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Summary: A Good Friday/Easter drama based on the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, as experienced by Pontius Pilate. The whole play takes place in one location, Pilate’s palace. 
Style: Dramatic.   Duration:  About 25min. 
Actors: M, 1F, plus 7+V
Scriptures: Matt 26 – 28, Mark 14 - 16, Luke 22 – 24, John 18 - 20

Characters
Pontius Pilate: A difficult character to get along with: he can change from sarcasm to anger to self-doubt very suddenly.
Caiaphas (High Priest): A sly, shifty and greedy sort of character.
Jesus: Basically, a non-speaking part – he only speaks one sentence in the play.
Front door Guard: Roman soldier, functioning as the palace front door guard; he interacts with Pilate regularly.
Soldiers: High Priest’s and Roman soldiers, assign as applicable.
Mrs Pilate
Roman Commanding Officer
3 Priests and 2 Pharisees, or a combination – minimum of three
Crowd

Production Notes

Set

The location is the palace where Pilate resides while in Jerusalem. The set consists of a smaller inside section, and a larger open court section (the Jews did not go inside, as that would have prohibited them from eating the Passover meal – cf. John 18:28).

The set can be as simple or as elaborate as the director decides. 

Costumes

These are also up to the director, but there should be some historical reference to the clothing of religious leaders, Roman soldiers the governor, etc.

Basic Props

Crown of thorns

Some sticks, swords

Washbowl with water

A judge’s bench (cf. John 19:13)

Candles

Roman style wine cup

Horizontal beam of the cross

Sound Effects

Night sounds (crickets, etc.)

Early morning (Birds, etc.)

A rooster crowing

General crowd sounds; street sounds

Whipping

Deafening earthquake

Additional mob shouting “Barabbas!” and “Kill him! Crucify him!” – to be synchronized with actors on stage creating the impression of a large crowd

 

Script

(The stage is dark) 

(Sound FX: Quiet night, some crickets. A rooster crows in the distance. More quiet night, then the rooster crows again, much louder this time)

PILATE (voice only)

Oh, for Jupiter’s sake! It’s not even sunrise yet. Where’s Colonel Sanders when you need him.

 

MRS PILATE (voice only, sleepily, yawning)

Who’s Colonel Sanders, Dear? The new regimental commander?

 

PILATE

No, he’s a trader at the downtown market selling roast chicken.

 

MRS PILATE

Why’s he called ‘Colonel Sanders’ then?

 

PILATE

Really woman, I am the Governor of Judea, I don’t have time to explore people’s naming preferences

 

(Stage light slowly fades up, indicating sunrise). Pilate comes onto the stage. He looks out the window.)

 

Sound FX: some rowdy crowd noises.

 

PILATE

Guard!

 

(A guard comes in through the front entrance)

 

GUARD

Your Excellency?

 

PILATE

What’s that commotion out there?

 

GUARD

The body of a suicide victim has been found in a…

 

PILATE

Who?

 

GUARD

Judas Iscariot. Apparently, he was one of the followers of Jesus Josephson, the rebel preacher who has been causing trouble wherever he went.

 

PILATE

I know about him. Why did Iscariot kill himself?

 

GUARD

Word on the street has it that he was the one who enabled the High Priest’s security detail to arrest Josephson in Gethsemane last night.

 

PILATE

These religious people – never any peace when they’re around.

 

GUARD

That may be truer than you think, Your Excellency. My information is that they’re heading this way for you to play judge.

 

PILATE

Oh, Great Tiberius Caesar help us!

 

(The guard goes outside, speaking to the Caiaphas and others (inaudible). Pilate goes out as well, to meet Caiaphas and entourage. They have their prisoner with them.)

 

GUARD 

His Eminence the High Priest, Sir.

 

PILATE (sarcastic)

My dear Caiaphas, your robe is torn…

 

CAIPHAS (Charged up)

The profanity of the imposter-messiah Jesus Josephson left me with no option Your Excellency! This vexatious mortal had the audacity claim that he is God!

 

PILATE

Yes, well, that robe went out of fashion a long time ago anyway. Now, why is this vexatious mortal imposter-messiah here?

 

CAIAPHAS (equally sarcastic)

Because he is a criminal - obviously… Your Excellency

 

PILATE

Of-course he is. Go and judge him by your own laws.

