The Day God Died

By John McNeil

Summary

A full-scale Easter passion play, beginning with the Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem, and continuing to the resurrection of Jesus. This has been written for an outdoor production, but can easily be adapted for the theatre/church. The script is designed to allow scenes to take place in multiple places around the set. Some of the scenes are very short. These are generally linking scenes, which provide time for actors in other scenes to move to other spots.

Note: This page contains only portion of the script. Details on how to obtain the full script are at the foot of the page.


NOTE: The author is indebted to "Yeshua: The Remembrance", a Jewish translation and harmony of the gospels by Dr David M. Hargis, which has provided many insights into the story of Jesus that other translations miss.

Characters

(in more or less order of appearance)
Crowd (including children)
Jesus
6 Disciples (John, Peter, James, Matthew, Thomas, Judas)
2 Priests
Pilate
Centurion
3 Moneylenders
Caiaphas
Annas
4 Elders/Scribes
Captain of Jewish police
Nicodemus
Widow
2 Temple police
2 False witnesses
Servant girl
Herod
4 Roman soldiers
2 Thieves
Mary, mother of Jesus
Joseph of Arimathea
Mary Magdalene
Mary, mother of James (could double as Servant girl)
Angel
Cleopas and Isaac

Note: The crowd could include from the above, the Disciples, Priests, Scribes/Elders, Moneylenders, Widow False Witnesses, Servant Girl, Joseph, the 3 Marys, Cleopas, Isaac.

 

PREPARATION

{As each member of the audience enters, they are given a small piece of greenery. They will be encouraged to wave this at the entrance of Jesus. If the day is warm, others could be encouraged to wave jackets, outer clothes, scarves, etc. Some members of the audience should be primed in advance to do this.}

 

ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM

{There is a loud commotion at the rear of the audience. Rams horn trumpets are blowing, people are cheering and shouting. Music is heard.}

{At the front stage, Pilate enters. He is followed a moment later by a Centurion.}

Pilate: Yes, Chillus?

Centurion: Your excellency, there is a mob at the Golden Gate. The followers of some Galilean teacher are threatening a riot. I am told they want to set this Jesus up as king.

Pilate: Have they weapons?

Centurion: I do not know. But you know how these Galileans get on their feast days. Do you want them put down like the last lot?

Pilate: Move with caution. Take a platoon and investigate. Do not intervene unless absolutely necessary. But there will be no riot this Passover.

Centurion: Yes, Excellency. {Exits}

{A group of children enter from the rear excitedly, waving palm fronds and singing. They are followed by adults, including some of the followers of Jesus. Jesus enters, riding a donkey. Other followers of Jesus follow behind. The procession winds its way through the audience, who are encouraged to join in.}

SONG:

CROWD (Various): Hosanna, to the King!

Save us, son of David!

Look, the king comes!

Who is this?

It's the Messiah, the king of glory!

Jesus, son of David!

Peace in heaven, and glory to God in the highest!

Praise God for the mighty works He has done.

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

God has shown the strength of His arm.

He has thrown down the mighty, and lifted up the humble.

Etc, etc……

{As they process, a group of priests gathers at the opposite side, and begins to advance. }

SONG:

ONLOOKERS: What's going on?

Who is this?

It's the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.

PRIESTS: You must stop this!

It is enough!

ONLOOKERS: Some say he is the Messiah.

The king we have been waiting for? Jesus, deliver us!

PRIESTS: This is blasphemy.

You are defiling the Temple.

ONLOOKERS: Hosanna.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

PRIESTS: Out! {Begin to chant} Out.

ONLOOKERS: Hail to the Son of David.

PRIESTS: {Pressing forward} Out. Out.

ONLOOKERS: Hail to the King.

PRIEST: {Strides up to the donkey, grabs its bridle viciously}

Enough! This has gone too far!

{The crowd fall silent}

What do you all think you are doing?

{Looks at Jesus} Rabbi, call off this rabble. Do you want Pilate to call his soldiers down on us yet again? Has enough blood not been spilled on these stones?

JESUS: Is it really the Romans you are afraid of?

{Beat}

I tell you, if these kept quiet, the very stones would immediately cry out.

{To the crowd} There will come a time to be quiet. But while you have the bridegroom with you, let us rejoice!

{The crowd breaks out again into rejoicing.}

PRIESTS: {Shouting} This is not a ring for a rabble. It is a house of prayer.

{Jesus slips down from the donkey. As he does so, all goes quiet.}

JESUS: {To the Priests} As you have said. Your own mouths shall convict you.

{Jesus and the Disciples enter the Temple. The crowd are still exuberant, but less so than before. Priests and police are at the edges of the crowd. The crowd press around him, but Jesus looks intently around, not at them. His focus disconcerts them, and they gradually fall silent, then start to fall back.

