Style: Dramatic. Duration: 30min
Actors: 18M, 3F, 4-6 M/F, 1N
TIME: the time of Jesus on earth.
PLACE: Jerusalem – Council chambers of the Sanhedrin, Golgotha, and the Mount of Olives (Bethany).
STRUCTURE: (One Act play with three scenes)
Scene 1: The meeting place of the Sanhedrin.
Scene 2: The crucifixion of Jesus.
Interlude: Music (Suggestion: They could not keep him in the grave).
Scene 3: The challenge (post resurrection) and the ascension.
Jesus Christ – Son of Man, Son of God, the Messiah.
Narrator – A strong (preferably a male) voice to bring the challenge at the end of script. (No visuals of person needed).
Members of the Sanhedrin:
Caiaphas (The High Priest and President of the Sanhedrin)
Eleazar (Sadducee 1 – impetuous and loud mouthed)
Benaiah (Sadducee 2 – eager to follow process quickly)
Baroka (Sadducee 3 – a little simple minded)
Joshua ben Levi (Scribe 1 – correct, legal minded man)
Mordecai (Scribe 2 – self righteous)
Simeon (Scribe 3 – a little unsure of himself)
Nicodemus (Pharisee who came to Jesus at night - John 3)
Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38-39 & Luke 23:50-55)
Disciples of Jesus:
Mary (who had anointed Jesus with perfume shortly before his death John 11 & Matt 26:15)
Martha (Sister of Mary and brother of Lazarus – John 11)
Mary Magdalene (Had been delivered from seven demons by Jesus together with some other women – Like 8:2)
John (who wrote the Gospel of John)
James (John’s brother)
Andrew (who had brought his brother Simon Peter to Jesus)
Peter (brother of Andrew)
Temple Guards 1 & 2
Mahlon (False witness 1)
Darius (False witness 2)
People making up the crowd – 4 to 6 people
PRODUCTION NOTE: Throughout the play Jesus should be positioned centrally on stage while generally the opponents should occupy the left (especially in the first and second scenes). The folks who follow or are changed by him occupy the right. It may not be historically accurate that Nicodemus (or any of the others) were present at the meeting of the Sanhedrin. Also, the sequence and content of discussion is purely speculative or constructed in such a way as to convey what Jesus said and stood for. Almost all of what Jesus says is direct quotation from Scripture (NIV). The narrative challenge at the end would be well supported by a projection of scripture verses on an electronic board or screen.
MUSIC: Various pieces of music are suggested for performance of this script. Permission to use these items must be obtained directly from copyright owners. The suggestions are: “They could not” by Ron Harris and Claire Cloninger; “All heaven declares” by Noel & Tricia Richards of Thankyou Music.
(The Sanhedrin are meeting. Offset slightly to the left in a semicircle, seated (on benches) and facing the audience, Caiaphas (the high priest), Sadducees and scribes are engaged in an argument. There is commotion, indignation and general chaos. Several witnesses and disciples and the general crowd are standing or seated on the floor / steps watching proceedings.)
(Caiaphas stands and intervenes to bring order.)
CAI: How can we make any progress if we continue to argue with each other. Come, let us bring this matter to a conclusion.
ELE: But this is outrageous, Caiaphas. We all know what this man has said and done. He will soon be stirring up all of the people. Our tradition and authority will be laughed at. He is guilty, let him die!
CAI: Patience, patience my friend. Let us not be guilty of pre-judging the man. (Turning to address the members of the Sanhedrin in a conciliatory manner). We have many testimonies and witnesses to what this man has said and done. Let us live up to our responsibility and hear before we decide.
BEN: I say we are wasting time. He is guilty. Bring him here and let him answer for himself. You will see.
CAI: Nicodemus, you seem quiet. I expect you might even have met with him. Let us hear your counsel.
NIC: I have met the man. He is a mystery. He has an authority about him that is seldom seen. He told me I must be born again if I wished to enter the Kingdom of God. I, as a teacher of Israel felt ashamed I had not known of this requirement.
JOS: There is no law that talks about being born again. That is absurd! You know that there are well-established laws and requirements for you to be acceptable before God. What’s this “born again” nonsense?
(Echoes of “Yeh, Yeh” from some of the other members of the Sanhedrin).
