An Easter Play

3 crosses

A short play in three and a half acts

Staging – stark and empty except for white backdrop, showing silhouette scenes as follows.

  • Act 1: 3 crosses with bodies hanging from them, soldiers and witnesses standing around.
  • Act 2: 3 empty crosses and soldiers kneeling over bodies lying below.
  • Act 3: the garden, tomb in background door shutting tightly as scene starts, soldiers guarding.
  • Act 4: sunrise just beginning

Sole actor, (unnamed) speaking to the audience directly.

Act 1 – at the foot of the cross 3:05 pm Good Friday

[3 crosses in background, bodies hanging limply. Soldiers standing around, with small groups further away. The actor turns from looking at the crosses, slowly towards the audience, with a look of disbelief and grief on his face.]

He’s gone. Just like that, he’s gone.

He’s dead, I can’t believe it. He was going to be our SAVIOR! And he’s gone.

[Kneels and sobs, then rises slowly and looks back to the cross and back to audience]

I was there you know, last night, in the garden over at Gethsemane, with his disciples.  I mean, we weren’t sure of how he was going to organise the movement even then, but he did tell the disciples to arm themselves, with swords. [excited, grips handle of his short sword] The word was passed on to the rest of us, and we were waiting for some kind of order from him. But…. but then he just went and gave himself up.

[passionately] Can you believe it? They turn up to arrest him, the perfect chance, because we outnumbered them, and he just told Peter to put his sword down and then he gave himself up??    Why? Why I ask?

And now this!?

You can understand, can’t you? The oppression is so great, the Romans are killing us, crushing the life out of us, with the weight of their brutality on our necks every day, and oh how we NEEDED a SAVIOUR!!!!

And we thought it was HIM (pointing to the cross, breaking down in sobs)

We were SO sure! He gave us SUCH hope. [pauses] He healed people you know. My cousin was one of them. He had a bad leg, from when he was little when a goat kicked him in the hip. Couldn’t walk straight or far at all for nearly 20 years, couldn’t even make it far as the synagogue on Sabbath, and then this Jesus comes along, and you know, he just says ‘walk’ and my cousin just up and walks. Just like that, and straight and tall as you and me.

So you can understand, can’t you? We were SO sure that after all this time, this was the one promised by the prophets,     the Saviour! [pauses, looks back at crosses, back to audience]

All that hope, gone! Gone!….

Those wretched Romans even put a sign up over his head, you can see it up there now. ‘King of the Jews’ it says, mocking at all our hopes and dreams. Mocking us so cruelly.

Oh, how I hate them. [looking up, reaching for his sword, then putting it back]

[shouts] Oh God, you promised us a SAVIOUR!!!!

[turning back to audience] All those prophecies, born in Bethlehem, a Nazarene, John the Baptist heralding him as the ONE! Right down to last week where he rode into town on a donkey, we were sure that he was the Messiah then.

Oh, it was going to be wonderful. We were laying down palm fronds in his path, I took off my good cloak and threw it down too, so filled with joy we were.  We were sure that THIS Passover was going to be our time of freedom at last!!!

And he’s gone, just like a lamb! [laughs ironically] You know, when he first revealed himself John called him ‘the lamb of God.’ [shaking head] But we wanted a LION, we wanted a SAVIOUR! Not a lamb! Lambs get hung up like that, but not lions.

And all his claims! “the Kingdom of Heaven is near!” “the Son of Man coming in clouds with great glory!”

Oh, how I wish I could make sense of it all!!

Why? Why make all those claims and then just give yourself up. Why he said that if they destroyed the temple he would rebuild it in 3 days. How’s he going to do that now? How I ask you? HOW?

All our hopes and dreams, all of it is hanging on that cross now.

[Wistfully, looking up over the audience] “The Kingdom of Heaven is near” – I remember first hearing him say those words. He spoke so often about the new Kingdom, and we dreamt about it so often too, just relishing his precious words “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

And when the disciples asked him to teach us how to pray, oh how often I’ve repeated those precious words myself – ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.’

