Summary: Based on John 3, this play follows Nicodemus as he progresses from a self- righteous proud Pharisee to become a follower of Jesus Christ. It has humour at the right time and deep convicting grief which finalizes in joy at the risen Lord. We are taking liberties in concluding that he became a believer; however, the fact that he defended Jesus before the Sanhedrin and he and Joseph claimed the body of Christ points in that direction. Also, historic tradition says he was baptized later on. Nicodemus begins with a gruff total rejection of Jesus, but God works thru the Holy Spirit, his family, and the scriptures to change the stony heart of this Pharisee. The play covers the time from the first miracles of Christ to His resurrection. First written for marionettes, it proved to be a powerful tool for conviction.
Style: Dramatic, with light touches. Duration: 60min(?)
Actors: 5M, 2F, 1N
Nicodemus: firm demanding and authoritative. Swings to deep thought and personal conviction. Able to cry out to God in desperation.
Hannah: A submissive wife but knows how to get her points across without antagonizing Nicodemus.
Shimhi: a weasly type character who is a yes man for Nicodemus. His original voice was in the character of Peter Lori.
Sarah: (the granddaughter) Bright, bubbly and ideally a young girl who can sing. She should be able to portray grief as she learns of the crucifixion.
Roman guard: intimidating in size and stature with a firm voice.
Jesus: Should look like a Jewish man. Preferably not the blue eyed, blond haired Jesus portrayed by some. A clear speaker.
Joseph: He will be able to show excitement at discovering Christ in the scriptures.
About the stage: this play works well with a split stage. One half being the house of Nicodemus and the other half as a garden scene where Jesus will meet with Nicodemus. The house of Nicodemus should have a window in the back where Shimhi comes, and an entrance off to one side. 1/2 sheets of styrofoam carved like stone make good garden walls. Add some greenery and a fake fire and you’re in business.
About the sound: we are in the process of making a complete soundtrack for this play. It will have all the background noises, mood music and songs. One copy will have all of the actors’ voices and the other without. This can help the players hear the desired emotions during rehearsals or it can be used as a marionette production.
(scene opens in the house of Nicodemus) as actual narration begins.
Song: We Are The Pharisees
Narration: Begins with the “we are the Pharisees song” which fades down and narration takes over.
Narr: Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews and a member of the great Sanhedrin. The highest authority in Judaism. Like all Pharisees he was moral, zealous, self denying and self righteous. He was destitute of any sense of sin and need. We begin our story in the home of Nicodemus and his wife Hannah. Nicodemus has been away trading in Asia Minor and has just returned. It is early in the ministry of Jesus and the carpenter’s son has been causing quite a stir in the region. But it isn’t long before word of His teaching and miracles reach the ears of one irate Pharisee.
(Curtain opens to Hannah preparing food on the kitchen table standing sideways to the audience).
Hannah: (singing) Ya de de ya da dee dee....
Nicodemus: (from off stage, unseen) Hannah, where is my robe for temple?
Hannah: Hanging on the peg on the door where it always is. (Shaking her head)
(Pig noises from outside)
Hannah: (goes to window) You ! Simon! Get those filthy pigs away from my house.
(Hannah returns to her table)
Shimhi: (appears at back window) Wake up, Nicodemus, wake up.
Hannah: My husband is not sleeping, Shimhi, he’s getting ready for temple. What do you want with him?
Shimhi: (very excited and nervous) Can I come in, Hannah, please?
Hannah: Why can’t you talk to me thru the window?
Shimhi: Because Hannah the soldiers are coming and I will be arrested.
(Crowd noise and horses)
Hannah: (heading for side door) Quickly then, come in.
Shimhi: (enters out of breath) Oh thank you, wife of the great one, for letting me come in, that was close.
Hannah: What was that crowd going on about?
Shimhi: About Jesus, Hannah, about Jesus. The people cannot agree about who He is, Nicodemus must do something about this man.
(Loud banging on the door)
Roman soldier: Open in the name of Caesar.
Hannah: (heads for the door but soldier pushes his way in)
Roman soldier: Are you hiding that weasel in here? (Looking around)
Roman soldier: Shimhi that’s who, if I catch him he’ll be missing his ears and that son of Joseph may be next. (Soldier leaves and Shimhi comes out of hiding)
Shimhi: That was another close one.
