“A Picture of Calvary”
by Sandi Zimmerman Rebert
Copyright 2004 by Sandi Zimmerman Rebert. All rights reserved.
Please Note: this is only a partial script.
(It is illegal to copy any of this script except to provide copies to those who may be evaluating the play for possible future use. In order to keep this ministry financially stable, copying for any other purpose is prohibited unless a Director’s Notebook has been purchased. Thank you for understanding.)
The Narration below introduces the program, then the characters come out one at a time and present their dramatic monologues, each representing a different response to Christ. (See the list of characters on Details page.) If using the music, the song, “A Picture of Calvary” would precede the narration.
Narrator: Tonight we invite you to step back in time with us, back over 2,000 years, to the foot of an old rugged cross. As you do, you will meet people (not the characters of some fictional story, but real people, as real as you and I) who were a part of that scene so long ago. Some were believers, some were not. Some sought His death, others mourned it. But each had a unique response to that Roman cross and the One Who was hanging there; the One hanging on the center of three crosses, the One over Whose head the inscription read, “Jesus of Nazareth The King of the Jews.”
(enter - stage left) My name? I’m sure you’ll have no trouble guessing. It’s probably one of the darkest names in all of history, synonymous with the word “betrayal.” So, now you know. Judas Iscariot. Jesus Himself said it would have been better for me if I’d never been born!
And so you see how things were. (holding up rope) I never made it to His cross; though I helped send Him to it. I went to the chief priests, and for thirty pieces of silver promised to deliver Jesus into their hands. I led the group of soldiers and religious leaders to the Garden of Gethsemane. I knew He would be there—praying. Then, when at last I saw Him, I cried “Hail, Master!” and betrayed Him into evil hands with a kiss. It wasn’t until after His mock trial by Caiaphas, when they were leading Him away to stand before Pilate, that I fully realized what I had done. When our religious leaders refused to accept the money back, I threw it down at their feet. I could no longer live with myself. I had sold my own soul to the devil. But instead of coming to Christ and begging His forgiveness, I decided to end it all, or so I thought.
Hell is a reality. There are those, even today, who claim the name of Jesus Christ, but they do not know Him personally. I walked and talked face to face with the Son of God, yet ended up in judgment. Scripture says, “the devils also believe” Who He is. It is one thing to acknowledge Him with your mind, even your voice. It is quite another to have Him living in your heart.
I was an expert at outwardly “living the life of a believer.” I was so trusted by our group of twelve disciples that they put me in charge of the finances. I helped myself to it many times. I fooled everyone, everyone but Him. He knew all along. He even told me at the Passover meal that He knew I would betray Him.
Yes, I could put on an outward front that fooled everyone, but I was a fake, a betrayer. In the end, I was able to deceive everyone but God. (exit)
(dimly lit stage. Enter, stage left, from in back of the stone wall. Walk slowly, hesitantly, as if embarrassed about the past) Everyone knew who I was. “Seven demons!” people would whisper. “Mary Magdalene is possessed with seven demons!” You have no idea what I suffered: the torment, the rejection, the sin. My life was like the darkest night when not even the moon casts its glow to light the way. There was no-one to help me; no-one really cared.
But then, one day, Jesus came into my life. He claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God Himself. He said He had the power on earth to forgive sins! Here at last was One, the only One who could lift me out of the dungeon of sin and despair into which I had sunk. Here was the Only One Who could pardon my sin and exchange my night for day, my darkness for light, my sin for His righteousness, my eternal punishment for His eternal life!
Yes, I believed what He said. In faith, believing that He was, indeed, the Christ, I asked him to forgive me. I begged Him to free me from the seven demons that haunted me. It happened that very moment They were gone, gone! My life was totally different from that day on.
(sit on bench) So you can understand why it was especially difficult for me when I heard that Jesus was being led up the hill to Calvary to be crucified. I couldn’t believe it! Here was my hope, my salvation, being nailed to an old rugged cross. How could it be?! How could He have saved me from eternal damnation when He wasn’t even able to save Himself from death?
(stand) Three days later I was standing outside His empty tomb, weeping, when I heard a man ask me why I was crying. I thought it was the gardener, so I told Him that my Lord had been taken away and I didn’t know where He was. (pause) It was then He spoke my name and I recognized Him. It was Jesus! He had risen from the dead! All I could do was fall at His
“Rabboni! Master!” I had cried.
The events of those last few days began to make sense to me. Jesus had purposely allowed Himself to be delivered into the hands of angry men. He had given Himself, willingly, as payment for their sins and mine! His resurrection proved beyond any doubt that He was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God and that the forgiveness He’d bestowed on me was from God Himself!
Don’t you see? It can happen to you, too. If you receive His free gift of salvation, Jesus can change your life, just as He did mine.
