Jesus, today, tomorrow, forever

Act 3 - Betrayal

The Cheltenham Passion Play
Good Friday 2000

Act 3:  Betrayal
Act 3 takes place on the Promenade.  It begins under the trees outside Cavendish House in the Garden of Gethsemane - the trial before the Religious authorities and Peter’s denial takes place at the far end of the acting area under those trees.  The trial before the civic authorities, Pilate and Herod takes place on the steps of the Municipal  offices.  The Via Dolorosa then takes us on up the Promenade to the Imperial Gardens.

Scene 1:  The Garden of Gethsemane

This takes place under the trees outside Hooper’s on the Promenade.  As on the High Street for the Last Supper the acting space is in two parts.  Nearest Boots Corner one block is placed under a tree, three other blocks point out, like three spokes of a nine spoked wheel into the crowd.  These are for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  At the other end of the acting space the remaining blocks are placed for the Religious Leaders and the trial in the High Priest’s House.  The band takes up its position and plays My song is love unknown, and the Passion Chorale, O Sacred head sore wounded.    Jesus arrives first, and with the disciples stays on the fringes of the trees.  The Religious leaders and Judas have already gone to the far end of the acting space, and a little further.  Once the crowd has arrived and been marshalled among the trees leaving a good space, the scene begins.  The marshals are cadets in military uniform ... as the scene unfolds this lends to the menacing atmosphere that slowly develops.  There is effectively no gap in the action as the last of the women have just shared their final Word from Jesus as the procession arrives at the Garden.
Christ                           Peter, James, John [Jesus draws out the three closest disciples with a gesture] - the rest of you, stay here while I go over there and pray.[1]  [Jesus moves a little way away and  addresses the three]
                                               This sorrow is crushing my life out.  Stay here and keep watch with me.  [going a little ahead he falls on his face, praying ...]
                                               My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this.  Yet, not what I want but what you want.
                                    Jesus comes back to his disciples and finds them fast asleep.  He speaks to Peter.
                                               Can’t you wait with me a single hour?  Stay awake; pray with me.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
                                    Jesus leaves them a second time.  Again he prays ...
                                               Father, you can get me out of this.  Take this cup away from me.  Yet not what I want but what you want.
                                    Jesus returns - finds them asleep and lets them sleep on ... he goes away for a third time
                                               Father, if there is no other way than this, emptying this cup of pain, I’m ready. Your will be done.
                                    Jesus returns a third time ... at first he leaves them asleep ... and speaks to them half jokingly, half with real compassion ...
                                               Are you going to sleep on?  My time is up,[2] the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the hands of sinners.  Then he rouses them, one by one - stirring them up Get up! My betrayer is here.
The words are barely out of his mouth when a noise is heard from the far end of the pedestrianised Promenade - Judas is leading a group of religious guards from the High Priests and the religious leaders brandishing swords and clubs - they are also carrying lanterns.   They draw in some of the stewards - it is clear that the group includes the religious and the state authorities.  They push through the crowd - it is at this point that there begins to be a change in tone among the stewards too - they are a little less kindly, a little more brusque.  Judas goes straight to Jesus ...
Judas Iscariot               How are you, Teacher?  Judas gives Jesus a kiss of greeting on the cheek.
Christ                           Friend.[3]
Jesus takes the initiative in a way which makes Judas realise that his act of betrayal had hardly been necessary - he is sidelined from now on - overcome with remorse he watches helpless as events unfold ... and in due course flees with the rest of them to re-emerge from a different place from Peter and mingle in with the crowd - watching the trial before the High Priests.
Christ                           Who are you after?[4]
Soldier                         Jesus the Nazarene
Christ                           That’s me.
the soldiers recoil, totally taken aback.  Judas, his betrayer stands out like a sore thumb.  Ignoring Judas Jesus asks the same question again - the first soldier was one of the Roman soldiers, the second is one of the servants of the Religious authorities - both state and religious authorities are involved in this arrest of Jesus.
Christ                           Who are you after?
High Priest Servant       Jesus the Nazarene
Christ                           I told you, that’s me.  I’m the one.  So if it’s me you’re after, let these others go.
       Then they come on him - grab him and rough him up
Peter                            Master, shall we fight?  He  pulls his sword and, taking a swing at the Chief Priest’s servant, cut off his ear.
Christ                           Put your sword back where it belongs.  Those who take up the sword die by the sword.  Jesus turning to the mob has the effect of quietening them, and taking the sting out of a very tense situation
Christ                           Let them be. He reaches out to touch and heal  the High Priest’s servant’s ear ... he addresses the Disciples Do you think for a minute I’m not going to drink this cup the Father gave me?
       Jesus then turns to address the mob:
                                    What is this - coming out after me with swords and clubs as if I were a dangerous criminal?  Day after day I have been sitting in the Temple teaching, and you never so much as lifted a hand against me.[5]
The disciples cut and run.  They flee in all directions.  As the action proceeds they re-emerge - very much in the background - they are going to be looking on at a distance through the trial scenes.

