Jesusí Funeral

By Linda Wyke

Summary

Following the crucifixion, bystanders and followers of Jesus are unable to understand how this could have happened, if Jesus truly were the Son of God.

Characters

Pontius Pilate (voice only)
Whining Pharisee (voice only)
Joseph of Arimathea
Nicodemus
Man 1, 2, 3 and 4
2 Pharisees
Woman 1, 2 and 3
Mary (sister of Martha)
Martha
Angry man
Barthimaeus
Lazarus
Angry woman
Boy
John
Mary Magdalene
Mary, mother of Jesus
Thomas
Peter

Script

(Play opens to black. The following conversation is heard in darkness.)

Pontius Pilate: Well, I hope you are satisfied.  I have done what you wanted, he is dead. Now go away.

Whining Pharisee:  Good sir, I donít want to impose further on you, but there is one more thing.

Pilate:  I have done enough for you.

Whining Pharisee:  but sir, this is terribly important.  You see the blasphemer made a prophecy that he would die and rise on the third day.

Pilate:  What has that to do with me.  I care nothing for Jewish prophets.

Pharasee:  It is just that we are concerned that the followers of this man will try and steal his body and claim he has risen.  That would make his lies last far too long and might give his cause enough momentum to cause even the Romans trouble.  Do you want a peasant revolt?

Pilate:  Do not threaten me, Jew.  However, if you are so afraid of this Jesusí followers then I will send a squad of soldiers to accompany the body to its tomb and seal it and stand guard for three days.  Just to make sure this doesnít disintegrate into disaster.  Now leave me and donít come forward with any more of your whining demands.

(Lights up. Procession starts.  Litter carrying Jesus starts down isle with 4 men carrying it and a Roman guard following. John and Mary (mother) follow it.  Joseph of A. and Nicodemus precede it.

(Stage left  2 men talk. They are two people who were at the Sermon on the Mount. Procession freezes during vignettes)

Man 1:  Is that who I think it is?

Man 2:  Yes, that is Jesus all right.  I canít believe he is dead.  He was such a good man and a wise teacher.  He gave me so much hope for the future.  He talked about how the meek shall inherit the earth and that the hungry would be satisfied.  I didnít understand
all of his teachings, they seemed to be in stories mostly, but you could see the love and wisdom on his face.  The air around him seemed to be alive with it.

Man 1: Where are his disciples?  I see John, but where are the others?

Man 2:  No one has seen them since the trouble started. I guess they are hiding.  All except that Judas.

Man 1: Yes, I heard about him.  How could he betray his teacher like that?  And for what, 30 pieces of silver?  Much good it did him, I heard he hanged himself.

Man 2: I heard that too.  You know, Jesus always spoke of forgiveness; do you think he forgave Judas?

(Fade out on these two, lights up on 2 Pharisees, stage right)

Pharisee 1: There goes the body of Jesus. Thank goodness that is over.

Pharisee 2:  It took some doing, but he is dead.  Let his followers try and claim he is the Son of God now.

Pharisee 1:  Why is the guard following him?

Pharisee 2: Pilate is just making sure one of his scruffy followers doesnít try and give his cause new life by stealing his body.

Pharisee 1:  Where are they burying him?

Pharisee 2: Joseph of Aremethia is letting them put the body in his own tomb. He is foolish to ally himself with a lost cause; Nicodemus is another who had better watch himself.  His career is over, he had best be careful that he doesnít follow Jesus into death.

Pharisee 1:  It is too bad really - that Jesus had a lot of knowledge.  He would have made a good member of the Pharisees, if only he hadnít been so insistent about living with the peasants.

Pharisee  2:  Yes, he even seemed to do some miraculous things.  But he was totally misguided; did you hear the things he said about us?  He called us hypocrites and vipers!!

Pharisee 1:  He was clearly a lunatic.  Imagine the nerve, calling himself  ďThe Son of GodĒ!  That kind of blasphemy deserves death.

Pharisee 2:  He didnít have much to say for himself at his trial.  For such an articulate man, he didnít offer one argument in his defense.

Pharisee 1:   We caught him just in time, before he could get any more ignorant people to follow him into an uprising.  In a week, those people wonít even remember his name. I for one plan to forget he ever existed and continue in my studies.

Pharisee 2:  But what about all those weird happenings when he was dying?  The sky was black and the earth shook!  The veil was even torn in the holy of holies!

