Eyewitness 1

By Russell Stedman


A trilogy of multimedia Easter dramas.  Each drama is 35-40 minutes long.  Originally performed by our church over 3 consecutive years.
Part 1 :  The Original Easter
Part 2 :  The Conversion of Saul
Part 3 :  “Behind The Scenes” – Easter from a cosmic perspective.
Pre-recorded VCDs for the multimedia segments are available on request (for a fee – these are professional productions). For copies, write to the author at the email address below.
Parts 1 and 2 are set in a juxtaposition, with period-style costumes and closely based around the Biblical events, while at the same time using modern technology of television and telephones.  “Flintstonian” in a sense, and it works well.
Part 3 is more radical, kind of a cross between “The Screwtape Letters” and “Lord Of The Rings”.  It is both darker and more entertaining than Parts 1 and 2.  The use of 3 demons as main characters is a controversial choice.  Consists of Shadow-play scenes with narration and music to portray the Biblical events from Creation/Fall and to the life of Jesus, against live action scenes of 3 demons plotting to predict and disrupt an expected counter-attack from the Almighty following Satan’s great victory back in the Garden of Eden.  They eventually recognize Jesus as the focus of the Almighty’s counterattack, and set in motion several attempts to prevent the success of his mission.  The Shadow-play narrative style and music is based closely on “The Lord Of The Rings”, and the concept behind the overall drama is based on an article by John Bowen of www.dare-connexions.org on “The Spiritual Worldview of Lord Of The Rings”.

Part 1.  The Original Easter


(The main events of Easter are presented through 4 pre-recorded news broadcasts from Jerusalem by “Alpha Channel News” - you can buy the VCD from the address below.)
Thursday 6pm :
Jesus, the popular teacher from Nazareth, may be arrested at any time.  If arrested, he is likely to be charged with the minor offense of causing civil unrest.
Friday 6pm :
Shocking events in Jerusalem today.  Jesus, the popular teacher from Nazareth, has been arrested, sentenced to death, and is right at this moment being crucified just outside the city walls.  The grounds for his conviction are unclear.  Let’s cross over to our reporter who is at the crucifixion.
Sunday 6pm :
Once again, Jesus, the popular teacher from Nazareth, is in the news.  His body is missing from its tomb.  A spokesman for the religious authorities alleges some of followers broke into his tomb and stole away his body during the night, despite a 24-hour guard by a detachment of Roman soldiers.  Let’s cross over to our reporter who is investigating the allegations.
Interspersing the news broadcasts are live-action scenes, based around the characters of Mary the mother of Jesus, and John the “beloved” disciple.  The Reporter from Alpha Channel interrupts them to get their reaction to the rumour that Jesus may be arrested.  John is all gung-ho, convinced the authorities would not dare threaten Jesus physically.  If they did, he would strike out, overthrow the mighty Roman Empire, and set up the holy kingdom of God.  Mary, on the other hand, has a sense of foreboding that something terrible is about to happen.
After the crucifixion, John brings Mary back home.  Both are broken with grief.  Mary can say nothing, she is overwhelmed, while John does his best to comfort her.  The Reporter interrupts again and tips him off the authorities may be about to mount a crackdown on all of Jesus’ followers.  John calls Peter and tells him to warn all the other followers.
Then on Sunday morning, Mary gets a call from her friend Joanna.  She tells Mary the body of Jesus is missing from the tomb.  After the call, Mary doesn’t say anything.  But from her face, it is clear she has put two-and-two together.  She wakes up John (who is staying with her, to look after her, as Jesus asked him to do, from the cross), tells him Jesus’ body has disappeared from the tomb.  John gets in a panic, Mary tries to tell him it’s okay, Jesus is alive, but to John she is talking nonsense.  He rushes out to find Peter.
The climactic scene is a live interview by Reporter with Caiaphas the High Priest, and the Captain Brutus who is in charge of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem.  The Reporter is probing the credibility of allegations that the disciples could have broken into the sealed, guarded tomb.  It becomes obvious this is a cover-up.  The closing words from the Newsreader are of the rumour that Jesus has come back to life and has been seen again.