(enter-stage right, by garden. Spoken with much emotion and regret) What can I say? Mention the name of Peter and everyone knows–I denied Him.
Oh, I had been so bold, so confident. “Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death!” But Jesus knew me better than I knew myself. He knew my spirit was willing, but my flesh was weak. So very weak. (with boldness) Oh yes, if it had come to a fight, I could have wielded a sword against the enemy as well as anyone else! Remember? I was the one who cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant!
(reflectively) But to stand by and listen to the trumped up charges of the false witnesses and to hear Him answer nothing. I felt it was a losing cause. Here was my Master, the Man I had followed for three years, the One I was convinced was the Messiah, the anointed One from God who would redeem Israel--here He was, standing before His accusers as a meek lamb.
Don’t you understand? They were calling for his crucifixion! I knew I could be next. Fear gripped my heart. (ridiculing himself) I could face the soldiers out there in the garden, but not a little maid on the porch of the High Priest, Caiaphas. All she did was ask if I were one of his disciples. But it was something about the way she said it, in an accusing tone, like–like He was some sort of criminal. I didn’t want to be associated with Him. (long dramatic pause)
So I–I denied Him, not once, but three times! (another agonizing pause, speak with much emotion) He was willing to die for me, yet I wanted nothing to do with Him! When I heard the cock crow that last time, the warning Jesus had given to me, just hours before, tore through my heart like a dagger. “This day, even in this night, before the cock crows twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.” At that very moment, Jesus turned and looked at me. His look was piercing, yet gentle, (pause) disappointed, yet understanding, (pause) accusing, yet full of love, mercy, even pity.
I should have pitied Him! I should have stood by Him to the bitter end! But I wasn’t even at the foot of His cross where I should have been. I left Him and wept, wept over my sin, (pause) my denial of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. (long pause-look over the crowd, speak sincerely, sadly) Don’t look at me like that, with an accusing attitude. Haven’t there been times when you’ve denied Him, as well? It might not have been in such a dramatic way; perhaps it’s only been in little things, but it was a denial, none-the-less. (Introduction to song begins) Ask yourself– song: “Do I Deny My Lord?” (Should fall to his knees on second verse, “I come on bended knee–,” and should remain in that position until after the song has ended and lights are down, then exit.)
(enter - stage right, onto raised platform) I admit it; at first I fled. John, the beloved apostle, probably the closest of all the disciples to our Lord, yet I fled in fear. (walk down a few stairs, sit - stage left) A crowd of men had come to the garden with swords and spears, lanterns, and torches. I watched in horrified astonishment as Judas betrayed our Master with a kiss. I saw the soldiers fall to the ground at Jesus’s Divine presence and the power of His words, when, in answer to their question if He were indeed the Christ, He said simply, “I AM.” Then, after Peter impetuously drew out his sword and cut off the right ear of the High Priest’s servant, I witnessed still another of Jesus’s miracles as He gently restored the man to complete wholeness. I stood by, confused, dazed, frightened, as they bound the hands of my Lord and led Him away. Then I ran.
(get up) But I couldn’t leave Him for long. He was my Master, my friend. I adored Him because I knew He was the Son of God. And so Peter and I followed Him to Caiaphas’s palace. There, I watched helplessly, as our religious leaders brought false witnesses against him, then blindfolded him and took turns slapping His face, daring Him to name His attacker.
(speaking, while walking up to the platform) Later, as I walked up that hill to Calvary, I felt defeated, as if I’d lost forever the dearest friend I’d ever had. I found His mother, Mary, and stood by her side, wanting to shield her from His suffering. But how could I? She heard the blasphemy of those who ridiculed Him, saying, (turn abruptly towards the cross - reenact the actions and words of the angry crowd) “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!” (to the audience) The chief priests also taunted Him, (reenact the words of the priests) “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe!” (turn back towards the audience, speak brokenly) Even one of the thieves, dying on a cross beside Him, scornfully berated Him.
(looking to the right, as if envisioning how things were) Mary could see, as well as I, the soldiers gambling for His clothes, laughing, joking together over His agony. She felt His shame as He hung there naked before the people for whom He had shown only love and compassion. (gesture towards the area at the base of the stairs) I glanced around at the crowd; there were some who had hated Him all along, our religious leaders, in particular. But the majority were people who, just one week earlier, had hailed Him as their King as He’d ridden into Jerusalem. They’d waved palm branches and spread their cloaks on the ground before Him. Some of those people had been fed by Him, miraculously. Some He had healed. How quickly they had been turned away. To be sure, there were a few who remained faithful, very few. Jesus, at least, should have had the support of His twelve closest companions, yet one of us had betrayed Him, and I alone, of the remaining eleven, stood by His cross.