Pharisee 1: That had nothing to do with Jesus.  I am sure it was just a natural phenomenon.  Stop worrying, let the Levites fix the curtain and all will be well.  Come, let us pray at the temple until it is time for the Sabbath.

(Close on these two. At stage right, 2 women talk)

Woman 1:   That is the body of Jesus they are carrying.  I guess he really is dead.

Woman 2:  Of course he is dead.  No one can live through a crucifixion.

Woman 1:  Itís just that he seemed to have so much holiness around him.  I really believed he was the Son of God.

Woman 2: Why would you believe that?

Woman 1:  My father was a shepherd outside of Bethlehem.  He told the strangest stories about angels in the sky and going to a stable to see a baby.

Woman 2: So?

Woman 1:  He always said the Angels told him that the baby in the manger was Christ the Lord. Why would that have happened if Jesus wasnít the Son of God.

Woman 2:  Are you sure your father was sober?  It could just have been a bad dream.

Woman 1:  No, he wasnít drunk.  Besides, he wasnít the only shepherd there.  Do you think you are the only one who tried to tell them it was a dream?  But no one could ever shake their story, or their belief that this was the Christ.

Woman 2: I thought that Jesus was from Egypt?

Woman 1:  His family moved there when Herod started killing the all the babies.  They moved back to Galilee when he was a boy and open a carpenterís shop.

Woman 2:  How do you know all this?

Woman 1:  See that woman with John?  She is Jesusí mother, Mary.  I have often talked with her about her son.  And I tell you, she remembers my father.

Woman 2: Jesus is dead now.  That wouldnít have happened if he was Godís son and the Messiah, would it?

Woman 1: I guess not.  But I just donít understand it.

(Close on women, follow procession to front. Nicodemus and Joseph carry body into tomb, come out and see crowd)

Mary:  Oh Martha, how can this be true?  How can our Rabbi be in that tomb?  What could he have done that deserved this?

Martha:  Nothing, we know this.  How I wish I could have spent more time with him!  I feel I wasted every minute that I spent cooking of cleaning while he was with us!  If he were here again, I would let the house fall down around me before I would leave his presence.
 
Mary:  I just canít get used to the thought of him lying in that tomb.  It is so cold and hard.  I..I.. please let this be a dream.

Martha:  No, Mary, this is no dream.

( Nicodemus and Joseph exit the tomb, Nicdemus looks around)

Nic:  Joseph, look at all these people.  You should say something to them.

Joseph: I have no words for these people, Nicodemus.  I donít understand all this.  It seems so hopeless, all that we worked for, all that we believed.  It all seems to have died with Jesus and is to be buried in that tomb.

Nic: I donít understand this either, but these people need to hear something.

Joseph:  I will speak to them.  But you should leave, Nicodemus, you have already endangered yourself and your position.

Nic:  No Joseph, I came to him, before, under the cover of darkness so that I might conceal my meeting with him.  But I cannot do that anymore.  Something in me wonít let me hide.  Today, I will stand in the daylight and put him in his tomb as atonement for my cowardice.  I will not hide anymore.  Now talk to these people Joseph, they need to talk about Jesus.

Joseph: I donít know what to say.

Nic:  Then tell them that. I know you cannot explain this, just help them to remember Jesus as they knew him.

Joseph: I will try. (Turning to the crowd)  Brothers and Sisters, we all gather here in grief and mourning.  I have no words to ease your pain.  Jesus is dead and I donít know what to do from here.  But I do know that he was a man worth mourning.  So let us go home to our Sabbath suppers and say a prayer for him.

Angry man: What good will that do?  He lied to us, he said he was the Son of God and there is he is dead.  If he was the Christ, how could he have let them nail him to that cross?

Bart: Stop that!  Just because he is dead doesnít mean his life was worthless.  I am Bartlmaus and I am here because of his mercy and his power.  I was a beggar on the side of the street, blind and despised.  For years I relied on the few people who would give me bread or coin.  I was kicked and spit on and cursed far more times than I was ever pitied.  Jesus changed that.   He healed me. He restored my sight with a power that could not have come from a normal man.

Woman 3:  I also was healed, just by touching the hem of his robe.  He told me that my faith healed me, but I tell you I felt the power move through me. There are countless people that he healed. This was no ordinary man.  I donít know why he died like that.  But I canít believe he would lie to us.

Angry man: Lied or deluded, what does it matter.  For all his miracles on earth, where is he now?  In that tomb with his body torn by the crucifixion.  If he was so powerful, how could he let those soldiers beat him and mock him?  I tell you, God would have killed them where they stood if that was really His son.

