Jesus, today, tomorrow, forever

Act 1 Friendship

The Cheltenham Passion Play
Good Friday 2000

Act 1:  Friendship

Act 1 tells the story of the life and teaching of Jesus - it is set in Sandford Park, Cheltenham’s Friendship Park.  It begins around the fountain at the College Road side of the Park.  The Cast gathered in St Luke’s Church Hall and after prayers at 11-40 moved down to the Park.  A cohort of Roman soldiers led by the Centurion led the way, followed by the core cast and all the supporting cast of crowd and followers on - in all there were about 80 in costume.  We had anticipated gathering people on one side of the fountain, against the railings beside the road.  One segment of grass around the fountain would then provide our ‘stage’.  In the event it poured with rain and people were unwilling to stand on the water-logged grass.  A far larger crowd than we had anticipated encircled the fountain.  Torrential rain on umbrellas made it difficult to hear.  But from the beginning there was an air of anticipation.

Scene 1:  The Sermon on the Mount and the Feeding of the 5000

Narrator                    Sandford Park.  Home of Cheltenham’s Friendship Circle.  Shrubs, trees, flower beds, fountains - all with Cheltenham’s twin towns in mind.  Churches Together.  Friends Together.  It’s good to be together.  And we have a journey to make - it’s a journey that’s 2000 years old already, a journey that’s still going on.  A journey for today.  A Journey that begins at the beginning of time ...[1]
John                          In the beginning was the Word
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
And the Word became flesh
and dwelt among us
and we have seen his glory
the glory of the one and only Son of God.

John the Baptist         The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world
Andrew                     The Teacher - the Messiah we’ve been waiting for.
Philip                         The One they all spoke of, the One they’ve all been waiting for.  It’s Jesus, Joseph’s son from Nazareth.
Nathanael                  He is the One ... the Son of God, the King of Israel.[2]
Christ                        A journey from the Friendship Park to the Imperial Gardens.  It really is good to be together, churches together, friends together.  And as a sign of our friendship let’s eat together ... I’m sure someone’s got something [a child from the church that has brought the Hot Cross Buns presents them to Andrew].  Hot Cross buns - that’s always been a special part of Good Friday.[3]  It would be best if we got into groups - about fifty in each group.  On the grass ... let’s spread out round the fountain.  Andrew, let’s share them out - there may not be quite enough to go round.  Don’t start eating yet.  We’ll have a prayer.  We’ll give thanks ... [Andrew, with the help the church that has brought the hot cross buns - has hot cross buns to share - but at most one between three.].  Let’s have a prayer.
Christ                        Praise the Lord, everyone here
                                 Praise the Lord, all the nations of this Friendship Park
                                 For great is God’s love towards us all
                                 Making us friends together.
Father God, make us one heart and mind
and give the world evidence of your wonderful love.
Christ                        Not enough to go round?  We are friends together aren’t we?  Take it.  Break it.  Share it.  Jesus takes a Hot Cross Bun, breaks it and shares it with a couple of people nearby  You are my friends.  I want you to be friends with each other.[5]  I want you to love one another.  That’s what it is all about.  Love one another.
                                 You know the old written law, “Love your friend,” and its unwritten companion, “Hate your enemy”.  I’m challenging that.  I’m telling you to love your enemies.  Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. If all you do is love the loveable, do you expect a bonus?  Anybody can do that.
