Summary: A monologue, by the man who held the sponge up to Jesus on the cross on Good Friday.
Style: Drama.  Duration: 8min
Actors: 1M

“What a day. I am glad to be well clear of Jerusalem back on the road to the coast, I can tell you. Here I am, more or less where I started two hours before dawn. I’d got my load of sponges that I was hurrying up to Jerusalem to sell, and actually I didn’t do badly, what with the city full of pilgrims come for the Passover, just as I had guessed.

But the place was in uproar, all sorts of tales flying about. Although I was mainly bothered about selling my wares, I started to piece together the story about a man form Galilee called Jesus who they had tried, apparently illegally, last night just about the time I was getting up. Anyway Pilate, too, had agreed, or been persuaded or whatever, that he should be put to death and that was apparently happening, although I could not see any sign of it.

Actually I was really sad to hear that, because I had seen Jesus just once myself. It was only a week ago, on my last trip to Jerusalem, and I happened to be passing the Temple. What a commotion, sheep and cattle running everywhere, people yelling this and that. And then I saw the cause of it all: Jesus standing there, whip in hand, proclaiming ‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers’.

Yes! I thought. About time, too. I’ve not much time for religion myself because it’s all rules and talk. But if this man Jesus was to become chief priest I might be persuaded to become a practising Jew again.

Anyway, I’d done well and decided to be clear of the city before the Passover started at sundown when I’d be stuck, enforced idleness for 24 hours. I bought this unleavened bread and I was a couple of hundred yards outside the walls when suddenly I saw it, or rather them. Three men being crucified. My stomach turned. They had been there several hours and there was quite a crowd, ‘gawpers’ I call them. Just watching, doing nothing.

I was keen to be past and on my way. Seeing men in agony, being slowly suffocated to death is not for me. But it was the crowd that got to me. Passive, just passive. My motto is ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’, as the old rabbi in our village taught us children. It’s in the Book of Leviticus. Surely I thought, I could do something to ease their suffering a tiny bit. I went and sat down, as it happened, by some of the men I travel with. They could see I was agitated but they told me to watch and be quiet.

And then I saw something even worse, if that was possible. The man in the middle of the three was Jesus... I was hit by an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. So much for him ever being a high priest or other religious leader. Not far off death I could tell. I knew the forces of darkness and evil had won a great victory this day.

All my energy left me. It was utterly, utterly horrible, dreadful. I’d never felt like that before. Completely crushed in my spirit.

But then, suddenly, Jesus gave a great cry, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’...

The men around me shouted, ‘He’s calling Elijah. Let’s see if Elijah comes’.

That was too much for me. I seemed to re-awake with a start, my old energy flooded back. I had one torn sponge left in my bag. I pulled it out and soaked it in the wine vinegar that my old mate Obadiah kept for pickling the fish he caught. I grabbed a stick and held it up to Jesus’ lips. He seemed to take a big gulp of it, then breathed his last. Dead, dead as this stick he was.

Do you know, Obadiah said, ‘Now you’ll be famous’. Phhh, I thought, just like some celebrity. Not me. No-one has ever heard of me and no-one ever will.

And off I strode. Keen to be well clear of that place of horror, put a few miles behind me before nightfall. What’s more there was actually an earthquake and the sky went very dark.

But it’s funny, you know, I can’t get some things out of my mind. The dignity of Jesus as he was dying was remarkable. Just like a god, if a god could die. Although we know a god can’t die.

And I had the great sense, as he hung there, that he was taking my place, doing it for me. Don’t ask me to explain that either.

And if he had lived, if he had become chief priest or some great leader of our people, something makes me think I would have liked his religion of action and doing good things..... I might even have given up selling sponges and followed him. Or perhaps followed him as I sold sponges, if you get what I mean...

© John Holden, 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.
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