By Rick Shallenberger, Editor
Sometimes you can make a point through a dramatic reading. Dramatic readings present possible emotions and intensity of stories or characters we find in the Bible. They are not direct quotes from the Bible. As John tells us, if everything Jesus said or did was written, there would not be enough volumes in the world to contain it all (John 21:25). Therefore, we add words and emotion to tell a person’s story. I have written several of these to help us understand some of the emotion of people like John, Mary, Malchus, Salome, and a Roman guard. Here are links to some dramatic readings you can use for Holy Week and for Easter service.
Voices of Easter – Mary, Mother of Jesus Morning Prayer
Director’s notes: This prayer is designed to be at or near the beginning of an Easter program. Mary has not yet gone to the tomb and is filled with anguish and mourning as she faces the inevitable task of preparing her son’s body for permanent burial. She knows the promises, she’s seen the miracles, but she also just witnessed her son be tortured, beaten, and killed as a common criminal. She knows he is innocent.
It is suggested that Mary dress in costume with a wireless microphone and kneel toward a window or something similar. She does not need to face the audience – though facing away at an angle would be best. It is important to hear the grief and anguish in her voice.
Scene opens with a single spotlight on Mary as she comes into the “room” and kneels.
It’s difficult for me to pray today, there is so much grief in my heart. Just two days ago, I watched my son die. Yes, I know, he was your Son, but Father, he was also my son, and my heart grieves over what I saw.
When the crowd started yelling for Jesus to be crucified my heart just sank. He had told me this day was coming. He told me he had come to show the way to you. He even told me he had to die for all to know who he was. But Jehovah Father, how does his death help? How does it help that he is now in Joseph’s tomb? Though I am thankful for Joseph and the gift of his tomb, my heart breaks to think of my son in that tomb. The tomb I have to go to in just a while to lay burial spices on my precious Jesus.
The crowd even had a choice – Jesus or Barabbas. Oh Father, how I wanted to hear the crowd yell “Barabbas.” How I wanted that man to die rather than my child. But the words of Jesus came to me to love even sinners. So how can I hate Barabbas – he didn’t kill my son, he was just part of Pilate’s game plan.
Father, I know you told me that Jesus was special. I had no idea how special. Oh, he was such a fun child – full of fun, full of mischief, but never breaking the law. I remember how he loved to wrestle and tumble with the boys of the village, but I also remember what compassion he had when anyone got hurt. He had so much love, Father. A love he said came from you.
My heart is broken, my Father. Broken over the sight of my broken son. Why did they have to beat him so? I scarce recognized him as he walked to Golgotha. My heart broke as I saw him struggle under the weight of that cross. Why did they treat him so poorly? Why did you allow this? He was your Son too.
When they nailed him to the cross like a common criminal, I couldn’t bear to watch. I kept thinking about the promises you made concerning him. Where are those promises now, Father? I want to believe – help my unbelief.
When he looked at me with such love and told John to take me as his mother, I burst into tears of love for my Son – in such pain and yet thinking of his mother. Father, help me in my grief.
I know you are Holy. I know you are Jehovah. I know you loved your Son more than I did. So please help me in my sorrow. Give me strength today as I bathe my son’s body in oil and spices. Give me hope as I have one last cry over the death of my son. Take care of my Son – our Son, Father. May I see him again in paradise?
Father, I must arise to go to my son’s grave. Help me be strong and show me your glory. Help me see you today, Holy Father. I need to see your glory. – Amen
Voices of Easter – Mary, Mother of Jesus, Evening Prayer
Director’s Note: This prayer is designed to end an Easter program. This time Mary is full of great joy and excitement. She has seen the empty tomb. She has seen Jesus and she now understands that He truly is the Son of God in a more powerful way than she ever understood before. She can barely contain the joy in her voice.
It is suggested that this prayer be done walking – perhaps with arms stretched upward – if there are tears, let them be tears of joy. The reader needs to display tremendous excitement and awe at what God did on this day of Easter.
If you have a single fixed spotlight, then have Mary stand in one place. If you can follow her, let her show her excitement by pacing a bit – even dancing before the Lord.
It’s still difficult for me to pray, but for an entirely different reason. I can hardly stand still long enough to share my heart with you. I just keep dancing and leaping with joy. In fact, I am filled with greater joy today than I was on the day Jesus was born. Today I not only celebrate his new life, but I celebrate what it means to me and to all who believe. Praise be to you, Jehovah, my Father! Praise be to you!
I thank you, Holy Father, for giving me the blessing of carrying your Son. I still feel so unworthy, and I know it was because of nothing I did, it was because of your glory and your love for me. I now know why you say I will be remembered. Father, there is no reason to remember me, but every reason to remember your Son, Jesus.
Now I understand more than ever that he was always Your Son. He came from you, and he says he will return to You. How could my womb contain the Son of the Most High? How could my breasts give life to the creator? Why did I have the wonderful blessing of teaching the Holy One? I can’t understand it all, I may not ever understand it all, but that’s well with me, Father. Because my Jesus, your Son, is alive.