NIC: This man spoke as if he knew me deeply. He told me that no one had ever gone to Heaven except the Son of Man who had come from Heaven, and that this Son of Man must be lifted up just as Moses had lifted the serpent in the desert so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
ELE: What? He compares himself with Moses. I say lift him up alright. On a cross. Yes. Then we’ll see who looks to him for life!
NIC: But he spoke of the love of God how…
CAI: (interrupting) OK, Nicodemus, I can see you are not being objective. What other evidence do we have? Who can tell me what this man has been saying to the people?
MOR: I heard him call the ruler of the synagogue a hypocrite. It was on a Sabbath that this man deliberately healed a woman who had been crippled for many years. The ruler merely questioned him as to why he had healed on a Sabbath and Jesus compared this to watering a donkey on the Sabbath! What does this man know of the law? … And, you should have seen how all the people enjoyed the way he humiliated the synagogue ruler.
SIM: But that was nothing. I saw him defend a woman who was caught in the very act of adultery. We brought her to him to see what he would say and he almost ignored us. When we eventually got his attention he asked about our sin… can you imagine? Our sin! Although, I must say that I felt strangely disturbed and could not bring myself to condemn and stone that sinful woman as the law required.
CAI: Come now. I have heard nothing that could condemn this man. What has he said? How has he incriminated himself? Perhaps these people (referring to the crowd watching proceedings) can tell us more? You! (pointing to Mary) You claim he raised your brother Lazarus from the dead.
MARY: He did! You should have seen. It was wonderful. Lazarus had been dead for four days. Jesus cried with us. He loved Lazarus. But then, he called Lazarus from the tomb where we had wrapped and left him. (Becoming increasingly animated) All of us were speechless and as he stood there before us, Jesus just smiled. You must know; this man could only be the Son of God.
CAI: What could you know about God?
MARY MAG: Oh but God loves, and this man Jesus loved me… he set me and my friends free from evil spirits, and we …
CAI: Quiet! You’re a fine one to talk! A woman of questionable character, and uneducated. Did this man not deceive you and use you like all the other men you know? (Turning away from Mary Magdalene and addressing the Sanhedrin). Do you realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish?
BEN: At last I hear you talking sense Caiaphas. Let us bring the man before us and you will see for yourself. These men here (pointing to the 2 false witnesses in the crowd) can tell you what he said. Then let us hear what he has to say!
(General agreement expressed from all the members of the Sanhedrin).
CAI: Guards! Bring the prisoner.
(The temple guards escort Jesus roughly through the crowd and into the center of the stage facing the Sanhedrin. There is a pause as the members of the Sanhedrin are visibly overawed by his presence. Baroka is the first to break the silence as he clearly does not grasp the seriousness of the situation.)
BAR: What a strange looking man he is. Where does he come from?
CAI: (Pulling himself together and looking directly at Jesus) Tell me; what you have been teaching?
JES: I have spoken openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues or at the temple where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.
ELE: (Standing up as Jesus is speaking, strikes Jesus across the face). Is this the way you answer the high priest?
JES: If I said something wrong, tell me. But if I spoke the truth why did you strike me?
(Eleazer just glares at Jesus).
BEN: (Pointing to the false witnesses). Let these men tell us what he said.
MAH: (Standing up and looking at the Sanhedrin members but not daring to look at Jesus) This fellow said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days”.
DAR: This man eats and laughs with sinners. He tells people their sins are forgiven. How can he do that? Is he God?
MAH: He asks people to believe in him. I tell you he is raising a band of followers and wants to rule the Jews.
DAR: (Pointing to Mary Magdalene) He lets that woman; and we all know her; He lets her pour costly perfume over him while he is eating at Simon’s house. How rude! And what a waste of money. He seemed not to know what sort of woman she was.
MAH: Oh, and you should have heard some of the stories he told about how good the Samaritans are. And he is a Jew? I heard him tell about a father running to meet his wayward son. Imagine! How undignified for a man to run, and to forgive a useless son!
CAI: (Turning to face Jesus) Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?
(Jesus remains silent)
CAI: I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.
JES: It is as you say. In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.
CAI: (Tearing his clothes) He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?
(Members of the Sanhedrin (except Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea) join in saying various phrases):
He is worthy of death.
He must die.
We have heard him ourselves.
By God you should die, you blasphemer!
(Members of the Sanhedrin rise and walk past Jesus striking him and throwing insults at him. Baroka gives a simple giggle as he passes Jesus. Jesus stands until they are all past. The temple guards lead him out. The crowd and disciples melt away.)