Mary.  Deep emotions.  Strong character.  Bakes cookies.  The mother of Jesus.
John.  Early 20s.  Eager.  A bit of a dreamer.  Fond of cookies.  Quite serious at times.  Close follower of Jesus.
Brutus.  Big guy.  Tight lipped.  A soldier’s soldier.  Captain of a Roman Army garrison.
Caiaphas.  Senior.  Cunning.  A short fuse.  Chief Priest, leader of the religious authorities.
Sarah.  Direct.  Focused.  She reads the news for The Alpha Channel.
Reporter.  Smart.  Can smell a rat.  A true professional.


ACT 1 – Alpha Channel News Report – Thursday Evening

Sarah : Good evening, I am Sarah and this is Alpha Channel news from Jerusalem on Thursday...
Leading the news at 6 o'clock, more volatile trading on the Jerusalem Stock Exchange sends the JSE Index down 300 points...
And cheers for our team as Judea goes though to the semi-finals of the Roman World Cup.  They face North Africa at Alexandria on Sunday...
Jesus, the popular teacher from Nazareth, may be arrested at any time.  A spokesman for the religious leaders says a warrant for Jesus' arrest was issued yesterday.  He is likely to be charged with creating civil unrest.  If found guilty, Jesus may be fined or jailed for a short time.
This marks a surprising turn of events.  Only last weekend, huge crowds turned out to welcome Jesus as he arrived in the city.
However, popular opinion about Jesus is divided.  Some side with the religious leaders.  They claim he is a threat to national stability.  They fear he may lead a popular uprising against the Roman Empire, which rules our land.
Others dispute this view.  They say the religious leaders are simply afraid of losing their popular support as more people follow Jesus.
There are rumours he has supernatural powers to heal the sick, even to raise the dead back to life.
In other news, Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Jerusalem, has announced that he will offer a goodwill gesture to the people of Jerusalem on Passover Day.  He will free a popular criminal from prison.  All citizens of Jerusalem are invited to his palace at 8 o'clock tomorrow morning to cast their vote...
And what is Passover all about?  The Alpha Channel guide to Jewish religious festivals is after this break…

