This article is from Issue 50 of “On The Move,” a publication of new learning possibilities for churches, at one time published by The Joint Board of Christian Education of Australia and New Zealand.
Although some ideas and liturgies may appear somewhat “dated” in style, concept, imagery or language, they may nevertheless offer a spring-board for new ideas among people who find themselves leading worship, perhaps in a new context, and with some trepidation.
Reproduced by permission. May be reprinted for use in local congregations only.
IT’S CRAZY – An Easter play in two parts
by Dan Etherington and the Uniting Church, Central Belconnen, Canberra
Little is known of the disciples between the crucifixion and the resurrection. This play seeks to fill that gap.
PART 1 – GOOD FRIDAY
Speaking characters: Matthew, Mark, Bartholomew, Andrew, Peter, Philip, Simon, John, Cleopas.The scene is a crowded room inJerusalem late on the night of the first Good Friday. A number ofJesus followers are gathered together. Their morale is completely shattered and they talk in subdued voices. Theirspeech is slow and hesitant. There are many silences.
The set can be very simple: a table, four chairs and a couple of benches. If there are no curtains available, the lighting of a couple of candles on the table can indicate curtain up. Cleopas, Peter, Philip and Matthew are seated at the table, The teenager, Mark, is seated (on bench orfioor) near Matthew.
MATTHEW: Is the door locked, Mark?
MARK: I’ve checked it three times! It has a chain and two bolts. They are all in place. Please dont worry Matthew.
BARTHOLOMEW: What a day! It is hard to believe that just a week ago we were so full of hope. We prayed that this corrupt, self-seeking society would recognise that Jesus was more than just another reformer.
ANDREW: I cant believe it… it just doesnt seem real… It has all happened so suddenly… Its like a nightmare. Its incredible that he should be howled to death by the very people that he came to help.
MARK: His death was so awful. It was the first crucifixion that Ive ever seen and I pray to God that it is the last. I just ran away.., and.., and was as sick as a dog. Oh why, Matthew, why did this have to happen?
MATTHEW: Right now, I cant answer you lad.., and you werent the only one to run. I stumbled away too.
Others nod confessional agreement to Mark. Matthew puts his arm around Marks shoulder.
PETER: I just cannot understand it its crazy! He did have power that was beyond us. He could see into people. He understood us better than we understood ourselves. There was such truth and meaning in what he said… Why did he have to die like this and leave us when.., when he still had years of good preaching ahead of him? He was only thirty-three…
PHILIP: What a waste! We have trudged our way over the length and breadth of this country these last three years: from Capemaum to Jericho to Hebron, to Jerusalem back and forward through Samaria up Mount Carmel, down to Caesarea. We know we have seen things things that others find hard to believe. Healing after healing…
MATTHEW: But it wasnt the healing that really turned us on. It wasnt that that attracted us and so many others. It was that he cared for people, really cared for them. It was how he cared for people that was important. That was why he could hold an audience in the palm of his hand and that is why the politicians were so scared of him.
PETER: That is what I dont understand! I gradually came to believe that he was the Messiah. He was so powerful in himself… He had God with him all the way. I well remember the day in Caesarea Phi]ippi when I dared voice what was in all our hearts: that he was the Messiah…
ANDREW: … yes, I remember that, but I also remember that that was when Jesus told us that he would be killed in Jerusalem.
PETER: But why now? When we came to Jerusalem this time and the crowd welcomed him so warmly, I was convinced that Jesus was indeed the Messiah and shouted along with the rest. I felt that after the setbacks with the authorities on previous visits, this would now be the start of his real ministry to all Jews everywhere.
BARTHOMOLEW: What finally convinced me was when he threw the money changers and traders out of the temple. My heart gave a leap and I let out a yell and turned over a few tables myself. All the time I was thinking Watch out Romans, you dont know whats about to hit you!
There is ageneral rising hubbub of voices as they all forget their present predicament and share the excitement they knew then… anger… and if only regrets. The actors need to work out what they aregoing to say and possibly who they aregoing to be talking with.
Suddenly there is a knock at the door. The silence is complete. They are very scared. Peter rises slowly.
PETER: Who…? Who is it?
JOHN: Its me, John. Open up quick!
The bolts and chains are undone by the lad, Mark, while others crowd around. After opening up, Mark finds aplace to put his head down.
JOHN: You guys are stupid! Its after midnight andl could hear you haWway down the street… I hardly thought that you would be celebrating!
PETER: Where have you been? You took a real risk being out during curfew.
JOHN: James and I were with the Marys – all three. They had hoped to embalm Jesus body before curfew but first they had difficulty in getting all the right spices, and then, when they were ready it was already getting dark. We rushed to the cemetery but there were temple guards everywhere. We met Joseph ofArimathea and he pointed out the tomb. They have well and truly sealed it. The ladies are determined to return on Sunday morning to plead with the guards to allow them to complete their task. James has stayed on to make sure that they are O.K.
John notices that Mark has fallen asleep in the corner…
I think that more of us should do that. We may have to move out in a hurry on Sunday. Peter and I will stand guard to start with… By the way, where is Thomas?
As the group begin to settle dawn onto the floor, Cleopas replies:
CLEOPAS: He decided to go and share his sorrows with with his twin brother who also came up for the Passover. By the way, Mary and I have decided to go home on Sunday Emmaus is within easy reach.
When everybody is settled,John and Peter continue to talk in quiet voices.