 

CAIAPHAS

We’re not allowed to execute him.

 

PILATE

That serious, hey? 

 

(Pilate looks at a bruised Jesus, then back at Caiaphas)

 

Looks like you initiated the execution process already…

 

(Caiaphas keeps quiet) 

 

PILATE (Addressing Jesus)

So, are you the king of the Jews?

 

JESUS

Those are your words.

 

(There is a slight pause, while Pilate just looks at Jesus.)

 

CAIAPHAS

He is a fraud misleading our loyal citizens. 

 

PRIEST/PHARISEE 1

He claimed that sex workers will be rewarded with everlasting life.

 

PILATE

Delightful prospect for the afterlife.

 

PRIEST/PHARISEE 2

One of his followers attacked and cut off the ear of the servant of the High Priest.

 

PRIEST/PHARISEE 3

He kept on healing people on our Sabbath when we are supposed to abstain from laborious activities.

 

PILATE

I know what you mean. I myself have been trying to take off weekends.

 

PRIEST/PHARISEE 1

He rode into town on a stolen donkey!

 

PRIEST/PHARISEE 2

He called King Herod a fox.

 

PILATE 

That seems like an accurate description to me. 

(To Jesus): Don’t you have anything to say for yourself?

 

(Jesus just keeps quiet. There’s a long pause)

 

CAIAPHAS

He's been causing trouble all over Judea ever since he started his so-called ministry in Galilee and now…  

 

PILATE

Where did you say he is from?

 

CAIAPHAS

Galilee…

 

PILATE 

Galilee… 

(Pilate is suddenly pleased, giving a cunning little laugh; then he starts ranting)

You know what? I’ve had ENOUGH of you lot! If Josephson is from Galilee, it means he falls in my good friend His Royal Majesty King Herod’s jurisdiction, which means he is said monarch’s problem; And you know what else? Herod just happens to be in Jerusalem at the moment. Who says I can’t be lucky as well, heh? So, what are you waiting for? Tickets to the gladiator contests in Rome? Go! And take your prisoner with you. 

(Abruptly his mood changes to insincerely pleasant.)

And give the king my best wishes for a merry Passover or whatever the appropriate expression is. Guards!!

 

(Soldiers and priests/Pharisees whisk Jesus away.)

(Fade to black)

 

SCENE 2

(Lights fade up)

 

(Pilate is relaxing inside when he is disturbed by the guard, who comes in and says something inaudible. Pilate sighs, gets up and walks over to the High Priest and his contingent. Jesus is with them.)

 

PILATE (matter-of-factly)

You’re back.

 

CAIAPHAS

Indeed, we are Your Excellency.

 

PILATE (to Roman Commanding Officer) What was Herod’s verdict?

 

COMMANDING OFFICER

He sends his most heartfelt regards; says you are a true friend.

 

PILATE

I am? (Then, answering his own question) Of-course I am.

 

COMMANDING OFFICER

Here’s his report

 

(Hands over a sealed document. Pilate breaks the seal and opens the document, and studies it for a moment)

 

PILATE (to priests/Pharisees)

As I thought: Not guilty. 

(Pilate thinks for a while)

You said he was a troublemaker, yet you brought no solid evidence to substantiate your accusations. I questioned him in front of you, but I could not find any wrongdoing in his actions. I then sent him to Herod, who also did not find him guilty. So, here’s the deal: I’ll have him whipped, but then he is free to go. Guard! Take this prisoner and have him flogged, then bring him back!

(Soldiers take Jesus to one side, handling him quite roughly. They give him a crown of thorns and a purple robe. They push him around and mock him. It is up to the director how graphic and violent this scene must be)

 

SOLDIER1 (kneeling)

Praise be to thee, thou great king of the Jews.

 

SOLDIER 2 (slaps Jesus)

So, if you’re the Messiah, tell us who hit you!

 

(Then they lead him off-stage, and one can hear sound of whipping)

 

(Pilate is alone on stage. His wife enters)

 

MRS PILATE

Ponty,..

 

PILATE (abruptly)

What?

 

MRS PILATE

I’ve had these dreams…

 

PILATE (very irritated)

I’m not your psychotherapist…

 

MRS PILATE (unfazed)

Do not have anything to do with judgement of this man, Ponty, he is innocent.

