27 January 1997

Carpenter: Act 2 - Ministry

Lights on. Jesus upstage, preaching to crowds spread around stage. Pharisees stage right. Centurion stage left, hiding.

Scene 1: Beatitudes

(Lk 6:20-26)

Jesus:

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you who hunger, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will be filled with laughter.
Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.

Points toward the Pharisees.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed, for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh, for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.

Pharisees storm off, all but Nicodemus, who watches surreptitiously, stage right.

But I tell you this: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Townsfolk disperse, muttering among themselves in wonder. Jesus comes down to center stage.

Scene 2: Magdalene

(Jn 8:3-11)

Pharisees and townsfolk enter stage right, each carrying a rock, and dragging Magdalene. They throw her to the ground, where she lies cowering.

Pharisee 1: Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?

Jesus bends down and starts to write on the ground with his finger.

Pharisee 2: What, are you afraid to answer? Should we follow the Law or not?

Jesus still writing: Whichever of you is without sin, let him throw the first stone.

The crowd mutter among themselves, each trying to convince the other to be first. Eventually, they start to drift away, the oldest first, the younger Pharisees last, until they're all gone. Jesus looks around, stands, moves to Magdalene, and raises her head.

Jesus: Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?

Magdalene: No one, sir.

Jesus: Then neither do I. Go now and leave your life of sin. Exit Magdalene, joyfully.

Scene 3: Nicodemus

(Jn 3:1-15)

Nicodemus approaches Jesus. Lights off all but center stage, dimly lit. Exit Centurion.

Nicodemus: Rabbi, we know that God has sent you to teach us. You could not work these miracles, unless God were with you.

Jesus: I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.

Nicodemus: What do you mean? How can a grown man go back into his mother's womb and be born again?

Jesus: Before you can get into God's kingdom, you must be born not only by water, but by the Spirit. Humans give life to their children. Yet only God's Spirit can change you into a child of God. Don't be surprised when I say that you must be born again. Only God's Spirit gives new life. The Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants to. You can hear the wind, but you don't know where it comes from or where it is going.

Nicodemus: How can this be?

Jesus: How can you be a teacher of Israel and not understand these things? We know what we are talking about because we have seen it ourselves, but none of you accept our testimony. If you don't believe when I talk to you about things on earth, how can you possibly believe if I talk to you about things in heaven?

Listen to me. No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

Scene 4: Cost of Discipleship

(Mt 18:1-4; Mk 9:35; Mt 20:25-28; Lk 9:23-26,57-62)

Lights brighten. The disciples run up to Jesus, petulantly, like children fighting over a piece of cake. Townsfolk follow more slowly. Nicodemus slips quietly away, unobserved.

James: Master, who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

Jesus: Anyone who wants to be the first must be the last and serve everyone else. Beckons to a small child. Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Listen carefully. If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet forfeit his very soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Thomas: Rabbi, I will follow you wherever you go.

Jesus: Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.

Townsfolk 1: Lord, first let me return home and bury my ailing father.

Jesus: Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.

Townsfolk 2: I will follow you, Lord, but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family.

Jesus: No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.

Scene 5: Peter's Confession

(Lk 9:18-22; Mt 16:13-18; 20:17-19)

Exeunt, muttering among themselves, all but Jesus and disciples.

Jesus: Who do the crowds say I am?

John: Some say John the Baptist.

James: Others say Elijah.

Thomas: Others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets from long ago.

Jesus: But what about you? Who do you say I am?

Peter: You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

Jesus: Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, the Rock, and on this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.

Listen to me, all of you. We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Romans to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will rise again. Exeunt.

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