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What Else Could I Have Done? A Maundy Thursday or Good Friday Reading

Pilate’s Wife
Roman Soldier
Simon of Cyrene
Mary Magdalene
Chief Priest
Joseph of Arimathea

Narrator: This is the Passion story. The story of Jesus’ betrayal and his death. Come and walk with the people that were with him during that time.

Judas: I am 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. What amazing power he wielded over death’s seeming finality! Surely he was the Messiah whose advent had been foretold by our prophets. What an invincible leader he would be in our battle against Rome’s predators! He demonstrated abler leadership than Israel’s great King David. But as I witnessed his gentle ministry to needy peasant and blind beggars, I became impatient for him to demonstrate his leadership by marshalling Israel’s warriors in battle. It was maddening for me to listen to him talk about loving one’s enemies when I wanted him to mount a campaign to eradicate Israel’s enemies. Why did he waste time healing beggars and feeding hungry peasants?

Roman Soldier: I am a Roman soldier. We were in our troop, with all of our armor and equipment on. We were a fierce, cruel band of men?murderers, actually, and we didn’t care. It was our job, just like any other. We were paid for obeying orders, whatever they might be. That night, though, was special. We were out to get our man, Jesus of Nazareth. We got a tip as to where he was, and we came armed to capture him. I’ll never forget it. We came to capture a criminal.

Peter: I was there that night. My name is Peter, and we, the disciples, were in the garden with our Lord while he was praying. It’s hard to imagine the horrendous fear and hatred that came over me when I saw the soldiers. I loved Jesus so much that I had to do something. I had to do something to show my loyalty and my fierce devotion, so I raised my sword in my anger and aimed, and missed my mark! I cut off an ear of one of the soldiers, but I meant to do so much more! I wanted to protect him because I loved him so much, but I was wrong. Jesus does not condone violence; and there, amidst the cruelty that was facing him, he healed one of his enemies. My fear was overwhelming. It’s hard to imagine what it is like to fear for your life, but I loved him.

Roman Soldier: Jesus surrendered boldly with a courage I have never seen. This man was no ordinary man. There was something about him I couldn’t understand. He carried no weapons, but when he came toward us we became terrified. A troop of armed soldiers could become paralyzed with fear because of him, one man. I shrank back in fear of him. I wanted to leave and run when I saw him, but what else could I do? (Blow out candle and leave.)

Judas: I began to wonder if he needed an opportunity to demonstrate his divine power. Perhaps I could arrange such an opportunity which would allow him to reveal his invincible power. I conceived a plan which would demonstrate Jesus’ superiority over Caesar. I would offer to lead Roman soldiers to overtake the Master while he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. In this showdown he would summon legions of angels to disable Caesar’s soldiers. I could not believe that Jesus would allow himself to be taken prisoner, but he did! Everything fell apart before my eyes! 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 who loved me. I had returned his love with betrayal. I didn’t deserve to live. What else could I have done? (Blow out candle and leave.)

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 seen. (Blow out candle and leave.)

Peter: I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. I promised him 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. I am a man of prestige and importance. I know hundreds of rules concerning how to please God and I was, until quite recently, convinced that God approved of our rules. But then someone came into my life abruptly and started to break our rules. That someone was Jesus of Nazareth. It made us so angry and jealous, we wanted to get rid of him. He healed people, helped people, and said he was the son of man. We hated him. We couldn’t do the things he did. I couldn’t help but notice that he never defended himself or tried to get revenge. It seemed as though he was always demanding honesty in his relationships with us. Honesty was not really what I was interested in, but I couldn’t help wondering who he was, if he was not God’s truth. As he stayed with us, I heard his voice, which had depth and power to it. Even if I were blind I would recognize that voice. Perhaps I knew in my heart that he was a man of God, but I didn’t want to admit it. What else could I have done? (Blow out candle and leave.)

Pilate: I am Pontius Pilate. I personally had nothing against him, although he was known as a troublemaker among his own people and the Romans. 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 very reluctant to let this man go, and I’m not sure why. There was something so very 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 not the eyes of mortal man. 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? (Blow out candle and leave.)