                                 In a word what I am saying is, Grow up.  Do to others what you would have others do to you.
Love one another.  Be friends ... with everyone.
                                 You’re here to be a light in a world of darkness.  This is something we need to go public on, as public as we can, so public that we’re going to go through the busy streets of our busy town.
                                 If I make you my light do you think I’m going to hide you?  I’m putting you on view ... so, shine!  By showing the way, you’ll help others to see what life is really about.
Christ                        Simon and Andrew - you’re fishermen.  And you, James and John.  Come with me.  I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you.  I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of fish.[6]
Simon and Andrew come and take a stand on the inner circle around the fountain - as the disciples are called by name they come into that inner circle and stand around facing the crowd.
Christ                        Philip and Bartholomew, Come follow me.  Thomas and Matthew the tax man; James - Alphaeus’s son - and Thaddaeus;  Come, follow me.  Simon the Canaanite and [Jesus breaks off ... he is looking for one more ]  and Judas Iscariot.  Leave everything ... and  follow me.
Jesus takes four of the disciples in turn - puts his hand on their shoulder, addresses them each one - but at the same time  includes everyone else.  John is the beloved disciple who at the last looks after Jesus’s mother; Andrew has just shared out the Hot Cross buns, Simon Peter will deny Jesus and break down in tears, and Judas Iscariot will be filled with remorse when he realises how he has betrayed Jesus.
Christ                        [taking John and putting his hand on his shoulder]  Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.[7]
                                 [putting a hand on Andrew’s shoulder] Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.[8]
                                 [putting a hand on Peter’s shoulder] Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.[9]
                                 [singling out Judas, with a hand around his shoulders] Blessed are you when people hate you, for your reward is great in heaven.[10]
Christ                        Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food.  Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food I will provide.[11]
Andrew                     Master, give us this bread, now and forever.
Christ                        I am the Bread of Life.  Follow me, and you won’t go hungry.
Judas Iscariot            Why don’t you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what’s going on.  Show us what you can do.
Christ                        I am telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life.  I am the Bread of Life.   I am the Bread - living Bread! - who came down out of heaven.  Anyone who eats this Bread will live - and forever!  The Bread that I give to the world so that it can eat and live is myself, this flesh-and-blood self. [12] [addressing Judas ... and the others]  Take me.  Break me.  share me.
                                 Come ... all of you and follow me.  The way is narrow - the path is difficult - take care and follow me.[13]
Christ gathers the disciples to one side of the fountain - the stewards marshall the crowd to follow on - and as they are ready he speaks again
Christ                        Ask, and it will  be given you.
                                 Seek and you will find.
                                 Knock, and the door will be opened for you.
                                 Ask, seek, knock and follow.[14]
the disciples take up the chant ... and encourage the crowd to take up the chant - they set off along the narrow windy path chanting ‘ask, seek, knock and follow - ask, seek, knock and follow’
Crowd                      Ask, seek, knock and follow.