Scene 2 - Trial before the Religious Authorities

Arresting Jesus they march him from one end of the acting space to the other.  Half way between the two sets of blocks they are stopped by the door keeper. Peter and John, Jesus’ favourite disciple, emerge round the corner by the bank -they then ease their way through the crowd to be at the front of the crowd, yet still  in the crowd, keeping out of sight..  Among the High Priests and religious authorities is Joseph of Arimathea - he is one of ‘Caiaphas’s right hand men.  Two of the High Priests servants are as it were guarding the point of entry to the trial.  John goes up to them has a word - goes through and has a word with Joseph who in turn allows John to go back through the ‘gateway’ he draws Peter from the front of the crowd through the gateway ... and in so that he can listen - Peter still stays around the edge of the crowd.   .... one of those who are at the point of entry to the trial - a doorkeeper is a woman.  She spots Peter and speaks  to the other doorkeeper ...  Peter overhears what is said and is quick to deny it.
Doorkeeper                 You were there.  You were with him.[6]
Peter                            I was not.
Doorkeeper                 I’m sure you were one of them.
Peter                            I’m telling you, I was not.
Malchus                       You were there ... it was you ... in the garden.
Peter                            I tell you I was not.  Malchus is about to have a go at Peter ... when the court is called to attention  Someone standing in the crowd plays the part of the cockerel..
Annas                          The cock crows - it is time for the trial to begin.  Tell us, Jesus, about your teaching ... and your disciples  [Annas is looking straight at Peter - he collapses in tears and flees]
Christ                           I’ve spoken openly in public.  I’ve taught regularly in meeting places and the Temple, where the religious people all come together.  Everything has been out in the open.  I’ve said nothing in secret.  So why are you treating me like a conspirator?  Question those who have been listening to me.  They know what I have said.  My teaching has all been in the open.
Joseph                         You have heard what he has to say.  We have no witnesses against him.[7]
Annas                          Are there no witnesses?
Caiaphas                      Can no one be found to bear witness and tell us all that has really happened.
One of the religious guards brings forward two men ...
1st Witness                   He said something about the Temple.
Caiaphas                      And what did he say about the Temple
2nd Witness                  He said ‘I can tear down this Temple of God.’
Joseph                         Was that all he said, or did he say more?
2nd Witness                  He said, ‘I can tear down this Temple of God and after three days rebuild it.
       Joseph is embarrassed - the others are pleased - they smile - they feel they have got Jesus now.
Caiaphas                      What do you have to say to this accusation?
Christ keeps silent.
Caiaphas                      beginning to get angry and lose patience I command you by the authority of the living God to say if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.
Jesus                            a curt reply You yourself said it.  And that’s not all.  Soon you’ll see it for yourself:
                                    The Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Mighty One
                                    Arriving on the clouds of heaven.
Caiaphas                      losing his temper, ripping his robes, yelling He blasphemed!  Why do we need witnesses to accuse him?  You all  heard him blaspheme!  Are you going to stand for such blasphemy?
Annas                          Death!  That seals his death sentence.
Caiaphas                      And Joseph ... are you going to stand for such blasphemy?
Joseph                         I’ll say nothing.  This is the nothing that connives - that could have made a difference but didn’t.[8]
Caiaphas                      Take him to the state authorities ... take him to Pilate.  Though not until the morning ... I leave him with you.  Caiaphas looks knowingly at the Guards.
The religious Guards spit in his face and bang him around.  They blindfold him and jeer as they beat him ...
Guards                         Prophesy, Messiah.  Who hit you that time?
Jesus is taken away ... the panel of priests are left around for a moment - Judas then emerges from the crowd he approaches the panel of the Religioius Authorities - he is clearly overcome with remorse ...
Judas                           I’ve sinned.  I’ve betrayed an innocent man.[9]
Annas                          What do we care?  That’s your problem.
Judas                           Take your money - I want none of it.
Annas                          But it is yours ... do with it as you will.
Joseph                         It is a lot of money.  Take it.  Use it.  Share it.  Hand it out to the poor.
Annas                          They’ll thank you for it ... you’ll make a lot of friends.
Judas                           Truth counts: not popularity.  My task is to be true, not popular.[10]    I’ve sinned.  I’ve betrayed an innocent man.  Take your money - I want none of it.
Judas throws down the silver coins in despair - he flees away in despair.  Annas picks up the silver coins - but then he looks at them as if he doesn’t really want to touch them ...
Annas                          It wouldn’t be right to give this - a payment for murder! - as an offering in the Temple.
Joseph                         Yet some good can come from it ... I have a use for it.  We could buy the Potter’s Field and use it as a burial place.  A burial place for those who have no tomb of their own.[11]
Annas                          Enough of this ... to Pilate!

