The biblical text on which the Passion Play is based can form the basis for personal reflection, group Bible Study and for historical research on the stories of Jesus at school. The script uses Eugene Peterson’s modern paraphrase of the New Testament, The Message. Peterson’s hopes for The Message, were the hopes we had for our script: “Written in the rhythms and idiom of contemporary language - the way you’d talk with friends, write a letter or discuss politics, The Message brings out the expressive, earthy flavour of the New Testament Greek ... it will allow you to experience firsthand the same power and directness that motivated its original readers to change the course of history many centuries ago.” The script keeps closely to the biblical text, linking passages in unexpected ways to bring home the message more powerfully.
The play begins by identifying Jesus using the titles that appear in John 1. It then weaves together the feeding of the 5000 [John 6], the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5-7], the call and naming of the first disciples [Matthew 4:18-22, 10:1-4], the beatitudes, addressed to John, Andrew, Peter and Judas respectively [Luke 6:20-22] and the invitation to follow [Luke 11:9] It goes on to tell of the healing of the woman in the crowd [Luke 8:42-48] and then weaves the story of the woman at the well [John 4 and at verse 35 ...] together with the parable of the sower [Mark 4:1-9]. The disciples’ confession of faith [Mark 8:27-38], and their subsequent misunderstanding of the nature of greatness [Matthew 20:20-28 and John 12:20-33] ] leads on towards the Gate and the entry into Jerusalem [Matthew 21:1-11, Luke 19:29-44, with John 8:12 and 10:9]
The cleansing of the Temple brings together Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-33, Luke 19:45 - 20:8, and Matthew 11:28-30 and moves on to the High Street where there is an echo of the start of the play as Jesus is identified once more using the titles of John 1. The tension mounts as Jesus addresses the woes of Luke 6: 24-26 to James, John, Peter and Judas respectively and tells the Parable of the Vineyard, or the Cheltenham Millennium Wine [Luke 20:9-19]. Matthew 23:37-39 is a suitable comment on the parable. The anointing, the footwashing, the betrayal and the Last Supper weave together Matthew 26:1-30 and John 13-30, while the words of comfort shared by the women are taken from John 14-16.
The scene at the Garden of Gethsemane, the religious trial and the trial before the civic authorities brings together the story told in Matthew 26:31-27:31, Mark 14:26 - 15:20, Luke 22:39 - 23:31, and John 18 - 19:16 and 19-22. The penitence of Judas and his death is based on Matthew 27:3-10. The Way of the Cross brings together Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12 in the NRSV and some of the traditional Stations of the Cross.
The crucifixion scene is based on Matthew 27:32-56, Mark 15:21-41, Luke 23:26-49, and John 19:16-37. The Burial is based on Matthew 27:57-66, Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56, and John 19:38-42.
To recap the story so far we made use of Nick Page’s wonderful poem The Baker and then based the story of Easter on John 20. 547 words
Looking further at the People of the Passion
The Passion Play had a core cast of fifteen characters, and as many extras as possible to play the crowd. Everyone who followed the play became in a sense part of the cast! Using some of the interviews on the video together with the questions below make a study of the People of the Passion. This could be the basis of a series of group Bible Studies, or a way of examining what happened at the first Easter and the impact Jesus had on different people.
How would you summarise the teaching of Jesus? How did Jesus break down barriers? How did he respond to conflict, to betrayal and to the prospect of his death? Think of the words he shared at the Last Supper and the words he spoke from the cross - what comfort do they bring? In what way is Jesus alive today?
Of the four main disciples in our play one lets Jesus down and another betrays him. What did Peter make of Jesus and all that he stood for? How did he feel when he let Jesus down? Which words of Jesus from the cross would have meant most to him? What difference did the resurrection of Jesus make to Peter?
Why did Judas betray Jesus? Our play gives words of dissent among the disciples to Judas from the beginning of the play. It also links the fourth blessing and the fourth woe to Judas in Luke 6:22 and 26. How did he feel afterwards? Which words of Jesus at the Last Supper and from the cross would speak most to someone in the position of Judas? Which of the disciples do you most identify with at the Resurrection?
Thinking of the story of the woman in the crowd, Mary Magdalene and the woman at the well, in what ways did Jesus break down barriers between men and women? What would it have been like to have been the mother of Jesus while he was teaching (see Matthew 12:46-50), on the road to the cross, at the cross and at the resurrection? Is there any special way that we can identify with her?
Caiaphas, Annas, and Joseph of Arimathea, Religious leaders at the time of Christ, were played by ministers, clergy and church leaders today. Why do you think the religious leaders were opposed to Jesus? Would Jesus come into conflict with religious leaders today? Of the religious leaders one, Joseph of Arimathea was sympathetic to Jesus - what do you think it would have been like for him to have stood up and be counted? See Luke 23:50-56.
Civic Leaders ... and the CrowdPilate and Herod were played by the Mayor and Town Crier of Cheltenham - why were the civic leaders opposed to Jesus? Would Jesus come into conflict with civic leaders today? Where would he take his stand today? The Centurion recognised in Jesus someone very special, the Son of God - what would it have felt like for him to stand up and be counted? Why did the crowd swing from support of Jesus to hostility towards him ... would you have gone along with the crowd, or been willing to stand out from the crowd?