[raising fist to heaven] And this is your will? Oh, how you mock us Lord!!!! We just wanted a SAVIOUR! [collapsing to the floor]

[rising again, exhausted] I guess we should have expected this. Oh yes, we had big hopes of course, he did teach with SUCH AUTHORITY, not like the scribes and Pharisees. But he was so, well, otherworldly, always talking about the Kingdom in strange ways, like ‘don’t store up for yourselves treasures on Earth, but store up treasure in Heaven. I guess I must really be thick; I mean if treasure’s no good here and now, then what use is it? Can buy swords with it at least, and lop off a few Romans heads! [faking a swing] King David lopped off a few Philistine heads in his day.

Jesus only needed to ask and we would have chopped more than just a few Romans heads.

[pause]

‘Don’t worry about your life, or what you will eat or drink’ – yeah, that’s another one of those strange sayings of his. Well, he didn’t worry about his life did he? [turning to the cross, yells] Well what about US now you’ve gone? We won’t have any life to worry about now! We’re finished!!!

[turning back to audience] Makes sense now, [throwing hands in the air in resignation] I should have seen it before, yeah, like when he said, ‘if someone forces you to go a mile with him,’ meaning them soldiers, oh how they loved to demean us like that, anyway, he said ‘go two miles.’ [rising up in anger] How are you going to overturn the most brutal empire the world has seen by going two miles carrying their stinking bags?

Why were we so stupid that we couldn’t see how foolish the whole thing was in the first place??

[looks down] But it kind of all just made so much sense then, like so inspiring you know. Oh we were SO inspired we were!

[thunder sounds in background, he looks up frightened as stage fades to black]

 

Act 2 – Calvary late afternoon  [3 empty crosses and kneeling soldiers over bodies lying below the crosses.]

 

(actor looking weary, stooped shoulders faces audience) They’re taking down the bodies now, like sacks of grain they are, not a drop of life left in them.

(looking up at the now empty cross) So that’s what becomes of Saviours is it? Oh well, saviours come and saviours go I guess.

But those wretched Romans, they stay and stay, and their boots just gets harder on our necks.

Mind you, he was hard (nodding) oh yes he was, hard as nails, maybe hard as those nails they just pulled out of his hands and feet there.

I remember one young rich guy coming up to him and asking what he had to do to get eternal life. ‘Sell everything you have, give it to the poor” he said. Oh you should have seen that man’s face, his eyeballs bulged [laughingly] and he gulped and then he disappeared real quick. Yep, hard as nails Jesus was.

But we took it you know, we loved him, we trusted him, and we took it. We turned the other cheek, a lot of us did that. Literal like too! He taught us to do that. Funny, but it was good to change like that. Once, before Jesus I mean, I’d hit a man for just looking sideways at me.

But I learned to turn the other cheek; (pauses)    what good it did us. Look at us now.

We went without, we slept rough, following him all over Galilee and Judea, waiting, just waiting for him to start building his new Kingdom. Oh IF ONLY we had gotten more swords the other night. If only [sighing]

Yes, we could have kept him out of harm’s way until tomorrow. With so many of our folk here in Jerusalem we could have brought him out in the midst of all the celebration, and taken out our swords and swept down on those wretched Romans, and cut their throats. And those hypocrite priests too. Oh I would have given Caiaphas one in the gut myself [making stabbing gesture], or maybe Pilate, the weasel.

And then! Then we could have set him up. The new Kingdom he spoke of, yeah.

Maybe we still could? Peter might be willing to lead us now. [shakes head, downcast] But no, he ran like a coward, last night even after the business with the high priest ear, ran faster than me even. I heard he shamed us all later and even denied he knew Jesus. No-one, we’ve got no-one to lead us to freedom now, no saviour now.

None of the other 12 are born leaders. (Straightens up, thinking) Maybe that was his problem, choosing the weak of the world and all that. You can’t start a revolution with weaklings, can you?

Yeah, if you really are gonna be a Saviour, you need strong men at your side, like King David…

If only……

[stage fades to black]

 

Act 3 – Near the tomb at evening

[the garden, tomb in the background – door shutting tightly as scene starts, soldiers guarding]

[Exhausted, drained] Buried him they have. That rich man there, he’s Joseph, the one from Arimathea. You can smell the smoke of the soldiers torches. They’re guarding the tomb already, curse them [spits at ground in the direction of them]

Doesn’t seem to matter, whether it’s the likes of those two rebels they hung up there with Jesus, or himself, they all end up on a cross, always have. They only have themselves to blame of course. The leader of the two, he was actually a friend of Barabbas you know, [whispering] they were actually plotting together, but Simon, the leader of that pair, he got caught robbing and bashing a tax collector. Needed money to buy swords. Only mistake he made I guess is he didn’t run the tax collector through. [motions with sword] Couldn’t have identified him then could he? [sighs, puts away sword]

There’s an irony isn’t there? Simon robs and bashes tax collectors, and ends up on a cross. Jesus enlists a tax collector, Matthew, and ends up on a cross next to Simon. How do we make sense of any of it?