{Jesus goes to the first moneylenders' table and stares at the lender behind it. The tension in the air could be cut with a knife. Slowly he takes hold of the edge of the table, and tips it over. The clatter of objects falling resounds in the silence. The lender appears paralysed, unable to speak.

{Jesus goes to a second table. Again he stares at the lender, before tipping over the table. There is a loud clatter of objects, then silence.}

{Suddenly, there is a loud cheer from the crowd, and they rush forward. A group tip over a third table, and it looks as if a riot is about to take place. A group of Priests rush forward, and there is pushing and shouting.}

JESUS: No!

{His one word is sufficient to render the crowd in freeze frame.}

JESUS: It is written, "My house will be called by all the nations a house of prayer"'. {To the lenders} But you have turned it into a den of thieves.

{As Jesus stares at the Lenders, they gather up their belongings, and dismantle all the tables, taking them out. As they do so, some members of the crowd begin to help them, pocketing some of the money when they can. There is a growing mood of rejoicing as others in crowd help the lenders take out the remaining tables.}

{Some of the crowd press around Jesus, begging for healing. Children run around the fringes, singing out "Save us, son of David."}

{A group of Priests push their way through the crowd, and confront Jesus.}

PRIESTS: Do you hear what they singing?

JESUS: Yes. Haven't you ever read what it says in the Bible? "Out of the mouths of babes and infants comes perfect praise"?

{Jesus takes one of the children by the hand, and draws him/her into the centre.}

JESUS: Unless you repent, and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. {Jesus swings the child up onto his shoulders} Whoever will humble himself like this child, that person is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. {He leads the crowd out of the Temple.}

 

THE COUNCIL MEETS

{Enter Caiaphas, several priests, and Elders}

PRIEST 1: My Lord, what news?

CAIAPHAS: What news should there be?

PRIEST 1: Of this Jesus of Nazareth.

CAIAPHAS: If I concerned myself with every madman who jumped up pretending to be this nation's deliverer …

PRIEST 1: It is threatening to get out of hand, my Lord.

CAIAPHAS: We can deal with a handful of Galileans.

ELDERS: This man performs many signs.

If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him.

Then the Romans will come down hard on us, destroying the Temple and our whole nation.

CAIAPHAS: Quiet! You sound like drunken Samaritans.

ELDER: That is all very well, Caiaphas, but we have a crisis on our hands.

CAIAPHAS: The only crisis is of confidence, I think.

PRIESTS: But my Lord, this man is making a mockery of us… of the Temple.

CAIAPHAS: Wake up and understand. The time for tolerance is passed. I agree, for the good of everybody, he must be stopped. It is better that one man dies rather than the whole nation suffer..

NICODEMUS: Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing?

ELDERS: Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Bible and you will plainly see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee, let alone the Messiah.

NICODEMUS: Since the world began, no-one has ever done such miracles. He has even raised a man from the dead.

CAIAPHAS: How many others of you are sympathisers with this Jesus? {There is no response} I think, Nicodemus, you are outvoted.

NICODEMUS: I will not be party to this.

CAIAPHAS: I don't think it matters whether you will or not, Nicodemus.

{Nicodemus exits}

CAIAPHAS: A way must be found to isolate this man from the mob that surrounds him. Come. {Exuent.}

 

TEACHING IN THE TEMPLE

{Jesus and Disciples enter, along with a small crowd A few priests and police are on the fringe.}

JESUS: My friends, I tell you that tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the Kingdom of Heaven before many of these Priests and Pharisees.

{The Disciples laugh}

PETER: Ha, so you are safe after all, Matthew!

MATTHEW: If God can rescue a tax collector like me, Peter, there may be hope for you yet.

{More laughter}

PETER: And for Judas here, now that he looks after the money for us all.

SCRIBE: Teacher, we know that you don't bow down to anyone, for you are not impressed by big titles or displays of authority, and you teach the ways of God. Tell us, then: is it right for us Jews to pay taxes to the Roman Emperor, or not? Or should we refuse?

JESUS: {Sighs} Bring me a coin.

{They search among themselves for a coin, Judas finally producing one. As they do so, an elderly woman enters, and begins to pass by.}

JESUS: Thank you, Judas. {To the Scribe}Whose face and writing is on this coin?

SCRIBE: The Emperor's, obviously.

JESUS: Then pay the Emperor the things that belong to the Emperor, and pay to God the things that belong to God.