PETER: John, have we just been building castles in the air? I am totally confused. But what could we have done? The last three years seem to be a complete waste of time pointless… Why now?… He didnt seem scared, and yet I was so scared that I even told people that I never even knew him.,. (silence) …
Do you remember how we would sneak off with Philip to Zaks Beach? We built some beaut forts, towers, boa~… all sorts of things but if we returned the next day and there had been a storm during the night everything would be gone. The beach would be flat not a boat or a tower anywhere. You know, lifes like that. We live for a while, then one day we are gone. It is all so short and so uncertain. Jesus death makes me realise how quickly life can end and not only life. For three years Jesus built something beautiful. There was a real movement starting to grow based on love, God, and caring for other people. And now that too has all gone. This world, the politicians have just washed it all away. (Silence.)
JOHN: I know what you mean. One of the crazy things about this whole situation is Jesus mothers attitude. I stayed with her to comfort her and the other women. In point of fact, she comforted us! She kept saying John, all is not lost just remember what he taught you.
PETER: Right now I cant remember a thing. The noise of the crowd shouting Crucify him! is like a storm still raging in my head its blotted everything out.
JOHN: Mary kept on saying Remember what he told you, John. He said that he would be killed. But none of you would listen. He also said that they would not be able to keep him in a grave. Remember that, John.
PETER: I know that that is what he said, but.., you saw him die! You saw that spear thrust… You know that he is buried and where hes buried! I just dont understand…! Oh God.., oh God almighty, what do we do?
If the play is being read/acted in a situation where there are no curtains then the lights should be doused and the candles blown out. In the darkness a narrator answers the disciples question:
You ask what you can do. One of your psalms has just the word:
Rest in the Lord… Wait patiently for him, then he shall give you your hearts desires.
Commit your way to him and trust in him. Fret not because of evil men.
We are disciples too – in (year).
We share your sadness.
It was so unjust… so cruel.., so painful.
You see, Jesus is our Lord also and if wed been there wed have felt broken like you.., overwhelmed by darkness.
But do you know what we call today, the day when we remember Jesus dying?
We call it Good Friday.
We know things you dont
We look at the cross with double vision: with sadness but also with joy.
Please come and join us – and may you feel the light dawn as you hear the words of the hymn Man of sorrows, what a name…
Lights come on gradually during the hymn, with about half llight by the beginning of the last verse, then full lights.
PART 2 – EASTER SUNDAY
Characters: Philip, Thomas, Cleopas.
The scene is a courtyard in Jerusalem on Sunday evening. A distant voice is heard,gradually getting louder.
PHILIP: Tom… Tom… Tom! Hey Thomas where are you?
THOMAS: Im over here, Phil, but for heavens sake dont shout and scream everyone will think youve gone made.
PHILIP: Tom, Jesus is alive! I just had to find you and tell you! Its fantastic! We can hardly believe it!
THOMAS: Jesus alive? Thats impossible.
PHILIP: But Ive seen him with my own eyes!
THOMAS: O.K., O.K., calm down Phil. I think youd better sit down and start from the beginning.
Philip sits down on a bench with Thomas.
PHILIP: From the beginning? We-ell… Mary Magdalene went to the cemetery at dawn and found the grave empty. She rushed back to tell us. We didnt really believe her but we were concerned because she was so agitated, so John and Peter ran back to check – and it was empty!
Philip stands up again in his excitement. Thomas gently pulls him down onto the bench as he replies.
THOMAS: So, whats the excitement? Franldy it wouldnt surprise me if Caiaphas had taken the body and locked it into his own cellar for safe keeping.
PHILIP: That was exactly my reaction! But just listen a minute. When Peter and John looked into the grave, the body was missing but all the grave clothes were exactly as they had been when they wrapped the bodylike an empty plaster cast.
THOMAS: Somebody probably threw down a cloak when they picked up his body and hasnt had time to go back for it.
PHILIP: I must be another twin of yours! Thats exactly what I was saying to the others when suddenly Jesus was there in the room with us! I have never been so terrified in my life before… I nearly passed out… I had to sit down to start with… But he just greeted us and told us what he had told us so many times before… It was him, Tom, it was no illusion.
Another voice in the distance, shouting and getting closer.
CLEOPAS: Thomas! Tom! Philip! Am I glad to see you! Mary and I have just seen Jesus too! Hes alive! It is just fantastic! Im beginning to understand now Jesus explained it all so clearly to Mary and me… (out of breath) Ive just seen Peter and he says we are to join him and all the others as soon as possible.
THOMAS: Youre crazy. You must have been cooped up in that room too long…
CLEOPAS: But I wasnt even in the room, Tom. Come along, we must hurry… Ill explain the details of what happened to us as we are walking.
PHILIP: Come along, Tom… THOMAS: Well Ill come and try to get some common sense back into your heads. I saw the spear thrust so I dont wont and cant believe Jesus isnt a dead man.., unless you can get him to shake hands with me! And that will be on judgment day! PHILIP: Where did you see him, Cleopas? I thought that you and your wife had decided to go home to Emmaus.
The three of them start walking off with Cleopas telling his story.
CLEOPAS: I know that it sounds crazy and impossible but just listen. Mary and I left for Emmaus O.K. As we were climbing the path up towards Bethany we became vaguely aware of another man walking in the same direction. We didnt take much notice of him but he said gday and asked if he could walk along with us. Then he asked us why we sounded so depressed…
In his own words, Cleapas tells as much of the story as is needed, remembering that he is very excited and also exhausted after his hurried return over the ten kilometres from Emmaus.