(look back at the cross) One of the hardest things for me to bear was when Jesus looked up into heaven and shouted, (with much emotion, as if letting the audience hear the direct words of Christ) “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me!” (turn back towards the audience) Here He was, the perfect, sinless Son of God, yet His Heavenly Father had turned His back on Him. Jesus was carrying the guilt, as well as the punishment, for the sins of everyone who had ever lived or would live on this earth! Think of it! It was not just the physical torment that caused His pain. He suffered emotional, mental, and spiritual anguish as well. You know how crushing guilt can be. Think of enduring the guilt of the whole world! Then imagine bearing the punishment for every crime, every evil deed or thought that has ever been committed, and you will only begin to comprehend what Christ endured–for you, for me!
Yet, in the midst of his affliction, he looked directly at His mother and said, “Woman, behold thy son.” Then He said to me, “Behold thy mother.” I could do nothing to ease my Lord’s pain, but I was grateful that I could be of service to His mother; it was the very least I could do. Jesus had brothers, but He entrusted His mother’s well-being to me. I was honored and humbled by His command.
(walking slowly down the stairs) It was a dark day for all of us. But you know, as well as I, that the grave could not hold Him; death was not His end. He rose three days later, then, after being seen by over five hundred people, He ascended into Heaven.
That’s where Jesus is today, glorified and seated in Heaven at the right hand of the throne of God. Each person who has ever lived will one day kneel before Him, either as a redeemed sinner saved by grace or a condemned soul, who rejected His free gift of salvation, awaiting His judgment. But either way, He will receive the honor He deserves, (with strong conviction) “for God hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name” a name to be adored, (kneel, facing the audience) “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow... and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Freeze in position until beginning of song, “Love, Worship, and Adore.” Exit after song.)
Mary (Christ’s Mother)
(enter-stage left in front of wall, cross over to bench while speaking) If I could have, I would have chosen to have been anywhere but at the foot of His cross that day. (glance up at cross, then turn away from it) Every time I dared to glance up at His tortured body, every jeering, hateful remark from the mob... (pause, as if it is very painful to remember) They even laughed at Him–laughed at His terrible suffering. It was just as Simeon had prophesied, like a sword piercing through my own soul.
I wanted to run. I wanted to take Him down from there, to hold Him in my arms once more, to take away the pain, the humiliation! I was His mother! Yet, His face, His dear precious face that had always been so full of gentleness, love, and forgiveness–it was so distorted by the horrible things they’d done to Him! I hardly recognized my own Son!
(sit on bench) All He had ever done was good! He’d fed the multitudes, He’d healed the sick and lame, He’d even raised the dead! Yet they crucified Him as if–as if He were a common criminal! They nailed His hands and feet. Sometimes I can still hear that hammer pounding, pounding. I can still see the soldiers gambling over His coat. (cover ears with hands, close eyes, as if hearing and seeing it all again) I can hear the mocking crowd...!
And where were His disciples when He needed them? All of them had fled. All but John. Dear, faithful John. It was no wonder my blessed Son asked him to look after me when He was gone. My husband, Joseph, was dead. I had other children, of course, but Jesus was my first-born; He felt it was His responsibility. He had always been a perfect child. After all, He was God’s Son come in the flesh. In the midst of His anguish, He cared enough about me to see that my needs were met. That’s what He was like–always thinking of others, never Himself.
(rising, obviously agitated) And Judas–Judas! Never would I have dreamed that he could betray my Son! He had seemed so loyal, so genuine. He’d been in my home many times. How could he–I wanted to hate him for what he’d done. But, I couldn’t. Even though I didn’t understand, at the time, all that was happening, I knew that somehow God was taking all these things and working them out together according to His perfect plan.
The Lord had chosen me to birth His Son into the world, His little Emmanuel, “God with us.” I had been blessed above all women. Yet, I knew that His coming was for me as much as for anyone who would call on His name. I was a sinner like everyone else. I needed Him to save my soul just as much as the most wicked sinner in the world! I had put Him on that cross! He was hanging there for my sins! My sins! (pause) And yours!
Oh, how I loved Him as a little babe in my arms in that stable in Bethlehem. How I loved Him for setting an example for His followers by His sinless life. How I loved Him for the miracles He had performed, the compassion He had shown. How I loved Him for willingly dying for me! How I loved Him for bringing victory over the grave, not just for Himself, but for all those who would believe in Him. How I loved Him for being my Savior!
Song: Love, Worship, and Adore (trio with Mary of Bethany, John, and Mary-mother of Christ; exit after song)
(enter - stage right, near the cross) Yes, I was in charge of His crucifixion. I was proud of that fact. (sarcastically, as if realizing now how foolish it was to have thought it an honor.) It was an honor to have been chosen to oversee the death of One Who had caused such a public outcry. The people had even requested that a notorious criminal, Barabas was his name, be released, and that this Jesus take his place.