But all those miracles? [shaking head], you know one of the crowd shouted out to him, ‘you saved all those others, how about saving yourself!’     Yeah!!  Why didn’t he? (Turns to tomb and yells)  Why Jesus!!??

But I remember now. It was in Galilee not long ago actually. One of the twelve told me himself [getting excited now]. Jesus said something about ‘being delivered into the hands of men’ and ‘rising on the third day’ and stuff like that. What do you think? Could it be true?

After all, they reckon he raised Lazarus. I never saw it myself. I was too late getting the Bethany that day, but I believe he did, everyone was SO excited; you should have been there.

[shaking head] But no, it’s one thing to raise another man from the dead, but how can you raise yourself?

Can the dead raise the dead?

Well, all I can say is he was a good man, yes, the only GOOD man I ever saw. Why else would I have followed him around the past 3 years? Yes, it was worth it just for those memories, except he’s dead now, that ‘one good man.’

[pausing and looking up in thought, as though realising a connection] That rich guy I said who ran right up to him and said “good teacher, what do I have to do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus did something else! He rebuked him and said only God was good.

[indignantly] But Jesus WAS good! He was!! [rising in angry indignation]

And if that’s blasphemy then there, I’ve said it [stamping his foot], he WAS good, and if only God is truly good as he said to that magistrate then I say here and now, then he is God too, and I’m not afraid to, …to  say it. [tapering off into momentary uncertainty]

I wish I had been good [head downcast], oh I’ve not been anywhere near good, even after I started following him around I haven’t been much. Broken most of the commandments, but I won’t go there, no. too embarrassing [shaking his head]

For that matter even the disciples weren’t that good [looking around to make sure no-one is listening], not long after that business with that rich young guy, James and John plotted to get the number one and number two spots in the new Kingdom we were going to fight for. Wow, you should have seen the bust up that that caused, the other ten were SO angry, nearly came to blows except Jesus calmed them all down.

Anyway, what was I saying?

Yes, him being so good.

So if he was good and that’s his end, and I’m as bad as I am, and I’m still here, and what’s my end to be I ask you?

How, tell me, how do you make sense of any of this?

I mean, I couldn’t even make sense of what he said to the disciples after that big bust up. He goes off about the Gentile rulers and our damnable priests, I mean that’s OK to put them in their place, but then he goes and tells us, us, the ones who have followed him faithfully for three years, that if we want to be rulers, we have to be slaves. How do you make sense of that?

And to cap it off, he then says that even he ‘came to serve’ and,   and, {realisation comes faintly] yeah, and then he said something about the Son of Man coming – [speaks now slowly and turns slowly to look at the tomb] to,    to give his life as a ransom for many.

Ransom for many? (looks back and forth between tomb and audience with sense of confusion)

Oh, how I wish I could understand it all.

Anyway, I better go. It’s been a long day, a hard day. I’m so tired, I feel like giving up altogether now.

But maybe…..? No, it’s too foolish….. (voice tapers off as he wearily traipses off stage. Stage darkens to black)

Act 4 – near the tomb, now open, early Sunday morning

[scene opens with sunrise just beginning and the tomb now open in background. Actor runs on stage excited.]

You won’t believe it [shouting and excitedly shuffling around stage] you won’t believe it, but can it be true? Can it be true?  I,   I,   I just ran into Mary. Well, she nearly ran over me truth to tell, she was so excited. The tomb, it’s empty, and she saw an angel, AN ANGEL , yes, who says he’s risen.

Oh, I must go and tell my brothers, you go too, tell everyone you see, quickly, go, GO!

I don’t understand what it means yet, but he is risen, he is risen, brothers, he is risen…. [voice fading off as he runs off stage, or in smaller venue, runs down aisle and out of room]

 

 

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Posted on March 30, 2018, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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