ACT 2 – Mary’s Kitchen – Thursday Evening

(Set :  wall and door, oven, bench, electric jug on bench plugged into an electric socket, 2 cups hanging on the wall, and 2 saucers, baking tray, cookies, 2 cookie jars, telephone, coffee table, 3 armchairs, a lampstand near one of the armchairs with the light on.)
Scene :  The phone rings.  [Need sound].  Mary comes into the room from off-stage, carry cookies on a tray.  Mary puts down tray on the coffee table and picks up phone.
Mary : Hello, this is Mary […pause…]  Oh, hello Joanna […pause…]  No, I wasn’t watching the news, I’ve been baking […pause…]  Oh, what’s he in the news for this time? […pause…]  Why would they want to do a thing like that? […pause…]  Well, I can’t understand that.  He’s never said anything against the Romans. […pause…]  Okay, I will be careful.  Thanks for letting me know.  Goodbye. […pause…]
(Mary puts the phone down.  There is a knock at the door.  Mary opens the door.  John is outside)
Mary : Hello John, come in!
John : Hello Mary!
Mary : What brings you here, John?
John : [cheesy grin] I was just going past when I smelt the cookies.  So I thought I could help you test them.
Mary : Hey!  These are for you and all Jesus’ friends to eat tomorrow.   I don’t want you hanging out downtown all day and only eating junk food.  It’s too expensive and it’s not healthy!
John : Mmm, okay, but could I just try one?
Mary : Alright, but just one.
(John picks one cookie from the tray and starts eating.  Mary puts the rest of the cookies into a cookie jar one by one.)
Mary : I just had a call from Joanna.  She says Jesus has been in the news again.
John : [munching the cookie]  Oh, what’s he in the news for this time?
Mary : They say he might be arrested soon.
John : Why would they want to do a thing like that?
Mary : Because he’s a threat to the religious leaders!  But they want to make it seem like he’s planning an uprising against the Romans.
John : I’m hardly surprised that the religious leaders are upset, the way Jesus keeps attacking their double-standards.  But the charges wouldn’t stick.  He’s a man of peace.
Mary : But you can see the religious leaders are losing followers and Jesus is gaining followers and they won’t let that go on forever.
John : I’d like to see them try to stop it.
(There is a knock at the door.  Mary opens the door.  Reporter is outside, holding a microphone, with Cameraman behind him carrying a video camera on his shoulder.)
Mary : Hello?
(Reporter enters, and Mary draws back)
Rep : Hi, I’m from Alpha Channel.  Are you Mary, the mother of Jesus?
Mary : Err, yes.
Rep : Good, I’m glad I’ve found you.  Mind if we ask you a few questions about your son?
Mary : I’d really rather not.  Goodbye.
(Mary tries to show Reporter out the door.)
John : Hang on!  You can ask me.
Rep : And who are you?
John : I’m John.  I used to be a fisherman.  Now I’m one of Jesus’ closest friends. [proudly]
Rep : Okay, you’ll do.  What do you think will happen if Jesus is arrested?
John : I don’t think he will be arrested.  But if he is, people will be in for a shock. [cocky]
Rep : Why?
John : You know how many miracles he has performed?  He has some incredible powers.  No power can control him.
Rep : What would he do?
John : So, say the religious leaders try to arrest him.  The whole thing will backfire.  He can get himself out of any prison before you can say “Pharisee”.  He’ll show people just how powerful he is and that will only make him more popular.  The religious leaders will lose out.
Rep : But then, wouldn’t that make the Roman rulers concerned that Jesus might lead the people into an uprising against them?
John : This is off the record, okay?  [Reporter nods.  John pulls him to one side]  That’s exactly what I think will happen.  I actually hope they arrest him.  It will be the end of Roman Empire and the beginning of the holy Empire of God.
Mary : Okay, that’s enough!  [to Reporter]  Thank you for your time.  Now goodbye.
(Mary shows Reporter out the door)
Mary : You should not have said that!
John : It was off the record.
Mary : It could still get you in trouble.  You should be more careful what you say, young man.
John : But I’m right, aren’t I?
(Long pause)
Mary : I don’t think you are.
John : What are you thinking?
Mary : [sitting down]   I have a bad feeling about all this.  Ever since Jesus was baby I have had a very strong feeling that some disaster is coming.
John : Why?
Mary : You know when he was only a few days old, a very old man, a prophet called Simeon, told me Jesus would grow to become a very powerful figure in Israel’s history.
John : He was right.
Mary : He also told me that my soul would be torn apart because of what would happen to him.  [long pause]  John, you’re a young man.  You be very careful.  Something terrible is going to happen.
John : You worry too much.  Well, I’d better get going.  Goodbye.
Mary and John hug briefly
Mary : Goodbye John.  Remember, be careful.
John : And remember, don’t worry.  Thanks for the cookie.  It was pretty good, by the way.  Umm, can I have one more?
Mary : [laughing]   No!  You’ll spoil your appetite.  Now go.
John : Bye!

ACT 3 – Alpha Channel News Report – Friday Evening

Sarah : Good evening, my name is Sarah and this is Alpha Channel news from Jerusalem on Friday.  And happy Passover to all our Jewish viewers...
Leading the news...
Dramatic events today in Jerusalem.  Early this morning, Jesus, the popular teacher, was sentenced to death.  He has been crucified on a hill just outside the city walls.
Confusion surrounds the events leading to his trial and sentencing.
Last night we reported Jesus may be arrested and charged with a minor offense in a religious court.  However he was taken to Governor Pontius Pilate, who awarded the death penalty.
Eyewitnesses described the sentencing as “peculiar”.
No charge was specified by the Governor, who appeared reluctant to pass judgment.  At one point he proposed freeing Jesus as a Passover goodwill gesture but the crowd voted for a notorious bank robber instead.
Let's go now to our reporter, who is at the crucifixion…
Rep : Yes Sarah, I'm standing just below the execution site.  You can see 3 crosses behind me, where Jesus has been crucified in between 2 other criminals.  Soldiers have confirmed Jesus died 3 hours ago, but the other 2 are hanging on.
But let me tell you a couple of really unusual things that happened earlier today.  At about midday the sky turned very dark until about the time Jesus died.  And then when he died, there was this earthquake, and though no one was hurt we were all very shaken.
Sarah : It sounds like an unusual crucifixion.
Rep : Yes it has been, and I’ll tell you two other strange things.  I’ve never seen anyone beaten as badly as Jesus was.  And the leader of the execution squad told me that in spite of all the things that had been done to him, Jesus actually spoke kindly to the soldiers crucifying him.
Sarah : Were there many people watching the crucifixion?
Rep :   There was quite a crowd earlier today, but most have gone now.  Many of the religious leaders were here earlier.  They obviously enjoyed watching Jesus die.  A handful of his followers are still here, they’ve been here all day.  Of course there is the execution squad.  They’ll be taking the bodies down soon.  Back to you Sarah...
Sarah : On to other news now.  Claudia, the wife of Governor Pontius Pilate collapsed this morning and is in a serious condition at Jerusalem Hospital.  And in the sports news coming up, experts predict an easy win for Judea at the Roman World Cup semi-finals on Sunday.

