I’ve often wondered how I would react if I’d been alive when Jesus lived. After much thought, I decided that my reaction would be pretty similar to that of a less-than-appreciated group in the New Testament: the Pharisees. Yep, that’s me, I thought as I read their stories: thoughtful, hard-working, judgmental, and pretty darn proud of being so good. Because of this, I’ve always had a little more sympathy for the religious leaders who killed Jesus than most people I know.
I’m not asking you to like these guys. After all, they’re the villains of the story of Jesus’ death.
Or are they?
What if the real villains of the story are…all of us? All of us and the sin that Jesus died for, whatever form that sin takes. And maybe, like me, reading an adapted version of their story, you’ll discover that you have more in common with our Pharisee friends than you thought.
Let’s remember Jesus’ death and resurrection in a different way, from a new perspective. This is the first of eight scenes from Holy Week featuring some of those thoughtful, hard-working, and judgmental folks who were looking for a very different sort of Messiah than the one who showed up. I hope you enjoy them.
Cast of Characters
Michelle: A Pharisee
Simone: A Pharisee
Nicholas: A Pharisee
Levi: A Pharisee
Pete: One of Jesus’ disciples
Jonathan: One of Jesus’ disciples, a teenager
Maddie: One of Jesus’ disciples
Jude: One of Jesus’ disciples
Jesus: The Teacher
Josephine: A member of the Sanhedrin
Anna: A Sadducee
Jeremiah: A Sadducee
Note on Costumes: The groups should be distinguished by modern clothing of similar colors. The Pharisees wear white, and the Sadducees primarily wear red with gold or white accessories. The disciples wear shades of blue, and Jesus wears green.
Act One, Scene One
(MICHELLE, NICHOLAS, SIMONE, and LEVI stand facing the audience.)
MICHELLE: You have to wonder, some days, how history will remember us.
SIMONE: You know what they say…history is written by the winners. And Rome is winning right now, and probably will be as long as they crucify anyone who disagrees with them.
NICHOLAS: But we have our prayers! God will deliver us. (Hesitates.) Won’t he?
LEVI: Not if we’re the only ones following the Law, the only ones who care at all about righteousness and rules.
SIMONE: And giving to the poor, and teaching the Scriptures, and getting involved in basically every community service group in existence. You can’t be too careful, you know.
MICHELLE: We are God’s chosen people. Not just because we were born Israelites, but because we choose to follow God’s commands every single day. Even when it’s hard. Even when no one else seems to care.
LEVI: Our so-called colleagues, the Sadducees have been willing to…make more political concessions than we have. To the Romans.
MICHELLE: They sold out. And were rewarded for it. But isn’t that always the way it goes?
NICHOLAS: Of course, we’re never corrupted by power.
SIMONE: Oh, no.
LEVI: We serve on the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the people, the only representatives of the proper interpretation of Law. The only ones calling for righteousness.
MICHELLE: A voice, crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”
SIMONE: No, no, don’t use that verse. It’s been quoted all over the place by…oh, what’s his name? The crazy insect-eating man with the beard.
NICHOLAS: Oh, right. John the Baptist.
LEVI: Yes, him. He seems to think the Messiah is coming.
MICHELLE: I heard he even named him. That Jesus of Nazereth.
MICHELLE: He’s a new teacher. Lower-middle-class, popular with the people, tells stories to illustrate Scriptures. There’s talk that he’s even done miracles.
LEVI: He’ll fade away, I’m sure, as all the other fads have. Even the Sadducees will pass out of favor eventually. We alone will remain. We represent the truth.
MICHELLE: We are the last ones willing stand up for what’s right.
ALL: We are the Pharisees.