My heart leaps within my bosom, Father. It is a heart filled with joy and peace. It is a heart filled with wonder and praise. It is a heart filled with amazement at you.
May you forgive me for my doubts of this morning, and may you never allow me to forget the joys of this day.
I love you Father and I sing my praises to you.
In his name, my precious boy, your glorious Son, Jesus, I give you praise Father.
Light fades… or have the choir join Mary in a song of celebration to end the Easter program.
The Voices of Easter: John
I thought my running days were over. I mean, since I had started following Jesus – the one we called Master and others called Rabbi, I hadn’t run hardly at all. Before that I was known as the fastest one in my village. Oh how I loved to run.
I used to run to the market for my mother. I ran to and from my studies. I ran with my friends in the hills above Jerusalem. I ran to the sea. I was a running fool. But when Jesus asked me to follow him, running just didn’t seem all that important. Sure, I still ran from time to time, but whenever I was running, I felt I was missing out on something he said. I wanted to be with him all the time – take in every word and think about it.
In fact, Jesus and I became very close. I was even referred to as “The one he loved.” It’s funny, he really loved everyone. But I think there was a connection between us because he knew instead of running all over Jerusalem, I was running a different race – a race to know, a race to understand. The only time my speed shamed me was the day I ran away when the soldiers came to take him. I was gone like a flash – and let me tell you, that shames me.
I know he forgave me though. When he was up on the cross, in all that pain he was going through, he still looked at me and he looked at his mother, Mary, who was standing beside me. He told me to treat her as a mother, and he told her to look to me as her son. That was a really hard day – feeling so ashamed – and feeling so loved all at the same time.
I don’t even want to tell you how hard it was to watch my friend die (shudder and pause); I think I’ve said enough about that.
Anyway, after he died, I took Mary to my home and told her my home was her home. I knew it was what he wanted. She asked me to take her to the tomb where he was being laid. I really didn’t want to, but out of respect for her I did. We watched as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus carefully wrapped up my beloved friend and laid him in the tomb.
I went home confused and torn. My friend had died. Some claimed he was the Son of God and I had almost believed them – until I saw him die. It was a horrible weekend. By Sunday morning, I was beyond myself with depression. I woke up and found Mary had already gone. She had said the night before that she, Salome and Mary of Magdalene were going to the tomb to give Jesus a proper burial, wrapping him in spices and the lot. I told her I didn’t want to go.
Peter came over and we sat at the table talking about the events of the weekend when Mary Magdalene rushed in the door. “He’s gone!” She yelled. “Jesus is gone!”
“What?!” Peter and I yelled? “What do you mean gone?”
“The tomb is empty!” she said, “They’ve taken our Lord and we don’t know where he is.” Peter and I rushed out the door.
This time my running came in handy. I ran as fast as I could and got to the tomb well before Peter. I stood there panting a bit and looked in the tomb. Sure enough, Jesus was gone. But I noticed something. I stared at what appeared to be the linen cloths Jesus had been wrapped in.
By this time Peter ran up and ran right past me into the tomb. “Check it out!” he said as he pointed. I entered the tomb and saw not only the linen cloths lying there, but the cloth, which had covered Jesus’ face, was neatly folded, and set apart from the other cloths. It was then I knew.
He hadn’t been taken. He had risen from the dead. Just as he said. It was at that point, that I finally believed. Jesus was more than just my friend. He truly was my master, my Lord, and the Son of God.
The Voices of Easter: Salome
Salome is the wife of Zebedee – the mother of the “sons of thunder,” who asked Jesus if her two sons could be at his right and left hand. She was faithful and never seemed to question the fact Jesus was the Messiah. She was among the women who stood afar off watching Jesus die on the cross and she was with Mary of Magdalene and Mary, Jesus’ mother, on the way to the tomb to anoint his body with spices. This dramatic reading should be done in a thoughtful, reminiscent way at the beginning, and then tremendous joy at the end.
Zeb and I taught the children about the Messiah from the time they could understand our words. After all, the Messiah was our hope, our only hope. But more than a hope, he was also a promise. The promise all good Jews held on to.
So when the man from the wilderness named John started talking about sin and repentance, my dear Zeb and I were right there. We took the boys with us and listened to John talk about baptism and about the One who was going to follow him – the Messiah. My dear Zeb looked at me with tears in his eyes and said he wanted to be baptized. I was so proud of him – he was such a righteous man. The boys and I followed him to the water and all of us were baptized that day. We knew something special was in the air.
Then when Jesus came, my life changed forever. I followed him wherever he went. Pretty soon, the boys followed him as well. I was so proud of them. I believe I was one of Jesus’ first female followers. Someone even called me a disciple (laughs). Imagine a woman being a disciple.
I was privileged to become friends with Mary of Magdalene and Mary, Jesus’ mother. The three of us went everywhere together. We were there when Jesus was tried, when he was beaten, and when he died. It was a horrible day. (Chokes and tears up a bit. Blows her nose.)
