Friday, April 06, 2012

The Passion of Christ. No. Not that one.

No, not the movie.  I have never seen it, nor do I want to.  I have never had a desire to see Mel Gibson's vision of the crucified Christ.  I am talking about the Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp passion play.  A homely little production put on by summer staff every week to share with campers.  Every thursday night, just as dusk fell, the campers would file silently up the hill and down into the moss covered amphitheater.

Those counselors who were selected to play the disciples and the male counselor playing Jesus that week would make their way up from the lakeshore..."Make way for the King.  Hosanna.  Jesus is here.  Make way."

Cut to a scene in which Judas Iscariot betrays Jesus to the high priest in exchange for thirty pieces of silver.

The disciples file down to the front, it is the Last Supper.  The washing of feet.  Jesus tells the disciples one will betray him.  They deny it.  "Go, and do what you must do."  The one who betray him gives him a kiss.  Judas, seeing what he has done, departs and hangs himself.

Jesus states that one will deny him three times.

As the disciples file up the hill, they are met by Judas and the Pharisees.  Peter draws a sword and cuts off the high priest's ear.  Jesus heals him.  Jesus is taken away as the disciples flee.  Peter is watching from behind a boulder as he is spotted by a servant.  "I do not know that man."

Jesus is beaten by the Pharisees and brought before Pontius Pilate.  He is tried by Pilate...
"As is your custom on the Passover, I shall release a prisoner to you.  Shall I release the King of the Jews or Barabas?"

The crowd jeers, "Barabas!  We want Barabas!"

Pilate asks, "what shall I do with your King?"

The crowd shouts, "Crucify him!  We have no King but the emperor!"

Pilate flings a bowl of water out of his servant's hand, "I wash my hands of this innocent man's blood.  Take him away!"

The pharisees push, kick and curse Jesus down the hill.  He is carrying a cross.

The choir sings a hauntingly beautiful rendition of the Via Dolorosa.

"Down the Vía Dolorosa in Jerusalem that day
The soldiers tried to clear the narrow street
But the crowd pressed in to see
The Man condemned to die on Calvary...

He was bleeding from a beating, there were stripes upon His back
And He wore a crown of thorns upon His head
And He bore with every step
The scorn of those who cried out for His death

Down the Vía Dolorosa called the way of suffering
Like a lamb came the Messiah, Christ the King,
But He chose to walk that road out of
His love for you and me.
Down the Via Dolorosa, all the way to Calvary."

The song switches to Spanish, Jesus falls beneath his cross.  A member of the crowd is grabbed to carry his cross.

"The blood that would cleanse the souls of all men
Made its way through the heart of Jerusalem.

Down the Vía Dolorosa called the way of suffering
Like a lamb came the Messiah, Christ the King
But He chose to walk that road out of His love for you and me
Down the Vía Dolorosa, all the way to Calvary."

(Credit S. Patti)


Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
When they nailed him to a tree? (the pounding of nails can be heard)
When they pierced him in the side?


The spotlights switch up to the stony cliffs behind the amphitheater.  Jesus hangs on a cross, a thief on his right and one on his left.

"My God...My God...Why have you forsaken me?"


I have played the disciple Peter and a Pharisee countless times.  I have played Judas.  And even when I was not acting in the play, I played a part in the crowd, shouting for Jesus to be crucified.  I am all of those things every time I deny Christ in another.  Every time I follow my own selfish desires, I deny Christ.

"...and you have prepared a cross for your Savior." -Solemn Reproaches for Good Friday-  

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