Jesus, today, tomorrow, forever

Act 2 Conflict

The Cheltenham Passion Play
Good Friday 2000

Act 2:  Remembrance / Conflict
In the light of experiences on the streets of Cheltenham we renamed this Act Conflict for the Jesus for Today DVD
The route takes us through the Gates of Sandford Park across the Road and round into Bath Street to Cambray Baptist Church, along Cambray Place and into the High Street.  Then to the area just beyond  the Regent’s Arcade outside Burger King  - between the marked kerbstones for the main part of the action.

Scene 1:  The Cleansing of the Temple

Jesus and the core cast go through the Gate on to the Old Bath Road and walk quickly round to Cambray Church - they enter and have an opportunity for a ten minute break.  The remainder of the cast gather behind the Donkey ready to make a much slower procession along the Old Bath Road and round the corner into Bath Street.
The Band has taken up its place outside Cambray Church and is playing a selection of Palm Sunday Hymns as the procession arrives.  They continue playing as the Hot Cross Bun sellers are selling their wares, but stop well before the action begins.
Tables with Hot Cross Buns on have been arranged just at the bottom of the steps outside Cambray and cages of Homing Pigeons have been placed in the courtyard too, ready to be released at the moment when Christ turns the Tables over.
As the procession arrives at Cambray people are accosted by Hot Cross Bun sellers.  There are Buns for sale on the tables outside the church and Sellers have Ice Cream Trays loaned by the Everyman Theatre as they mingle with the crowd selling the buns. This scene is staged by Cambray with support from other churches with one of their leaders encouraging people to buy.    Maybe the Treasurer of Churches Together too!! - They are very money conscious!.  The Buns are on sale in individual ‘sandwich’ bags.  Each Bag is sealed with a label - this includes a quotation ‘I am the Bread of Life’ and an instruction - please do not Ministers should be dressed as Religious Leaders in the Play.
Minister(s)                   This is where you buy your hot cross buns.
                                    We had some hot cross buns left over.  It’s a shame to waste them.
                                    We do have costs to meet for today - any extra we are going to give to charity.  Please buy your hot cross buns - hang on to them - don’t eat them now.  You can eat them later.  The ‘Minister’  keeps up the explanations and continues selling his or her wares around the courtyard outside Cambray as the crowd settles.  There is a hubbub of excitement and lots of fun.
Bun Sellers                   shouting their wares like market traders.
                                               One for 10p,  two for 10p hot cross buns
                                    If you haven’t got 10 p then 5 p will do
                                    One for 10p, two for 10p hot cross buns
  As the crowd settles the Minister gathers all the Hot Cross Bun sellers to the front so that when Jesus bursts out of the church and down the steps their trays are sent flying.
Minister                       We need all the Hot Cross Bun sellers to the front - all the hot cross bun sellers to the front ... we do need as much money as we can today - if you haven’t bought - please give as much as you can.  We have decided to set stalls in all the churches on Sunday - it’s a pity it has to be on Easter Sunday - but we do need to raise as much money as we can to cover our costs. 