I was trying to comfort both Mary’s while feeling my own grief. We spent most of the next day crying and preparing spices so that Jesus could have a proper burial. I just had this feeling that something big was going to happen. I couldn’t explain it, but I knew it was a deep-seated faith that even though he died, he was still the Messiah.
Anyway, that’s all in the past. Everything changed when we went to the tomb on Sunday morning, I have to admit I wasn’t as surprised as the two Mary’s to find the tomb empty. As we went home, I had a tremendous hope in my heart. I know it was my faith. I knew Jesus was special, and I just couldn’t bear the thought that it all ended at his death. Besides, I had heard him talk about the prophecy of Jonah.
When Mary later told me Jesus had talked to her, I just beamed with joy. My teacher really was the Son of God. He really was the anointed One, the Messiah. I started laughing and dragged Jesus’ mother to the tomb. We actually started laughing and dancing right there beside the stone. I know people thought we had been drinking – but suddenly everything he had said came to our minds and we couldn’t stop the joy.
It’s funny, though, now that I look back on things. My only regret is when I pleaded with Jesus to let my two sons sit at his side – one on the right and one on the left. It all seems so silly now. Who cares where we sit, and I don’t think we will even be sitting.
I think my sons, John, the One Jesus loved so much, and James, will be pillars in this Church that Jesus has told us to build.
And after that?
We won’t be too concerned about who sits where – when we see Jesus again, we will be dancing and worshipping. Because that’s all I’ve wanted to do since I saw the empty tomb.
The Voices of Easter: The Roman Guard
This dramatic reading must be done in fear then moving to surprise and then elation.
This Roman guard was given the task of watching the tomb of Jesus and he has now come before the Captain of the Guards to explain what happened. The problem is he doesn’t really know what happened. He must pause for the “unheard questions” that the Imaginary Captain or Captain’s aide is asking him. The guard is fearful, because he has no idea how the Captain is going to respond and he is fearful for his life.
The Scene opens with the Roman Guard sitting and waiting to be called before the Captain. (He is talking to himself, occasionally looking over toward a “door” and acting very nervous – wringing his hands, etc.)
How in the world am I going to explain this? I’m not even sure what happened. One minute I’m standing there, the next minute I’m on the ground from an earthquake. At least, I think it was an earthquake. I don’t know. And who were those men? Well, they weren’t really men – more like a light. Oh, that’s going to sound good.
“I’m sorry Captain, some lights came out of the sky and moved the stone away from the tomb.”
I’m a dead man. There is no way they are going to believe my story. All he’s going to do is put me in prison for dereliction of duty or worse, sentence me to death.
Dereliction of duty. I’ve been a guard for years. I’ve never been written up. I was given this assignment because of my work record. Now what? How do I explain that the tomb just opened? I mean, those lights – or whatever they were, just rolled the stone covering the tomb like it was a tumbleweed. The seal melted and the stone just rolled. I know I fell down in a dead faint, but who wouldn’t. All I know is when I woke up the body was gone – and because of that, when that door to the Captain’s office opens, (nods head in direction of “door”) I’m a dead man.
I wonder what’s going on in there anyway. I could swear I heard several voices – and I was sure I saw some Jewish leaders in with the Captain before his aide shut the door. I sure hope he doesn’t turn me over to them. I saw what they did with that Jesus fellow. (Shudders!) It wasn’t pretty.
(Turn head toward a noise) What? Oh, yes sir. No problem. (Pause, then turn to the audience and address them again.)
Well, what do they expect me to say, ‘No, I’m not willing to wait a bit longer, I want to go in there right now and be sentenced to death.” Of course, I can wait a bit longer.
May the god’s help me! And what are those Jewish leaders doing in there. There is no doubt those voices I heard were Jewish. And I recognize one of the voices; he’s from the Jewish leadership. I wonder if his god would help me.
Funny I talk about gods. Some said that Jesus was the Son of God. I was wondering this morning. I mean, something came down from the skies. Something, not man, moved that stone and something took that body and there were no people around.
Uh, oh. It’s gotten quiet in there. This is it. (Turns head toward door, slowly gets up and walks toward the door and suddenly stops at full attention and salutes.)
“Hail Caesar, Captain.” Yes sir, (stands at ease but still scared!) And then just listens and nods.
Yes sir! (Relaxes a bit). Yes, sir, I can tell people that. Yes sir, thank you sir. Let me get this straight. You want me to tell people that his disciples came and took him? I can do that sir, absolutely sir. (Pauses), And they want to give me money? Well, sir… OK sir. (Reaches to take the money bag, puts it in an inside pocket.) Yes, sir. Thank you very much sir.
Goes to attention. Hail Caesar!
Pauses as the “captain” goes back into his room. Turn to audience.
Well, how about that. I’m going to live; I’ve got money to spend and all I’ve got to do is lie and tell people that his disciples came and took him. I can do that.
Praise God! (Look surprised at what you just said, and then walk out shaking your head.) God – I wonder….