{Jesus turns to look at the woman, who has gone to a small pillar with a bowl atop it. She quietly drops two coins into the bowl, and stops to pray.}

JESUS: Here is a lesson for you, Matthew. And you too, Judas. You have seen the number of times the rich people come to the Temple and make a big display of how much money they are giving. Well, I tell you, that poor widow, who had just two small coins, put in more than all those who threw their money into the Treasury. Even though it meant she might go hungry tonight, she was prepared to give everything she had to God.

{The woman, oblivious to what has been said, concludes her prayer and exits.}

 

THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN

SCRIBE: Money is not everything!

JESUS: Agreed.

SCRIBE: So what is the most important thing?

JESUS: What does it say in the law?

SCRIBE: It says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your strength…."

JESUS: And?

SCRIBE: {a bit reluctantly} "… and your neighbour as yourself."

JESUS: That's right. Do that and you will have eternal life.

SCRIBE: {Blurts out} So who is my neighbour?

JESUS: {Looks around} There was once a man who was travelling from Jerusalem down to Jericho.

{Jesus takes the Scribe by the hand, and drawing out others in the crowd, guides them into an impromptu enactment of the story as he tells it. The Scribe is the traveller, another person a donkey, etc.)

As the man travelled along, he was set upon by thieves, who beat him up and stripped him of everything he possessed. They left him nearly dead on the side of the road.

A short time later, a Priest came by. When he spotted the wounded traveller, he quickly crossed to the other side of the road and hurried on.

A Temple assistant came past a little later, but he did the same thing. He saw at the body lying on the side of the road, looked around anxiously, then hurried on.

Finally, a Samaritan came on the scene. He spotted the body and went over. When he saw how badly the traveller was hurt, the Samaritan had compassion on him. He bandaged his wounds. Then he put the traveller on his own donkey, and took him to an inn. He sat up all night caring for the traveller, and the next day, as he set out to continue his own journey, he took out two weeks wages and gave them to the innkeeper. "Take care of him", the Samaritan said. "If it costs you any more than this, I will pay you when I come back."

{Jesus disbands the tableau}

Now then. Which one of the three who came upon the man attacked by thieves was a neighbour to him?

SCRIBE: {brushing himself down. Very reluctantly} I suppose the one who showed mercy to him.

JESUS: Then you go and do the same thing.

{The Scribe exits, trying to muster as much of his dignity as possible, but not succeeding. There is barely muffled sniggeirng among the crowd.}

 

JESUS PREDICTS HIS BETRAYAL

{Jesus and the Disciples start to exit through the audience.}

JESUS: You know that in two days we will celebrate the Passover.

JUDAS: Lord, surely that is the time for you to proclaim that you are the Messiah. What better time than when we celebrate our deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Declare yourself, Jesus. Deliver us from these Romans.

JESUS: True, the Passover does celebrates a time of deliverance, Judas. And it will be the same this year. But not the kind of deliverance you are thinking of. This time the Son of Man must suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and even the Romans. If you are to have deliverance, the Son of Man must be betrayed, and then put to death.

PETER: No, Lord! This shall never happen to you.

JESUS: When you speak like that, Peter, you are a hindrance to me. Listen carefully, if any one of you really wants to follow me, it will cost everything you have.

{Exuent, except Judas, who moves to the shadows.}

 

JUDAS GOES TO THE COUNCIL

{Caiaphas, Priests and Elders enter.}

ELDERS: We must take him secretly, when the crowds are not around. Otherwise there will be a riot.

At night?

Yes.

And we must do it before the Passover.

But how do we lay hands on him with certainty? We need someone to point him out.

{Judas shows himself.}

Who are you? Why are you here? Seize him!

{They seize Judas.}

JUDAS: Let me go! I can help you.

{They keep hold, but relax their grip a little. }

My name is Judas.

COUNCILLOR: Judas! You are one of his disciples. {They renew their grip. }

PRIEST: How can you help us?

JUDAS: You are looking for Jesus. I know where you can find him.

{The group look at each other, with the realisation that this could be the solution to their problem. }

CAIAPHAS: {Signals those holding Judas to release him. To Judas} Where?

JUDAS: How much?

CAIAPHAS: Shall we say, 20 pieces of silver.

JUDAS: I did not realise the Temple Treasury was in such dire straits. Shall we say something a bit more realistic! What do you take me for?

CAIAPHAS: 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.

CAIAPHAS: 30 pieces then. Fifteen now and the rest when you deliver him.

{They leave. Judas remains briefly, then runs off.}

 

THE PASSOVER

{Scene: The Upper Room. Jesus and the disciples enter, Judas with them.}

JESUS: {As they find places to recline.} This will be our last meal together before I suffer. That is why I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you. {The disciples are still obviously not understanding. }

JESUS: {Takes a piece of Matzoh bread, looks up.}

Father, I thank you for the blessing of this bread. {To the Disciples} Take this bread. It is my body, which is going to be broken for your sake.

