A Script for Good Friday

Logistics/Set-up: Move communion table off to side. Place ~30 chairs in a circle up on chancel. Small round-top table in center with large pillar candle in center, twelve (12) votives in circle around the pillar (all lit). Place snuffing bell on table. Lenten Wreath is moved to right in front of the cross (outside of wall) – only one candle is lit.

Prior to beginning, assign roles and distribute script of Good Friday reading to volunteers

Characters: Narrator Pilate’s Wife Roman Soldier

Simon of Cyrene
Judas Mary Peter
Mary Magdalene Chief Priest
Joseph of Arimathea Pilate

See additional directions in red below.

Welcome & Explanation (distribution of scripts, assignment of roles)

* Working to revision the conventional emphases on Holy Week observances. Moving away from anti-Semitism and blood-thirsty Middle-Eastern potentates demanding blood sacrifice for Original Sin. This is not new. Even in the 12th Century, Peter Abelard wrote:

Christ died neither because a ransom had to be paid to the devil, nor because the blood of an innocent victim was needed to appease the wrath of God, but that a supreme exhibition of love may kindle a corresponding love in the hearts of men and inspire them with the true freedom of the son-ship of God.” ~ Peter Abelard, French philosopher/theologian (1079-1142 CE)

So, if you’re looking forward to being told that you’re a horrible worm, unworthy of living, and that you deserve a horrible death (that Jesus suffers in your place on Good Friday), you’re going to be disappointed. Instead, we’re going to consider the possible thoughts entertained by a number of the observers of the Passion – and see how we can relate to them in our everyday lives.

Centering Silence

Unison Prayer — Rev. Bret S. Myers (adapted by DMF)

All: We gather as those who sense abundant grace in the abundance of our lives, but who remain plagued by the reality of want and injustice in our world. We gather today to bear witness to suffering and death upon a cross. We are appalled at the injustice and cruelty of such inhumanity — not only in Jesus’ story, but of days in our lives when we are confronted with greed, corruption, discrimination, hatred, violence, and loss of life.

Women: We mourn for Syrian civilians who have been gassed and bombed, for refugees of all countries who are fleeing oppression, and for poverty and sickness that are far too pervasive in our world.

Men: May we recommit ourselves to seeking peace, justice, mercy, forgiveness, kindness, and love. May we respond to our world more wisely and compassionately.

All: May this day of darkness not hinder our resolve to follow in Jesus’ ways and to make our world a better place. In the midst of salacious suffering and the callousness of crucifixion, let us hold on to hope in resurrection. This is our prayer

🎼At-one-ment (sung to Amazing Grace)

God dwells in us whene’er we love;
With God, we are as one;
For when we love we dwell in God;
Renewal has begun.
When loving others I receive Fulfilment and release
From tension and hostility;
I taste a sacred peace.
What Else Could I Have Done? A Good Friday Reading

by Fred Plumer (adapted by DMF) Interspersed with a hymn by George Stuart

Narrator: These readings are a glimpse into what’s called the Passion, the story of Jesus’ betrayal and death. Come and walk with the people that were with him during that time.

Judas: I’m Judas from the village of Kerioth. I loved the land God had given to my people. I believed Jesus of Nazareth was God’s answer to Israel’s prayer for release from Roman tyranny. Surely he was the Messiah foretold by our prophets! I just knew he’d be an invincible leader against the oppression of Rome! But I became impatient for him to demonstrate his leadership by marshalling Israel’s warriors in battle. He seemed more interested in being present to needy peasants and blind beggars. It was maddening for me to listen to him talk about “loving one’s enemies” when what I wanted was for him to knock heads! Why did he waste time with lepers and children?

Roman Soldier: I’m a Roman soldier. Our cohort was pretty typical, a fierce and cruel band of men. Actually, most of the stinking peasants we have to keep corralled think of us as murderers, but we don’t care. It’s our job and we’re good at it. We’re paid for obeying orders, whatever they are. That night, though, was special. We were out to nab this Jewish rabble rouser, Jesus. We got a tip as to where he was and we came armed to the teeth. We came to capture a dangerous revolutionary.

Peter: I was there that night. My name is Peter, and we, the disciples, were in the garden with Jesus while he was praying. It’s hard to express the level of fear and hatred that came over me when I saw those soldiers. I loved Jesus so much that I had to do something. I had to show my loyalty and my devotion, so I raised my sword. I meant to do so much more, but all I managed to do was cut off the ear of one of the soldiers. I was desperate to protect Jesus, but resorted to exactly the kind of thing Jesus warned us against. Jesus doesn’t condone violence; and there, facing what was sure to be unimaginable cruelty, Jesus reached out and healed the soldier, one of his enemies.

