A few months ago on April 20, 2019 We are blessed to have 12 grandchildren. Five of them live in Syracuse Indiana. For the last couple of years these 5 kids have been a part the CHRISTS PASSION, play that is a dramatic presentation depicting the Passion of Jesus. It is an hour-and-forty-five-minute reenactment of the last week of the life of Jesus Christ. His trial, suffering and death.
We have heard them talking about all the rehearsals, combing thru Goodwill stores in search of pieces to make their costumes, and the late nights when they practice and perform the show. I’ve always wanted to go see them, just never have been able to make it happen. In April, this year I decided I was going to make it a priority to see their play. I brought two of our five granddaughters Allyson and Emmalynn, and we invited my dear friend Cheryl to come with us as well. Once we arrived at the large church, we stood in line to buy tickets, it was then I realized this was a certified real production company that travels all over putting on this play. They don’t just come in and perform the show, and take off.
They invite people from the surrounding areas to participate in the play. The are many openings of the play that a person can audition for, a seller of wool, a seller of grapes, a Shepherd, a seller of chickens, or sheep, someone who gathers wheat, and grinds it into bread, there are many townspeople needed. Its really an awesome procedure. From the moment we walked through the doors to the gymnasium, it’s almost completely dark and the smell of incense is heavy as you walk down a darkened funnel like isle to your seat. Tents line each side of the walls, and are set tightly side by side. People are walking about in authentically handmade clothes from that era. Some people are sitting in their tents, busy with food preparations, woman are tending children, making baskets, weaving rug, or spinning yarn. Others are weaving throughout the crowd shouting eggs for sale, buy my eggs, bread for sale, finest grapes for sale….they come up and ask you to purchase their product and explain to you why you should buy from them and not the other sell who may be circling up behind them.
There is a blind woman sitting alongside the streets of Jerusalem yelling at no one out loud. As if she is crazy. There are people selling fine jewelry, and livestock, hay, or grain. They are approximately 20 followers, supporters of Jesus and another 20 followers who are NOT supporters of Jesus. This whole production leaves you feeling as if you are really there, in person, just walking the streets of Jerusalem like everyone else. It gives you such a REAL FEEL for what it must have been like to be in that time and place. BIG, LOUD, BRUTAL looking men all dressed as Roman Soldiers are weaving in and out of the crowds of people. Suddenly they will shove someone and in a deep baritone voice yell, ” WHERE ARE YOU GOING, WHAT IS YOUR BUSINESS HERE”..”GO HOME, GET OUT OF THE WAY”.
Sometimes they will slip behind your seat and suddenly yell STAND UP, WHERE IS YOUR PASSPORT, and if you do not answer in the way they want you to they call the guards and you are taken away. Obviously, the only audience members that literally are hauled away by the Roman soldiers are people they have agreed to this participate in the play this way ahead of time. Still, it is riveting to witness.
(On a side note, they did stop and do this our granddaughter Emmalynn, who did not think it amusing and she cried right away. What was precious about the situation is here is this actor who is suppose to be the big, tough, mean Roman solider and now with everyone watching he’s trying to tell her he is sorry and its just a play).
In the past years, these 5 grandchildren have always been able to have parts in the play along side their mom. They have been townspeople, sellers, and during the time of the trial and crucifixion they were all followers of Jesus. They supported him with chants of respect and admiration as they pleaded with the Roman soldiers to leave the Son of God alone, to spare his life. They shout prayers and pleas for Jesus to be spared. They sit and cry alongside Mary when her only Son is crucified.
This year, my daughter in law, and grandchildren said they had to play the part of the NON-supporters, hecklers, non believers of Jesus. The people who shouted for him to be killed, to be beaten, hung and crucified. Several times their mom Brandy told me it was the most difficult part to play, as it was so totally opposite of how they felt, and it made her cry. Still they all played their part. I watched in amazement as our oldest grandson Benjamin 14, played the part with such authenticity. He shouted and yelled; he was pushed back into the crowd several times by the ACTING Jerusalem authorities as he tried to leap forward towards Jesus. Benjamin preaches at his church sometimes, and he’s right good at, so again playing this kind of role wasn’t his first choice but he took it and ran with it.