Hannah: So, about this Jesus; what has He done?
Shimhi: Well for one thing, Hannah, He turned water into wine, at a wedding, I seen it with my own eyes.
Hannah: Well Shimhi, you should not have a problem with that.
Shimhi: This is no time for jest Hannah, I heard also that He healed on the sabbath.
Nicodemus: (entering room) Who turned water into wine? Who healed on the Sabbath?
Shimhi: (backing up and bowing slightly) Jesus, Nicodemus, His name is Jesus; and He speaks with great authority.
Nicodemus: (had turned away from Shimhi but with this comment he wheels around and glares at him).
Shimhi: But not nearly as much as you great one.
Nicodemus: Jesus ? I know of no prophet, priest or king named Jesus. And just where is this Jesus from?
Shimhi: From Nazareth great one, and He claims also that...that....
Nicodemus: What Shimhi, what does He claim?
Shimhi: (backing away) That God is His Father.
Nicodemus: What! that’s blasphemy. We will deal with this fellow Jesus.
Shimhi: (heads for door but Nicodemus interrupts)
Nicodemus: And Shimhi , keep me informed about this Nazarene.
Shimhi: Oh I will do that great one, I will for sure. (Bowing as He backs out)
Nicodemus: (to Hannah) Imagine such foolishness, shall any good thing come out of Nazareth?
Hannah: Actually, my husband, He was born in Bethlehem.
Nicodemus: And just what do you know about such things my dear wife?
Hannah: Not so much as you, I’m sure, but I did meet his mother Mary at the market and she told me he was born in Bethlehem at the time of the great census. Mary and her husband Joseph are both of the house of David, so they went there to register.
Nicodemus: Bethlehem? house of David you say? still he’s a nobody.
Hannah: John the Baptist says He’s the Messiah.
Nicodemus: What! that’s nonsense, my camel will be Messiah before this fellow Jesus.
(Light knock at the door)
Nicodemus: (agitated) Now who is here?
Sarah: (bursts into the room) It’s me grandfather, don’t you remember. You told me you would tell me the story of the deliverance. Will you grandfather? Can he grandmother?
Hannah: Well yes, if he has time, but remember my dear what your doctor said; no dancing!
Nicodemus: No dancing? How can a Jew not dance when he remembers how His God delivered him?
(Music for Nicodemus song begins)
Nicodemus: I will sing unto the lord
For He has triumphed gloriously
The horse and the rider He has thrown into the sea...
Into the sea..
The lord is my strength and song
He is become my salvation
He is my God He will, prepare for me a habitation
My father’s God and I will exalt Him
My father’s God and I will exalt Him
Ya da da da de da……. ooooooh Hannah, I’m getting too old for this
(Nicodemus goes down on one knee and Hannah helps him up)
Hannah: I told you so.
Nicodemus: I know, I know, but thanks be to God I still have breath so on with the story. Sit my child and I will share with you, the great exodus.
Yes, slaves we were under the whip of taskmaster pharaoh. We cried out to God in our misery and He heard our prayers and sent us a deliverer. Moses was his name. A man of God I tell you. Thru him God sent plagues on the Egyptians. Flies and blood and all manner of horrible things. And each time Moses went before pharaoh and said “let my people go”. And each time pharaoh refused. The last plague was the death angel. Moses told us to offer a lamb, a pure spotless lamb, and sprinkle its blood on the door posts and...
Sarah: Grandfather, grandfather, that’s what John the Baptist said about Jesus. Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
Nicodemus: What! Not you too. You are but a child. Will the whole world follow after this Jesus? I will hear no more about Him.
Sarah: But grandfather.
Nicodemus: (gruffly) I said no more, is that clear?
Sarah: Yes, grandfather.
Nicodemus: (leaving) I must go to temple.
Sarah: Is grandfather upset?
Hannah: Well he went to temple without eating, so yes, I would say he’s upset.
Sarah: What do you think about Jesus grandmother?
Hannah: I’m not sure if He’s God’s anointed, but my heart tells me he’s alright.
Sarah: Mine too, grandmother.