Scene 3 - On Trial before the State Authorities

The religious guards, lead the way - dragging Jesus behind them - they are followed by the Religious leaders - the crowd follows on. Christ under guard falls in behind a marching band.  The marching band with drums and bugles leads Christ up the Promenade, through the War Memorial and to the steps of the Municipal Office.  Christ is dragged up the steps and into the Municipal Office - this gives Christ a five minute break!  Waiting in the Municipal Offices is the Mayor of Cheltenham, dressed in Mayoral robes and ready to play the part of Pilate.  Meanwhile the Women collect the banners depicting the stations of the cross which have been stored in the Information Centre.  The band forms up on the Neptune’s Fountain side of the Inner Promenade and continues playing until the crowds have gathered and the scene is ready to start.   the Inner Promenade has been cleared of traffic.  The band begins a massed roll on the drums and Christ is dragged out of the Municipal Offices on to the steps.  He is flanked by guards, two other guards hold a big banner.  There is a regal pomp to this trial.  The Mayor takes his place at the top of the steps.  This is the second point at which a Sound System is used.  It is very much like a political set-piece speech from the steps of the Municipal Offices.   The Religious leaders stand a little to one side, and on the lower steps,  Christ a little to the other side, and Pilate at the top of the steps in the centre.  Joseph is with the Religious Leaders but is increasingly embarrassed, even exasperated at what is going on.[12]
Pilate                           What charge do you bring against this man?
Annas                          If he hadn’t  been doing something evil, do you think we’d be here bothering you?
Pilate                           You take him.  Judge him by your law.
Annas                          We’re not allowed to kill anyone.
Pilate                           I repeat.  What charge do you bring against this man?
Annas                          We found this man undermining our law and order, forbidding taxes to be paid to the State authorities, setting himself up as Messiah-King.
Pilate                           dismisses the religious leaders in order to address  Jesus Is this true that you’re a religious King, that you’re King of this province?
Christ                           Those are your words, not mine.
Pilate                           Are you this religious King, the Messiah that they speak of?
Christ                           Are you saying this on your own, or did others tell you this about me?
Pilate                           Do I look like a religious man?  Do I look as if I came from round here?  Your people and your high priests turned you over to me.  What did you do?
Christ                           My kingdom doesn’t consist of what you see around you.  If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the authorities.  But I’m not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king.
Pilate                           So, are you a king or not?
Christ                           You tell me.  Because I am King, I was born and entered the world so that I could witness to the truth.  Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognises my voice.
Pilate                           What is truth?
There is a pause to allow these words to sink in.  He summons the religious leaders back
Pilate                           I find nothing wrong here.  He seems harmless enough to me.[13]
Caiaphas                      He’s stirring up unrest among the people with his teaching, disturbing the peace everywhere, starting in Galilee and now all through Judea.  He’s a dangerous man, endangering the peace.
Pilate                           So, he’s a Galilean?  That’s Herod’s case.  Bring in Herod.
The Town Crier comes out of the Information Centre and ringing his bell walks down to the steps of the Municipal Offices - he is giving his ‘cry’ as he comes.  People move out of the way.  He goes up the steps to interrogate Jesus.  He moves around him ... he taunts him.  The Town Crier, playing the part of Herod, is a larger than life character ... he injects some fun into these words ... but it is a menacing, mocking fun. Jesus quite deliberately now remains silent.
Herod                          Where did it all begin Jesus?[14]