Scene 2 - A woman in the crowd - on the narrow path

The crowd follow Jesus along the narrow path - a woman is standing on the circle of hard-standing to the side of the path - it is Mary Magdalene - Jesus passes - and then stops - the crowd is around the trees -
Christ                        Who touched me?
Peter                         But, Master, we’ve got crowds of people on our hands.  Dozens have touched you.
Christ                        Someone touched me.  I felt power discharging from me.
Mary Magdalene       So many men.  They used me ... they abused me.  And then it started - the bleeding.  And it wouldn’t stop.  No one could help me, no doctor.  No one would help me.  No one would touch me.  I didn’t touch you ... I just touched your robe.  That’s all.  Just your robe.  But something happened - the bleeding, it stopped.[15]
Christ                        Daughter, you believed in me ... and now you’re healed and whole.  Live well, you’re blessed!  And follow me.[16]
the woman joins the band of disciples and follows Jesus. - the disciples mingle with the crowd ... and slip back in the ‘procession’ - Jesus is out in front - and the crowd following him.   Jesus leads the way up on to the path by the Chelt, up the steps and straight along under the ‘arbor’ and then back up the middle pathway to the fountain in the French Gardens.


Scene 3 - The Woman at the Well - and Jesus’ teaching

Jesus sits beside the fountain ... the crowd are kept well back from the semi-circle in front of the fountain - we are now looking towards the fountain - Jesus is sitting alone, when another woman appears at the well  She is carrying a pitcher of water and a basket of hot cross buns.  She sees him, likes him ... and begins to flirt with him.[17]
Christ                        Would you give me a drink of water?
Samaritan Woman     How come a Jew is asking me, a Samaritan, for a drink?
Christ                        If you knew how much God loves you ... and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.
Samaritan Woman     Sir, you don’t even have a bucket, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’?  Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob who dug this well and drank from it and passed it down to us?
Christ                        Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again.  Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst - not ever.  The water I give will be a spring, gushing fountains of endless life.
Samaritan Woman     Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, so that I won’t ever have to come back to this well again.
Christ                        Go and call your husband.  Then come back here.
Samaritan Woman     I have no husband.
Christ                        ‘I have no husband’.  You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband.  ‘I have no husband’ ... that’s true enough.
Samaritan Woman     Oh, so you’re a prophet!  Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshipped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?
Christ                        The time is coming - it has in fact come - when your race will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.[18]
                                 It’s who  you are and the way you live that count before God.  Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth.  That’s the kind of people the Father is looking out for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship.  God is sheer being itself - Spirit.  Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.
Samaritan Woman     I don’t know about that.  But I do know that the Messiah is coming.  When he comes we’ll get the whole story.
Christ                        I am the One.  You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.
Just then his disciples come back.  They are shocked.  They can’t believe he is talking with that kind of woman - their faces show exactly what they think!!  In a stylised way - they come one by one and turn their back on Jesus who is oblivious of what they are saying.  The Woman, however reacts with shame at each comment ... she knows what they are thinking.  .
Peter                         Not another Woman
James                        A Samaritan Woman
John                          A Samaritan Woman with five husbands.
Judas Iscariot            A Samaritan Woman with five husbands who is living with someone else.
The woman takes the hint and leaves.  In her confusion she leaves the pitcher of water and the basket of Hot Cross Buns behind..
Peter                         Aren’t you going to eat?
Christ                        I have food to eat you know nothing about.
Judas                         [taking the basket of bread] Who could have brought him food?
Christ                        The food that keeps me going is that I do the will of the One who sent me, finishing the work he started.  [Jesus looks around at the gardens] As you look around right now, wouldn’t you say that in about four months it will be time to harvest?  Well, I’m telling you to open your eyes and take a good look at what’s right in front of you.[19]  These Samaritan fields are ripe.  It’s harvest time!  And the harvester is arm in arm with The Sower!

The Samaritan Woman then brings on a church group who are as it were the Samaritan friends from her town. She is arm in arm with the one who will act the part of the Sower.  That Church group then acts out the Parable of the Sower - making full use of the beautiful gardens.  At the end the characters freeze ... and we return to Christ’s conversation with his disciples.
                                               Listen!  What do you make of this?  A sower sowed some seed.  As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road and birds ate it.  Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly.  Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled among the weeds and nothing came of it.  Some fell on good earth and came up with a flourish, producing a harvest exceeding his wildest dreams.[20]

Christ                        The Harvester can’t wait ... he’s gathering in the grain that’s ripe for eternal life. That’s the truth of the saying, ‘This one sows [pointing to the Sower], that one harvests.’[pointing to the woman  I sent you to harvest a field you never worked.  Without lifting a finger, you have walked in on a field worked long and hard by others.
Samaritan Woman     speaking to the church group who have just acted out the parable and to the crowd - He knew all about the things I did.  He knows me inside and out!
The Sower                the one who took the part acting the Sower in the parable.  We’re no longer taking this on your say-so.  We’ve heard it for ourselves and know it for sure.  He’s the Saviour of the World.[21]
Peter                         Ask and it will be given you
James                        Seek, and you will find
John                          Knock, and the door will be opened for you.
Judas Iscariot            Ask, seek, knock and follow.
Christ now leads the way - out of the garden, back into the park.  The disciples and the crowd follow ... but not far.

