Summary: Various people present at the crucifixion react to what they have seen. This is suitable as a Readers' Theatre presentation. (Inspired by a sermon my father, Rev. James T. Ramdall,preached when I was a child.)
Style: Dramatic. Duration: 15min
Actors: 6M, 3F, 1VO + various voices
Mary, Mother of Jesus
Joseph of Arimathea
Jesus (voice only)
A Roman Citizen, an unbeliever
Jewish Woman, a Believer
Director’s Notes: This was an extremely moving play using teens to perform. However, adults will do just as well, or a mix.
The only props called for are a large cross and a representation of the tomb. We made a big cross on a stand… rough wood, with no attempt to put a finish on it.
For the second act we made a cave entrance out of chicken wire, covered it with newspaper and spray painted it brown. We put it at the back of the stage so the congregation could see the mouth of the cave. The readers referred to it, looking at the cave sometimes, and at the congregation the rest of the time. If you can make a good cave, it also could be at the front of the stage with the mouth facing the readers. Anything would be fine as long as the congregation know it represents the tomb.
We had the readers staggered in position around the stage like we would stand if they were part of a crowd. Crowds never stand in straight lines. When we first did this play, we had young teens playing the disciples in the second act. They wanted some action so after Mary said her opening lines, they raced in to look at the tomb, then caught their breath, and explained their actions to the audience. The dialogue does not need to change if the action is added.
However, props are not necessary. If the readers look up as if looking at a cross or into the tomb, the congregation will enter into their imaginary props. This also could be used as a very effective classic readers’ play format with the readers in formal wear, standing or sitting at their music stands.
(Friday evening. At the Cross. The trial is over. Mary, mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, John, the beloved disciple, and Jairus are but a few of the people at the cross. We are about to hear what they are thinking.)
How did we get here? Why did this happen? It shouldn’t be, you know. Jesus taught us. He healed people. He only wanted what was best for us. We’ve learned love can be hard. But, God of our fathers and their fathers, why did you let it come to this?
(He pauses and looks up at the cross with a sigh.)
The trial was dreadful. They made up lies. Twisted things. Treason, my word! Treason! Since when was healing treason? This is fear in action. They were afraid Jesus would change the order of things, like the power structure. And, yes, we were … still are afraid. A lot of us are already hiding. But my own people – His own people – turning on Him like that? It makes me angry. People never understood what he was saying or trying to do. But then, we didn’t either … at first. Like when He said He would choose to die and rise again. That I’ll NEVER understand. But it was about love… Everything was about love. Jesus loved everyone.
I love Him. Jesus, you have to help me love the people you loved.
Woman, here is your son.
Here is your mother.
(becoming aware Christ was talking to him)
What? What am I supposed to do? Oh … take care of His mother.”
(He turns and addresses Mary)
I will. I will be your son. You are welcome in my house.
(Turning toward John and bowing her head.)
I accept you. You are my son.
(Looks up at the cross)
My first son. I know you are God’s son. The Messiah. The Promised One. The One we longed for to make us a great nation again. But everything you did was not what we expected. Now I understand about God’s kingdom.
But there’s so much to give up. Our expectations of you on the nation’s throne. We wanted you to cleanse our temples. And you cleansed our hearts. Now, how can I give you up? We didn’t always understand you. But we always loved you.
(Resigned to the situation)
So, this is what happens. I can’t see how he’s guilty of treason, but he wouldn’t defend himself. He didn’t insist he was innocent. You can’t give vague answers to the tribunal's questions like he did and expect to be set free. It’s like he knew whatever he said would make someone mad.
(stops with a sigh)
Well, whatever. I hope he dies quickly.
JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA
Lord, I believe you are God’s son. You know we honor you in our home. I just can not go public. It would be a disaster to openly practice our belief. My family would suffer. The arranged marriages for my daughters would be cancelled. There might not be any business left for my sons to inherit. I would be put to death. Then, who would take care of my children? But I want to do something.
I know! I have the empty tomb. I know who to ask … I will do it!
(hurries off stage)
(Reading the inscription on the cross)
King of the Jews . . .They wrote it to make fun of Him. But when He healed my daughter, He just took her hand. And she was alive. They said she was dead … But she was alive!