Lights and curtain.
(Jesus is hanging on the cross not yet dead. The Sanhedrin are grouped to the left of the cross and watching keenly. Several witnesses and disciples and the general crowd are standing and watching proceedings. There is a stillness as the suffering of Jesus is evident. Caiaphas breaks this by calling out an accusation.)
CAI: You, who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross if you are the Son of God!
ELE: He saved others but he can’t save himself.
BEN: If he is the king of Israel, let him come down from the cross and we will believe in him!
MOR: He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him for he said “I am the Son of God”.
CAI: I want to see this man die so that I can give glory to God. We have surely done God’s will by putting this man, this blasphemer to death.
(The Sanhedrin talk among themselves very pleased with themselves, but avoid looking at the disciples and the rest of the crowd gathered).
JES: (Grimacing and looking upwards) Father! Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.
(The Sanhedrin are silenced by this comment. The lights are dimmed to produce an eerie darkness. Jesus’ face is lit by a soft spot light. He agonizes then calls out).
JES: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
(One of the disciples lifts a soaking sponge on a stick to Jesus lips. Jesus declines it by turning away and upward).
JES: It is finished. (His head drops as he dies).
(Sound of rumbling thunder increasing in volume. The Sanhedrin look around a little fearfully. Suddenly the temple guards appear and approach Caiaphas).
TEMPLE GUARD 1: Your honour, your honour. The temple is in chaos. Come quickly. The curtain has been torn, the columns are shaking and people are running every where. Some people are saying they have seen the dead rising and walking about.
(Caiaphas gathers up his cloak and rushes out followed by the other members of the Sanhedrin).
(The lights come up slightly, the sound of thunder diminishes, and disciples and crowd slowly move off. John is left gazing at the body of Jesus).
JOHN: You are the Son of God. You are The Christ. I don’t understand. Why have you left us? (Pause) You said you would leave… and that we could not follow. But what are we to do now?
(John collapses face down towards Jesus. The lights dim quickly. Curtain).
(Curtain rises slowly but stage is kept in complete darkness. Music of tension (“They could not”) builds to a crescendo when the lights are flashed on maximum brightness to reveal scene 3).
(Jesus is risen (and clothed in white) and standing strongly and on a platform in the center stage. His disciples (this time including Peter), Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea surround him.)
JES: Peace be with you. Why are you troubled, and why do you doubt? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see.
JAMES: See his wounds? The death he died, he died for us!
MARY MAG: He is risen!
JOHN: All honour and praise be to you. Lord!
(General murmuring of declarations of praise and worship).
JES: Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen me and yet have believed. I told you before that everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. It is written that the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.
JES:(Addressing Peter) Simon, Son of John, do you truly love me more than these?
PET: Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.
JES: Feed my lambs. (Pause) Simon, Son of John, do you truly love me?
PET: Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.
JES: Take care of my sheep. (Pause) Simon, Son of John, do you love me?
PET: Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.
JES: Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands and someone will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. Follow me! Even unto death.
PET: (Turning and pointing at John) Lord, what about him?
JES: If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.
(Peter realizes what Jesus has said and bows in reverence).
JES: Peace be with all of you. As the father has sent me, I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
(The disciples all stand and begin singing “All heaven declares the glory of the risen Lord”. Jesus disappears from sight behind the crowd and they direct their praise and gaze heavenward).
(The lights fade to maximum darkness as the music fades into the background of a narration).
NARRATION: It is a fact of history that Jesus lived, died and rose from the dead; a fact that is supported by extensive documentation and eye witness accounts. Jesus made some astounding claims about himself being the Son of God and what he could do. He also made some wonderful promises to you, if you were to believe in him and call upon his name. He says that salvation can be found in no other name than his. All people have sinned and fallen short of the requirements of God; and the punishment is death which will mean eternal separation from God. But, the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. This will mean a restored relationship with God right now, and where you can be forgiven. It is a fact that you need to make a decision for yourself. Will you believe or not believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God? The consequence of your decision will be either eternal life or eternal death. For God loved you so much that he gave his only Son so that if you choose to believe on him you shall not perish but have eternal life. The choice is yours.
(Music volume increases until the end of the piece being played. Allow time – say 20 seconds – for reflection).
© Cedric Downard 2008, all rights reserved. The script may not be reproduced, translated or copied in any medium, including books, CDs and on the Internet, without written permission of the author.
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged. In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed. He may be contacted at: