By Marnie Barrell
An extension of Jesus' confrontation with Pontius Pilate, in the form of
a courtroom drama. Explores the idea of what Jesus' kingship might
have meant to those around him. Themes of truth, divided loyalty,
Witnesses 1 and 2, (Male),
Witness 3 (female),
Jesus (if numbers permit Ė non-speaking, dressed in purple robe and
crown of thorns.)
Reading: a dramatic reading of John 18:33-38
(After the Gospel reading, Jesus stands aside guarded by a soldier.
The Prosecution and Defense lawyers come forward as Pilate sits. The witnesses
remain seated to the side until called.)
Pilate: What is truth? Hmmm. (takes seat in
centre) Well now, weíll settle this business properly.
The prisoner is accused of being a king. Itís my job to deal with
rival kings. We have no king but Caesar! We acknowledge no authority
greater than Caesarís. Letís see (looks at charge sheet) I see the prisoner
has entered no plea and has no legal representation. Do we have someone
to act as counsel for the defence?
D: Here, my lord.
Pilate: And the prosecutor?
P: Here, my lord.
Pilate: You may proceed.
P: My lord, the prisoner
is charged with setting himself up as King of the Jews, claiming an authority
that belongs to the Emperor. Many witnesses have heard him make such
statements. Call the first witnesses.
(Witnesses 1 and 2 step up)
W1: The story goes that when he was born wise
men came seeking the new king foretold by the stars. They thought
he must be one of King Herodís lot.
W2: Yeah, they brought presents fit for
royalty. Thatís what my mumís auntieís second cousin reckoned, anyway.
D: Objection! Thatís
just hearsay and rumour. And anyway, how can a baby be responsible
for stories told about him?
Pilate: Objection sustained. Move on please.
W1: He said lots of things against the
Jewish authorities, how they let the people down and donít do their job
of standing up for the way of God.
W2: Heís got a point there, if you ask
me. Pack of bloodsuckers. Never done a thing for me.
W1: Shut up, youíre not helping.
We know the Jewish authorities are friendly with the Roman administration,
so it sounds like a criticism of Rome. And at one stage the people
definitely wanted him to declare himself king and stand up to you Romans.
He could easily have got some political power.
D: But he didnít, did
he? He refused to call himself king, even when the crowds pressured
him. Stick to the facts, weíre not interested in your opinions.
W1: Well, er - actually he did reject
the idea of being king at that time.
W2: But hang on Ė he deliberately appeared
in Jerusalem the way the old prophecies say: ďZion, behold your king, riding
on a donkeyĒ. And the people acclaimed him as king, the son of David.
Thatís not hearsay, thatís a fact. I was there.
W1: You were at the back of the crowd,
shorty. He could have been riding an aardvark for all you know.
D: So what? Lots
of people ride donkeys. How do you know his motives?
What do his motives matter? We want the plain truth, just give us
Pilate: Objection overruled. The prisonerís motives
are clearly relevant to the case. He at least accepted the crowdís
acclamation. Playing king by acting out a prophecy is pretty serious
Soldier: Permission to speak, sir? My soldiers had a bit of fun
with him when he was arrested Ė they dressed him in a crown of thorns and
a purple robe, smacked him around a bit. You wanna be a king, you
gotta look the part. Image is everything, they said. Couldnít
get him to argue back, though. He just stood there with this purple
thing hanging off him, didnít say a word. We thought heíd be a real
nutter, you know, weird and raving, good for a laugh.
Pilate: Thank you soldier, that will do. Donít want
people thinking police brutality here. Bad PR.
D: I think youíll remember,
my lord, that he refused to make any statement when he was arrested.
He neither confirmed nor denied the King title.
Pilate: Thatís true. He didnít seem interested in
the question. He said King was my choice of words, not his.
He only wanted to talk about his mission to speak the truth, whatever that
means. But he did say he had a kingdom Ė just not a part of this
world. I have no idea what he meant.
P: So he has a kingdom
after all! What other world than this could there be? He must
mean he has followers whoíll rise up to rescue him and proclaim him as
a rival to Caesar.
D: Oh, yeah, right.
Where are all these followers? I donít think we have to worry about
this. The crowd will forget him in a week. Look at the facts.
Heís a poor deluded loser. Heíll never make the history books. He
didnít cause a revolution, he was never crowned or acknowledged king.
So maybe he had a dream of being great, but hey, who doesnít? Thatís
not a crime, is it?
P: I think we have
to look a bit deeper here, my lord. He said he has some kind of underground
movement, a ďkingdom not of this worldĒ. Maybe ďKingĒ is a figure
of speech, a different kind of truth. He has a group that doesnít
respect the Government and the law of the land as the highest authority.
That could cause big trouble in Rome if it spreads.
