By StephenAllen, Allen & Naomi Bartley, Kathy Woollett
This drama was conceived as an attempt to recreate the emotion and atmosphere of the first Easter when Jesus died and rose again. The audience will discover themselves in a marketplace in Jerusalem as those momentous events take place around them. There is a certain purposeful confusion to the atmosphere as the players find themselves caught up in the events of that first Easter.
The aim is to present to our community, both churched and non-churched people, the reality of the events that took place almost 2000 years ago. We want those who have heard the story many times to be again confronted with its historicity and meaning. We want unchurched people to hear the story in a way that is fresh, relevant and personally challenging.
Major Speaking Parts:
Barak, a potter and shopkeeper.
Cassia, Barak's sister,
Philip, a young boy
Priests 1,2, and 3
Roman Soldiers 1,2,3
Crowd members and market traders
* The play requires a large empty space. (We used a gymnasium - basketball court size holding an audience of about 120. This is probably the minimum space you could use. We had six perfomamces over three days)
* The set surrounds the audience who are seated in the centre. There were seven separate scenes arround the perimeter and the audience attention is drawn to the scenes through the use of stage lighting. In effect it is the opposite of 'theatre in the round'!
* The centre area is a marketplace, the audience sit either on the floor or on scattered hay bails.
* The audience are admitted to a set already lit with stage lighting. As they enter the marketplace they are treated as pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the Passover. A tribute of gold coins ($1 and $2 coins) is extracted from them at the gate. They are given simple head-dresses (coloured cloth with a tie) to add to the atmosphere. The crowd members of the cast mingle with them as they find a seat. The seats are not arranged formally but may be hay-bales or such like scattered across the centre of the auditorium. In the centre are a larger pile of bales or stone slabs.
Scene I The Market Place
The scene is a busy market place. On one side is the temple, an imposing building with pillars and an ornate doorway. On the other side are various houses that surround the market place. At another side is the city gate through which the audience has entered. The audience is in the centre seated on bales of hay scattered through the centre. There is a larger pile of hay bales off to one side of the audience. A carnival atmosphere prevails. Street vendors move through the audience offering nuts and dried fruit, boiled eggs and middle eastern snack food. There is a general buzz of noise, laughter, and commercial activity. Jehu the beggar is off to one side.
An old man and a twelve year old boy appear and begin moving through the crowd toward the temple. The man is carrying a lamb, the boy looks sad.
Philip: (pulling at his grandad's coat) Why ....why?
Grandad: (sadly) Because the law requires it, boy. The Scriptures say, "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin."
Philip: But why this lamb.... why this lamb ... it was the best lamb...
Grandad: The law demands it, Philip. The sacrificial lamb must be perfect. Only a perfect lamb will cover our sins
Philip: But Grandad,
Grandad: No more questions now, boy. Come along; you'll understand in time.
They move up the steps and enter the temple ...
Just then a commotion erupts as a young man with a rough appearance leaps to the top of the pile of hay bales.
Zealot: (With wild eyes and wild gestures) It's time, it's time, break free! Throw of the chains of Roman oppression. Join me, rise up ... let's drive these gentile dogs into the sea! We will see David's throne re-established in Jerusalem...
Crowd: Why don't you get out of here and leave us alone?
Do you want us all killed?
Go away, go home, etc.
Zealot: (With even more righteous anger now) How can you stand to watch these uncircumcised scum rule the city of God? This is the land God promised to OUR fathers, (points) these are the walls that Nehemiah built for OUR people, and why? So foreigners could rule in it over us?
No! NO!! So that the entire world would know that WE are the people chosen by God!
(The crowd begins to argue with him, and Roman soldiers appear and begin to seize him and drag him away. He sees that he'll get no help from the crowd and begins screaming all the more.)
Zealot: He hates your complacency! He'll punish your apathy! (As he's being dragged away) He'll require you to give account! Redeem yourselves, redeem the city of God! (When he is gone from view we hear a scream, which is cut off, and then he is no more.)
The boy and His grandad appear at the door of the temple, the old man no longer has the lamb. The boy is upset and crying ...
Philip: Why ... Why did the lamb have to die?
Grandad: So God will overlook our sins another year.
Philip: But why my lamb? I looked after that lamb from the day it was born. It's not fair? Why doesn't God provide His own lamb?
Grandad: (Stops walking, and takes the boy by the shoulders) One day, Philip, perhaps one day...
Philip: He will, Grandfather?
Grandad: He will. He'll send us the Messiah, and then He'll take away our sins forever.
Philip: (Not understanding) But, will they sacrifice him?
Grandad: I don't think so, boy. I don't think so. Let's go home.
They move off the stage area.
Suddenly the attention of the crowd is drawn to the city gate as a man appears riding on a donkey. The crowd begins to chant:
Crowd: "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!"
Crowd: "Hooray for the Son of David! God bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hooray for God in heaven above"
Various people in the crowd begin to call out "Who can this be"
Some reply : It's Jesus
Others: It's the prophet from Nazareth.