Judas: I began to wonder if Jesus needed an opportunity to demonstrate his divine power. Perhaps I could arrange an opportunity that would force his hand. I conceived a plan that would give Jesus a chance to demonstrate his superiority over Caesar. I offered to lead a squad of soldiers to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus would have no choice: he would summon legions of angels to disable Caesar’s soldiers. But everything fell apart before my eyes! It was inconceivable that Jesus would allow himself to be taken prisoner, but he did! I was sickened by the realization that I had betrayed God’s son to his enemies. I was desperate. I couldn’t undo what I had started. I had betrayed my Lord. I had returned his love with betrayal. I didn’t deserve to live. What else could I do? (Snuff out one candle on center table and return to seat.)

Roman Soldier: This Jesus surrendered with a courage like I’ve never seen. There was something about him I couldn’t understand. He carried no weapon, but when he came toward us we became terrified. A troop of armed Roman soldiers! Paralyzed with fear! I was so embarrassed, but what else could I do? (Snuff out one candle on center table and return to seat.)

Narrator: After Jesus was arrested that night, he was given six trials, all without witnesses and all at night. They were brutal and cruel to him. Long before he even went to the cross, Jesus was humiliated and beaten. He was all alone. His disciples were nowhere to be found. (Snuff out one candle on center table and return to seat.)

Peter: I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t believe what was happening. I promised Jesus I wouldn’t deny him, but that night I denied him three times. I bitterly wept because of it, and I was deeply sorry. But I, we, all of us were so scared! We fled and didn’t know what to do. We were in constant fear.

Chief Priest: I am a chief priest of the Jews, a man of prestige and political influence. I know the rules and, until quite recently, kept the rules. After all, God made the rules. But then this Jesus of Nazareth came into my life and abruptly started to break our rules. It made me so angry and jealous. I wanted to get rid of him. He claimed to heal people, he helped people, and said he was the Son of Man – and his popularity kept growing. Despite our efforts to discredit him, he never defended himself or tried to get revenge. Instead, he demanded honesty in his relationships with us – and honesty was not what I was really interested in — but that voice. That voice pierced my heart. Perhaps I knew deep down that he was a man of God, but I didn’t want to admit it. What else could I have done? (Snuff out one candle on center table and return to seat.)

Pilate: I’m Pontius Pilate. Personally, I had nothing against him, although he was known as a troublemaker among his own people. Certainly, as a Roman ruler, I didn’t care whether he lived or died. I was curious to hear him, though. He seemed to have a depth and a power about him. I must admit I came to think of him as a man of truth. Why was he to die? I felt reluctant to let him go, but I’m not sure why. There was something so unusual about him.

But I had my job to consider.

Pilate’s Wife: I am a very beautiful woman, am I not? Pontius Pilate is my husband, a very powerful and influential man, and I am a very important woman. Something happened to me, though, that scared me to the inner depths of my being. God spoke to me about Jesus. He did it in a dream, at night, and from then on I tried to warn my husband about Jesus.

Besides that, something about his eyes bothered me. They were the kind of eyes that see right through you. I wanted my husband to leave him alone and release him. I didn’t feel he was someone we should be dealing with. But what else could I do? (Snuff out one candle on center table and return to seat.)

Pilate: My wife was acting strangely. She didn’t become upset often, but when it came to this Jesus character, she pleaded with me. Mind you, I was bothered by Jesus, too – what was left of him. By the time he got to me he was beaten so severely that it was hard to recognize him. I was conflicted knowing that if I didn’t have him crucified, I could lose my job. Losing face and being embarrassed in front of the people was unacceptable. What really bothered me was that this Jesus actually seemed to care about me. I didn’t want to admit it, but I didn’t want his death to be my responsibility. So, in front of the screaming, shouting mob I washed my hands of the situation. What else could I do? (Snuff out one candle on center table and return to seat.)

Simon of Cyrene: My name is Simon of Cyrene. You probably don’t know me – and I didn’t really understand what the situation was. I was just a bystander in the crowd when I was pressed into service carrying the cross of this Jesus to Golgotha. Who is he, anyway? I was near to him, and even though he was about to face death, there was a strange peacefulness about him. I didn’t have anything against him – and carrying that cross-beam may have relieved some of his suffering. Look, I did all that I could. What else could I have do? (Snuff out one candle on center table and return to seat.)

Mary: I loved my son from the moment he was born. Let’s just say he wasn’t an easy child to raise, but I loved him. We had our differences, certainly, but from the very beginning of his organizing people, this was my greatest fear. Why did he have to be so different? He could have been like his brothers, lived in Galilee, had a family. But he wanted everyone to be treated fairly. Does it make sense to say that I think he just cared too much? He loved too much. I must admit, I am proud of him – and I wanted him to know I was proud of him, that I loved him. That’s why I was there, to be with him one last time. It was harder than I could have ever imagined. I felt every wound he received. I would have done anything to have taken his place.