Pilate: I was bothered by my wife. She seldom was upset, but this time she pleaded with me. I was bothered by Jesus himself, what there was of him. You see, by the time he got to me he was so beaten physically that it was hard to recognize him. I was vexed knowing that I could lose my job if I didn’t have him crucified, and then I would lose face and be embarrassed in front of all the people. What bothered me was that this Jesus actually seemed to care about me. And although I didn’t want to admit it, 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? (Blow out candle and leave.)

Simon of Cyrene: My name is Simon of Cyrene. You don’t know me, and I didn’t really understand what the situation was. I was just a bystander and I was requested to carry the cross of this Jesus to Golgotha. Who is he, anyway? I was near to him, and there was a strange peacefulness about him, even though he was about to face death. I didn’t want him to die. I did all that I could. What else could I have done? (Blow out candle and leave.)

Mary: I loved him from the moment he was born. He was never an easy son, but I loved him. We had our differences, certainly, but this was my greatest fear from the very beginning of his activities. Why did he have to do it so differently? He could have lived in Galilee, had a family, been like other sons. I think he just cared too much. He loved too much. He wanted justice for everyone. I must admit, I am proud of him. I wanted him to know I’m proud of him, that I loved him. That’s why I was there, to be with him one last time. It was hard, harder than I could have imagined. I felt every wound that was inflicted upon him. 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 me 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 my soul. It was a strange day for me when I realized how much I had come to love him. Clearly, this man spoke the truth. 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 from God. He made me realize that I had lived my life in fear, instead of love. And where there is love, there is no fear. Maybe that’s why I had the courage to be at his feet when they crucified him.

Joseph of Arimathea: I am Joseph of Arimathea. I am a very important, prominent man and member of the Sanhedrin. I’m not a terribly brave person, but after Jesus died, I gathered up my courage and asked for his body because I wanted him to be buried in my own tomb. I was frightened to do it. If someone had found out, I would lose my position. I am a wealthy man, and I knew I was doing this at great risk. But I wanted him to have my burial tomb; somehow I knew that such a holy man should not be thrown into a pit. He had changed my life. He had taught me the truth. When I gave him my tomb, I realized how much that truth had changed my life. That is the way love is. It transforms people to do things for love of truth, rather than from fear. What else could I do? (Blow out candle and leave.)

Centurion: I am a centurion. I saw Jesus die. I just happened to be a bystander, one of the Roman guards assigned to Golgotha. I saw many crucifixions, saw many people die. You get used to it. Besides, it’s our job and we are hardened people. However, this Jesus changed me. There was something about the way he died. An inner peace, in spite of the pain. There was something about his willingness to forgive. This man changed me. Now I wish I had known more about him. I do think he was special. Maybe even a son of God. I will always feel badly about his death. What else could I have done? (Blow out candle and leave.)


Peter: What can I say, how can I ever make this up to him? He must know that I loved him with all of my heart. What more could I have done? Will I be willing to risk my life for his truth? Will I be able to still call him my Lord? Will I be able to face the others after my cowardice? I know that he was the truth. Now I must learn to live it. What else can I do? (Blow out candle and leave.)

Mary: I know I have been given a gift. A gift of love that is 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 could not have loved him more. (Blow out candle and leave.)

Mary Magdalene: I’ll always wonder if there was more that I could have done. I was surprised when I realized that none of the twelve were there when he was killed. How strange it is that the same men who were arguing about who would be first were absent, gone in his last hours on this earth. 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. (Blow out candle and leave.)

A note on the script:

It would be a good idea to read the whole script when you have a few minutes.

The overlying theme of the readings is, “What else could I have done?” Every character ends their reading with that line (or a variation of it). However, the characters are vastly different, and they don’t all mean the same thing when they say that line. For example, perhaps the Roman Soldier is defensive. Perhaps Pilate is full of regret. Perhaps Simon of Cyrene is thoughtful, trying to literally think of something else he could have done. Maybe another character is angry, another is heartbroken, etc., etc. Think about your character for a bit, and where they’re coming from when they say that line.

And have fun with it! All of the characters are interesting and thought-provoking.

Review & Commentary