Scene 4 - The Road to Jerusalem

This scene takes place only a few yards from the steps that lead out of the Garden back into the park.  Jesus and the disciples gather to the left of the bushes - we anticipated that the crowd would be between that point and the Gardens.  The crowd was much bigger than we anticipated: it consequently had a mind of its own.  People were going ahead to make sure they could hear at the next scene.  Many people had already gone down to the Friendship Circle for Scene 5.
Christ                        Who do the people say I am?[22]
Judas                         Some say John the Baptist.
James                        Others say, ‘Elijah’
John                          Still others say, ‘one of the prophets’.
Christ                        And you - what are you saying about me?  Who am I?
Peter                         You are the Christ, the Messiah.
Christ                        But the time is not yet ripe.  It is necessary for the Son of Man to face an ordeal of suffering,[23] to be put on trial.  It is necessary for the Son of Man to be found guilty by the religious leaders.  It is necessary for me to be killed ... but after three days I will rise up again and live.
Peter grabs Jesus in protest.  Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronts Peter.
Peter                         That must never be.
Christ                        Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get away from me! You have no idea how God works.  Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead.  You’re not in charge: I am.  Don’t run from suffering; embrace it.  Follow me and I’ll show you how.[24]
                                 James, John ... Go over to the next village.  As soon as you enter, you’ll find a colt tethered, one that has never yet been ridden.  Untie it and bring it.  If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ say, ‘The Master needs him, and will return him right away.’
Peter                         [calling after them,] Ask and it will be given you.
Judas                         Seek, and you will find.
Peter                         Knock, and the door will be opened for you.
Judas                         Ask, seek, knock and follow.
James and John run off towards the Friendship Circle.  Jesus and the other disciples and then the crowd follow around the bush and down to the Friendship Circle.

Scene 6 - The Journey to Jerusalem begins

At the Friendship Circle -Janita the Donkey from the Donkey Sanctuary  is waiting.  The Crowd stops before the Friendship Circle - looking down at the Circle - the mother of James and John - Zebedee’s wife is with her two sons, James and John.
Zebedee’s wife          Jesus!  Jesus![25]
James                        Not now, mother!
John                          This is not the time, mother!
Zebedee’s wife          Jesus!
Christ                        What do you want?
Zebedee’s Wife         Give your word that these two sons of mine will be awarded the highest places of honour in your kingdom, one at your right hand, one at your left hand.
Christ                        You have no idea what you’re asking.  [Jesus turns to James and John]  Are you capable of drinking the cup that I am about to drink?
James                        Sure, why not?
Christ                        You will drink my cup.  But as to awarding places of honour, that’s not my business.  My Father is taking care of that.
Judas Iscariot            remonstrates with James and John - the other disciples are also losing their tempers, thoroughly disgusted with the two brothers.  That’s offensive ... asking who is the greatest!  You should be ashamed of yourselves.[26]
Christ                        Have you noticed how people in power throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads.  It’s not going to be that way with you.  Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.  Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.  That is what the Son of Man has done:  he came to serve, not to be served. He came to give his life away in exchange for the many who are held hostage.
Christ                        That’s it.  [He goes to the donkey] The time has come for the Son of Man to be lifted up and glorified.[27]
                                 Listen carefully: [as he says these words - Jesus moves around the Friendship circle from the 2D shape to the 3 dimensional castings Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat.  But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over.  In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life.  But if you let it go  you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.
                                 If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me.
Judas                         a touch of scepticism in his voice ... Look, our King is on his way,
                                 poised and ready mounted
                                 On a donkey, on a colt
                                 foal of a pack animal.[28]
With great excitement Jesus sets off on or leading the Donkey! Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others have cut branches from the trees which they throw down as a welcome mat.  Crowds go on ahead, and more crowds follow.  All of them calling out ...
All Disciples              Hosanna!
... and crowd             Blessed is He who comes in God’s Name!
                                 Yes!  The King of Israel!
                                 Hosanna to David’s Son
                                 Blessed is he who comes in  God’s name!
                                 Hosanna in highest heaven!
`                                Blessed be the coming kingdom of our father David!
                                 Blessed is he who comes, the King  in God’s name!
                                 All’s well in heaven! Glory in the high places!
 The procession leads off along the stream, over the bridge and into the water gardens.