Pilate: Itís given me trouble enough governing these Jews,
I can tell you. Their religion matters more to them than being part
of the global community, the great Roman Empire. This Jesus seems
to be taking it to an extreme. Even the Jewish authorities find him
a bit over the top.
P: And thatís the point,
my lord. Thereís nothing more dangerous than these people who believe
they have the truth direct from God. It justifies any kind
of unlawful activity if God told you to do it. Overthrow the government,
disobey the authorities, challenge the way things are Ė no problem if Godís
on your side. Of course, they canít handle other people who also
have the truth straight from God and itís something different!
Pilate: True enough. And if so, then it doesnít even
help if we execute him. Weíll just create a martyr and the message
will still go on. In death heíll still be a king to people who followed
him in life. Mad living prophets are bad enough, mad dead prophets
are still worse.
P: And then there really
will be a kingdom not of this world Ė an invisible secret society within
Caesarís kingdom, undermining it from the inside. The man is clearly
guilty of plotting against Caesar. Even his death could work against
law and order in the Empire.
D: Oh, be reasonable!
Do you think he wants to be killed? Is that part of his plot too?
This is ridiculous. Call the next witness. (Witnesses 1,2 step
down, witness 3 steps up) Now, madam. I believe you know the prisoner
personally. Would you call him an ambitious man?
W3: Not at all, sir. Heís one of
us common people. Heís only concerned about serving God and doing
good. Heís helped a lot of us in a lot of ways.
P: Surely heís trying
to convert everyone to his way, though. Society would fall apart
if that happened. Thatís what he wants, isnít it? To be king
of a world thatís run by his rules?
W3: But sir, if we live by his teaching
weíre not evil or anything like that. He called us to be good Jews,
loving God and our neighbours. How does that make us rebels against
society? We respect his authority because heís a good man and he
seems to know God better than we do.
P: So he is your king,
W3: Well, we once thought that was where
it was all heading, but now we see that heís something much greater than
D: Be quiet, you fool!
Youíre making it worse for him! Greater than a king, indeed!
Even Caesar isnít greater than a king! Sounds like heís claiming
to be a God or something!
Pilate: Watch your step! Donít speak against the
divine Caesar, unless you care to join the prisoner?
D: Er Ė no offense
intended to the divine Caesar, my lord. So, woman, is this Jesus
setting himself up as being both a king and a god?
W3: Oh, no, sir! Heís never said
heís God. But he does seem to be as close to God as a child to a
parent, and he says we can all be like that.
Pilate: Oh, great. As if you Jews arenít crazy enough
already, without each one of you having a hotline to Big Daddy! How
do you know heís not just manipulating you, getting you to do what he wants
and calling it Godís will? Some kind of power-trip for him?
W3: I canít prove it exactly. But
he makes sense. He understands our lives, and what he said fits our
values and our experience of God. He makes us want to be better people
and build a better world, where everyone is equal and respected.
Thatís real truth as far as Iím concerned.
Pilate: Sounds pretty subversive to me. If everyone
was equal, the slaves would get uppity. Iíd end up having to wash
my own dishes.
P: Thereís another
thing. He said that if heís killed heíll rise again in three days,
and heíll come to judge the whole world. What do you make of that?
Pilate: Proves heís a lunatic, Iíd say. Perhaps Iíll
just lock him up in a padded room.
W3: But what if it really happens like
that? Wouldnít it prove he was telling the truth, and that he really
has a power greater than yours?
Pilate: Shut that woman up! Arrest her and get her
out of here! If there are more like her, Iíll be sweating.
If I execute him, people like her will easily be convinced heís risen from
the dead. Theyíll be spreading his message like wildfire. Heíd
be more of a nuisance dead than alive. His followers will be like
an antsí nest, impossible to stamp out.
P: Weíve probably proved
heís not a king in the normal sense, but heís dangerously like the king
of a secret society springing up everywhere among us. Dead or alive
heís a menace to Caesar.
Pilate: That's it. He has to go. Pity in a
way, but there it is. Crucify him. Iíve ordered a sign to be hung
over him saying ďKing of the JewsĒ.
D: Why not just ďHe
said he was King of the JewsĒ?
Pilate: Nobodyís proved that he DID say that. What
Iíve written, Iíve written. I have a sinking feeling we havenít heard
the last of this.
W3: And what if he does rise again?
What if he does come to judge you all, you brutes? What will you
say when you see him? Long live King Jesus! Long live King
(Soldier drags her away still shouting. If there is a Jesus,
heís dragged away too. The others stare after her looking worried.)
Copyright Marnie Barrell 2003, all rights reserved.
This script may be used without royalty payment, provided no charge is
made to the performance. In return, the author would like to be told of
any performance. She may be contacted at: email@example.com