Hannah: But I wouldn't repeat that to your grandfather. I have to go to market dear, so if you’re still here when I get back you can help me with the baking. (Hannah leaves)
Sarah:( grabs a broom as her music starts and sweeps and dances slightly)
Some say Jesus is just a man
Just a carpenter;s son
Some say He’s the prophet Elijah
Some say the chosen one
He speaks with great authority
Like never man did before
And when the wise ones question Him
His answers leave them sore
But as for me I saw Him heal
The blind man on the street
And the beggar who could never ever walk
Was kicking up his feet
And when I looked into His eyes
Love looked back at me
I think perhaps what’s in your heart
Determines what you see
Did He come from God I do not know
Perhaps I’m not that wise
But this I know that He alone
Has opened up my eyes
But this I know that He alone has opened up my eyes.
(End of scene. Curtain close or lights down, Sarah leaves).
Narr: in the days following Nicodemus would hear much about this Jesus. Indeed more than he wanted to.
The Sanhedrin wanted him dead, but Nicodemus did not think their hatred of Him was justified. He had heard of His miracles and even the council thought He was from God, although they would not admit it publicly. He was a threat to their authority over the people. Nicodemus thought that Joseph of Arimathaea was of like mind so he confided in Him and they agreed to search the scriptures together.
(Nicodemus is sitting at the table with a candle reading from a scroll.)
Joseph: (appears at the window) Are you there Nicodemus?
Nicodemus: (rises from chair and goes to window) Yes, come in and make sure no one sees you.
Joseph: (goes around and comes in door) Don’t worry, I wasn't followed.
Nicodemus: Good, we must not risk the council finding out we are searching the scriptures about Jesus.
Joseph: Indeed I believe they have already determined to have Him killed.
Nicodemus: I believe it. When I stood up for Him I could feel the daggers myself.
Joseph: What have you found, Nicodemus?
Nicodemus: Much scripture is in line with this Jesus. Look here in the scroll of Micah the prophet. (Nicodemus follows with his finger along the scroll) “Out of thou Bethlehem Ephrethah, tho thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, who’s goings forths have been from old, from everlasting.
Joseph: (pensive) Who is from everlasting but God? (Then excited laying down his own scroll on the table) And look here Nicodemus in the scroll of Isaiah, “For unto you a child is born and a son is given and He shall be called wonderful councillor Almighty God “. Almighty God, Nicodemus.
Nicodemus: None but God could open the eyes of one born blind; and the lame, have you seen the beggar at the gate?
Joseph: I have seen that man at the gate for years. He could not take a single step and now he dances around the city like a child at play. I don’t know about you Nicodemus but I have made up my mind already; this Jesus is of God.
Nicodemus: He is, I’m sure, but is He the promised Messiah? Joseph I am going to see Him for myself.
Joseph: Be careful my friend, it could cost you your life.
Nicodemus: Yes, but I can’t live with myself if I don’t find out for sure.
(End scene 2, curtain close or lights down on house.)
(At the garden.)
Narr: Nicodemus needed answers, so he determined to meet with Jesus face to face.
Shimhi had told him that Jesus could be found in the garden behind the house of Levi near the sea. As soon as darkness fell he went to Him.
(Curtain opens with Jesus sitting by a fire and Nicodemus approaches Him).
Nicodemus: Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that you do except God be with him.
Jesus: Verily, verily I say unto you, except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus: How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?
Jesus: Verily, verily I say unto you except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Marvel not that I say unto you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it will and you hear the sound of it but cannot tell from where it comes and where it goes. So is everyone that is born of the Spirit.
Nicodemus: How can these things be?
Jesus: Are you a teacher of Israel and know not these things? And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up. That whosoever believes on Him will not perish but have eternal life.
(Nicodemus and Jesus make out with their hands as still talking while narration begins)
Narr: These thoughts where new to Nicodemus. He had spent his life entrenched in religion, the law, good deeds and piety, all the while resting firmly on the fatherhood of Abraham, and here was this man 20 years his junior teaching him about faith, love and believing. Such teaching was foreign to him, but something was gnawing at his insides. Something he had never experienced before was drawing him to this Jesus.
(Jesus leaves and Nicodemus comes to centre stage facing audience).
Nicodemus: (looking up and holding both arms skyward) Adonai, who is this one you have drawn me to? I am but a child in the presence of such wisdom. I know that you sent Him, but Messiah? I don’t know about that and if I am to rule the people I must know. The council will have Him dead and I Nicodemus am part of that council. I must know. Talk to me Adonai, talk to me.