                                    What was all that teaching about friends ... and enemies?  What was it really all about, Jesus?
                                    They call you a healer - show me a miracle!
                                    They call you a teacher - tell me a story!
                                    They call you John the Baptist - baptise me!
                                    They call you a prophet - prophesy!
                                    They call you the King, the Messiah?  Are you really the one we’ve been waiting for?.
                                    by now his anger is mounting Nothing!  Have you nothing to say!  Take this robe and put it on you, King-Messiah, go back to your friends and share that love of yours with them.  Better still, go back to your enemies and show your love to them.[15]
Herod now departs ... and the focus returns to Pilate who has been standing on top of the steps all along.  As with the religious trial, so with this one ... the various locations merge into one for added dramatic effect.[16]
Pilate                           You brought this man to me as a disturber of the peace.  I examined him in front of all of you and found there was nothing to your charge.  And neither did Herod, for he has sent him back. It’s clear that he’s done nothing wrong, let alone anything deserving death.  I’m going to warn him to watch his step and let him go.
Caiaphas                      He’s stirring up unrest among the people with his teaching, disturbing the peace everywhere.  Something must be done.
Pilate                           It is your custom that I pardon one prisoner at Passover.  I want you to know that I do not find this Jesus of Nazareth guilty of any crime.  Do you want me to pardon this Religious King?
Caiaphas                      No!  Release Barabbas!
       The crowd is stirred up to shout for Barabbas
Pilate                           I present Jesus to you.  This is the Man.  [ There is a pause here in order to let these words sink in.]    Take him  ... and beat him. 
Religious leaders          Nail him to a cross!  Nail him to a cross!  Crucify him! Crucify Him!
The Crowd                  Crucify him!  Crucify him! - the crowd are whipped up.  Pilate then calls a halt
Pilate                           You take him.  You crucify him.  I find nothing wrong with him.
Caiaphas                      We have a law, and by that law he must die because he claimed to be the Son of God.  Joseph interrupts Caiaphas - he has just been handed a note -
Joseph                         I have a note from your wife, Pilate.  Let me read it to you ... “Have nothing to do with that innocent man.  I’ve just been through a long and troubled night because of a dream about him.”[17]
On hearing this Pilate becomes more scared.  He gives Jesus one last chance.
Pilate                           I give you one last chance, Jesus.  Where did you come from?
       Jesus is silent
Pilate                           You won’t talk?  Don’t you know that I have the authority to pardon you, and the authority to - crucify you?
Christ                           You haven’t a shred of authority over me except what has been given you from heaven
Pilate                           I say again, I do not find him guilty of any crime.
Annas                          If you pardon this man, you’re no friend of the state, you’re no friend of Caesar.  Anyone setting himself up as ‘king’ defies Caesar.
Pilate                           turning to the crowd - Here is your King.
The Crowd                  Kill him!  Kill him!  Crucify him!
Pilate                           I am to nail your King to a cross?
Caiaphas                      We have no king except Caesar.
Pilate                           takes the bill of crucifixion and speaks as he writes ...  Jesus of Nazareth - King of the Jews.
Annas                          Make it, “This man said, “I am the King of the Jews”
Pilate                           What I have written, I have written.  He calls for water and washes his hands[18]
The soldiers roughly take away his robe - leaving his crown of thorns - wrapped in a white robe - they drag him forward.  It is important that the way the soldiers beat Jesus and lead him off is the same as the way in which the Religious guard beat Jesus - religious authorities and secular authorities are equally involved in what happens.  Christ is once more takes his position behind the band.

Scene 4 - The Way of the Cross

Jesus is taken further up the Promenade - the soldiers turn on him and they beat him again - as that is happening in the distance - the women who previously shared the voice of Jesus line gather on the Inner Promenade in front of the Information Centre, facing Neptune’s Fountain.  They have banners which they hold above their head.  There are 12 of them.  They form a procession in pairs - they hold their banners so that the backs of the banners - with a stark design of a cross are seen by the following crowd.  The procession thus forms.  The women.  The marching band.  Jesus and the soldiers - now in the charge of the Marshall/Centurion, then the religious leaders alongside the state authorities - they can be paired off - Caiaphas and Pilate; Annas and Herod - Joseph of Arimathea pensively on his own. Then the crowd follow the procession.
A number of key people accompany the appropriate pair of women, with the appropriate banner.   Simon of Cyrene - Mary, the Mother of Jesus, a group of women from Jerusalem, Veronica.
As we follow the Way of the Cross the women with their banners will mark the Stations of the Cross for us.  They will do that in a way that is similar to the way in which they shared the words of Jesus in the walk from the Last Supper to Gethsemane.  At the first station of the cross - the first woman will pause and witness what it is that happens - she will then stand at the side of the procession, she will turn her banner so that people as they pass now see the banner of that station of the cross.  She will repeat a few words which describe that Station, so that everyone in the procession as they pass by will share in that station of the cross
This is a point in the play when such is the size of the crowd that the crowd takes on a dynamic of its own.  It may be that the above plan does not work out ... it does not matter.  Chaos is beginning to set in ... and with the chaos a feeling of woe.[19]
It is important to plan the positioning of each station of the cross carefully so that the final station of the cross is just before the staging for the crucifixion scene..
Woman 1                     He had no dignity or beauty to make us notice him
                                    There was nothing attractive about him.
                                    Nothing that would draw us to him.
                                    We despised him and rejected him,
                                    he endured suffering and pain.
                                    No one would even look at him -
                                    we ignored him as if he was nothing.

Woman 2                     He stumbled for a moment and fell
                                    the weight of that cross was so great
                                    He endured the suffering that should have been ours
                                    the pain that we should have borne
                                    all the while we thought that his suffering
                                    was punishment sent by God.
                                    But because of our sins he was wounded.

Woman 3                     He looked me in the eye
                                    Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t cry for me,
                                    he said.
                                    Cry for yourselves and for your children.
                                    Because of our sins he was wounded
                                    beaten because of the evil we did.

Woman 4                     He stumbled and fell a second time
                                    Crushed for our iniquities
                                    We are healed by the punishment he suffered
                                    made whole by the blows he received.

Woman 5                     They made Simon, a man from Cyrene
                                    carry the cross
                                    he was only a passer by
                                    coming in from the countryside
                                    All of us were like sheep that were lost,
                                    each of us going our own way.
                                    But the Lord made the punishment fall on him
                                    the punishment all of us deserved.

Woman 6                     He saw his mother
                                    a face in the crowd
                                    for a moment he stopped
                                    but he said nothing
                                    He was treated harshly, but endured it humbly
                                    he never said a word.

Woman 7                     A third time he stumbled and fell
                                    Like a lamb about to be slaughtered
                                    like a sheep about to be sheared,
                                    he never said a word.

Woman 8                     The road was hard and steep
                                    it grew longer by the minute
                                    He was arrested and sentenced and led off to die
                                    and no one cared about his fate.
                                    He was put to death for the sins of us all.          

Woman 9                     A woman in the crowd stepped forward to wipe his brow
                                    Maybe God’s will is in this.
                                    His death was a sacrifice to bring forgiveness
                                    He will live a long life
                                    and through him God’s purpose will succeed.

Woman 10                   The place is near now - stark and forbidding
                                    After a life of suffering he will again have joy;
                                    he will know that he did not suffer in vain.
                                    My devoted servant, with whom I am well pleased.

Woman 11                   Two thieves with him
                                    they too have a cross to carry
                                    and around him the great and the good
                                    God will give him a place of honour
                                    a place among great and powerful people.
                                    He willingly gave his life
                                    and shared the fate of evil people.

Woman 12                   Golgotha, the Place of the Skull.
                                    He took the place of many sinners
                                    and prayed that they might be forgiven.

[1] This is based on Matthew 26 and parallel passages.
[2] This follows on from previous references to the time being not yet ready ... now the time has come.
[3] This is from Matthew 26 in the Message.  The ‘friendship’ motif which runs right through the Passion Play comes into its own at this point as Jesus’s response to the one who betrays him is to call Judas, ‘Friend’.
[4] This is based on John 18.
[5] Matthew 26
[6] Based on John 18, the dialogue is brought together for dramatic effect.
[7] From John we turn to Matthew 26, weaving the ‘religious trials’ together into one.  The simplification again adds to the dramatic effect.  The false witnesses are later those who taunt Christ at the foot of the Cross.
[8] The presence of Joseph of Arimathea with Annas and Caiaphas at this point is a reading back from the little referrence to Joseph in Mark 15 which says that Joseph was a respected member of the Council.  Our play simplifies the trial into two parts - before the religious authorities and before the civic authorities.  Of the three key religious leaders one, Joseph of Arimathea is sympathetic towards Christ, not least here in the trial.  He is uncomfortable at what is happening.
[9] Matthew 27 draws attention to the remorse of Judas - this is a very significant moment in the presentation of Judas, a key figure in the Passion Play.   This dialogue is based loosely on that passage.  Joseph of Arimathea again is quite different from the others ...  he echoes the words of Christ, ‘Take it ... share it’.  He also recalls Judas’s concern for the poor during the foot-washing. 
[10] Judas remembers the words of Jesus addressed to him.  The Beatitude and the Woe which are addressed to Judas take on a significance in Judas’s memory at this moment.
[11] Matthew 27 suggests according to the Message that the money was used to buy the Potter’s Field as a burial place for the homeless.  By putting these words into the mouth of Joseph of Ariimathea a link is made to the offer Joseph later makes of a resting place for Christ.
[12] The dialogue is taken in large measure from John 18.
[13] Herod’s involvement is based on Luke 23.
[14] These words are put into Herod’s mouth.  They serve as a reminder of the identity of Christ.  In a sense they are a reprise of the opening words of the play and the opening words of Act 2.  By this point more and more people are joining in the crowd - for those who have not seen the earlier scenes this is a moment when the identity of this Christ is once again established.
[15] The taunts come to a climax with the reference to the challenge to love your enemies.  These words of Herod identify Jesus as teacher, prophet, healer.  They also remind those who have been with the play from the beginning, and inform those who have just joined the play of the teaching of Christ about love, the love that makes friendships and the love that reaches out to enemies.
[16] The following dialogue brings together Luke 23 and John 18.
[17] The incident in Matthew 27 is put into the mouth of Joseph who once again is the one pressing for leniency.
[18] It is the woman of Samaria who steps forward to offer Pilate a bucket of water.  The water from the well, a reminder of the water of life, is used by Christ to wash the feet of the disciples and by Pilate to wash his hands.
[19] The comments of the women weave together a description of the stations of the cross as depicted on the banners with the words of Isaiah 52-53.  This is based on the New Revised Standard Version.