Summary: As well as portraying the crucifixion, this play also looks at the question of suffering and demonstrates that though terrible things happen in this world, this does not mean that we have an uncaring God who cannot sympathize with our suffering: Jesus lived amongst us and shared our pain.
Style: Dramatic. Duration: 12min.
Actors: 2M/F, 5M
Four Roman soldiers
Notes: There are no props or scenery required for this play apart from a Bible. The idea is to keep it simple, so when the soldiers force the crown of thorns onto Jesus’ head, for instance, it is left to the audience to visualise the crown. Minimal costumes would be helpful for the soldiers and Jesus, just to clarify their identity to the audience.
The Bible passage used at the end of the play is the NIV version of Isaiah 53:3-6, an Old Testament passage understood by Christians to predict the suffering of Christ and his atoning death.
(ENTER AGNOSTIC & CHRISTIAN. CHRISTIAN CARRIES A BIBLE. THEY STAND TO THE FRONT LEFT OF THE STAGE FACING THE AUDIENCE)
AGNOSTIC: Thanks for inviting me to your service. I did enjoy it.
CHRISTIAN: It was great you came. What did you think of it?
AGNOSTIC: Well, the vicar had some interesting things to say, but I’m afraid there is still one big thing that makes me question the existence of God.
CHRISTIAN: And what’s that?
AGNOSTIC: If there really is a loving God, why has he allowed so much suffering in the world?
CHRISTIAN: There are no easy answers to that, but Christians believe that God has given us all free will. Although he wants us to follow his ways, he won’t force us to. We all have the freedom to choose whether to do good or bad things.
AGNOSTIC: So you’re saying that a lot of suffering is caused by people choosing to behave in a way that God doesn’t like?
CHRISTIAN: Yes, I think that explains much of it.
AGNOSTIC: OK, I can accept that, but isn’t there more that God can do than just tell us how to behave and then leave us to it. If he’s supposed to be so powerful and loves us so much, how can he just sit up in heaven and watch us suffer?
CHRISTIAN: Well, Christians believe that he didn’t stay up in heaven but came down in the form of a man.
AGNOSTIC: You mean, Jesus, I guess?
AGNOSTIC: OK, but apart from Jesus teaching us a bit more about how we should behave, what difference did his coming to earth actually make?
CHRISTIAN: You say you don’t think God cares about our suffering. Jesus shows us that he truly does care.
CHRISTIAN: Take poverty, for instance. We know that Jesus taught lots about how to reduce poverty by sharing what we have with others, but it wasn’t just his teaching that was important: it was his life. Jesus not only talked about poverty, he actually experienced what it is like to be desperately poor for himself.
AGNOSTIC: What do you mean?
CHRISTIAN: If you think about it, Jesus could have chosen to be born in a palace, after all he was the son of God, but instead he was born in a dirty stable with nowhere to sleep apart from an animal’s feeding trough. Even as an adult, (ENTER JESUS WHO STANDS IN CENTRE OF STAGE) he had no money of his own. Jesus said, ‘foxes have holes and birds have nests but I have nowhere to lay my head.’ (JESUS CURLS UP ON THE FLOOR TO SLEEP) Jesus really does know what it is like to be poor and that means he understands and truly cares.
AGNOSTIC: OK, but Jesus was God too, wasn’t he; isn’t that what your belief in the Trinity means? So he didn’t really feel things like ordinary people do. He wouldn’t really understand what it’s like to face fear, for instance.
CHRISTIAN: That’s what a lot of people think, but Jesus was truly human as well as divine. In the Garden of Gethsemane just before his arrest, Jesus was terrified. (JESUS KNEELS AND FALLS ON HIS FACE TO PRAY). He begged God to spare him from the awful death he knew awaited him. He was so scared that sweat fell off him like great drops of blood.
AGNOSTIC: That sounds terrible. I had no idea. So do you think that God understands physical pain too?