Mary Magdalene: I’m Mary Magdalene. I was proud to be one of Jesus’ disciples. It’s a rare thing for a man in our world to treat a woman with such equality and respect. I came to know Jesus when he healed my illness, but I discovered later he had healed more; he had healed the deepest part of who I was. It was a strange day for me when I realized how much I had come to love him. I did what I could do with my financial and moral support, but it was not enough. I now know that every moment I spent with him was a gift. Clearly, this man spoke the truth. He made me realize that I had lived my life in fear instead of love – and where there’s love, there’s no room for fear. Maybe that’s why I had the courage to be at his feet when they executed him.

Joseph of Arimathea: My name is Joseph of Arimathea. Look, I’m not trying to brag, but I’m a pretty big deal. Even without my membership in the Sanhedrin, I’m an important, prominent man. I’m not a terribly brave person, though. I had to gather up every ounce of courage after Jesus was executed to ask for his body. Sometimes the bodies are just left to be eaten by the birds and dogs – it’s terrible. I have a large family tomb and thought Jesus should be buried with some dignity. I was so frightened. If someone had found out, I’d lose my reputation and position. I’m a wealthy man, and this was a big risk. But somehow I knew that such a holy man should not be thrown into a pit. He changed my life. He taught me the truth. Opening my family tomb was an expression of gratitude for how much he had changed my life. After all, that’s the way love is. It transforms people to do things for love of truth, rather than from fear. What else could I do? (Snuff out one candle on center table and return to seat.)

Centurion: I’m a centurion, part of the Roman squad assigned to Golgotha that day – and I saw Jesus die. I was just doing my job. I saw so many people die – more crucifixions than I can count. But you get used to it. Besides, it’s what we do. But, this Jesus – this ragged bag of bones – he changed me. There was something about the way he died: call it an “inner peace” or something. In spite of the pain, there was something about him: he even had the audacity to forgive the detachment carrying out his execution! Who does that? I do think he was special somehow. I wish I had known more about him. I still feel bad about participating in his death. What else could I have done? (Snuff out one candle on center table and return to seat.)

🎼At-one-ment (sung to Amazing Grace)

If I take heed of self-esteem,
Accept myself in grace,
In love, I then begin to see
God’s image in my face.
Love is itself the sacred place
Where God and I can meet;
Love is the scene, love is the time
When life is so complete.

Peter: What can I say? How can I ever make this up to him? He must know that I loved him with all my heart. What more could I have done? Am I willing to risk my life for his truth? Can I still call him my Lord? Will I be able to face the others after being such a coward? What he taught us was hard enough to live out when he was right here with us. Now I have to figure out a way to live it by my wits. I owe him that much. What else can I do? (Snuff out one candle on center table and return to seat.)

Mary: I know I’ve been given a gift – a gift of love so great that I would gladly give my life for the sake of my child. Maybe there are things that I could have done differently, but I couldn’t have loved him more. (Snuff out one candle on center table and return to seat.)

Mary Magdalene: I’ll always wonder if there was more that I could have done. But then none of the twelve even showed their faces when he was killed — sad how the same bumpkins who busied themselves arguing about who would be “first in the Kingdom” were absent that day, cowering somewhere safe during Jesus’ last hours. I hope he knew when he looked at me how much I loved him. I will never leave him. I will never betray his truth.

Maybe that’s what love is. (Snuff out one candle on center table and return to seat.)


Reflection: The characters in our story are vastly different from one another. Clearly, when they ask, “What else could I have done?”, they don’t all mean the same thing. Roman Soldier full of regret? Perhaps Pilate seemed a little defensive? Simon of Cyrene thoughtful — trying to literally think of something else he could have done. Angry? Heartbroken? Where are they coming from when they ask, “What else could I have done?

* Turn to someone you didn’t come with, introduce yourself, and share some of your impressions about one or more of these
* With the same person, share which character you most relate to and

Sharing with the large group.

Snuffing of the last candle in the Lenten Wreath

🎼At-one-ment (sung to Amazing Grace)

We dwell in God,
God dwells in us;
With God, we are as one
When love is that which guides our path;
The victory has been won.

Sending Out

Leader: Now… May we go in peace and hope.

For nothing can separate us from the source of life and love – we are an Easter people!
People are invited to exchange signs of peace.
Shared by Rev. David Felten,
The Fountains, UMC, Fountain Hills, AZ

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