A dramatised reading of the Crucifixion

Begin with seven candles lit.

Narrator 1

Welcome Disciples of Jesus Christ, welcome as we join the emotional journey of our predecessors, the first disciples and their experiences that first Holy Week.

Just one week before, they all entered the city in festival spirits and jubilation. Singing and shouting, the waving of palm leaves to the cries of:
“Hosanna to the son of David!”
“Save us Lord!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

This was what the disciples had waited three years for, and the nation of Israel even longer. Here was the Messiah being recognised, being praised. They had known him, walked with him, sat at his feet and learned from him. They had been there as witnesses as he healed people. The blind saw, the paralytic walked, those oppressed by spirits were freed. He had calmed the worst of storms, walked on the waters, raised the dead, proclaimed the kingdom of God as being among us, and now he rode into Jerusalem, fulfilling the prophecies. This was a day for celebration and festival, to rejoice and be thankful, for the Messiah had surely come!

Suggested song: Hosanna to the Son of David, Thomas Weelkes, The Sixteen

Narrator 2

As the week unfolded, certain things didn’t make sense. This wonderful man, who had taught them to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile, entered the temple and overturned tables. He made a whip out of cords and drove the money changers from the temple. They all understood how indignant he felt at the way the temple was being used, but behaviour like this was likely to attract the wrong kind of attention, from the wrong kind of people. After all, with all his speeches of liberation, salvation and hope, surely it was the Romans he had come to overthrow, wasn’t it. But that was not the end of the unsettling events.

Seven times he criticised the Pharisees, calling them hypocrites, snakes, vipers, and spoke of the destruction of the temple, of distress and deception in the days ahead. Then he spoke of the Son of Man being handed over to be crucified. He even allowed a woman to anoint him with perfume, saying she anointed him for burial. They thought he was the Son of Man, surely this thing could not happen to him, but it unsettled them, unsettled them deeply.

Extinguish first candle.

Narrator 1

What was that? Was that an element of doubt? A troubling thought? Something
uncomfortable amongst the wonder? It was the straw that broke the camel’s back for one of their number.

But not to worry, because this was Passover, and they would be eating and celebrating the Passover meal with their Lord. Mealtimes were always good with him. You never knew what he was going to say but it was always challenging. And some of them still hoped to see a repeat of the miracle with the wine at that wedding in Cana. What a long time ago that seemed now.

So the night before, the room had been made ready and the meal prepared. Just Jesus and the twelve. It wasn’t usually just them. So often there were more and more people pressing to join them, to join him. It was good to see the master so popular but sometimes, sometimes it was good to be just the thirteen of them together.

During the meal, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after giving thanks and blessing it he broke it and gave it to each of the the twelve. He looked at those gathered, his friends, his followers, and said, “Take this all of you and eat it. This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.” And they all ate. Then Jesus picked up the cup and gave thanks, saying, “Drink this, all of you. This cup is the new covenant written in my blood—blood poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” And they all drank.

Suggested song: O Taste and See, Ralph Vaughan Williams, The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge

Narrator 2

But then Jesus said, “The hand of the who will betray me is with mine at this moment on the table. It’s true that the Son of Man is going down a path already marked out. But how terrible it will be for the one who turns him in, the one who turns traitor to the Son of Man.”

Turns traitor? Betrays him? How could he think that? After all they’d been through together? But that’s what he said. Each of the disciples in turn said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” And Jesus answered, “One of you who has eaten with me from this dish will betray me. The Son of Man will die, as the Scriptures say.” Finally Judas said, “Teacher, surely you don’t mean me?” And Jesus replied, “That is what you say.”

Peter wanted to reassure him. “No Master, this will not happen. Even if everyone else falls away, I will not betray you. I will go with you to prison and even to death!” But instead of being comforted by these words, Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” Betrayal. And now denial.

Extinguish second candle.

Narrator 1

They made their way up to the Garden of Gethsemane. Like hundreds of times before, they followed Jesus to a secluded place, only this time it felt different. His shoulders seemed stooped, his heart heavy, and there was no conversation between the twelve of them. And leaving most of them, he went with Peter, James and John a bit further before asking them to keep watch over him while he prayed, for his heart was heavy.


Suggested songs:
Stay With Me, The Songs of Taizé Session Singers
O Lord Hear My Prayer, The Songs of Taizé Session Singers

Narrator 2

They slept.

They let him down. All he’d asked is that they kept watch and they hadn’t even managed to do that properly. And then, when they awoke and hoped in some way to make it up to him, there came up the hill a crown of people carrying torches and, at the head of them, Judas. He walked up to Jesus bold as brass and kissed him, and before they knew what was going on the Lord had been bound and the crowd were pushing him down the hill. Alone. Abandoned. The disciples had fled.

They accused him of blasphemy, and beat him, and spat in his face, and slapped him. They laughed at him and ridiculed him, and he did nothing.

Peter stood at a distance, scared, impotent, disorientated. Three times someone said he was one of the twelve. Three times he said he wasn’t. The last time, he even said, “I tell you I don’t know the man.”

And then the cock crowed.

Extinguish third candle.

Narrator 1

How ironic was this? They had hated the Romans, but now it appeared that the Roman governor was their hope to have Jesus released. Surely this man would release him. After all, the Romans were proud of their legal system, so they wouldn’t punish an innocent man, would they? Yet despite all his pomp and purple cloth, this man had less regal presence than the badly beaten Christ by his side. Jesus—innocent, betrayed, beaten.

Extinguish fourth candle.

Narrator 2

Pilate brought Jesus outside and paraded him in front of the jeering crowd gathered in the
square outside the Governor’s palace. Surely many of these had been there on the road when Jesus entered the city. Those shouting “Hosanna” just days before, now cried “Crucify him!”

They bayed for his blood and the release of a murderer. Those disciples hidden in the crowd thought they were in some bad dream. Surely they would wake and find themselves in the garden still. But this felt so real. The hurt. The confusion. The deep, twisting, knotting pain in the pit of their stomachs as Pilate asked “Shall I crucify your king?” and the crowd roared, “Yes, crucify him!”

Extinguish fifth candle.

Narrator 1

They made him carry his own cross, as was the practice, and they beat him, and spat on him, kicked him, jeered at him and whipped him. Someone made a crown of long hard thorns and pushed it down hard on his head. They took him outside the city to crucify him.

John 19:19–24
Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read:
Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.

Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did.

Extinguish sixth candle.

Narrator 2

Surely all was not lost. Jesus had calmed the storm, walked on water, raised the dead! Surely now, when all eyes were on him, surely now he would do... something?!

Matthew 27:45–49
From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

Narrator 1

And when he had received the drink, Jesus said “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit, and the light of the world went out.

Extinguish seventh candle.