CHRISTIAN: Because of Jesus he does. Take Jesus’ arrest, for instance. Jesus was whipped terribly and as if that wasn’t enough, (FOUR SOLDIERS ENTER AND SEIZE A WEAK JESUS, PULLING HIM UP ROUGHLY FROM THE FLOOR) Roman soldiers humiliated and bullied him, (THE SOLDIERS SHOVE JESUS) throwing a robe round his shoulders and forcing down a crown of piercing thorns onto his head (SOLDIER 2 MIMES THIS ACT). They struck him and spat at him (SOLDIER 3 MIMES THE STRIKE ACROSS THE FACE), laughing and mocking (ALL THE SOLDIERS POINT AND SILENTLY LAUGH AT JESUS): bowing down to him in fun, saying ‘Hail King of the Jews’ (SOLDIER 4 MIMES THIS ACTION.)
(THEN ALL FOUR SOLDIERS FREEZE: SOLDIERS 1-3 HAVE THEIR HANDS OUT AS IF TO HIT JESUS AND SOLDIER 4 POINTS AT JESUS AND APPEARS TO LAUGH MOCKINGLY. THE SOLDIERS NEED TO STAND SO THE AUDIENCE’S VIEW OF JESUS ISN’T OBSCURED. JESUS HAS HIS HANDS BEHIND HIS BACK, AS IF TIED, AND HIS HEAD BOWED)
AGNOSTIC: That is truly terrible!
CHRISTIAN: Yes indeed. God really does understand suffering because through Jesus he experienced what it is like to live and suffer amongst us. Because of Jesus, God knows exactly how it feels to be misunderstood by family, to be abandoned by even the closest of friends, to be lonely, to be bullied, to mourn - Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died, remember? I could go on, but it’s enough to say that Jesus didn’t hold back at all from experiencing the pains of our world, and because of that, God truly understands what it’s like for us to suffer.
AGNOSTIC: I had never grasped that before. I can see now that Jesus experienced all the hardships of life that we do.
CHRISTIAN: And not just the hardships of life.
AGNOSTIC: What do you mean?
CHRISTIAN: He didn’t just experience the sufferings we go through in life, he shared the sufferings of death too. And the death he endured was not a peaceful, painless one, but the most excruciating and heartless form of execution humanity has ever inflicted - crucifixion.
(SOLDIERS FORCE JESUS TO THE FLOOR & STRETCH OUT HIS ARMS INTO A CRUCIFIED POSITION) We do not have an uncaring God detached from our pain. Jesus entered into our world in order to show us God’s love, even though he knew it would end in his own horrific death. (SOLDIERS 1 AND 2 MIME HAMMERING NAILS INTO HIS HANDS. JESUS CRIES OUT IN PAIN.) He shared our humanity so that we might know forgiveness for all the wrong we bring into the world even though the cost of that forgiveness was his own life. (SOLDIERS 3 AND 4 MIME HAMMERING NAILS INTO HIS FEET. JESUS CRIES OUT IN PAIN AGAIN. THEN ALL FOUR SOLDIERS STAND HEADS BOWED IN FRONT OF AND FACING JESUS, SO HE IS BLOCKED FROM THE AUDIENCE’S SIGHT. BEHIND THEM JESUS STANDS UP AND ADOPTS A CRUCIFIED POSITION WITH HIS HANDS STRETCHED RIGHT OUT. THEN THE SOLDIERS ALL EXIT, LEAVING THE CRUCIFIED JESUS STANDING ALONE.) This is our God (CHRISTIAN POINTS AT CHRIST)…the God who loved us enough to die for us, who understands our pain and who promises to still be with us and help us in our suffering today by his Holy Spirit. The Bible puts it this way: (HE OPENS HIS BIBLE AND READS)
He was despised and rejected by men,
A man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
He was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, And by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
(THE TWO MEN EXIT- CHRISTIAN LEADING AWAY A STAGGERED LOOKING AGNOSTIC. CHRIST REMAINS IN HIS CRUCIFIED POSITION FOR A WHILE BEFORE HE EXITS)
© Copyright Caroline Fletcher, 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.
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. She may be contacted at: www.freechristianplays.tumblr.com