(Crowd murmers in agreement)

Laz:  Donít judge so soon.  Remember, I was dead for four days and he brought me back.  I tell you, this man had the power over death.

Angry woman:  When he was alive perhaps.  But who here has the power to bring Jesus back?  Who would even dare try?  His disciples wouldnít even stand by him during his trial, except John over there.  I tell you it is over.  We should have known he wasnít the Messiah.  He raised no armies nor did he fight against the Romans in any way. I even heard he healed some people at the request of those cursed Romans.  How can a man deliver Israel if he doesnít have soldiers?  King of the peasants perhaps, but not king of the Jews.

Sobbing woman:  Jesus was a man of peace!

Angry man: Peace! What good is peace when the Romans would rather kill us than look at us.  This is what peace gets you, hung on a roman cross!

Boy: How can you forget everything he did?  He took my lunch and fed a huge crowd with it.  And there were baskets of food left over!!   He wasnít like you; he cared about people, really cared.  Not just men, but women and children too.

Angry Man 2:  Boy, be quiet.  You donít know what you are talking about.  If he was so special, why is he dead?
 
Boy:  I donít understand that.  Maybe he was just a prophet and not the Messiah?

John:  Be quiet people!  I knew this man.  I walked with him and learned from Him for 3 years.  I went to a mountain and saw Moses and Elijah appear with him.  I saw Jesus glow like the sun.  If Jesus is not the Son of God, what do you make of his cries on the cross?  Why did the earth shake and the sky darken?

Man 2:  Why did he let one of his own disciples betray him?  How could the Son of God misjudge someone so completely? Donít tell me he was the Messiah!  If he was the Messiah we will never get rid of these cursed romans.

Man 2:  Messiah, ha!  If he was so powerful, why did he let the Romans kill him?

Woman:  Not just the Romans.  The Pharisees and the Sadducees also had a big part in this.  Even the poor that he loved called out to free Barabas and crucify Jesus.

John:  I donít pretend to understand this.  I feel the same darkness and emptiness that all of you feel.  I loved Jesus as I have loved no other.  You ask why did he die, and I have no answer for you.  I do know that he said he would rise from the grave on the third day.

Woman:  Jesus was a great man, I saw him drive out demons and heal lepers with his words.  But what man can walk out of his own grave?  I saw that soldier put his sword into Jesusí side.  Water came out with the blood.  I know they would not have let him off that cross if there were any chance he lived.  He was a great teacher, but death makes an end to us all.  Did Moses or Abraham or David come back from the grave?  No, as much as Jesus had power from God when he was alive, I donít see how it can help him now.

Sobbing Woman:  How can it end like this?  Just a week ago the people were waving palms and singing hosanna to this man.  Then he is nailed to the cross like a common criminal?  This was a great man!  He stopped me from being stoned for my sins.  He wrote in the sand and told the people to look at their own sin, and the people could not continue.  He looked at me and asked if anyone was left to condemn me.  When I said there was no one, he said he would not condemn me, and that I should go and leave my life of sin behind.  He changed my life.  No one had cared for me like that before, cared for me as a person.  I canít explain it, but Jesus did not deserve this end.

Man 4:  I agree he was a great man.  But he is dead and his greatness died with him.  Where do we go from here?   Who will lead us?  (Long silence)

Joseph:  I do not know.  Perhaps no one.  But the sun is setting and the Sabbath is upon us.  Go to your homes, there is nothing here but a body in a tomb.  The Romans will not let us near, so it is best to just go home.  (People leave murmuring)

Mary Mag:  (Comes up with container of ointment)  Please, Joseph, let me prepare his body.

Joseph:  Mary, you know that no one may touch a body on the Sabbath.  You will have to wait until it is over.

Mary M:  But the stone will be rolled across the tomb and I wonít be able to get in.

Joseph:  I have no answers for that either Mary.  I only know that Jesus would not want us to break the Sabbath.  Go home; come back if you wish after the Sabbath, if you can get into the tomb and can stand the smell, you can prepare him then.

Mary M:  I will be back.  He was my Master and I loved him, I will not fail to do this last thing for him, Joseph.

Joseph:  Do what you wish, but go home now, so I may close this tomb and go home and find an end to this cursed day.  (They walk away)  (John and Mary, mother of Jesus, are left)

John:  Let me see you home Mary.

Mary:  It is not necessary, John.  Go and join the other disciples.  I need to be alone.