 

PILATE

Yes woman, I know. Now go away, I’m in the middle of a trial.

 

(Pilate’s wife exits. Caiaphas and priests/Pharisees sneak back. Pilate sits down at the judge’s bench)

 

CAIAPHAS

If you set this man free, you are no friend of the Emperor! Anyone who claims to be a king is an enemy of the Emperor…

 

PILATE (to soldiers)

Bring the prisoner here!

 

(Jesus is brought back. A crowd gathers outside as well now.)

 

PILATE

Explain to me once again what this man’s crime was.

 

CAIAPHAS (rolling his eyes)

Like I said: He claimed to be the Son of God! Our Jewish Law says that he must be put to death for that.

 

PILATE (to Jesus)

Tell me the truth: what is your mission?

(Jesus keeps quiet. Pilate loses his cool, jumps up and goes and stands very close to Jesus, shouting.)

Why don’t you answer?! Don’t you know I have the power to set you free or let you die a very painful, humiliating death?!

(Jesus does not respond. Pilate addresses the crowd)

Listen to me! Here’s the deal: As you may or may not know, the Roman government releases a prisoner each year during Passover, as a gesture of goodwill. So, who do you want to be set free today? You can choose which Jesus you want: Jesus Barabbas, the terrorist, or Jesus who is called the Messiah.

 

CROWD

Barabbas! Barabbas!

 

PILATE

Just so there is no misunderstanding, who do you want me to release?

 

CROWD (louder)

Barabbas! Barabbas!

 

PILATE

And Jesus the Galilean?

 

CROWD

Kill him! Crucify him! Kill him!

 

PILATE

(Pilate looks around anxiously, goes over to a wash basin.)

I won’t have anything to do with the death of this man…

(Frustrated)

Where is the soap? Why is there no soap?!

(He takes some water and washes his hands in front of the crowd)

(to soldiers)

Take him and crucify him!

 

(Jesus is led to the background where, where the horizontal wooden beam of the cross is placed on his shoulders. Jesus then starts his journey to Golgotha and everybody leaves the stage, except Pilate and Caiaphas. Pilate stands with his back to the Caiaphas. Pilate starts washing his hands again, then looks at his hands.)

There is blood on my hands!

 

CAIAPHAS (mockingly)

Get a hold of yourself…Your Excellency. There is nothing on your hands. His blood will be on our hands, and the generations after us…

 

PILATE (Coldly)

You may go now…

 

(Caiaphas exits, leaving Pilate on his own. Pilate just sits and stares at nothing in particular. After a while, Caiaphas comes rushing back, out of breath, with the Guard on his heels)

 

GUARD

I’m sorry Your Excellency, His Eminence did not ask for permission…

 

(Pilate glares at Caiaphas)

 

CAIAPHAS (unapologetically)

There has been some mistake, Your Excellency! The charge sheet you have instructed to be put on the cross of Jesus, contains a small typographical error.

 

PILATE

And what might that be?

 

CAIAPHAS

The sign reads, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews’

 

PILATE

So?

 

CAIAPHAS

It should say that he claimed to be king of the…

 

PILATE (exploding)

What is written will not be changed! I hope that is understood!

 

(Caiaphas exits without saying anything else. Pilate gets up and washes his hands again, frantically.  

 

PILATE (Mumbling)

Where’s the soap…

 

(Pilate lies down on a couch, maybe falls asleep. Lights stay on, but it is extremely quiet. After a while, there is a sudden, unexpected, very loud earthquake-like sound. Lighting cuts to black)

 

PILATE (Jumps up)

What the…

 

GUARD (comes in with candle; very dim lighting)

 

PILATE

What’s going on?

 

GUARD

Don’t know, it just went dark outside.

 

PILATE

Why are the streetlamps not lit? This lack of basic service delivery will still be the Empire’s downfall.

 

(There’s a knock on the door. The guard goes outside, speaks to someone – inaudible. Goes back in.)

 

GUARD

There’s a Joseph from Arimathea to see you, Your Excellency.

 

PILATE (Irritated)

What? Is he lost? 

 

(Pilate goes out to meet him)

 

PILATE

Yes?

