Summary: This is a sketch about the Resurrection, from the point of view of the Roman soldiers assigned to guard duty outside the tomb. There are three scenes, with an appropriate Bible reading between each one, giving time for scene changes. The letter included in Scene Three is an alleged report of the trial and death of Jesus sent by Pilate to Rome, and is included in an apocryphal book, ‘the Acts of Peter and Paul’. Keywords: resurrection. Style: humorous. Duration: 20 min.
Actors: 7M, 1M/F
Scripture Reference: Matthew 27:62-65; Matthew 28:1-15;Luke 24:9, 11, 36-48
Centurion - a humourless individual
Gaius – a soldier in love with Rachel, a maid in the service of Caiaphas the High Priest
Silvanus – a soldier, ring-leader and joker
Aristobolus – an upper-class soldier
Blastus – a not-too-bright, not-too-brave soldier
(Centurion walks into barrack-room, where soldiers are playing cards.)
Centurion- All right, you ‘orrible little men! I want a quaternion to volunteer for guard duty – You, you, you and you!
Silvanus- Oh, Sarge, we’ve only just got back from duty at Pilate’s hall, what’s the problem?
Centurion- You will do double guard duty for h’impertinence to a senior h’officer! His Eminence, The High Priest Caiaphas, has requested that we put a guard on the tomb of one Jesus, crucified today. (On hearing the word ‘tomb’, the soldiers smirk and contain their mirth with difficulty) Report for duty in twenty minutes outside the new tomb in the garden, west of the Via Romana! And!........you know the penalty for sleeping on duty!(Graphically draws finger across throat. Exit)
Silvanus- (amidst laughter) A tomb? Did he say a tomb, or did he say a tomb? Who have the temple fat-cats got locked up in there? The muggers of the Jericho road? The gang who did the tower of Siloam job? Or has Barabbas been insurrecting again?
Blastus- Just a minute, isn’t this Jesus the one we had a bit of fun with, in Pilate’s hall?
Silvanus- Yeah, the one whose robe I won! Who’s got lucky fingers, then? The gods look after their own!
Gaius- More like quick fingers!
Blastus- I thought of that, as well!
Gaius- What possible use could you have for a peasant’s robe? You knew I had my eye on it, my Rachel could have made a nice dress out of that, there were no seams in it!
Silvanus- What? You still going out with her? Must be three months, now! Bit too skinny for my liking. Hey, if Caiaphas finds out you’re seeing one of his maids, and he tells the governor......you’ll be sent to Brittania for fraternising with the natives! Fog, bogs, and no decent roads. (All look suitably appalled) She’ll be a government statistic, too. On the dole, permanently!
Gaius- Oh, Rachel’s highly thought of. She helped to identify one of the faithful followers of the preacher. Ran like a scared rabbit, he did, swore blind he’d never clapped eyes on Him!
Aristobolus- Actually, the priests must be non compos mentis to declare this harmless peasant persona non grata. Prima facie, He seemed bona fide to me. Inter nos, to poke fun at Him, as you did, ad nauseam, was quite infra dig.
All- ? ? ? ? ? (They look at each other and shrug)
Blastus- You know, my uncle Longinus stayed to watch this fellow die. It was one of the quickest he’d seen. I think the current record is six days, three and a half hours, give or take a minute or two. Anyway, he said, it was really weird, the sky went all black, like all the gods were angry at the same time. Then the man sort of shouted ‘Finished’ and died!
Blastus- But He didn’t shout ‘Caput.....it was ‘Tetelestai’.
Aristobulus- Tetelestai? Victory?
Blastus- Yes! Uncle’s never seen anything like it, and he’s seen a few hundred crucifixions in his time. Came over all holy, he did. Said the man must have been the...Son of...God. (Shrugs, then all laugh)
Silvanus- Must be all that overtime! (Enter Centurion)
Centurion- Didn’t I tell you to be on duty in twenty minutes? And what do I find? Idle chatter instead of industrious pursuits! When I tell you chaps to jump, what do you do?
All: Jump, Sir! How high, Sir?
Centurion- (bawls) well, jump to it then! Quaternion Left turn, quick...MARCH! Left, right, left, right, left, right... (Exeunt)
Reader- (reads Matthew 27:62-65)
(The four soldiers are on guard duty by the tomb. Gaius is asleep and dreaming of Rachel. The others are extremely bored. A large ‘stone’ is visible USL, and other rocks are arranged SR, for the soldiers to lean on or sit against.)
Aristobolus- I say you chaps, isn’t this tedious? Will someone wake Gaius up, it’s my turn to have some sleep.
Silvanus- Come on, Gaius, wakey wakey, rise and shine! (kicks him)
Gaius- (half asleep, clasps Silvanus’ leg) Rachel, darling. (kiss) (kiss)
Silvanus- Geroff! (Various sniggers)
Gaius- Oh, it’s you!
Blastus- How long have we been guarding this tomb?
Silvanus- Too long.
Gaius- Yeah, this is the third night I’ve been on duty. Just think, I could’ve been walking with Rachel under these trees ... in this moonlight...
Aristobolus- A bit chilly surely? (wraps himself in a blanket to prepare for sleep)
Gaius- (Huffily) We have our love to keep us warm (ribald laughter)
Silvanus- Oh, pardon me while I vomit!
Gaius- You’re only jealous, you don’t know what it’s like to be in love. (subsides into hurt silence)
Silvanus- (sings) Some enchanted evening......
Aristobolus, Blastus, Silvanus- (together)......You may see a stranger..(dissolve into helpless laughter)
Blastus- But it is, though, isn’t it?
Silvanus- What is?
Blastus- The evening.....there seems to be a sort of expectancy in the air. Like when it all goes quiet just before a thunderstorm.
Silvanus- Credat Judaeus Apella! (Latin for Dear Me!)Just what are you expecting? A beautiful girl to materialise? This stream to turn into wine? This dead body to spring to life? The only exciting thing that’s going to happen in this shift, is when we knock off at dawn, and that’s two hours off, yet.
Aristobolus- I did hear a rumour in the tavern, that this (indicates tomb) Philosopher’s disciples Were plotting to steal the,er, body, so that they could claim a miracle.
Silvanus- Steal him away? Even if they could get past us....
Blastus- (anxious to reassure himself)....which they can’t....
Silvanus- .....which they can’t! How do you suppose they could get into the tomb? Huh! You posh school types are all the same! No logic! Look at it! There’s a huge boulder across the entrance.....
Blastus- Huge boulder...
Silvanus- It’s all fastened with cords and waxed over.....
Blastus- Waxed over....
Silvanus- ....with the Roman seal on it!
Blastus- Seal on it!
Silvanus- Is there an echo in this garden? (glares at Blastus) Steal the body? You’d need dynamite, and that hasn’t been invented, yet! Anyway, I thought you were going to sleep?
Aristobolus- I can’t.
Blastus- Well, I’m keeping an open mind about all this.
Silvanus- Yeah, empty minds are usually open!
Blastus- Well, I’ve heard things about this Man. My uncle Longinus....
Silvanus- Oh, him again?
Blastus- ....knows another centurion in ‘B’ division, whose servant was very ill, some kind of fever, nearly dead, and he asked this Jesus to heal him.
Blastus- Well He did. Heal him, I mean. He’s as right as rain!
Silvanus- Naaah. It’s a coincidence. Probably malingering to get out of a bit of work, you know what these slaves are like! Anyway, these cult-leaders are all the same. I mean, look at this tomb! You have to be really rich to own one of these!
Aristobolus- Yes, there was something in the Guardian about one of these chaps – non compos mentis. You know, delusions of grandeur. Starts off as a goatskin-purse maker, has a few prophecies, all the peasants believe him, empty their pockets and now he owns forty-seven chariots, a place in Caesarea Philippi, and slaves by the dozen!
Blastus- All the same, I still feel a bit peculiar about this night. What’s that! (clutching Gaius)
Silvanus- An owl, stupid ignoramus!
Gaius- Now I come to think of it... (the others start in surprise, they had forgotten Gaius was there) ...there have been some very strange goings-on, the last couple of days.
Silvanus- Oh, don’t you start!
Gaius- Rachel tells me...
All- Oh, no!
Gaius- Rachel tells me that the veil in the Jewish temple was ripped in two, all by itself!
Silvanus- Probably a story put about by a careless cleaner, not wanting to take the blame.
Gaius- They don’t have cleaners, there’s only priests allowed in. Anyway, how do you explain it being ripped from top to bottom?
Blastus- And then there was the earthquake, and the darkness when He (indicating the tomb) gave up the...the...the gho...died.
Aristobolus- I have heard it said that in the Jewish cemetary, the...em...graves were opened and dead people appeared to their relatives. Gave them no end of a fright, I imagine.
Silvanus- (not so sure of himself) Naaaah, peasants’ superstition!
Gaius- Rachel said she saw her grandmother and her Aunt Esther. I didn’t take much notice at the time.
Silvanus- What’s got into everybody? You’ll have me believing it, next!
Gaius- Oh, I wish this shift was over. (rustling noise off-stage)
Blastus- (squeaks) Who goes there?
Aristobolus- Oh, Blastus, remember you’re Roman!
Blastus- (squeaks) Quo vadis? Oh, gods, help us! (louder rustlings noises off-stage – all are afraid)
Aristobolus- I’m sure I heard a noise. (All beseech their respective gods) Mithras!!!!
Silvanus- Bacchus, oh back us!!!!
Aristobolus- There’s someone moving inside! (all look towards the tomb, get to their feet. Blastus covers his face.)
Gaius- The stone! It’s rolling away! (bright light from behind stone – they scream, hide their faces, and collapse)
Reader- (reads Matthew 28: 1-15)
(Emperor Claudius is reclining on a couch, eating grapes. There is a hesitant knock at the door.)
Claudius- Well , what is it?
Messenger- A message, your worshipfulness.
Claudius- (sits upright and sighs wearily) Come! (enter messenger)
Messenger- Most noble and divine emperor, I am most honoured and humbled to be in your worthy presence...
Claudius- Get on with it, can’t you see I’m a very busy man?
Messenger- An urgent message your eminence, from Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea...
Claudius- Yes, I know who he is, what does it say, man, read it out. I trust you can read?
Messenger- Yessir, straightaway, sir(clears throat)
Poontius Pilate unto Claudius, greetings: There befell of late a matter of which I myself made trial; for the Jews through envy have punished themselves and their posterity with fearful judgements of their own fault; for whereas their Fathers had promises that their own God would send them from heaven his Holy One, who should of right be called King, and did promise he would send him on earth by virgin birth; he then came when I was governor of Judaea, and they beheld Him enlightening the blind, cleansing lepers, healing the palsied, driving devils out of men, raising the dead, rebuking the winds, on the waves of the sea dry-shod and doing many other wonders, and all the people of the Jews calling him the Son of God; the chief priests therefore, moved with envy against him, took him and delivered him unto me and brought against him one false accusation after another, saying that he was a sorcerer and that he did things contrary to the law.
But I, believing that these things were so, having scourged him, delivered him to their will; and they crucified him, and, when he was buried, they set their guards upon him. But while my soldiers watched him, he rose again on the third day; yet so much was the malice of the Jews kindled, that they gave money to the soldiers saying: Say ye that his disciples stole away his body. But they, though they took the money, were not able to keep silence concerning that which had come to pass, for they also have testified that they saw him arisen, and that they have received money from the Jews. And these things have I reported unto thy mightiness for this cause, lest some other should lie unto thee, and thou shouldest deem right to believe the false tales of the Jews.
I, Pontius Pilate do salute thee, most noble and holy Emperor Claudius.’
(After a few seconds silence, messenger bows out backwards, unnoticed by Claudius, who is left speechless and is seen to be slowly crushing the grapes with his fist. Lights fade on Claudius, lights up on the Reader, who reads Luke 24:9, 11, 36-48)
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