Others: The Galilean
The sound of cheering and music increase as Jesus winds his way through the audience followed by a group of disciples etc. Jesus climbs down from the donkey at it is led away. At the side a group of pharisees are looking on disapprovingly
Jesus stands on the raised platform in front of the temple, the disciples gather in front of Him:
Jesus: (to the disciples ) The time has come for the son of man to be given his glory. I tell you for certain that a grain of wheat that falls on the ground will never be more than one grain unless it dies. But if it dies it will produce lots of wheat. (turning to the crowd) The light will be with you for only a little longer. Walk in the light while you can. Then you won't be caught walking in the dark. Have faith in the light while it is with you, and you will be children of the light.
Jesus turns and enters the temple.
Just as the crowd begins to disperse into the audience, Barak suddenly comes out of his shop, snapping the audience's attention in his direction.
Barak: (shouting) Jonathan?! (muttering now) I'll never find him with this mob here. (shouts) JONATHAN!
Cassia: Barak! Good morning.
Barak: Not good so far, sister. JONATHAN! What's keeping that boy? How long can it take to run a simple errand up the street?
Cassia: (Laughing) With these crowds? Your boy could be gone all day, Barak! I hope his errand wasn't too vital.
Barak: I sent him to buy new linen for the Passover table, but I didn't expect it to become a major expedition. What are all these people doing here - and DON'T tell me they're in Jerusalem for the Passover. I meant what are they doing filling up my street?
Cassia: They were here to greet Jesus.
Cassia: Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth has just arrived! Didn't you hear it?
Barak: I'm too busy to come running out here every time someone makes a noise.
Cassia: Holed up in that little workshop of yours. The people, Barak! They met Jesus at the city gates and hailed him as the Messiah all the way to the temple!
Barak: Messiah?! Bah!
Cassia: Now brother, don't be that way. He's a great prophet at least. He brought Lazarus back from the dead.
Barak: So I've heard. I've yet to actually see this Lazarus back from the dead. Have you?
Cassia: Yes ... and had you been here a few minutes ago you'd have seen him too. He is here with Jesus, and he says Jesus is the Messiah.
Barak: Well, I'd be careful if I were him. I doubt if the priests and Pharisees would agree that he's Israel's next king.
Cassia: You know as well as I do that they're more interested in their high office than anything else.
Barak: Which is exactly why I'd be careful about saying I was the Messiah. You should be careful too, Cassia. Religious fanatics make trouble, and with Roman soldiers on every street corner, trouble is the last thing we need.
Cassia: But Jesus is the Mess-
Barak: Cassia, I haven't time to worry about the Messiah. I've got a business to run. (Turns away, muttering) It's all right for some, who don't have to worry about supporting families, paying the bills, keeping food on the table.
Cassia: He'll be teaching in the temple today. Why don't you come with me to see him?
Barak: And let the pottery make itself? (Explains tiredly) Look, sister, there's always someone popping up saying he's the Messiah, and they never amount to anything. It'll be the same this time. If this Jesus is the real Christ, let him prove it, that's what I say. You go if you want, but I've got work to do.
Cassia: You're missing a golden opportunity, Barak. Jesus speaks with power. Israel has never seen a prophet like this. You'll see!
Barak: Just make sure you don't get too involved, Cassia. Remember the Pharisees. (muttering) Messiah ... We'll see...! Now where is that boy?
Outside the temple .... a row of large pillars on a raised platform surround an ornate doorway. People are entering and leaving the temple, the sounds of the temple traders are heard.
Suddenly a great clatter of money spilling is heard, the squawking of birds and people begin to rush out the door clutching their goods, clasping at their money, someone trips and the coins are scattered into the crowd. There is a general scene of confusion and noise.
Jesus appears at the door of the temple ..... He is somewhat dishevelled by the exercise ... He chases the last two moneylender down the steps ..... as He does so the priests begin to gather outside the door of the temple .... they are angry and upset.
Jesus: (loudly turning toward the priests) "My house should be a place of worship, but YOU have made it place where robbers hide"
Jesus moves off through the crowd followed by the disciples who have been observing from a distance. Some of the priests and community leaders also follow. The boy and his grandfather are off to one side. Jesus sits down on a pile of hay bales in the centre of the audience and the cast gathers around him.
Jesus: Listen to this story: a landowner once planted a vineyard. He built a wall around it, and dug a pit to crush the grapes in. He also built a lookout tower. Then he rented out his vineyard and left the country. When it was harvest time the owner sent some servants to get His share of the grapes. But the renters grabbed those servants. They beat up one, killed one and stoned one of them to death. He then sent more servants than he did the first time. But the renters treated them the same way.
Person One: What's he on about?
Person two: sshh ... listen
Jesus: Finally He sent his son to the renters (or tenants?) because he thought they would respect him. But when they saw the man's son they said: "Some day he will own the vineyard, let's kill him! Then we can have it all for ourselves." So they grabbed him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what do you suppose he will do to those renters?
