gasping for breath, pushes himself up on his feet) Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

THIEF 1
Forgive them? Are you out of your mind? I'd rather see them rot in hell, consumed by their own excrement. Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!

THIEF 2
Shut your mouth, you. Don't you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are being punished justly - we're getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

JESUS
I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise. Mary: My son, my son! How has it come to this? Why do the heavens not roar in fury at the outrage of this injustice?

JESUS
Mother - dear lady! There is your son. John, my dear friend! There is your mother.

(Enter Satan.)

SATAN
And now we approach the end. How does it feel, Jesus, to see all your plans come crashing down around your ears? Where is the kingdom of God now? You did not believe me when I told you I was given this world to rule, and now you reap the consequence. And do you want to know the irony of the whole situation? Your father gave me this world. And it was your father who gave you into my hands. Your father, whom you trusted, has turned his back on you! He cannot bear to look on you now for the shame of what he sees.

JESUS
My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?

GREEK CHORUS
By oppression and judgement he was taken away; and as for his generation, who among them considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living for their transgressions, to whom the stroke was due? Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him. It is He who put him to grief and made him sick.

(A great roll of thunder is heard, and the sky goes dark. It remains dim until the end of the scene.)

SATAN
(To audience) Notice the agonising predicament the crucified man is placed in. As he sags down, the nails in his wrists send excruciating, fiery pains up the arms to explode in the brain. So he pushes himself upward to relieve the torture. But in doing so he places his full weight on the nail through his feet, producing equal pain. And his shredded back rasps against the rough wood of the cross, reopening all the wounds there.

GREEK CHORUS
For many, the Servant of God became an object of horror. Many were astonished. His face and his whole appearance were marred more than any other man's, and his form beyond that of the sons of men. But just as many were astonished at him, so shall he startle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him.

SATAN
Great waves of cramp are now flooding over the muscles of the arms, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. These cramps are now making it almost impossible for Jesus to push himself up. But the muscles of his chest are becoming paralysed. This means he can gasp air into his lungs, but he cannot get it out again. See how he fights to raise himself for even one short breath to relieve the agony!

GREEK CHORUS
He was oppressed, yet when he was afflicted, he was submissive and opened not his mouth. As a lamb that is led to the slaughter and as a sheep that before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.

SATAN
It is almost over. The compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues, which are rapidly dehydrating.

The loss of fluid has reached a critical level.

JESUS
I thirst!

(A soldier lifts a sponge soaked in vinegar to Jesus' lips, but he does not drink.)

GREEK CHORUS
Who has believed our message? For the servant of God grew up like a tender plant, and as a root out of the dry ground. He has no kingly form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised, rejected and forsaken by men, a man of sorrows and pains, and acquainted with grief and sickness. As one from whom men hid their faces, he was despised, and we did not appreciate his worth. Surely he has borne our griefs, sickness, weakness and distress, and carried our sorrows and pain of punishment. Yet we ignorantly considered him stricken, smitten and afflicted by God.

JESUS
It is finished! (Pause) Father, into your hands I commend my spirit! (He dies.)

SATAN
Goodbye, Jesus. (He starts to leave, then turns back briefly) No, not goodbye. We'll meet again soon -; very soon!

CENTURION
(Stares at Jesus) Surely this was truly the son of God!

(Shakes his head. There is work to be done.) Soldier! It is getting late. The Jewish sabbath is rapidly approaching, and the priests will squawk if we don't get these bodies down before sundown. Finish them off quickly. Get a club and break their legs, so they can't push up for air.

(The soldier takes a club, and breaks the legs of the two thieves. But when he comes to Jesus, he sees that he is already dead.)

SOLDIER
No need to with this one, he's dead already. See! (He takes a spear and jabs it into the side of Jesus. Water and blood flow out together.)

(Soldiers take down the three forms.)

GREEK CHORUS
He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities. The chastisement needful to obtain peace and well-being for us was laid upon him, and with the stripes that wounded him we are healed and made whole.

SONG
In tears of grief (?) (From St Matthew's Passion - Bach)


© John McNeil 1993
All rights reserved
This play has a further act, not included in this html document. The entire script  may be obtained by contacting the author, either at: soulcommunication@paradise.net.nz or at: 36B Stourbridge St, Christchurch 2, New Zealand.
The script is free to evaluate, but a performance royalty may be charged. This will be £(UK)7; $(US)15; $NZ20; $A20; or an equivalent. However, if you should video either a dress rehearsal or a performance of the play, the author would be willing to have a copy of the video instead of a royalty payment.