by Ray Markham
Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective, investigates the resurrection.
[While the theme music is playing, Poirot welcomes the four other characters on to the stage, while Hastings stands by looking mystified.]
H: I say, Poirot, I didn’t know you were having a fancy dress party. Who are these people?
P: Patience, Hastings. All will be revealed in due course. [Turns to the others.] Welcome, mes amis, to the humble abode of Hercule Poirot, the greatest detective in the world. I have invited you here to help my friend Captain Hastings to solve a mystery that has been bothering him for some time.
H: Whatever do you mean, Poirot? I can’t think of any mystery that’s been bothering me for some time.
P: There you are wrong, mon ami. Whenever we come to this time of year, you pour scorn on the whole idea that Jesus Christ actually rose from the dead.
H: I say, steady on, Poirot! I don’t exactly pour scorn on the idea; I just have my doubts about it, that’s all.
P: Then it’s high time we investigated this greatest mystery of all: the mystery of the missing body. What troubles you about it, mon ami?
H: Well, for a start, are we sure that Jesus was actually dead when he was taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb?
P: [turns to Joseph] Monsieur Joseph. You were there at Golgotha where the crucifixion took place, were you not?
J: I was indeed, monsieur.
P: Eh bien, tell us what happened.
J: Jesus finally died at 3 o’clock, after six hours on the cross. Now that was a quick death for a crucified victim. I asked the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, if I could lay Jesus’ body to rest in my family tomb.
P: What would have happened to it otherwise?
J: It would have been buried in a ditch up on Golgotha.
H: So what happened after you’d spoken to Pilate?
J: Well, he told me to go back to Golgotha and wait. The next thing I knew was that a soldier was throwing a spear into Jesus’ body; presumably to make absolutely sure he was actually dead.
P: You hear that, Hastings? Please continue, monsieur Joseph.
J: Then the soldiers took Jesus down from the cross, and we carried him the half mile or so to the tomb.
P: And in all that time he never made a noise, not even the slightest moan, that might have indicated that he was still alive?
J: No sound at all.
P: You hear that, Hastings? He made no sound at all. If he were still alive, surely he would have made some kind of noise, considering the pain he must have been in.
H: It’s still possible though, Poirot. And he could then have revived in the cold of the tomb, pushed the sealing rock away from the mouth of the tomb, come out, and gone around claiming to have risen from the dead, when he hadn’t at all.
P: Monsieur Joseph. The rock to which Captain Hastings referred: is it possible for one man to push it away from the entrance to your tomb?
J: Absolutely impossible, monsieur. It took several of us to push it into position; and we were all strong and in good condition ...
P: [interrupting] ... whereas Jesus, being crucified, would have been suffering from dislocated bones and tremendous loss of blood, not to mention most of his muscles being severely pulled, and the effects of the spear being thrown into him. Pretty unlikely he could have done as you suggest, eh, Hastings?
H: All right, Poirot. There’s no need to look so smug. It simply means that the disciples must have come back later that night, stolen the body, and then gone round claiming that Jesus had risen from the dead.
P: Eh bien, Hastings. Let me introduce you to Magnus and Maximus. They were part of the crack SAS task force sent by Pilate to guard the tomb where Jesus was placed to make sure that what you have suggested couldn’t possibly happen. Isn’t that so, gentlemen?
MX: Quite right, Monsieur Poirot.
P: Is it possible, M. Maximus, that the disciples could have slipped past you, pushed the rock to one side, and carried the body out of the tomb without either you or any of your soldiers seeing them?
MX: Absolutely not.
H: They could have if you’d fallen asleep!
MX: Captain Hastings: if we fell asleep and anyone got into that tomb, we would all have been put to death; so I can assure you we were wide awake all the time!
MG: Anyway, it was a complete waste of time us being there, if you ask me. We’d heard that his disciples were so scared that we’d be after them to crucify them as well that they’d locked themselves away somewhere. We never thought they’d show up for a minute; and they didn’t.
H: So why did you go around telling everyone they had come and stolen the body while you were asleep?
[Pause while MX and MG look sheepishly at one another.] Well?
MX: We were bribed to spread that story, and to keep certain other details very quiet indeed.
H: I say! What details?
MX: Well, there we were on duty, nothing happening: when suddenly there was this dazzling bright light blinding us all, and a sound like as if an earthquake was happening. We were terrified. Crack SAS force or not!
MG: Don’t remind me! And then, just as suddenly, the light was gone and the noise stopped. And when we got our senses back, so to speak, we saw that the rock that had sealed the tomb shut had been rolled away to one side. And not only that: there was no body in the tomb!
H: I say! What happened when you told your masters?
MX: They went mad at us. Some even insisted on going to the tomb to see for themselves. When they realised we were telling the truth, they bribed us handsomely to spread lies about the disciples coming and stealing the body while we were asleep.
P: And remember this, Hastings. If the disciples had actually stolen the body, would they have been prepared to die in the years that followed for a belief they knew was based on a total fraud and a complete lie?
H: You’re looking smug again, Poirot. All right then; perhaps there was an empty tomb. But that doesn’t prove that Jesus rose from the dead.
P: But mon ami, what about all the people who Jesus appeared to after his resurrection?
H: O, come on, Poirot. Have you never heard of hallucinations? They couldn’t bring themselves to believe that he was dead and all their dreams were shattered, so they imagined that they saw him.
P: [Turns to Thomas] M. Thomas. Captain Hastings says you hallucinated Jesus. What do you say to that?
T: Captain Hastings. I thought exactly the same as you when the others told me that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead. I told them that there was no way I would ever believe it unless I put my finger into the holes in his hands where the nails had been, and my hand into his side where the spear went.
H: I say! that’s pretty strong stuff. So what happened?
T: The very next day he appeared again, and I was there this time.
P: And am I right in thinking. M. Thomas, that Jesus spoke to you personally?
T: He certainly did. I was still recovering from seeing him standing there, eating and drinking with us, when he said to me: ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’
P: Perhaps he is saying the same thing to you, Hastings!
H: I say, steady on, Poirot! I’ve just never thought about it as deeply as this before.
P: Then here is something else for you to think about, mon ami. What would you have done if you’d been one of the authorities? Something that would prove beyond any doubt that Jesus had not risen from the dead, and was therefore not the Son of God.
H: [Pause] I say, Poirot. It’s obvious! Produce the body, of course! Put it on show in the market place. That would stop the rumours all right.
P: So why did they not do something so obvious?
H: Because they couldn’t find the body of Jesus anywhere. There was no body to produce!
P: Exactement, mon ami. Now tell me this. On what day do Christians meet to worship God together?
H: O come on, Poirot. Everyone knows that. On Sunday of course.
P: But why on a Sunday? Up till then the day for worshipping God was Saturday. So why change the day? Unless something amazing had happened on that day that they wanted to remember for ever.
H: You mean -- Sunday was the day on which the disciples met Jesus risen from the dead for the first time.
P: Exactement. So every Sunday since then has been resurrection day. So, mon ami. What is your solution to the mystery of the missing body? For me, the evidence speaks for itself. But you must make up your own mind.
[Theme music to conclude.]
© 2001 Ray Markham, all rights reserved. The script may not be reproduced, translated or copied in any medium, including books, CDs and on the Internet, without written permission of the author.
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged. In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org