MOCKING VOICE OFF STAGE
Come down. You saved others. Now, save yourself.
They’re still mocking him. But I believe he could do what they say. If He can raise my daughter from the dead, He could come down. He really could. But why doesn’t he?
But that means He decided to let this happen. Why?
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
ROMAN CITIZEN/ UNBELIEVER
(Looking around at the other people)
What is all this? All this sadness and mourning? They’re criminals. The one in the middle is even accused by his own people. The people who should support him turned against him. He must be guilty. Not all those people can be wrong.
(Suddenly looks up in astonishment)
But who is this man? Why does the sky suddenly get dark? Nature does not mourn for ordinary men! Who is this Jesus of Nazareth?
A JEWISH WOMAN/ BELIEVER
It’s over. Everything we believed. Our teacher is dead. Gone. Just when we were beginning to understand. Oh God, of our Fathers, why now? Why this? I know what He said about dying. But this?
(Looks up at the cross)
Do You ask of us this same thing? Are we to die also? He asks God to forgive even the ones who did this, even in His dying. I want to love like that. Can I? But I can’t forgive the ones who put Him there, God forgive me.
Maybe it’s not over. If we … if I help keep His teachings alive, maybe it’s not over. Is that what You want? For us to love and tell people about Your teachings. Is that what You want?
(Looks into the sky)
It is … the darkness … a sign to us all.
I will. We will. We will not let your teaching die.
You healed me. Helped me when no one else would do anything but shove me aside. Your compassion for me, my condition.You cared. You cared for everyone. Took care of everyone. Loved everyone. You are not what they say You are. You are not a criminal. I will love You forever. You will be my God forever.
At the empty tomb.
(Speaks to the audience)
See that stone over there? The last time I was here, an angel sat there and insisted Jesus wasn't there anymore. They wouldn’t tell me who took Him away. Then they insisted He went away …Was risen! Listen to this … Mary, Salome, Joanna and I came that morning while it was still dark to take care of the body. All the way up here we couldn’t figure out how we were going to dislodge that stone out of the grove it goes into when they put the stone in place. That's how they seal it. But when we got here, it was moved and the angel was sitting on top of it. There was another one inside … and he (or she) insisted Jesus was gone. The guards were on the ground, and the angel kept saying don’t be afraid. And he said to go tell Peter and…
(optional action: Peter and John run in from the back and see the tomb. When they step back, they explain their actions.)
At first it was hard to believe. But I got up and ran. John was with me. When we got there I suddenly remembered I’d betrayed my Christ three times before they took Him away. It stopped me dead in my tracks.
I beat him to the tomb, but suddenly I was overcome. I just couldn’t go in… Finally I looked in and saw the burial clothes. There was no body. It was completely empty. The women were right! Christ was gone!
I caught up with John and went in … There were the burial clothes. All folded neatly like someone stood up, took them off and folded them.
We were astonished. I know He talked about being raised from the dead.
But we don’t really understand. I believed something powerful had happened. But what?
I didn’t know what to do.
We finally started for home.
I stayed there beside the tomb. I cried for a long time. I went in, and the angel there asked what was wrong. “They took my master away,” I told him. I went back to the garden and when I turned around there was the gardener. At least, that’s who I thought he was. He asked the same question. “Woman, why are you weeping?” And I gave the same answer… “They took Him away. If you did it, tell me where you took Him!” He said my name. “Mary.” And I knew. I couldn’t believe it! But I knew! It was Jesus! Can you believe it? It was Jesus! I reached out to touch him, and he said …
Do not hold onto me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.
I believed! He was … is alive! I …
And here she came again. I was nearly home, and she caught up with me. She drags me back here, all the time insisting she’s seen the Lord.
(He stops and looks at the tomb a long time.)
You know, it was getting clearer to me. I was beginning to believe too. Jesus was alive. No. Jesus is alive!
Yes! I agree. He is alive!
He IS alive!
Please send Jo an e-mail to let her know when you choose to use this play. No payment is necessary. Encouragement is a blessing. Thank you.