John:   Mary, you can barely stand.  I cannot leave you like this, he gave you into my care.

Mary: Let me go home and cry, I can do no more.  I have cried this day until there should be no more tears in me.  But I cannot seem to do anything else.  He was the Son of God, John, make no mistake.  God came to me as a girl, I have not lied.  But there is so much about Godís plans that I do not understand.  I was a virgin and could have been stoned for being pregnant.  My fiancee thought I betrayed him.  I had to give birth to Godís son in a barn.  So much difficulty, but God was faithful.  He came to Joseph and made him see, and he lit the very heavens with a star to show the world the birth of his son. Kings bowed before him.  He warned us to leave Bethlehem before Herodís guards could kill Jesus.  Jesus grew up and he was truly the Son of God.  He was so good, I never had to discipline him, he seemed to know right from wrong from the day he was born.  Joseph was disappointed when Jesus didnít stay with him in the carpenterís shop, but I knew He had to go and do his true Fatherís business.  When he was baptized by John, I heard there was a dove and that people heard the voice of God laying claim to Jesus.

John:  Mary, I, too, saw Jesusí godliness.  But how is it that he was crucified this way.  How could God let that happen?

Mary:  I do not know, John.  Godís ways are closed to me.  I can only feel this horrible pain inside of me.  Every time I close my eyes, I can see his poor body nailed to that cross.  I canít get the sound of the hammer out of my ears or his voice as he called: ďMy God, My God, why have you forsaken me?Ē  My heart bleeds anew every time I think of how he died.  Not as the Son of God, but as a criminal.  Why would God do that, what good can come of this?  And so I must go and be alone to mourn. Perhaps someday I will be able to understand.  I cannot see how, but I have known God to be faithful.  Only God could make any good come of this terrible thing.  Leave me John, I cannot bear to stand in the sun and be so dark and cold inside.  (Mary leaves)

(Joseph rolls the stone in place, the Roman guard sets in the sealÖsounds of hammering fill the room.)

John:  God forgive us. (Exeunt)

......................................................

( Peter is watching , obviously hiding, when he is found by Thomas, also losing himself among the crowd)

Thomas:  (stage whisper) Peter, peter is that you?

Peter:  Keep your voice down, Thomas.  Yes, itís me.   I could not let the Master die alone.

Thomas:  I could not believe he was dying at all, until I saw it with my own eyes.  This is terrible, how can this be happening?  How can he be up on that cross with criminals beside him.  I thought he was the Son of God.

Peter:  I thought so too.  I donít know, how can the Son of God be killed?  Why arenít there angels protecting him?  How can those soldiers calmly throw dice and divide his clothes?  They should all be dead, struck down by the hand of God!  (pause, stare in the direction of the cross)

Thomas: Yes, but I am glad I found you.  All the disciples have been hiding these last hours, so we have had no real information, just rumor.  And then this (gestures to back where one assumes the cross is).  What happened?  How did it come to this,  with the master crucified?

Peter:  Thomas, I donít know. I mean I was there for the trial, but I still donít understand what happened.  I donít understand the leaders and I donít understand Jesus. He let them do this, Thomas, he didnít even fight!

Thomas: I am so confused about what happened.  All I remember is that after the passover dinner we went to the olive garden in Gethsemene.  The rest of us were waiting at the edge of the garden while Jesus took you, James and John deeper in to pray.

Peter: That was the strangest time.  We tried to stay awake and pray with Jesus because we could see he was so upset, but it was late and we were tired , so we kept falling asleep.  Jesus had to wake us three times.  I know he was upset, I even saw blood on his forehead.  He said something about the spirit being willing but the flesh was weak.

Thomas:  What did he mean by that?

Peter: I donít know.  He prayed to God to ďtake this cup from himĒ.  His spirit seemed so dark and sad.  The next thing I knew, Judas showed up with a squad of temple guards.

Thomas: It should be Judas up on that cross.  I knew he was constantly talking about money and finances, but I never thought he would betray the Master.  I thought he loved him.

Peter: Loved him so much that his sign to the soldiers was to kiss Jesus.

Thomas:  He must be a son of Satan.  To think we lived with him for three years and knew nothing about him.

Peter:  Jesus knew.  He didnít seem surprised or even hurt.  He simply told us to get up because he was about to be betrayed.  When Judas came up to greet him,  Jesus just said ď Friend do what you came for.Ē

Thomas:  if Jesus knew what was happening why did he stay there and get arrested?  Those palace guards walked right through us to go to Jesus.  I didnít know what was going on, but I knew it couldnít be good with that mob of men carrying clubs with them.  We followed them but I was at the back and couldnít see much.