At this point Jesus bursts through the doors of Cambray and down the steps, sending the tables with Hot Cross Buns etc flying.  The homing pigeons are released.  He is apoplectic with rage.  The disciples follow him on to the steps and into the courtyard ... the church leaders emerge more slowly looking on with disdain.
Christ                           Enough!  I have had enough.
                                    My house was designated a house of prayer for all the nations!
                                    You’ve turned it into a den of thieves.
                                    Get your things out of here!  Stop turning my Father’s house into a supermarket![1]
Joseph                         What are your credentials?  Who are you to tell us what to do in the Temple?
Christ                           Tear down this Temple and in three days I’ll put it back together.
Joseph                         It took forty-six years to build this Temple, and you’re going to rebuild it in three days?
Christ                           I am the resurrection and the life - those who believe in me, though they die, yet shall they live.  And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.
                                    Come to me all you that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest
people who are blind and lame come forward - Jesus places his hands on people in healing prayer.  A child comes forward
Child                            Hosanna to the Son of David
                                    Blessed is the King!
Annas                          Do you hear what these children are saying?
Christ                           Yes, I hear them.  What’s that old saying?  ...  out of the mouths of babes and sucklings ...
Caiaphas                      Teacher, we know you have integrity.  You teach the way of God accurately.  You are indifferent to popular opinion.  You don’t pander to  your students.  So tell us honestly:  Is it right to pay taxes to the Government or not?”
Christ                           Why are you playing games with me?  Why are you trying to trap me?  Do you have a coin?  Let me see it.
                                    This engraving - who does it look like?  And whose name is on it?
Joseph                         The head of state
Christ                           Give to the state what is theirs.  And give to God what is his.[2]
Christ                           You’re not impressed by the sheer size of this Temple are you?  The truth of the matter is that there’s not a stone in that building that is not going to end up in a pile of rubble.
                                    Watch out for doomsday deceivers.  They are going to throw you to the wolves and kill you, everyone hating you because you carry my name.  And then, going from bad to worse, it will be dog-eat-dog, everyone at each other’s throat, everyone hating each other.
                                    Stay with me.  Stay with me to the end..  You won’t be sorry, and you’ll be saved.
                                    I am the world’s light.  No one who follows me stumbles around in the dark.  I provide plenty of light to live by.  So come, follow me.[3]
the procession sets off down Cambray place, around the corner into the High Street and on to the space outside the Regent’s Arcade.  Between the two lines of kerb stones.

Scene 2 - The Last Supper

The Band has already walked ahead and taken up their place at the far end of the acting area.  As the crowd arrives outside Burger King the Band are playing Holy Week music.  The crowd gathers outside the Regent Arcade in front of Burger King - an appropriate place for the Last Supper.  Are we in the middle of a Passion Play set 2000 years ago, or here on Good Friday in the Year 2000.  There’s a space - stage blocks.  The Narrator begins echoing the opening of the play.  This is important as this is a place where shoppers will be passing by.  It establishes once more what we are doing and who the main characters are.  The stage blocks are arranged in two sets.  One at the Boots Corner end of the acting area is for the Religious Leaders.  The other set of blocks is arranged as for the Last Supper.  It is where Christ stands, where the Parable is performed and where the Last Supper takes place.
Narrator                      The High Street.  A Bank Holiday Week-end.  Easter Week-end.  And today is Good Friday.  Churches Together.  Friends Together.  It’s good to be together.  And we are on a journey.  A journey that’s 2000 years old already, a journey that’s still going on.  A journey for today.  And leading the way ... Jesus.
Jesus comes into the centre  - four groups of three disciples come one at a time and gather round Jesus
James                          We could see he was a Teacher.[4]
John                             We thought he was the Son of God.
Peter                            We knew he was the Messiah ... the One everyone had been waiting for.
Judas                           We called him our King.
Christ                           James, and everyone else ... there’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made.  What you have is all you’ll ever get.[5]
                                    John, and everyone else ... there’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself.  Your self will not satisfy you for long.
                                    Peter, and all of you there’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games.  There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.
                                    Judas, there’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them..  Truth counts: not popularity.  Your task is to be true, not popular.
                                    I want you to believe God’s message.  Now is the time.  God’s kingdom is here.  God’s rule is in your hearts.  Change your life and believe the Message![6]
                                    Listen closely!
       The following story needs to be acted out - street-theatre fashion - it could be fun ... but it has a really sinister note of fore-boding ...[7]
                                    There was once a man, a wealthy farmer, who planted a vineyard.  He fenced it, dug a winepress, put up a watchtower, then turned it over to the farmhands and went off on a journey.  When it was time to harvest the grapes, he sent his servants back to collect his profits.
                                    The farmhands grabbed the first servant and beat him up.  The next one they murdered.  They threw stones at the third but he got away.  The owner tried again, sending more servants.  They got the same treatment.  The owner was at the end of his tether.  He decided to send his son.  “Surely,” he thought, “they will respect his son.”
                                    But when the farmhands saw the son arrive, they rubbed their hands in greed.  “This is the heir!  Let’s kill him and have it all for ourselves.”  They grabbed him, threw him out, and killed him.
Christ                           Murderer of prophets![8]  Killer of the ones who brought you God’s news!  How often I’ve ached to embrace your children,[9] the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you wouldn’t let me. What is there left to say?  Only this: you are not going to see me much longer.
Peter                            When is all this going to happen? What day?  What hour?
Christ                           The exact day and hour?  No one knows.  Not even the Son.  Only the Father.  So keep a sharp lookout, for you don’t know the timetable.  The Father has given me all these things to do and say.  Are you tired?  Worn out?  Come to me.  Come, follow me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Love one another.[10]
the Religious leaders have again been at the back of the crowd - they are at the Boots end of the crowd.  For a moment the attention turns to them.
Annas                          We have heard enough of this blasphemy.
Caiaphas                      We must put an end to it.
Joseph                         Not now.  Not in the open. He is playing for time.
Caiaphas                      After the Passover Meal - in the dark.  Where no one can see.
Annas                          We need help.
Jesus again stands in the middle of a circle of Disciples.  The Women who have been key players so far are in the circle.  One more pushes in ... she has a large jar of very pungent perfume  She anoints Jesus with  it.  One of the disciples pushes her aside ... it is Judas Iscariot.  The other disciples share his anger.
Judas Iscariot               That’s criminal!  This could have been sold for a lot and the money handed out to the poor.
Christ                           Why are you giving this woman a hard time?  She has just done something wonderfully significant for me.  You will have the poor with you every day for the rest of your lives, but not me.  When she poured this perfume on my body what she really did was anoint me for burial. You can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she has just done is going to be remembered and admired.
Judas breaks out of the circle - pushes through the crowd - and catches the Religious leaders who are just turning away ..[11].
Judas Iscariot               What will you give me if I hand him over to you?
Annas                          15, 20, 25
Judas Iscariot               30 pieces of silver.
They shake hands on it ...
Judas Iscariot               The one I kiss, that’s the one - seize him.
Judas makes as if he will break through and betray Jesus at that moment.
Caiaphas                      Not now.  Now is not the time.  there is real menace in his voice
Joseph                         Wait. Again playing for time - he really wants it never to happen
Caiaphas                      Wait for the moment to hand him over. Even more menace
Judas is restrained ... and then returns, calming himself to the circle of Disciples and to Jesus. As the previous conversation has been taking place the disciples have queued up to pass in front of Jesus.  He kneels and washes their feet one by one.  The bucket he uses for water to wash their feet has been brough from the Well by the Woman of Samaria and is handed to Jesus.  By the time Judas returns Jesus has arrived at the feet of Peter ... the following conversation then takes place.
Peter                            Master, you wash my feet?[12]
Christ                           You don’t understand now what I am doing, but it will be clear enough to you later.
Peter                            You’re not going to wash my feet - ever!
Christ                           If I don’t wash you, you can’t be part of what I’m doing.
Peter                            Master!  Not only my feet, then.  Wash my hands!  Wash my head!
Christ                           If you’ve had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you’re clean from head to toe.  My concern, you understand is holiness, not hygiene.  So now you’re clean.  [He has now finished washing Peter’s feet ... Judas is the only disciple left.  As he approaches, Jesus looks at Judas]   But not every one of you.
[He washes Judas’s feet.  Judas is embarrassed.  After he finishes washing their feet, he takes his robe, puts it back on, and takes his place at the centre of the blocks arranged as a table.  It is necessary for Christ to stand on the Blocks so that he may be heard by the crowd.
Christ                           Do you understand what I have done to you?  You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master’, and rightly so.  That is what I am.  So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet.  I’ve laid down a pattern for you.  What I’ve done, you must do.  I’m only pointing out the obvious.  A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer.  If  you understand what I’m telling you, act like it - and live a blessed life.
After saying these things, Jesus becomes visibly upset ... he tells them why.  John is closest to him - he wipes his tears.
John                             Why? Jesus, Why do you weep.
Christ                           I have something hard but important to say to you.
John                             Tell us what, Jesus.  Tell us what it is.
Christ                           One of you is going to hand me over to the authorities.
John                             It isn’t me, is it, master?
James                          It isn’t me, is it?
Peter                            It isn’t me.
Christ                           The one who hands me over is someone I eat with daily, one who passes me food at the table.
Judas Iscariot               It isn’t me, is it, Master?
Christ                           Don’t play games with me, Judas.[13]
As the disciples say these words over each other - Peter beckons John across
Peter                            Ask him who it is ...
John                             Master, who?
Christ                           to John privately The one to whom I give this crust of bread.  Then Jesus stands - the little boy who had offered Jesus a hot cross bun for the Feeding of the 500 comes forward and offers Jesus a hot cross bun once more.   Then he prays ...[14]
Christ                           Praise the Lord, everyone here
                                    Praise the Lord, all the nations
                                    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.  Amen.
                                    We are friends together aren’t we?  Take it.  Break it.  Share it.
       There is a pause as people share their hot cross buns. There’s no need for any instructions.  People quickly realise what they need to do.  This is where it is important that there is a core to the crowd in costume who are aware of what they need to do - others quickly follow.  It is a sharing very much like the Feeding of the 5000 and full of meaning for all who take part.  Jesus shares his hot cross bun with Judas and as he does so he says
Christ                           Take, eat.
                                    This is my body.
 After a pause he speaks to Judas
Christ                           Do what you must do.  Do it and get it over with.
Judas, with the piece of bread leaves.  He pushes through the crowd to the Religious leaders who are on the Boots end of the crowd - and together they walk up to Boots Corner and around towards the Promenade - beyond the first set of trees outside Cavendish House.
Jesus  then takes a bottle of the Cheltenham Millennium wine which had figured large in the telling of the Parable, and pours it into a cup. As he says these words he looks after the figure of Judas who is rushing away ...
Christ                           This is my blood, God’s new covenant poured out for many people for the forgiveness of sins.  I’ll not be drinking wine from this cup again until that new day when I’ll drink with you in the kingdom of my Father.[15]
Jesus stands - the disciples stand with him ... the cup is passed round the disciples only.
Christ                           This is the moment.  The moment of God’s glory.  Children, I am with you only a short time longer.  You are going to look high and low for me.  But just as I told all those religious people, I’m telling you:  “Where I go, you are not able to come.[16]
                                    Let me give you a new command:  Love one another.  In the same way I loved you, you love one another.  This is how everyone will recognise that you are my disciples - when they see the love you have for each other.[17]
Peter                            Master, just where are you going?
Jesus                            You can’t now follow me where I’m going.  You will follow later.
Peter                            Master, why can’t I follow now?  I’ll lay down my life for you.
Jesus                            Really?  You’ll lay down your life for me?  The truth is that before the cockerel crows, you’ll deny me three times.[18]

Jesus sets off - the women follow a little way behind ... and then  Peter, James and John, the remaining eight disciples, and then the crowd.  This is a procession in pairs, or maybe fours.  It needs careful stewarding.  After about 20 paces the first of the women stop and stand to the side - she recites words of Jesus from John 14-16 - these are the words Jesus wants to share with those who have gathered around the table.  They are words which present to onlookers the heart of the message of Christ.  Each pair of women stand read the words as Peter, James and John pass, and the pair of women stay in that spot - repeating the words as the remaining disciples pass, and as the crowd pass.  She simply repeats the words, so that everyone in the procession hears them. Meanwhile twenty paces on the second of the women breaks off on the other side and does exactly the same.  In this way - there will be a woman every twenty paces or so, reciting words of Jesus as the disciples and crowd pass.  As the last of the crowd pass, each of the women finish and then join the procession - they become the final twelve people in the procession.  They continue to stand at a distance.   The whole procession follows Jesus and the Disciples past  Boots and around the corner, up the Promenade towards the first lot of trees outside Cavendish House


Woman1                      Go in peace and hear the words of Jesus.  You trust God, don’t you?  Trust me.
Woman 2                     There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home.  If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you.
Woman 3                     And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live.
Woman 4                     I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life.  No one gets to the Father apart from me.
Woman 5                     Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me.  If you can’t believe that, believe what you see - the things that I do, the things that are happening.
Woman 6                     If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you.
Woman 7                     I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you with another Friend so that you will always have someone with you.  This Friend is the Spirit of Truth.
Woman 8                     I will not leave without someone to look after you.  I’m coming back.
Woman 9                     In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive.
Woman 10                   The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me.  And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him.
Woman 11                   In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties.  But take heart!  I’ve conquered the world.
Woman 12                   I’m leaving you well and whole.  That’s my parting gift to you.  Peace.  I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left - feeling abandoned, bereft.  So don’t be upset.  Don’t be distraught.[19]

[1] This brings together Matthew 21, Mark 11, and Luke 19 and also John 2.  It weaves together various quotations in order to bring out the sense of drama and of mounting conflict.  What are your credentials alludes to the debate over authority.  The quotation from Matthew 11 ... Come to me is included to fill out Matthew’s description in 21 of people coming to Jesus to be healed.
[2] This quick fire debate between religious leaders and Jesus is based on the sequence of controversies the religious leaders enter into with Jesus.  At this point Christ turns more to the disciples and we turn to Mark 13 and parallel passages.
[3] The scene finishes with another of the I am sayings, this time from John 8 which is set by John in the Temple.  It echoes the way the Frist Act finishes ... and is an invitation to follow Jesus on what will become the way of the cross.
[4] This is a deliberate echo of the opening of the play.  As in John 1 Christ is identified in a number of different ways.  This serves the dual purpose of giving a sense of coherence to the Play for those who have followed it from the beginning and also of introducing those who are only just now joining in to the theme of the play and the identity of Christ.
[5] At the beginning of the play Christ called the disciples and then moved into the Sermon on the Mount.  The Beatitudes were taken from Luke’s Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6, though in the more traditional wording.  As the play ‘begins again’ on the High Street, Christ uses the ‘woes’ that appear in Luke 6.  This time the wording is taken from the Message.  Once more, Christ addresses each disciple individually and through that disciple the whole gathering.  There is a significance in the choice of disciples he addresses, not least in the words he says to Peter and also to Judas.
[6] This is the summary of Christ’s message from Mark 1.
[7] The parable is a sinister one full of foreboding for what is to come.  It comes from Matthew 21 and the last week of Christ’s life.  And yet it can be acted out in a fun way.  One possibility might be to present it as a Punch and Judy Show.  A Punch and Judy man could have been entertaining the shoppers seemingly as part of an ordinary entertainment before the arrival of the Passion Play.  Christ turns to the Punch and Judy Show which proceeds to tell the story of the Parable in the style of a Punch and Judy show.  In the event we told the story of a Cheltenham Millennium Wine grown in vineyards on the outskirts of Cheltenham which had been developed because of global warming.  It was a fun presentation of the parable which ended with the son standing, arms outstretched, head drooped in a crucified position.  The actors were dressed in black contrasting with the white of the Parable of the Sower.
[8] This comes from the end of Matthew 23, following Matthew’s account of the Woes.  It is also an appropriate comment on the Parable.
[9] The son from the Parable has until this point been standing as if crucified.  At this point Christ puts his arm around him.  And the son comes back to life and moves away ... suggestive of the raising of Lazarus.
[10] After the questioning, echoes of the words of comfort from Matthew 11 Christ had shared in the previous scene.  Love one another is a reference to the summary of the Law and the New Commandment.
[11] The account of the betrayal is woven together with the Last Supper, the anointing of Jesus’s feet and the Last Supper.  A little dramatic licence reintroduces Mary Magdalene who in our play is the Woman who had been healed at the beginning of the first Act.
[12] The footwashing and the ensuing dialogue is taken from John 13.
[13] Matthew 26
[14] This is the prayer used at the beginning just before the Feeding of the 5000: it brings together words from Psalm 117, one of the Hallel Psalms used at Passover, and words from Jesus’ prayer in John 17.
[15] These words are taken from Matthew, whose emphasis on forgiveness is important as the Play unfolds through the penitence of Judas and the words from the cross.
[16] John 12
[17] John 13
[18] John 13
[19] These words are all taken from John 14-16.