Priest 1: He will kill them
Priest 2: They deserve to die
Priest 3: In some horrible way
Philip: (loudly) Just like my lamb.
Grandad: Be quiet boy. (crowd mutters disapprovingly)
Jesus crosses to the boy, touches him and then walks on. He turns back to the crowd.
Jesus: Surely you know that the Scriptures say: "The stone that the builders tossed aside is now the most important stone of all.
Person One: (Approaches Grandad, because he seems to be involved) Who is he talking about? ... I can't understand what he's going on about.
Grandad: I think He's talking about the priests ... I think they are the people who didn't take care of the vineyard, I think that He's the stone that was tossed aside ... I think ... (a slow smile dawns) I think I like this fellow.
At this point, Jesus releases the boy, who runs happily to Grandad, and they move off as lights go out.
This scene takes place in another 'upper room' (not the upper room), where women followers are preparing a meal for Jesus, the disciples and themselves. It is the home of Rhoda - a follower - who has several daughters who are helping with the preparations. There is an air of chaotic excitement, several women are gathered around a table kneading bread, cutting fruit etc. - general chatter among them.
Sarah: (12) (young and excited) I can't believe the Master has decided to eat at our house today, especially this week, everybody wants him and he's coming to us. It's like he's a king! (Wide-eyed) Wow, we are entertaining a king! Can you believe that, we're entertaining a KING!
Daughter 2: (Older) I suppose next you'll be saying that we have to bow as he comes through the door.
Sarah: Well, maybe we should. You saw the way he came to Jerusalem. Everyone treated him like a king then. Dancing, throwing clothes and branches onto the ground in front of him, singing and bowing as he rode past. He sure looked like a king then.
Daughter 2: (somewhat sarcastically) Yeah right, riding on a donkey.
Rhoda: Why not? Matthew says that King David himself rode into Jerusalem on a mule.
Daughter 3: (7) I don't think he looks like a king. He doesn't even wear a crown and rich clothes. Anyway, he's too nice for a king. He gave me a hug once, and a king definitely wouldn't do that!
Hava: (Enters carrying a basket of foods) King or no king, the man has to eat - and he certainly won't be doing that if you don't stop your chatter and get on with this meal.
Rhoda: (Delighted and relieved to see her) Oh Hava, thank you for helping. You're an answer to prayer!
Sarah: What do you think mother, is Jesus a king?
Rhoda: I don't know.
Judith: (Cutting in) He is a prophet, I know that. I've never heard anyone speak with such boldness - but so gently at the same time.
Daughter 2: There you are. Kings aren't gentle. Not around here anyway.
Sarah: Well, I think he's a king, and he's coming to my house - just wait until I tell Rebekah - she'll be so jealous.
(Several disciples, Matthew, Thaddeaus, Peter, enter at this point. The mood is excited and jovial)
Matthew: (Smiling) Rhoda, how is the meal preparation going? I hope there is plenty, we're all starving and the Master has invited a number of others.
Rhoda: (Smiling back) Well start with this. (Handing a tray of bread to him) Hava's just arrived with them - come to our rescue again.
Hava: (Grateful for the praise, but acting gruff) Now if these younger ones will get to work instead of chatting there will be plenty more to come.
Matthew: (Laughing) I don't think anyone has been able to get any work done this week. Too much is happening.
The streets are so full of people, and they all want to see Jesus. It's crazy out there!
Sarah: (Crossing to him) Peter, do you think we should bow when Jesus arrives? I mean how should we treat him now he's royalty?
Peter: (Laughing warmly at her) He's still the same as he was before, Sarah.
Sarah: I know but -
(Jesus and the others enter laughing and talking, Jesus brushes Sarah's head as he walks passed, and she reacts, unsure what to do, exits to kitchen)
Jesus: Rhoda, I hope you don't mind, but we have some extra guests.
Rhoda: Master, of course not, please sit down and my girls will serve you your meal.
(Food is distributed at several tables, there is a jovial atmosphere)
[There needs to be more dialogue here so we can see Thaddeaus not eating]
Jesus approaches Thaddaeus in a jovial and mischievous mood.
Jesus: Thaddaeus, I couldn't help noticing that you're not eating again. That's two days in a row.
Thadd: No, Lord, I -
Jesus: (Bringing the other disciples into it) A most unusual occasion, don't you think? I understand the women still try to reproduce the miracles with the loaves and fishes when you're on the guest list.
James: (Picking up the playful mood) He said he wasn't hungry - or thirsty either. He hasn't even touched his wine.
Jesus: Don't let Hava find out - she'll think you don't appreciate her efforts.
Thadd.: (Quick to reassure) Oh, no, it's not that. Her food is excellent.
Thadd.: Well, it's just - I heard some people criticising us the other day, and it's been bothering me...