{Takes the cup of wine}

Father, I thank you for this wine. {To the Disciples} Take this cup and share it with one another. This is my blood, which is going to be poured out for your sake. When you share it in future, remember me and the kingdom I have promised you.

{Mary, mother of James, and Mary Magdalene enter, one bringing meat and the other a bowl of water. They exit as Jesus gets up suddenly, takes off his prayer shawl and wraps a towel around his waist. The Disciples cannot make out what he is doing. Jesus goes to the first astonished disciple, draws his feet forward, and washes and dries them. Jesus goes next to Peter, who recoils.}

PETER: Master, you are not going to wash my feet!?

JESUS: You don't realise right now what I am doing, Peter. But later you will understand.

PETER: No! You will never wash my feet.

JESUS: Unless I wash you, you will have no part in my kingdom.

PETER: Then not only my feet - wash my hands and head as well.

JESUS: The feet will be sufficient.

{Jesus washes the feet of another disciple.}

JESUS: {Stands} Do you understand what I have done for you. You call me "Master" and "Lord", and you are right. But now that I have washed your feet, take my example and also wash each other's feet. Just remember, the servant is not greater than his master. But my spirit is troubled. Despite all I have done for you, one of you will betray me.

DISCIPLES: {Exclaiming among themselves, and to Jesus} Who could it be? Not me, surely? {etc}

JESUS: It will be one who dips bread in the bowl with me. What has been written about the Son of Man has to happen. But woe to the person who betrays me! 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.}

THOMAS: Where's Judas going?

PETER: I don't know. Perhaps to buy more bread. He's got the money, after all.

JAMES: {He and Matthew have been quietly arguing at one end of the table.} I shall be greater than you. I was called before you.

MATTHEW: And I had a higher position in society than you. I shall be greater.

JESUS: James! Matthew! What are you arguing about?

JAMES: Master, tell him that I will have a higher position when you come into your Kingdom.

JESUS: Have I been with you this long, James, and you still don't understand? After what I have just done for you, washing your feet? Kings all over the world lord it over their subjects, and the rich lord it over the poor. It won't be like that in the Kingdom of Heaven. There, the one who is in charge will be the first to serve; the one who is greater will be the one who takes his share last.

It is important that you remember this. I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, but you won't find me. Where I am going you cannot come - at least not till later.

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

JESUS: Really, Peter? 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. I have told you all this now, so that when it happens you will believe. Come, we have very little time left. Let us go to the garden. {They arise and start to exit.} What shall we sing along the way? {Someone begins a song as they exit.}

 

JUDAS GOES TO THE GUARD

{In the courtyard of Caiaphas's palace, at night. A mob, including officers from the Priests and Council, are waiting restlessly. Caiaphas is not among them.}

POLICE 1: I don't trust this Judas.

POLICE 2: Neither do I, but he's all we've got.

POLICE 1: I have a bad feeling about this. The Passover is not a good time to be arresting the most controversial figure in Jerusalem. The crowds that have been hanging round him in the Temple… if they hear about this, there will be a riot.

POLICE 2: It will be over so quickly there won't be time for anyone to react.

OFFICER 1: I don't understand. All those miracles… Why are the Council so set against him?

OFFICER 2: Be careful what you say around here! This Jesus has broken every rule in the book. He deliberately heals people on the Sabbath, just to upset the priests….if it really is healing. Every day he rouses the rabble, calling himself God. If we don't put a stop to this now, there'll be chaos, and the Romans will have the perfect excuse to massacre us all.

CAPTAIN: {Joins the Officers. Abrupt} When is this Judas going to turn up? Everybody's jumping at shadows.

{Judas enters, cautiously, hood over his head, not wanting to be recognised. After scanning the group, he approaches the Officers.}

JUDAS: Are you Joram?

CAPTAIN: I am. Are you Judas?

JUDAS: Quietly. You must go now. They are heading for the Garden of Gethsemane.

CAPTAIN: You will lead us.

JUDAS: No, you don't need me. You can find them easily.

CAPTAIN: {Grabs Judas roughly} You were paid to lead us. {He draws a sword, and holds it to Judas}

{Judas does not answer. He turns in desperation, sees there is no escape, and resignedly leads the way. The crowd follows.}

POLICE: {To companion} Hey, for 30 pieces of silver I think I'd let you kiss me, too!

{General laughter. Exuent.}

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

Copyright 2004 John McNeil, all rights reserved.

Note: This is not the complete script. A full script may be obtained by contacting the author at soulcommunication@paradise.net.nz
A small royalty may be charged for the full script.