Scene 6 - At the Gates of Jerusalem

Caiaphas, Annas and Joseph of Arimathea, the religious leaders who all along have been around the edges of the crowd, have got themselves to the front.  They have gone on a little ahead - they are the first over the bridge.  They take a stand in the gateway on to the Old Bath Road - blocking the Gate.  This is their first real appearance.   It is important that the Marshall and the Stewards be towards the front as well at this stage.  All along through the park they have been kindly and gently keeping people going in the right direction.  Jesus leads the way.  Through into the water garden there is a general hubbub of excitement and enthusiasm.  Jesus and the disciples approach the gate.  The stewards keep the crowds back from the gates - on each side of the fountains - the Religious Leaders stand across the Gateway.  The marshall is standing beside the Gate.  The police will be in the background ready to shut off the road. [29]The Disciples keep up the chanting - keep the crowd chanting
Chant                        Blessed is he who comes - the King in God’s name!
                                 Hosanna in the highest heaven.
                                 Blessed be the coming Kingdom of our Father David.
       The Religious leaders - Annas, Caiaphas and Joseph of Arimathea try to make themselves heard - they try to quieten the crowd down.  At that point the crowd stop their chanting - one or two of the disciples continue.  Judas Iscariot the most vociferous.  At last one of the finely dressed Religious leaders, Joseph of Arimathea tries to step in with the cool voice of reason.
Annas                        Quiet!  Order!  Keep Quiet.
Disciples                    Blessed is he who comes - the King in God’s name!
                                 Hosanna in the Highest heaven.
Annas                        Quiet!
Judas Iscariot            [30]Blessed be the coming Kingdom of our Father David
Joseph                       addressing Jesus with a voice of reason Teacher, get your disciples under control.[31]
Christ                        walking up the steps into the gateway, and turning to the crowd.  If they kept quiet, the stones themselves would shout and sing.
Disciples                    shouting all the more loudly
                                            Blessed is he who comes - the King in God’s name!
                                 Hosanna in the Highest heaven
Christ                        Peace, be still.[32]   He turns for a moment and looks through the Gate at the busy road behind.  When there is perfect stillness he turns again.  He is overcome with emotion .. he weeps over the city .
                                 If you had only recognised this day, and everything that was good for you.  If you had only known the things that make for peace.  But now it’s too late.[33]
                                 What am I going to say?  Father, get me out of this?  No, this is why I came in the first place.  I’ll say, Father, yours is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory.
Christ                        At this moment the world is in crisis.  Now Satan, the ruler of this world, will be thrown out.  And I, as I am lifted up from the earth, will attract everyone to me and gather them around me.
Joseph                       We heard from God’s Law that the Messiah lasts forever.  How can it be necessary, as you put it, that the Son of Man ‘be lifted up’?  Who is this ‘Son of Man’?[34]
Christ                        [35]I am the light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won’t have to stay any longer in the dark.  For a brief time still, the light is among you.  Walk by the light you have so darkness doesn’t destroy you.  As you have the light, believe in the light.  Then the light will be within you, and shining through your lives. You’ll be children of light.
                                 If anyone wants to serve me, then follow me.  I am the Gate.  Anyone who goes through me will be cared for.  I came so you can have real and eternal life.  Come, follow me.

At this point Jesus and the core cast set off ahead of the crowds and went very quickly round to Cambray. There they went into the Church to have a fifteen minute break - an opportunity to dry out a little bit from the downpour of rain, and to have some warm coffee.  The crowd followed behind the donkey round to Cambray.