(After the play was over, Benjamin and one other boy could be found standing at the exit doors handing out tracks from their church, all tired and sweaty.)
From the beginning of the play, through out several scenes a very sick man is laying in the middle of the street on a tattered wool blanket. He cries out now and then for help but everyone continues walks past him or steps over him. (Within the production He is the man that Jesus tells says to him “ You are healed, get up and take your bed with you) One of many healings Jesus performs.
Before the play begins, the large auditorium is dark except for a faint light over the stage. As the narrator begins to read passages from the Bible, Jesus appears from the right side of the gym and walks slow and deliberate with purpose towards center stage. He wears a faint smile and waves slowly.
The man playing Jesus looks so incredibly real. As he is making his way onto the stage, he side steps toward the audience. I quickly sent a bullet prayer upward and ask God to have this actor portraying Jesus to shake my hand. I cannot even tell you why. I think my entire surroundings made it all seem so real I wanted to take a part of it home with me. TO FEEL DIFFERENT WHEN I LEFT, TO HOLD ONTO THE REAL FEEL OF IT ALL. LIKE I WAS A WITNESS. Jesus stopped only in two places. An elderly woman in the first row, and then he stopped in front of me, I put my right hand up to shake his and he wrapped both of his hands around mine, squeezed gently and nodded.
I KNOW, I KNOW he is just an actor pretending to be Jesus. But I confess, it sent chills up my spine and I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of what it might have been like to touch the hand of Jesus, or feel the switch of air from his garments as he passed by me in a crowd. Honestly, WE CAN ONLY IMAGINE…but it still felt special. To me. After all, this was a play, and perhaps somehow God was allowing me to really feel for a fleeting more a scared snippet of the joy.
The rest of the play was too beautiful for words. I could write about it for another three pages. I cried several times, I grew angry and I hurt when they beat OUR JESUS, and when they crucified OUR JESUS. I couldn’t stop the tears from falling.
As a young mother, in church on Easter Sundays I used to think I could “sympathize” with Mary losing her only son, and in such a terrible way. I used to hold our own son a bit tighter during that story. (Let me make it clear here, that we had four babies, and we have been so BLESSED to be able to raise three wonderful people, great people. I loved our babies; I cherished every moment with them. You would have to ask to hold them…otherwise I never let them go. They were my salvation, my hearts delight and our whole world. They still are, and have given us 12 Beautiful Grandchildren, who are also our whole world).
Still I thought that I could sympathize with Mary. Oh My. When we witnessed the whaling and sobbing of Mary kneeling at the feet of her Son Jesus, losing herself in such a loss, it was pure EMPATHY I felt. When a few woman had to help Mary up on her feet and get her out of the way of the Guard, we all ached for her. When Mary and several other women race to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body with oil and spices and instead, they are met by an angel that tells them that Jesus have been raised from the dead, the tomb is empty. You can feel the relief and hear the joy in Mary’s crying and you can see and feel her tears of relief.
This was just a POWERFUL play. Here is a precious reason why I wanted to share this whole story. Wanted to get it down on paper so as never to forget it.
Our youngest grand daughter Norah, is two. She has been so mesmerized by this man portraying Jesus. On one of the first nights, as her Mom was trying to gather up her five children to go home, as it was getting late, Norah stops her mommy and says “Wait Mom, I have to talk to Jesus, and tell him goodbye”. She was so in LOVE with JESUS.. To have the faith and love of a child is precious. No wonder in Mark10:14 Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
My words cannot do justice to how sweet Little Norah is, or how precious it was for me to witness the way she was always staring at “her Jesus”, sheepishly smiling at him. She never let him out of her sight. If he looked down at her to speak, she would just stare up and him and smile. My writing cannot capture all that this CHRIST PASSION PLAY is or explain a little girls connection to a pretend Jesus…BUT THIS PHOTO OF HER AND JESUS SPEAKS VOLUMES. As you can see, this was a group picture, but there is no mistaking the adoration she had for what she believed was “the real Jesus”. Perhaps our little Norah should bring home the Emmy, for her part was played with such honesty and truth…it moved all our hearts.