(quieter, with regret) I was present at His “trial.” I witnessed the scourging Pilate had ordered. You’ve never seen a scourging, have you? We Romans are very adept at torture. The whip is made of leather straps attached to a short wooden handle. A sharp piece of metal or bone is secured to the end of each lash. We’re trained to crack the scourge in such a way that it wraps around the victim’s body. Then we pull back hard; tearing, mangling, deforming the flesh. Some don’t survive.
(with great remorse and emotion, as if tormented) He was extremely weak by then, yet we soldiers thought it would be “amusing” to mock Him as the “King of the Jews!” That’s what He had claimed to be, you know. Someone found a scarlet robe, so we threw it over His shoulders. It clung to His oozing wounds. We handed Him a reed for a royal scepter. We even gave Him a crown--only it was a crown plaited from thorns! We took the reed from His hand and used it to pound the sharp barbs into His brow, then took turns slapping His bloodied, swollen face. We knelt before Him in mock homage, deriding him with our taunts of, “Hail, King of the Jews!” We took clumps of His beard and ripped it off His face; we even spat on Him in contempt. Yet He stood there in quiet dignity, with meekness and courage.
We tore the robe from His mutilated back, then forced Him to carry His own cross while the jeering mob continued to shout for His crucifixion. When He finally stumbled and fell from exhaustion, I knew He’d never make it up the hill to Golgotha, so I ordered a man in the crowd, one Simon of Cyrene, to bear the cross for Him.
Once on the top of that hill, called Calvary, the place of a skull, I commanded that He be laid out upon that cross and nails driven into his hands and feet. I posted the sign Pilate had written to be placed above His head. “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Then we raised His cross high and dropped it with a thud into the ground. His body shook from the impact as the nails lacerated his flesh with gaping holes.
(pause - glance around, slowly, as if experiencing the sky growing dark) About the sixth hour a strange thing began to happen. Though there were no clouds, the sky grew dark. We had to light torches to watch His suffering. I have seen much suffering in my years as a soldier; but never have I seen anyone suffer as much as He did. I watched Him, (pause) watched Him as he would use what little strength He had left to raise Himself up enough to breathe. Through all He had endured, not once had I seen a look on His face of anger or revenge; it was only of love and pity, even for those who called for His death. Even for me who had caused it. He looked up to heaven and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I cannot deny that I have never seen such strength of character. It was as if, as if He wanted to be there, both for the sake of those who loved Him and those who hated Him. As if He were pleading for them–for me.
(faster pace, stronger)At last He shouted, by supernatural power–it had to be supernatural power; no man could tolerate the agony and abuse he had survived and have the ability to cry out as He did, as if He were at last the victor in a battle for righteousness, “It is finished!” When He added, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit!” then immediately died, it was evident that He had given up His life of His own free will. The earth shook violently at his cry! I had no doubt then! The evidence had been building in my heart and mind. No mere man could have sustained such torture and (brokenly) still forgive...
Song: Such Wondrous Love (He should kneel at the end of the last verse - “I humbly bow to Thee...”) (After song, rises, walks up the platform to the foot of the cross. Should be 3/4 towards audience and “crowd.”)
(With great conviction) Surely this man was the Son of God! (exit, unless a part of the choir)
The following narration is presented after all the characters have portrayed their dramatic monologues. All characters come back onto the stage and freeze in position at the foot of an empty cross creating a three-demensional “picture of Calvary.” The Narrator walks through the picture and challenges the audience to think about their own response to Christ and which character on the platform represents them. (If using the music, the song, “The Price of Forgivenss” would precede the narration.)
Narrator: We have finished our picture of Calvary–or have we? Someone is missing; that someone is you. You may live in the twenty-first Century, but you, too, have a response - a response similar to one or more of these people. If you were to place yourself in this scene , who would you be like?
Are you an unbeliever? Perhaps you’re like Caiaphas. You’re a good living person. You don’t consider yourself to be a sinner. Why should you need a Savior?
Or are you like Pilate, trying to ignore the issue, hoping your good works will outweigh your bad works in the end?
Some may even be like Judas Iscariot, putting on a convincing facade to those around you, but not truly one of God’s children.
Have you, like the Centurion, truly believed in your heart that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God? Have you come to Him, with child-like faith and trusted in His salvation?
As a born-again Christian, do you worship, love, and adore Him? Are you serving Him with your life? Or do you find yourself sometimes doubting Him, even denying Him by the kind of life you are living. Don’t be ashamed of Him.
If you’ve never accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior from sin, if you don’t have the hope of eternal life that He alone can give, don’t reject Him because of what others might think. Please come now and let us show you, from God’s Word, how you can become a new person in Christ.