 

JOSEPH

I am a follower of Jesus from Galilee, who was executed earlier today. I would like permission to take his body to give him a proper burial.

 

PILATE (looks at him surprised, then speaks to the guard)

Is the crucified rebel-leader already deceased?

 

GUARD

Yes, Your Excellency.

 

PILATE (Pause, considers request))

Give the body to this man here.

 

(Stage lighting fades to black)

 

SCENE 3 - Saturday. 

 

(Sound effects: early morning bird sounds. Lights fade up. The guard approaches Pilate)

 

GUARD

His Eminency, the High Priest…

 

(Caiaphas and 2 priests/Pharisees enter)

 

PILATE (extremely irritated)

What’s this – aren’t you supposed not to work on the Sabbath?

 

CAIAPHAS

Well, to quote that rebel preacher Jesus: if an ox fell into the well on the Sabbath, you cannot just leave it there…

 

PILATE (sarcastic)

So, which ox is in what well today?

 

CAIAPHAS

Well, here’s the thing: when that liar Jesus was alive…

 

PHARISEE 1

 May he rest in peace…

 

CAIAPHAS (Caiaphas glares at the priest, then continues)

When that deceiver was alive, he preached that he would come back from the dead in three days. So, we need you to give the order that the tomb is to be closely guarded for three days, in case his disciples want to come and steal his body.

 

PHARISEE 2

Yes, and then they will tell the people that he has been raised to life, and this last lie will be worse than the first one.

 

PHARISEE 1

They will be spreading fake news.

 

PILATE

Interesting concept…

 

CAIPHAS

Already one of your soldiers who was present at the crucifixion allegedly suggested that Jesus was the Son of God… 

 

PILATE

The Roman Armed Forces revere Caesar, it does not endorse individual officers’ superstitions.

 

CAIAPHAS

Exactly.

 

PILATE

Do whatever you deem necessary

(Lights fade down)

 

SCENE 4 - Sunday

 

(Early morning sounds. Lights fade up slowly: it is sunrise. Pilate enters, sits down and sips on some drink.)

 

GUARD (Comes in after a while, 

Word on the street is that some women have seen the rebel preacher who was executed on Friday…

 

PILATE

Jesus the Galilean?

 

GUARD

Yes. Apparently, he was alive and well…

 

PILATE

Yes, that is why females are not allowed to testify in court – they tend to talk rubbish.

 

GUARD

Some of his male followers saw him, too – allegedly.

 

PILATE 

(While he is talking, Caiaphas appears in the doorway, but Pilate does not notice) 

Go get that useless Chief of Priests and bring him here immediately!

 

GUARD

I think he is here already.

(Guard exits)

 

PILATE (dryly)

Talk about the devil.

 

CAIAPHAS

I can explain…

 

PILATE

I’m sure you can.

 

CAIAPHAS

Truth is, the guards at the tomb fell asleep, and what we feared has happened: the followers of Jesus came and removed his body.

 

PILATE (extremely annoyed)

Well, if that is true, those soldiers will be executed before I have my mid-morning snack!

 

CAIAPHAS

Umm…There are some mitigating circumstances, Your Excellency. It was a long day and a long night, and the soldiers were working double shifts and…

 

PILATE (immediately realises what has happened)

You paid them to spread this cock and bull story, didn’t you? You paid them and now you want to start your own fake news story!

 

(Caiaphas keeps quiet)

 

PILATE 

(Insecure. He turns away from Caiaphas, and talks, more to himself than to Caiaphas)

How did this happen? How did this happen!? A nobody carpenter with a small group of ignorant ruffians and fishermen, supported by some low-class females…and yet he managed to get religious leaders to act like hooligans and a mighty Empire to try and stop a rebellion…

(Pilate, back to being self-confident; turns to Caiaphas)

 

PILATE

Don’t worry. This will soon blow over. It’s no big deal, nothing will ever come of this. Just another religious fanatic executed… Nothing will ever come of this

(Pilate gives Caiaphas an insincere smile)

Can I pour you some wine?

(Lights fade to black)

…………………………………...

© JPJ de Bruyn 2017. All rights reserved. 

This script may be used free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged to a performance. In exchange, the author would appreciate being notified of any occasion the script is used in public performance. He may be contacted at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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