Jesus: (A knowing smile - but not insensitive to Thadd's discomfort) And what did the critics have to say?
Thadd.: They were saying how the priests and Pharisees often fast, and John's followers sometimes go for days without eating or drinking. It seems like an important thing to do, and yet we never do it.
Jesus: (Beginning to laugh) So it took the critics to put you off eating! Ah, Thaddaeus, the critics are never satisfied! Look, John preached in the desert, not eating what they eat, and not drinking wine, and they said 'He's possessed by demons!' Now the Son of Man is here with you, eating and drinking, and they say I'm a glutton and a drunk, getting in with all the wrong people! (Laughs to reassure) Nothing I do will please the critics, my friend, and nothing you do will either.
Thadd.: But the priests and Pharisees -
Jesus: (Including the larger group) Do you suppose a birthday party is the right time to fast? Or a wedding party? No, when the bridegroom is with you, you don't mourn, you make the most of it - you eat his food, and you drink his wine, right? (The disciples agree, and Jesus becomes solemn for a moment) The time is coming for the bridegroom to be taken away - you'll have plenty of time to fast then, believe me. (Then the smile returns) In the meantime, we don't want you withering away on us!
Thadd.: (Embarrassed) Well, the meal did look good -
Jesus: Well then! (Catches Hava or one of the other women serving) Hava! (Or whoever) This poor man hasn't eaten for days! We can't let him leave hungry, can we? (Thaddaeus joins Jesus and the other disciples in laughing as the lights fade.)
The sound of a wooden mallet is heard, the light comes up on Barak fixing his cart and muttering angrily. Cassia approaches with a basket full of produce and a wide grin.
Barak: (Looks up to see her coming) Oh, boy.
Cassia: (Grinning) Now, Barak, what sort of greeting is that?
Barak: Don't start with me today, Cassia. You may be my sister, but I'm not in the mood.
Cassia: You've had a bit of an upset by the looks of things.
Barak: A bit. The despicable tourists get worse every Passover...
Cassia: (She's heard this before) Oh, Barak -
Barak: (Raving on) I mean it. This morning I'm set to deliver a cartful of jars and pots that have been ordered for the Passover, and this shouting mob of tourists races through here, My mule bolts and upsets the cart.
Cassia: That's a shame. Can you fix it?
Barak: The cart I can fix. (Roaring) But who is going to fix all those broken jars?
Cassia: (Serious now) Oh, Barak, I'm sorry -
Barak: (Brushing her off with a snort) Ahhch.... Now instead of getting things ready for OUR Passover, I'm going to have to work day and night to replace all that pottery. Hand me that wedge. (She does, and he proceeds to hammer the wheel back into place - or whatever he's doing to fix the cart) I tell you, Cassia, they need to do something about these crowds. (Hammering fiercely) The mess they make, the havoc, the noise -
Cassia: (Shouting over the hammer) I THOUGHT IT WAS PRETTY QUIET TODAY.
Barak: (Stops hammering to look up) It is now. I guess the mobs must have even scared off old Jehu. Not easy to frighten off the noisiest, most persistent old beggar in Jerusalem.
Cassia: (Laughs) I don't think you'll hear any more begging from Jehu!
Barak: Why, is he dead? Clamorous old cripple.
Cassia: (Disapproving of her brother's tones) No, Barak, he isn't dead. - He's been healed!
Cassia: Jesus saw him in the market and healed him!
Barak: What do you mean, healed him?
Cassia: I mean, Jehu was lying on his mat just outside the market when Jesus saw him. A crowd of people was pushing at Jesus from all directions, but somehow he saw Jehu and went to him. I thought he was going to give him some money - I think Jehu thought so too.
Barak: Probably got him shrieking all the louder.
Cassia: (Remembering the scene intensely) But Jesus just reached out his hand and said, "Pick up your mat and walk with me." Everyone got quiet, and Jehu looked stunned. (Bursting) Then, suddenly, he was on his feet, jumping, dancing, shouting and crying all together!
Barak: (Staring at her intensely) You're having me on.
Cassia: Barak, that 'old cripple' was standing just as surely as I am. Jesus touched him and he became whole. You should have seen it.
Barak: (Impatiently) Well, I haven't got the time to just go flitting off to see every preacher that comes to town.
Cassia: Jesus is a great prophet. He's been doing MIRACLES.
Barak: Next I suppose you'll tell me that your Jesus can heal all my broken jars.
Cassia: (Smiling) I don't think so, brother. (Short pause) But he could probably help you cope with those broken jars better.
Barak: (Feels the rebuke) Are you going to bring those things up to Anna or are you going to stand around and pester me all day?
Cassia: (starts moving) All right, Barak. I just wish you'd go see him -
Barak: Right, in my spare time. After I fix this, and after I replace the pottery, and after I find my blasted mule. (Cassia has gone inside, and Barak mutters after her) I'll probably have to pull the stupid cart myself.
Part of the city wall (Either a curtain or hinged wall section) opens revealing a room where the Passover is to be held.
Passover room where disciples are preparing the meal. There is a table CS obviously being readied for the meal. There are some cups and a basket of bread plus other bits and pieces. A kitchen/preparation room is off SL. John is on stage, sitting at the table - reading. There is a crashing sound - things being dropped or overturned. Peter enters, shouting into the kitchen while backing into this room.
Peter: I said it was hot, didn't you hear me say it was hot? Why don't you listen?! (He turns to see John just in time to keep from running into him. Peter braces himself for an argument until he sees that John is simply waiting for an explanation. Peter does a double-take, sighs and paces.)
Peter: This was a bad idea. I could have told him that. He should have known better.
John: (looks up) Who?
Peter: The Master! He sends us here to prepare the Passover feast without putting anyone in charge. It's chaos in there (pointing to the kitchen) - nothing is ready and all they can do is argue over their importance and who is going to sit next to Jesus!
John: (smiles) That's not a new argument.
Peter: (continuing on) Well, it's certainly a stupid one. How can grown men fight like that. It's childish.
John: I seem to remember you being in the middle of it last time.
Peter: What? Oh, that was completely different. I was merely trying to explain a point that time. It was everyone else who took it the wrong way. (Then a new thought) And you've been in them too!
John: (smiles) Lets not argue now. The Master will be here soon.
Peter: I know. Where is Matthew? He was supposed to be back an hour ago with the wine.
John: I haven't seen Judas either.
Peter: No-one's seen Judas. Why can't everyone co-operate!
John: Calm down Peter. You're very tense today.
Peter: Everyone's tense (sitting) I don't know John. Something is different about this Passover. The air feels different - heavy somehow. It's not just this room. The whole city seems on edge. Like the calm before a storm breaks.
John: I feel it too. We should be celebrating - the way Jesus has been accepted as King this week. And yet -
Matthew: (bursts in at the door SR) I cannot believe those crowds. I'm glad I didn't leave any later - there would have been no wine to buy anywhere. (putting wine on the table) I had to go to three different places as it was. (cross to a window) Where have all these people come from?
Peter: I don't know but I'm glad your back. at least we'll have something to drink if nothing else.
Matthew: Why, what's happened to the food?
John: (looks at Matthew - speaks before Peter has the chance) Don't ask. Have you seen the Master?
Matthew: Yes, he should be here any minute - if he can get rid of the crowds. It would drive me crazy if I were him. One minute they like him, the next minute they hate him. And they don't stop following him around. I don't understand it.
John: Well, maybe he'll explain what's going on. He seems calm enough about it.
Jesus: (Jesus enters purposefully but not hurriedly) Brothers, is everything prepared?
John: (move toward him) Jesus, welcome! (Peter opens his mouth in response to Jesus' question, about to pour forth his frustration, as John interrupts) Yes, everything is just about ready. I'll get the others. (exits quickly, others appear and gather around the table)
Jesus: Good. Peter, you look tired, sit down. Sit down everyone. (there is some jockeying for position, but not much as the disciples realise the Master is speaking seriously) I have been greatly looking forward to sharing this Passover with you. This is the last time we will eat together in this way, I shall not be with you very much longer.
Disciples: (respond with exclamations, protests etc.,)
Jesus: (continues) Where I am going you cannot follow now, but you will follow later. The next few days will be very difficult, but you need to understand that everything that happens is a fulfilment of Scripture. The cup before me is one of suffering, but with it comes a new covenant which gives eternal life. That is why the Father sent me, and He will be glorified as I complete the work He sent me to do. The Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures say. It will cause you grief, but your grief will turn to joy as you see my Father's plan unfold. Then all of you will rejoice with me. Well, not all of you, for one here has a plan of his own. (hard look at Judas) But that too, is known by the Father. Andrew, please pass me the bread, there is something I want to show you.....
Scene closes in fade as Jesus continues with the Passover meal
Various tree shapes frame a garden setting. The light is deep blue and low as if from a moon casting long shadows. The area is also washed with dark green light. As the lights come up Jesus is revealed in an attitude of prayer, three other disciples sit in a sleeping manner off to one side.
Jesus: Well, the time has come. My Father, if it is possible don't make me suffer by having to drink from this cup. But do what you what and not what I want.
Jesus slowly arises and returns to the disciples. He shakes Peter gently by the shoulders.
Jesus: Can't any of you stay awake with me for just one hour? Stay awake and pray that you will not be tested. You what to do what is right but you are weak.
Jesus returns to prayer:
Jesus: My Father, I know what is coming. My friends will all leave me, and I'll suffer alone. I've been alone before, but You have always been with me. But this time . . . You will leave me too. (cries out) Oh Father ... (few beats as he collects himself) But, if there is no other way and I must suffer, I will still do what you want.
Finally he slowly turns and approaches the disciples again.
Jesus: Are you still sleeping and resting? The time has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to sinners.
Get up! let's go. (The disciples, alarmed by the urgency in Jesus' voice, react accordingly.) The one who will betray me is already here.
Lights fade fast to blackout, and we begin the crucifixion montage - blackout, music and sound effects of Jesus' trial and suffering, punctuated by 2 very short lighted scenes leading up to the crucifixion:
When lights fade down, music comes up with a slow, reverberating beat, foreshadowing the hammering at Golgotha. Then we hear the sounds of the soldiers approaching with a small crowd. Still in blackout.
Jesus: Who are you looking for?
Soldier: (gruffly) Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus: I am Jesus. Why do you come out with swords and clubs and treat me like a criminal? I was with you everyday in the temple and you didn't arrest me. But this is your hour, and darkness is in control.
Music fades up again, with the same reverberating beat, and after a few moments, the sounds are of Jesus before the Sanhedrin. We're still in darkness
Priest 1: Who would testify against this man before the High Priest?
Voices of the accusers - these voices can overlap, with a background of mocking laughter.
Witness: He breaks the Sabbath.
Witness: Jesus said he would destroy God's temple and rebuild it in three days.
Witness: He said he was alive before Abraham!
Priest 1: Why don't you defend yourself Jesus? Don't you hear the charges against you? With the living God looking on you must tell us the truth. Are you the Messiah, the Son of God?
Jesus: Yes I am. And I tell all of you, soon you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God, all-powerful and coming on the clouds of heaven.
Priest 2: You heard him! He claims to be God! This man deserves death!
Sounds of Jesus being beaten or slapped, with people mocking him.
Priest 3: Tell us, Messiah, who hit you?
Priest 2: (laughing) Prophesy for us, Christ!
Music fades back up, with the beating sound more obvious. Then we hear the sound of Barak beating at
Cassia's door. Lights up on Cassia's house.
Barak: (Banging on the door with his fist) Come on, come on!
Cassia: (Opens the door) Barak, it's late, what's wrong?
Barak: Cassia, there's been trouble. Pack some clothes, you're staying with us.
Cassia: Barak, what are you talking about? I'm staying right here, what sort of trouble?
Barak: (very agitated) I told you it would come to this, I said you'd end up in danger -
Cassia: Barak -
Barak: (blurting out) They've arrested your Jesus! (A couple beats of silence as Cassia reacts in horror) There, I've said it. The priests have him, and they'll kill him. They may start looking for the rest of you now.
Cassia: Jesus arrested... I have to warn the other followers -
Barak: You're not going anywhere. All right, maybe I can't make you stay with us, but you stay home. Lock your doors and stay put, do you hear me? And forget this Jesus.
Barak hurries away, and Cassia slumps to her knees as lights fade down and music fades back up. Scene changes to Jesus being held by the guards. Still in Blackout.
Guard 1: Hey, fellas, this is the king of the Jews! (laughter)
Guard 2: Hey king, nice clothes! (Ripping is heard, with more laughter)
Guard 3: The Jews must not know he's the king - he hasn't got a crown!
Guard 1: What a shame, the only thing we have to make a crown with is that thorn bush!
Guard 2: Watch yourself with that thing, those thorns are killers.
Guard 3: (laughing) Well, we'll see about that! What's the matter, king? Don't your people recognise royalty when they see it?
Guard 1: Here, let's get this on his head. (Jesus cries out as the thorns press in)
Guard 2: (they're all laughing now) There, that makes all the difference, doesn't it, king?
Lights come up on the platform set of Pilate's court. It is rich in colour - reds, purples, gold, etc. From here Pilate can look over the whole crowd. On a platform, lower than Pilate's, and a little separated from his, are the Priests, recognisable by their costume. When the scene opens, the priests are still in blackout, lights come up separately on them later. Lower still, on a third platform, stands Jesus, bleeding and slumped. Scene opens with Pilate questioning Jesus alone.
Pilate: (Arrogant and disinterested - barely-concealed contempt for these endless religious controversies) Are you the king of the Jews?
Jesus: Are you asking this on your own, or for others?
Pilate: You know I'm not a Jew! Your own people and the chief priests brought you to me. What have you done?
Jesus: My kingdom does not belong to this world. If it did, my followers would have fought to keep the priests from handing me over to you.
Pilate: (shrewdly perceiving) So you are a king.
Jesus: (Tired but sure) You are saying that I am a king. I was born into this world to tell about the truth. And everyone who belongs to the truth knows my voice.
Lights up on the priests, who join the discussion, as lights dim on Jesus.
Priest 1: This Jesus of Nazareth is a traitor to our faith and a blasphemer.
Pilate: I have questioned this prisoner. He has broken no law.
Priest 2: He defiles the Sabbath! He has blasphemed the temple!
Pilate: Those are Jewish laws, I have nothing to do with them.
Priest 3: He disturbs the peace, and causes riots. (A veiled threat) And the peace is your responsibility.