ACT 4 – Mary’s Kitchen – Friday Evening

(The door opens.  Mary and John enter.  They are wearing dark coats.  Mary is hunched over, and is wearing a shawl over her head.  The audience cannot see her face clearly.  She is having difficulty walking and John is helping her with one arm around her shoulder.  He guides her into the armchair.  Mary sits down but sits forward in a crouching position.  Her face is turned away from the audience.)
John : Okay, Mary?  [pause, no response]    I’ll get you some tea.
John turns the jug on to boil the water.  There is a knock at the door.  John opens the door.  The Reporter and Cameraman are standing outside as before.  Reporter enters.)
John : We are hardly in the mood to speak with you.  Please leave.
Rep : Just one question [steps up close to John] – have you heard the rumour that the religious leaders are going to try and arrest all of Jesus’ disciples very soon?
John : No, I haven’t!
Rep : They want to bury the whole movement with the leader.
(Reporter leaves and John closes the door.)
John : I’ve got to call Peter!
John picks up the phone and dials quickly.
John : Lazarus!  Is Peter there? […pause…]  Peter, it’s John.  […pause…]  Peter!!  […pause…]  Look, Peter, pull yourself together!!  You have to listen to me.  The religious leaders are trying to hunt us all down.  You’ve got to find all the other disciples and get them to some safe place.  […pause…]  I don’t know, maybe the house where we had dinner last night?  […pause…]  No, I’m staying here with Mary.  The Master told me as he was dying that I had to look after her.  […pause…]  She’s in a bad way.  You just get the other disciples together.  You know where to find me.
(John hangs up.  Mary is sobbing silently, her shoulders are shaking and heaving.  John pours the water into the cup and adds the teabag and sugar.  John across the room and puts the team on the coffee table.)
John : Mary, here’s your tea.  [John bends down, gently holds Mary’s shoulder and looks into her face for a few moments]  Look, let me help you to your bedroom.
(John helps Mary out of the armchair.  She stands up and holds tightly onto him, her shoulders are heaving as she weeps silently.   After a few moments, she relaxes her grip on him, he picks up the cup of tea and he guides her off the stage.  Then John comes back on stage, carrying a blanket.  He sits down in the armchair nearest the lampstand, unties his shoelaces and slips off his shoes, pulls the blanket over his, switches off the lamp and goes to sleep.)

ACT 5 – Mary’s Kitchen – Sunday Morning

(John is asleep under a blanket in the armchair.  The phone rings.  Mary enters from off-stage, and picks up the phone.  She is wearing a dressing gown.)
Mary : Hello?  […pause…]  Oh, hello Joanna [long pause, and Mary sits down at the table while listening carefully]  Okay, thank you very much for calling me.  I’ll tell John straight away.
(Mary hangs up.  By her facial expression, the realization is dawning that Jesus is alive.  She goes quickly to John, turns on the lamp and shakes John awake.)
Mary : John!… John!… wake up John!
John : [sleepily, eyes still closed]  Huh?  What day is it?
Mary : It’s Sunday morning.
John : Mmmm… [goes back to sleep]
Mary : John, wake up!  The body is missing.
John : [Eyes still closed, John’s lifts one arm and slowly scratches his head and rubs his leg]   No, it’s still here.
Mary : Not your body, John!  Jesus’ body is missing from the tomb!
John : Mmmm… [goes back to sleep]
Mary : [shaking John hard this time]  John, listen to me.  Jesus’ body is missing from the tomb.
John : [Sits up and rubs his eyes.  He speaks slowly, while yawning]  Jesus’ body… is [yawns]  …missing from the tomb.  [Pause]   Eh?
Mary : Joanna just called.  Some of the women went to the tomb this morning, but when they got there the tomb was open and there was no body inside.  Some men dressed all in white met them and said Jesus…
John : [wide awake]  Woah, woah, woah…  Jesus’ body is missing from the tomb?!!
Mary : That’s what I’m telling you.  It’s not there.
(John throws off the blanket, jumps up, and frantically tries to find his shoes.)
John : Someone must have stolen the body!…
(John rushes for the door, swings the door open)
Mary : John.  Do you know what’s happened?  Jesus is alive.  My son is alive again!!…
(John stops, confused.  Shakes his head as if finally wide awake.)
John : I’ve got to find Peter!  He’ll know what to do.
(John rushes out, slamming the door behind him.)

