Seven Words

By John McNeil


A multi-media presentation based on the seven sayings of Jesus on the cross.


(Brief flashes of scenes from the Last Supper, trial of Jesus, Crucifixion, as painted by artists down through the ages. During their showing, there are…)

(Sounds of a rabble crowd, whips, nails being hammered, etc
As they play, a spotlight fades up slowly to reveal.....

The figure of Jesus is seen motionless on the cross, mid-stage, towards the left.
At the last slide, Jesus shows signs of his distress, with groans and attempts to relieve his pain.

Father, forgive them. They don't know what they are doing.
(Repeats, with increased reverb)
Father, forgive them. They don't know what they are doing.
(Repeats several more times, reverb increasing to point of distortion, and then fading with commencement of video.)

(Montage of scenes from various wars, urban conflicts, etc. documentary, extracts from movies, eg, WWII, Vietnam, 'The Deerhunter', 'Forest Gump', etc).

Father, forgive them. They don't know what they are doing.

(A woman enters - opp. side from Jesus - carrying some letters. She opens one, and begins reading.)

Dear Mrs Johnson. We regret to inform you ...

(continues over sound system) that your son, Howard, was killed in action while on infantry patrol on the 9th of November of this year.

(in extreme anguish) No! No! (She collapses)

We regret to inform you that your son, Howard, was killed in action while on infantry patrol.......
(Repeats several times, with increased reverb)

No! No!

Father, forgive them. They don't know what they are doing.

(Extract from 'Forest Gump'. The portion where Forest has just rescued Bubba, and is cradling the dying man in his arms.)

(Woman exits during video)

Today you will be with me in paradise.
(Pause, and then repeat)
Today you will be with me in paradise.

(solo guitar/singer) 'Johnny, I hardly knew you'

(During the singing of this, a returned soldier enters from rear of auditorium, on crutches, badly disabled. As he approaches stage, there enter 3 people: Govt. official, prospective employer, woman. The soldier approaches each in turn, but each rejects him. Freeze.)

Mother, this is your son. Son, this is your mother.

(The woman turns towards the soldier, and embraces him.)

I thirst!

(Enter AIDS victim)

I've come to you because I'm at my wits end and they said you're a good counsellor. I'm scared as hell and I don't know who to turn to. What's going to happen to me? What's going to happen to my children? And it's all the fault of that louse of an ex-husband. I hate him!

(Tries to get some control over her feelings.) Sorry, I'll try and explain rationally. Gary and I had been separated for three months. I just couldn't take his irrational violence any more, and one day I walked out, taking the kids with me.

No, it wasn't easy. It was a shocking struggle trying to manage on the DPB. Specially when Damian had another bout of ear infections - we were at the doctor's at least once a week, and the hospital refused to even put him on the waiting list to have his tubes done. I couldn't believe how lonely and depressed I got at times. I'd start blaming myself for the things Gary did. I know it wasn't true, but that's how I felt. So I guess I was a pushover when he turned up on the doorstep one night and begged me to give him another chance.

You don't need to tell me I was stupid to listen. Trouble is, I was feeling particularly vulnerable that day, and when he put his mind to it, Gary could be utterly charming. Basically, against all evidence of the past, I wanted to believe him, and he worked on that.

Well, the upshot was, we went to bed together. I needed the comfort, and he was still my husband, after all. He left in the morning, and that's when my world shattered. You know what he did? He laughed in my face as he told me that he had AIDS, and that if he had it, he wanted to make sure that I suffered along with him.

That's when I lost it completely. There was a terrible roaring noise in my head, I started screaming, and the next thing I knew I woke up in a hospital bed. Oh God, what's going to happen to me? What am I going to do? I feel so alone! (Freezes)

My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?

Everywhere I turned for help, I just met rejection. I was down, and they kicked. How they kicked!

(Enters) I'm sorry to have to ask you this, but we feel it would be better if you didn't come to our coffee group anymore. It's nothing personal, but you know we have only one washroom, and the other members are worried about contamination. (Freezes)

(Enters) My dad says I can't come and play with Damian today. No, I don't think I'll be allowed tomorrow, either. (Freezes)

(Enters - addresses audience) Quite frankly, I'm not surprised. I always thought she was a bit of a slut.

(All exit, except AIDS victim)

Even when they thought they were trying to help, they turned the knife.

(Enters, ostentatiously wearing protective gloves) Here's your food parcel, Mrs G. (Tries to hand bag over while keeping as much separation as possible.) No, I can't come in just now. Lot more calls to make. You understand!? (Exits)

(Holds bag for a moment, then lets it fall to ground. Sobs.) I'm still a human being!!!

Psalm 22. (© 1998 John McNeil/Jonathan Taylor - words and music may be obtained by contacting the author)

(VOICE OVER - a short passage, on person finding acceptance after initial rejection)

(During Part II of song, AIDS victim exits.)

(live, scripted but memorised if poss. -; someone who has experienced extreme suffering or rejection, and found hope in the situation)

(Live. Recommend the U2 song, 'Pride-In the name of Love'. During intro to song.....

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

(During the song, we see video montageof Martin Luther King speech, followed by his assassination. At end of video...

Gunshot. Video goes to black.

It is finished! (He dies)

(The Last Post.)

During the playing of the Last Post we see slides depicting Jesus being taken down from the Cross, and hear reading.

Christ himself was like God in everything. But he did not think that being equal with God was something to be used for his own benefit. Instead, he gave up his place with God. He was born as a human, and became like a servant. And as a man he humbled himself and was fully obedient to God, even when that caused his death -; death on a cross..

So, at the moment of our greatest need, Christ died for us, even though we were living in ways that displeased him. Very few people will die to save the life of someone else. But God shows his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners.

Even though Jesus was the Son of God, he learned obedience by what he suffered. And because his obedience was perfect, he was able to give eternal salvation to all who obey him.

So through Christ, we will surely be saved from God's anger, because we have been made right with God by the blood of Christ's death. Although we were God's enemies, he made friends with us through the death of his Son. Surely, now that we are his friends, he will save us through his Son's life.


Suggestions: I'm Forever Grateful
Amazing Love
Come and See

(Jesus is taken down from the cross and carried out through auditorium.)

© John McNeil 1998
All rights reserved
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:
Or at: 36B Stourbridge St, Christchurch 8024, New Zealand.