Pilate: I find nothing wrong with him. And since I usually set a prisoner free at Passover, I will give you this man.
Priests: (The crowd begins to join in the shouting here) We don't want this man! He blasphemes! No No, No! (etc.)
Pilate: (To crowd) You don't want me to set free the king of the Jews?
Priests: No! Give us Barabbas!
(some in the crowd start to chant "Barabbas")
Pilate: (angry) Barabbas is a murderer - a terrorist. Jesus is innocent.
Priests: (shouting, whipping up the crowd) He says he's the son of God! He must die!
Give us Barabbas!
Give us Barabbas! (The chanting begins)
Pilate: (frightened now) Enough!
Lights dim on priests, and rise on Jesus.
(Pilate addresses him with awe and fear - this prisoner seems to be harmless, but has created this frenzy. Why does he have such power, and where does it come from? This scares Pilate, who looks frightened and in awe) Where - do you come from?
(3 beats as Jesus stands silently.)
Pilate: (Low voice) You're like a lamb to the slaughter; why don't you answer? (3 beats and then Pilate bursts, the tension is too much) Don't you know that I have the power to set you free or to nail you to a cross?
Jesus: (after a couple beats, quietly and full of authority) If God had not given you the power, you couldn't do anything at all to me.
Lights now rise on priests, and remain up on Jesus.
Pilate: (To crowd) Look at your king!
Priests: (and Crowd) Caesar is our king! Caesar!
Pilate: What do I do with Jesus?
Priests: (and Crowd) Nail him to a cross!
Pilate: (shouting over the crowd) But what has he done? The crowd continues to shout, and Pilate cannot reason with them. Finally, he waves his arms, and shouts). Silence! (Pilate moves to a bowl of water on a stand, and angrily washes his hands) I wash my hands of this matter. I won't have anything to do with killing this man. (Then points hard over the crowd) If you want him crucified -so be it.
Quick blackout, music up.
Spot falls on boy standing up in the front of the crowd.
Boy: But he hasn't done anything wrong! It's not fair
Blackout with sound effect ... reverberating ominous bass ...
Played in silhouette, back projected against a white sheet. The sound of a hammer striking a large nail draws the audiences attention to the crucifixion. The silhouette of a body being nailed to a cross is clearly visible. After the nails are secured the cross is slowly raised by a group of soldiers. The outline of their helmets is clear to all. The cross drops into a hole in the ground.
The silhouettes of two other crosses are visible to each side.
The sound of the reverberating bass increases, until with a sudden flash of lightning it all falls silent.
The women are cleaning up after a shared Passover meal. Perhaps they're all from the same extended family. Hava is an older-middle-aged, gruff woman, the other two are younger. Rhoda is confused, Judith is feeling defeated. The general tone is subdued.
Rhoda: I can't believe he's gone. I keep expecting him to come through the door.
Judith: I know. It's hard to accept that it's over.
Cassia: John said that Jesus told the disciples they would see him again.
Rhoda: How is that possible, Cassia? He's dead.
Hava: And the priests have convinced Pilate to post a patrol of soldiers at his tomb.
Judith: But why?
Hava: To keep his followers from stealing his body, they say. I think it's to prevent us from giving him a proper burial.
Cassia: I know that Mary is planning to go to the tomb tomorrow with the burial spices.
Hava: She'll never get past all the soldiers. (disgusted) Pilate himself should be so well-guarded.
Cassia: She is looking for someone to go with her.
Rhoda: Will you go, Cassia?
Hava: Not a chance. Barak is keeping her under lock and key.
Cassia: (explaining resignedly) My brother is unduly concerned for my welfare. He's afraid that the High Priests will arrest me next, so he's insisted that I stay home for a while.
Hava: So he should. In a few weeks all this trouble will be over and everything will be back to normal.
Cassia: I don't think so.
Rhoda: What do you mean?
Cassia: I don't know, but I don't think anything will go back to how it used to be.
Hava: Cassia, Jesus is dead. The disciples have scattered, no-one has seen any of them.
Cassia: John -
Hava: Yes, John is still here, but he's taking care of Jesus' mother. But where is Peter, or Andrew, or Matthew, or any of the rest of them? Gone, waiting for the priests to concern themselves with some other issue, so they can go on with their lives. Without Jesus.
Cassia: But his teachings, the people he healed, the ones he touched. How could any of us go back to how we were?
Judith: What's the use, Cassia? Hava's right. If they murdered Jesus, they could also murder his followers. They've beaten us even before we've started.
Cassia: I know it seems that way, it certainly is the way the Priest want us to see it. But somehow, I'm not so sure. Anyway, I agree with Mary. Jesus was a prophet like no other prophet. He taught us from the Scriptures, truths that I've never heard from any priest. He's changed me, given me understanding about who I am and what I am here for. He's done that for all of us and I cannot forget that. The least we could do is attend to his burial. Mary is going to the tomb, she'll go by herself if no one will go with her. I would if Barak would let me.