[1] The journey theme recurs throughout the play - these words of introduction are echoed almost exactly when we arrive on the High Street.  They set the scene for the play as a whole.
[2] The first chapter of John’s Gospel contains not only the Prologue identifying Jesus as the Word of God, but also a sequence of cameo scenes in which Jesus is identified as Lamb of God, Teacher, the One they’ve all been waiting for, Jesus of Nazareth, Joseph’s son, the one, the Son of God, the King of Israel.  This leaves the reader of the Gospel in no doubt as to the identity of the central figure of the Gospel Story.  Our play takes a leaf out of John’s book and identifies Jesus right at the outset.  There is no way that people in the crowd will realise who these people are - people simply step out from the costumed crowd and identify Jesus.  Nathanael’s final identification of Jesus as the Son of God, the King of Israel is what in the end leads the Religious Leaders and the Civic Leaders to call for Christ’s crucifixion; and yet it is also what the Centurion recognised to be true about Jesus at the very end.
[3] Jesus starts in the present - Jesus really is present with us as we share our presentation of His Passion - he quickly slides back to 2000 years to the Feeding of the 5000.  In John’s Gospel there is a very close link between the Feeding of the 5000 and the Last Supper, a link which John 6 makes explicit - we establish the link by using John’s account of the Feeding of the 5000, by using Hot Cross buns on both occasions, in the words that Jesus uses and in the provision of a Hot Cross Bun for Jesus to break by the same little boy.
[4] This prayer brings together the words of Psalm 117, a Psalm used at the Passover, with words from John 17, the prayer for oneness among his followers which Jesus prayed at the Last Supper.
[5] These words capture the teaching of Jesus - in the Friendship Park Jesus starts with the New Command of John 13 and then proceeds with extracts from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7.
[6] This brings together the call of the fishermen in Matthew 4 and the naming of the Twelve in Matthew 10.  The basic text has been Eugene Peterson’s The Message - but in view of the fact that this is an outdoor production involving basically street theatre it has often been necessary to ‘tighten’ the text, reduce the words and give it a stronger punch.
[7] The Beatitudes are taken from Luke 6 and use the more familiar words of the New Revised Standard Version.  Luke’s Beatitudes are cut down to 4 and are addressed directly to people - Blessed are you ... In our play Jesus addresses each Beatitude not just to the crowd as a whole, but to a particular disciple - each Beatitude has a significance for that Disciple at some point in the Play.  John, together with the others has been challenged to ‘leave everything’ - Jesus speaks of him as ‘poor’.
[8] Andrew, of course, was the disciple who found the little boy ready to share his Hot Cross Buns.
[9] The strong fisherman, Peter, is the last you expect to break down in tears, but when he realises what he has done he weeps bitter tears of sorrow.
[10] This is the most moving of all the Beatitudes.  In our play it is addressed to Judas.  Judas had been the last of the Disciples to be chosen - it is as if from the beginning Jesus knows what is in store.  But true to his teaching about loving enemies Jesus holds out hope for Judas at the last.  In our play Judas’s suicide is the act of a penitent who knows exactly what they have done, and cannot bear to live with the enormity of it.
[11] We return to John 6 - the conversation Jesus has with people in the crowd, is conducted with the disciples - Andrew has found the boy with the Hot Cross Buns ... the dissenting voice, wanting proof, is Judas.
[12] The final words addressed to Judas are an addition to the words from John 6, but very much in the spirit of John 6 - a memorable phrase, these words repeat what we have just heard in the sharing of the Hot Cross Buns in the Feeding of the 5000 and anticipate the words that Jesus will use at the Last Supper.  It is almost as if Jesus is laying down the gauntlet to Judas.
[13] An echo of the call to the Disciples, linked with the invitation to follow on the Narrow Path at the end of the Sermon on the MountBack to the call to the Disciples
[14] The words of Luke 11 become a chant to accompany the journey.  Jesus’s challenge is to follow him.  The Passion Play itself is a journey through the Town - it starts as Jesus picks his way through the crowd and follows a windy, narrow path from the Fountain through the bushes to space on the way.
[15] This scene is based on the healing of the woman in the crowd in Luke 8.  The woman is not named.  Luke tells us that ‘she blurted out her story’ ... but he does not tell us what that story was.  Our play imagines that it was Mary Magdalene, and that her haemorrhaging was as a result of abuse she had suffered from men.  The one cast out, damaged and rejected by society is accepted by Christ, and receives the very same word of blessing which had previously been offered to the Disciples.  Mary is the first of the women to follow Jesus.  She later becomes the one to announce the reality of the Resurrection to doubting disciples.