(Pre recorded voices play with a wind noise as background. Nicodemus looks left and right anxiously)
1st prophet voice: And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding.
2nd prophet voice: Out of thou Bethlehem Ephrethah, tho thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel.
Voice of Hannah: Actually, my husband He was born in Bethlehem, both Mary and Joseph are of the house of David.
Voice of psalmist: Once I have sworn by my holiness that I shall not lie unto David whose seed shall endure forever and his throne as the sun before me.
Voice of Abraham: God will provide a lamb my son.
Voice of Sarah: Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
Nicodemus: (drops to his knees, still looking up) Yes, it is Him, He is your anointed one. Baruch HaShem Adonai. I believe Adonai, I believe !
(End scene 3)
Narr: Yes, Nicodemus believed on the Lord Jesus with his whole heart and now he faced the practical challenge of living out that belief in the company of hostile peers. The actions of Jesus continued to anger the Pharisees. He healed on the sabbath. He raised the dead and the wisdom of His answers tormented them. He had to go. In God’s good time they had their chance. Betrayed by Judas and delivered to Pilate by the Pharisees He was finally sentenced to die, and Nicodemus could not bear to be there. He headed home; home to Hannah. He could barely face her with such news.
(Opens at the house of Nicodemus. Hannah is busy in the kitchen as Nicodemus comes into the house.)
Hannah: (holding up quail and fish) Oh my husband, you’re home. What would you like for dinner, these quail or the fish?
Nicodemus: Thank-you my dear, but I really couldn't eat.
Hannah: (sensing his sorrow) Whatever is wrong my dear? (Setting down the food)
Nicodemus: They have delivered Jesus before Pilate, they are going to crucify Him.
Hannah: No! No! they cannot. What has He done that is so wrong?
Nicodemus: That’s the worst of it my dear, He has done nothing wrong. He is as innocent as a lamb; a Passover lamb. He claims to be doing the work of His Father; even in the face of death. I don’t understand it my dear. I believe Him but I don’t understand.
(Hannah and Nicodemus sit side by side at the table in obvious grief)
Narr: And when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him and the malefactors, one on the right hand and the other on the left.
Song:“I see a man”
(Lights fade and thunder and lightning rumbles)
Song: “ Eloi”
(Lights fade to complete darkness)
(Lights gradually come back on. Nicodemus and Hannah still at the table.)
Sarah: (bursts into the room) Grandfather, grandmother, they have killed Him, they’ve killed Jesus .
Hannah: Oh child, you weren't there were you?
Sarah: No, grandmother, Shimhi told me. He said that Jesus asked His Father to forgive the people that put Him there. I don’t understand grandfather.
Nicodemus: Neither do I my child, neither do I.
Sarah: (leaves crying) I have to go, mother is waiting.
Hannah: Poor child, she loved Him so much.
Nicodemus: I too must go. Joseph and I are going to Pilate to plead for His body.
The least we can do is give Him a decent burial. (Nicodemus heads for door and stops facing Hannah). If you see Mary His mother, tell her I’m very sorry.
End scene 4
Narr: 3 days passed. Nicodemus , Hannah and all those who loved Jesus were heartbroken.
(Nicodemus and Hannah are in the house.)
Nicodemus: (still in grief) I should have done something.
Hannah: There was nothing you could have done, dear.
Nicodemus: But I should have tried.
(Loud banging at the door)
Shimhi: Nicodemus wake up. (Bursting into the room.)
Nicodemus: I’m not sleeping Shimhi, what do you want?
Shimhi: He’s gone, Nicodemus. He’s gone.
Nicodemus: I know he’s gone, Shimhi , I laid Him in the tomb myself, but... You knew that too. What are you going on about.(puzzled)
Shimhi: No no, you don’t understand Nicodemus, He’s gone from the tomb! The stone is rolled away! The women seen an angel. Nicodemus He lives.
Nicodemus: He lives? He lives? (Moving to centre stage facing audience) Why of course He lives, He’s the Son of God. Stand with me my people and proclaim it.
(Piano plays “He lives” and words on overhead. This should be a seamless progression with the pianist starting immediately and the words appearing on the overhead.) This part is worth rehearsing so it flows properly.
(As song begins all cast comes front and centre to stage singing He lives.. except for Jesus who appears briefly in the garden looking towards audience and then disappears.)
© Copyright Victor Cooper, 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.