Rhoda: I have burial spice at my house. I will talk to Mary. Perhaps if a group of us were to go, the Priests would be less likely to intimidate us.
Judith: (fearfully) I wish Jesus was here that He might tell us what to do.
Cassia: Perhaps you'll know what to do when you get there. Will you go, Hava?
Hava: (Gruffly) Well, we can't count on any of the men. Who else is going to help these girls get past the Romans?
Cassia: (Grateful) Thank you, Hava. I'll be praying for you.
Hava: You do that, we'll need it.
The scene is a garden setting, with an open tomb. (The tomb doesn't have to look like a mausoleum, it can be simply an open doorway in a stone wall.) Perhaps there can be a simple, subtle lighting effect at the opening, for instance lights fade up to a high intensity, and then fade down somewhat for the scene about to play. We probably don't need to speculate on exactly what the moment of resurrection looked like!
There is a moment of stillness, then Mary Magdalene rushes out of the tomb, distressed.
Mary: Oh, no! How could they do this? (Begins to cry) Oh, God, wasn't it enough that they tortured and killed him, that they desecrate his grave and... and steal his...(cries)
Jesus: (Gently & lovingly: compassionate, yet joyful as well - he is about to change her life!) Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?
Mary: (Startled) Oh! (Then it pours out in a great rush) Sir, they've taken my Lord away and I don't know what they've done with him. I've come to prepare the body and - (she rushes to him and bows before him, begging) Sir, if you've carried him away, tell me where he is and I'll get him myself, but at least let me -
Mary: (With a sharp intake of breath she looks up, wide-eyed and uncomprehending for a moment. Then, hesitatingly) Teacher?
Jesus: (Takes her hands and lifts her to her feet) Yes, Mary.
Mary: (Bursting) Teacher! (embraces him) Oh Lord! (shocked, delighted, confused) Oh, Jesus!
Jesus: (Laughing and hearty) Yes, Mary! I'm alive, no-one has taken me! (Holds her at arms length and looks her full in the face, full of excitement) Now, go find my brothers. Find Peter and the others, tell them I'll meet them in Galilee.
Mary: But, but how...?
Jesus: Run now, don't delay! Tell them, "Jesus is alive!" (He turns her and gives her a little push) Go on! "Jesus is risen, just as he said!" (Laughs a big, free, alive laugh) Don't stop! "He's alive!" I'M ALIVE!
Scene XI Outside Barak's Shop
The scene opens in blackout, but the sound of Cassia pounding on Barak's door is heard.
Cassia: (pounding and shouting at once) Barak! Barak, open the door. You'll never believe the news!
Barak opens the door, the light spills through the doorway and the light slowly builds on the set.
Barak: (bleary eyed and irritable) All right, I'm awake now, Cassia, can't your news wait until a decent hour?
Cassia: It's Jesus! Jesus is alive!
Barak: (tiredly) Cassia, it's been a long week...
Cassia: I know what you're thinking, Barak, but it's true! Mary saw him this morning, Peter and John saw him, they said he cooked the disciples' breakfast this morning!
At this point, an unnamed follower runs through the crowd, making a bee-line toward the main entrance.
Follower: Cassia, have you heard?
Cassia: Yes, I'm coming now.
Follower: Hurry, you'll miss him!
Barak: What in heaven's name is -
Cassia: Jesus is at Ezra's house right now, Barak. We've got to hurry -
Barak: Wait on, sister. Are you trying to tell me -
Follower 2 comes running through, this time with others in tow, perhaps even calling to some audience members "Jesus has risen - come with us!"
Follower 2: Cassia, come quick!
Cassia: Yes, yes, I'm coming! (to Barak) Please, Barak, enough questions, we don't have time! If you hesitate too long, you'll miss your chance to see the Master.
Barak: Has it occurred to you that this could be a trap? What if Ezra's house is full of soldiers and Pharisees?
Cassia: But the disciples and Mary... Barak, you've missed seeing Jesus before, don't miss out this time! Come and see him, let Jesus convince you himself!
Barak: But -
Other followers run through, calling to the audience and to B & C.
Cassia: Brother, I have to hurry. Jesus is alive and I have to see him. He's at Ezra's - don't hesitate too long. Don't miss your chance -Jesus is alive!
Lights slowly fade on Barak, with more questions unasked and unanswered, standing in the doorway, unsure of his decision.
The production will close with a brief challenge to the audience. The cast members come out to mingle with the audience and talk to those interested.
(c) StephenAllen, Allen & Naomi Bartley, Kathy Woollett 1996.
In its original performance, the Play was directed by Allen and Naomi Bartley, a couple with many years of experience with Covenant players. They offer extensive directing notes if anyone is interested in staging the production. A range of photos of the set is also available.
All rights reserved
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium.
In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed. The author is happy to provide further staging information on request
He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or at: 108 Borich Rd, Glen Eden, Auckland , New Zealand.