Day of the cross - by James Archer
Dramatised reading medley based on Luke 23, Matthew 27, Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22.
Different readers take the parts of narrator, Pilate, crowd (two voices), Jesus, two criminals, Isaiah and the centurion. For the trial scene, Pilate is front stage on one side, and the crowd front stage on the other. All other readers are off-stage with microphones. There needs to be someone who brings on a bowl of water and a towel for Pilate to wash with, and takes them off. There also needs to be someone with nails and a hammer, and they will need someone else to help to lift the cross.
Narrator Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them:
Pilate You brought this man to me for incitement to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. As you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore I will punish him and then release him.
Crowd 1 Away with this man!
Crowd 2 Release Barabbas to us!
Narrator Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city and for murder. Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting:
Crowd 1 Crucify him!
Crowd both Crucify him! Crucify him!
Pilate Why? What crime has he committed?
Crowd both (louder) Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!
Narrator When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere and that an uproar was starting, (Pilate signals for water to be brought on-stage) he took water (acted) and washed his hands (acted) in front of the crowd. (Water and towel taken away)
Pilate I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your responsibility.
Crowd both Let his blood be on us and on our children. (Exit Pilate)
Narrator Then Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified him, along with the two criminals, one on his left and one on his right. (Nails are hammered into the cross. At the third group of hammering, …..)
Jesus (loudly) Aaahhh! (quieter, with gasps) Father ….. forgive them ….. they don’t know ….. what they are doing. (The cross is lifted into place)
Crowd 1 You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days – save yourself!
Crowd 2 Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!
Crowd 1 He saved others, but he can’t save himself!
Crowd 2 We’ll believe in him if he comes down now!
Crowd 1 He trusts in God – let God rescue him now, for he claimed to be his Son!
Crowd both Ha ha ha ha ha.
Narrator Listen to Isaiah’s eye-witness statement, written down 600 years in advance:
Isaiah There was nothing beautiful or majestic about him, nothing attractive about his appearance. He was despised and
rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. His face was messed up so badly we could not bear to look at it. But even then, he didn’t complain – he was like a lamb going quietly to the slaughterhouse.
But it was all for us. It was our bad behaviour he was being punished for – because of it, we get off scot free. We all, like sheep, have gone astray; each of us has turned our own way; and the Lord has punished him instead of us for our wrong-doing. He was killed like a common criminal, even though he had done nothing wrong.
Jesus (loudly) My God ….. My God ….. Why? …..Why? ….. Why have you abandoned me? (Quiet, delirious
muttering) Why are you so far from saving me? Why don’t you hear my groans? My God, I cry out to you, but you don’t answer. But you are the Holy One, the King who deserves all our praise. Our fathers trusted you, and you delivered them.
But I am a worm, not a man – scorned and despised by the people. All who see me mock me and hurl insults at me: “He trusts in God – let God deliver him, since he delights in him.” I’ve trusted you all my life – don’t be far from me, for I’m in desperate trouble, and there’s no-one here to help. They’re like charging bulls or roaring lions around me, tearing into my flesh with relish. My limbs have turned to jelly and my bones are all out of joint. My heart feels like wax, and my tongue is stuck to the roof of my mouth. There are nails through my hands and my feet, my bones are sticking out and the people are staring and gloating over me. Don’t stay away from me. My God, come quickly to help me, for I am about to die.
But even now, I will praise you. I will tell others about you. For you have not abandoned me – you see what is going on, and you hear my cry for help. You are in charge, Lord, and people from all over the earth will turn to you in praise.
Criminal 1 (loudly) Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!
Criminal 2 Aren’t you afraid of God when you are about to die? We are getting what we deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
Jesus I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.
Narrator About midday, the sky turned black, and it was like night for three hours. (Silence)
Jesus (loudly and triumphantly) It ….. is ….. finished! (Quietly) Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.
Narrator With that, he breathed his last. And the curtain in the temple was ripped in two from top to bottom; the earth shook and rocks split apart. The soldier in charge, seeing what had happened, praised God and said:
Centurion Surely this man really was the Son of God!
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