[16] Eugene Petereson’s ‘You’re healed, you’re whole’ is a wonderful rendering of the words Jesus said.
[17] This scene is taken only one or two significant adaptations from John 4.
[18] The scenes in the Friendship Park highlight the way Jesus breaks barriers down ... here barriers are coming down between a Jewish Man and a Samaritan Woman - they are the barriers of gender and of race that need to come down in our society too.  The people who have come together in the Friendship Park have come specifically for the Passion Play - there aren’t many passers by here!  For the most part they come from churches.  Here in the Friendship Park our play is presented by Churches Together - part of our task is to break down barriers between churches, not least the barriers there are between people who adopt different styles of worship.
[19] In John 4 the Woman goes off to the nearby Samaritan town to tell people all about the One she has found.  The folk from that town come out to see Jesus for themselves.  As the crowds came up the road in the distance with their white robes flowing in the wind, they might have looked just like a field of grain white and ripe for harvest.  In our play the Woman is seen as ‘the Harvester’ - she brings on the people from the Samaritan village.  At this point in John 4:35 Jesus shares some powerful teaching about Sowing and Harvesting.  We slot in to the story of John 4 the Parable of the Sower which is acted out by the Samaritans dressed in white.  They are dressed in white, suggestive of those white fields ripe for harvest.  But there is also a contrast in store.    The next of Jesus’ parables is going to take on a sinister note and will be presented by people dressed in black.
[20] A team from Elim presented a fun, modern version of the Parable of the Sower.
[21] The one who had played the part of the Sower in the Parable speaks the words from John 4:42 which the Samaritans say in response to all they have heard from the Woman, and seen for themselves.  This anticipates the response of Thomas at the Resurrection and also serves to identify Christ as the Saviour of the World, not just of Jews, or of Samaritans, not just of men or of women, but of the whole world.
[22] Mark 8:27ff
[23] One of the strengths of using Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase is that it makes people who know the story already think again about the words and their meaning; it also has a directness which makes it accessible for people who have not heard the story before.  Here, the words have been condensed to add power to the street theatre, but Eugene Peterson’s direct imagery makes it clear what is in store.
[24] At that point we break off from Mark 8 and jump to Mark 11 - in our play the two disciples are James and John.  This gets them ahead of the others ... but by the time the others arrive at the Friendship circle, their mother has waylaid them.
[25] this scene from Mark 10 and Matthew 20 comes immediately after another of Jesus’ predictions of his suffering and death.  The tension is now mounting as Jesus is approaching Jerusalem.
[26] Matthew tells us that when the ten others heard this, they lost their tempers ... in our play it is Judas who speaks for the Ten.
[27] We now turn to John 12:23.  Talk of the grain of wheat recalls the Parable of the Sower, it anticipates the death and resurrection of Christ.  The Friendship Circle is a modern sculpture which represents different forms of friendship - one is depicted two dimensionally on the floor, and then three cones are different three dimensional representations of the two dimensional plan.  The seed is buried ... and then comes to life.  Jesus with a wave of the hand points out the different parts of the sculpture as he says these words.
[28] The words of the prophecy quoted in Matthew 21 are put into the mouth of Judas ... and then the crowds with palm branches shout their hosannas round past the fountain to the Gate on to the Bath Road.
[29] In the event the Police did not appear.  The stewards who were to have marshalled the Procession had to switch to controlling the traffic.
[30] Judas faces off the religious leaders - he is threatening - clearly has not taken on board Jesus’ talk of accepting suffering.
[31] In Luke 19:39, some of the Pharisees make this comment - in our Play it is put into the mouth of Joseph of Arimathea.
[32] This comes from the stilling of the storm - the storm clouds really had mounted for the whole of Act 1 - by now the storm was beginning to abate.  As Christ quietened the sea, so he quietened the crowds.  We then return to Luke 19 as Jesus weeps over the city.  Standing in the Gateway to the Park with the traffic of the Bath Road behind there is something intensely moving about these words.
[33] From Luke 19 we turn back to John 12:27ff and the words that follow on from the saying about the grain of wheat.
[34] Joseph is now the voice of the crowd
[35] The final words of Christ bring together sayings on Light and the Gate from John 8 and John 10.  As Jesus stands in the Gateway and invites people to follow him, everyone then has to follow him through the Gateway.  It is significant that the Religious Leaders have already gone on ahead.