ACT 6 – Alpha Channel News Report – Sunday Evening

Sarah : Good evening, my name is Sarah and this is The Alpha Channel news from Jerusalem on Sunday ...
Leading the news at 6 o'clock, the bank robber freed by Governor Pontius Pilate on Friday has been arrested again, in connection with an attack on a security van yesterday.
And local fans are in shock after North Africa destroys Judea’s hopes of glory at the Roman World Cup semi-finals…
And once again the now deceased person of Jesus, who was executed on Friday, is in the news.  His body is missing from its tomb.  Followers of Jesus are suspected of stealing away his body during the night, according to a spokesman for the religious leaders.  He claims that last night some of Jesus’ sympathizers managed to steal his body from under the noses of soldiers who had been guarding the tomb since Friday night.
Let’s go now to our reporter who is following this story.
(Set :  a dark curtain is dropped from the top of the wall and door, to provide a backdrop to the TV interview.   The 3 participants are seated in the armchairs around the coffee table, with the reporter in the middle.)
Rep : Yes, good evening.  I’m joined in the studio by Caiaphas, the Chief Priest, and by Captain Brutus, who is in charge of the Roman army garrison here in Jerusalem.  Good evening to you both.  Captain, doesn’t this demonstrate gross incompetence on the part of your soldiers?
Brutus : You have to remember Caesar ordered some major cutbacks in military spending at the last Budget, and sometimes this means resources are very stretched.
Rep : But you had six men stationed outside the tomb, specifically to prevent the body from being stolen.  The tomb was carefully sealed and blocked by a huge boulder.  Budget cuts aside, isn’t this just plain incompetence?
Brutus : I certainly intend to look into the matter.
Rep : But the soldiers must have given you some explanation.  How can your army protect an empire of millions of living people, when it can’t guard even one dead body?
Brutus : I think it’s premature to speculate at this point.
Rep : But surely this proves there is a weakness in Rome’s defense forces!  Caiaphas, don’t you think this calls for a public inquiry?
Caia : No, I think the Captain’s explanation is perfectly reasonable.  The soldiers are pretty stretched these days, and they obviously need rest like normal people.  The thieves just broke into the tomb while they were asleep.
Rep : I’m surprised that you are so easily satisfied!  What do you think about the rumours going around today that Jesus is somehow alive again and has been seen by several people.
Caia : [in a fury]  This is nonsense!  These are lies!!
Rep : If you find these rumours so unreasonable, why do you find it so reasonable to believe that 6 soldiers of the greatest military power on earth could not guard the body of a dead man locked inside a tomb from a few petty thieves?
Caia : [jumping up from his chair and throwing his arms about]  You’re one of his followers, aren’t you!!  You just want people to think he’s alive again.  Well, he’s not alive.  He’s dead, and he should stay dead!!  [to Brutus]  Brutus, let’s go!
Caiaphas and Brutus storm off the set
Rep : Well, Sarah, we have not learned very much here.  We’ll just have to keep digging for the truth.
Sarah :   Thank you. As our reporter mentioned, a rumour has been circulating that somehow Jesus has actually come back to life from the dead.  According to this version of events, several followers of Jesus went to his tomb early this morning.  They say they found it empty.  The only people nearby were two young men dressed in white they say were angels.  These so-called “angels” told them Jesus was alive again.  Some of these people claim they actually met Jesus later in the day.
There is really only one established fact in this mystery – the body of Jesus is definitely not in the tomb.  We'll have to wait to see what happens next.
In the meantime the Supreme Council of the religious leaders has posted a reward for information leading to the recovery of Jesus' body.  This generous reward consists of 50 gold coins, a slave from the Roman colony of your choice, and tickets for 2 to the World Cup Finals in Rome.
End of part 1 - go to Part 2
Copyright Russell Stedman, 2001, all rights reserved.
This script may be used with royalty payment, provided no charge is made for entrance to the performance. In return, the author would like to be told of any performance. He may be contacted at : russlerks@yahoo.co.nz