Peter: I tried to defend Jesus.  I pulled out a sword and even cut off the ear of one of the slaves.  But Jesus told me to stop, and even healed that man!

Thomas: What did Jesus say to them?

Peter: Jesus asked them why they were coming with clubs and swords.  Was he a bandit?  Had he not been at the temple teaching day after day?   And he asked who they were coming for?  When they said ,ďJesus of NazarethĒ, the master said ďI am heĒ. Then they tried to grab him, I pulled the sword and the fight started.

Thomas:  That is when everyone ran.  Where are James and John?

Peter:  I donít know where James is, but John is there, at the foot of the cross with Mary.

Thomas:  I still donít know how the master came to be on that cross.  What did he do that was so terrible?  He never hurt anyone, or stole anything!

Peter:  He is there because Caiaphus and his followers wanted it so!  John and I were  in the courtyard during the ďso-calledĒ trial.  They brought up false witnesses against Jesus.  But the witnesses couldnít keep their stories straight and constantly contradicted each other.  No judge with an ounce of intelligence would have convicted Jesus of anything!  Through all of it, Jesus kept quiet.  He didnít say a word.  But then Caiaphus asked if he were the Messiah, the Son of God.  And Jesus said, and Iíll never forget it,  ďI am, and you will see me sitting on the right hand of God, and returning to earth in the clouds of heaven.Ē

Thomas:  Oh, no!  Couldnít he just have kept quiet?

Peter:  What?  And deny who He was?  He didnít need to deny it, I had already denied him. (bitterly)

Thomas:  What are you talking about.

Peter: ( full of self disgust) I am talking about someone who thought he loved the Master.  Thought he would follow him to the gates of death.  But Jesus knew me better than I knew myself.  He told me I would deny Him three times before morningÖand I did.  To save my own skin, I denied being his disciple, I denied even knowing him, at the top of my lungs!  And so there he hangs on a cross and here I hide. (tears?)

Thomas:  Oh..... ( pause)  But I still donít see how he was crucified.  The Jews do not have the power to pass a death sentence.  Only the Romans can do that.

Peter:  That is where they took him next, to Pilate.  To give him credit, Pilate didnít want to kill Jesus.  He had him beaten and mocked and came back to see if that would satisfy the crowds.  But they kept screaming ďCrucify Him, Crucify Him,Ē.  Pilate said that he found Jesus Not Guilty of any crime against Rome.  He said he would release Jesus as the token criminal released for Passover.

Thomas:  I heard that from where I was hiding.  The crowds yelling for that Barabas, a killer and subversive.  I canít understand what got into these people?  I canít understand why Jesus let this happen.  Why didnít he defend himself?

Peter:  (bitterly) I donít know, I only know that the priests hounded Pilate into sentencing him to death, so there would be no blood on their hands.  And of course Pilate washed his hands, so there is no blood on his either.  No one is responsible and no one is guilty, except Jesus, who never sinned at all.

Thomas:  The sky is so dark, there must be a storm coming. (ground shakes)  What was that?  Is God going to destroy the world for killing Jesus?

Peter: I wonder what that was? It has moved rocks all over the place.  This is a horrible day, maybe we should leave.

Thomas:  Look PeterÖ..I think they are taking him off the cross.  He must be dead.  I canít believe it, Jesus is dead.

Peter:  Oh MasterÖ

Thomas: I thought that somehow he would be saved.

P:  Who is that taking him down?  It looks like  Joseph of Arimethea and ... Nicodemus!  He seems to have some linen and oils.

Thomas:  They must have gotten permission to take the body.  Well, what do we do now?  Where do we go?  What about the ministry?

Peter:  what ministry?  We followed the ďSon of GodĒ and he is dead.  I think we need to admit we were wrong.

Thomas:  Yes, I donít see how we can believe that now.  Perhaps he was just a rabbi and a prophet.  Or maybe he was another man like John the Baptist?

Peter:  I donít know.  But we had better go before the crowd reaches us.  Letís go to Markís house. Perhaps the other disciples are there.  Then maybe we can figure out what to do from here.  I suppose I can always go back to fishing.  (exit)

..................................................................

Copyright Linda Wyke, all rights reserved.
This script may be used free, provided no entrance fee is charged. In return the author would like to be notified of any performance. She may be contacted at Beengraced@aol.com