A year ago at this time, while I was interning at the Fairfield Church of Christ, I was given the opportunity to be involved in their Easter production, His Final Week. They recreated scenes from the Passion Week in different rooms in the church, which created a walk-thru experience. As an intern, I was given the privilege of working alongside our production team (who all did an incredible job!), but I was also one of many cast members of the drama.
One of the many things that stands out about the experience in my mind is that we had four different casts called “Jesus groups” that did the performances on rotation, which meant that we had 4 Jesus’ (or “Jesi” as they preferred to call themselves! lol). While we rehearsed for the drama, I was able to witness four men portray Jesus in their own ways (one of which happen to be my cousin). Because they each had different takes on Jesus’ character, and because I was involved so heavily in the production, I learned so many new things from this story I had know forever. I hope that by sharing these lessons with you, you will be able to understand the Easter Story in a whole new light.
Jesus Had to Give Up His Control
Having been raised as a pastor’s kid, I had heard the events of the Easter story literally hundreds of times. I could easy tell you the story forwards and backwards. It isn't always easy to see a story you know so well from a different perspective, but being a part of this drama gave me the opportunity to do just that. Especially after watching four men protray Jesus, it made me think a lot about His character and all the tracts that Jesus demonstrated throughout His life on earth. It is nearly impossible for an actor to embrace all of Jesus' tracts, so they usually end up emphasizing one through their performance. Of all the tracts I observed, one stands out from all the rest.
"My" Jesus embraced a different tract than the other “Jesi” – his authority and control. In the temple scene, after cleansing the temple, he confronted the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, and it was a powerful confrontation. It reminded me that Jesus taught as one who had authority. He commanded that authority with His confidence and control in every situation. That is one of the many reasons people were drawn to His teaching.
However, when the time came to fulfill the Father’s plan, He had to give up that authority, and it wasn't easy. When Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, that was His primary struggle. Not only was He dreading the pain He was about to endure, but He also knew that He had to give up control in order to fulfill the Father’s plan. That is part of what made the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane so powerful. That is the reason His emotion was so intense, He sweat drops of blood, and an angel came to confront Him.
Jesus wasn't a “control freak,” but He does like to be in control of His situation. After all, He is God! He did give up some of that control when He first came to earth as an infant, but this was the moment when He was forced to give the rest of His authority back to the Father, knowing that it was not going to end well. That’s hard. I know that I liked to be in control of my situation, and if I knew things where not going to end well, the last thing I’d what to do is give up that control. Yet that is part of the sacrifice Jesus made for us. I will never forget coming to that realization as I watched the emotion that all of our "Jesi" put into their performance in this scene.
Jesus Actually Died
I know that it was a drama with a friend pretending to be Jesus. I knew it was fake blood and we were standing on maroon carpet in the old santuary. But there was something so powerful and moving about physically kneeling before the cross and imagining I was in Mary Magdalene’s shoes. Imagining what she would have been thinking and feeling as she watched the One who had cast seven demons out of her expiring on the cross with His weeping mother by her side, I honestly think it was impossible not to be emotional moved in some way, shape, or form.
Now I am not the most experienced actress, but I amazed even myself during this production when I discovered that I could actually make myself cry, and I did for all the dress rehearsals and all the performances. It was almost funny to later receive compliments on my crying skills! (“You were really good at crying at the crucifixion!” and “Your crying made me cry. Good job!” were some of the many comments others made about it! lol) But in the end, I found that it was incredibly easy to internalize the feelings and emotions of Jesus dying for my sins.
This left me with a powerful thought: how differently would we live our lives if the sacrifice of Jesus really impacted each and every Christian like that? If you believe that Jesus died for you, how would that impact the way you live your life? Even those of us that struggle with self-worth could stop and realize that Jesus demonstrated His love for us by dying for our ransom. We all could start living like we believe it.
This mentality would affect everything, literally everything. We would all be compelled to obey out of gratitude and not obligation. We would view ourselves as worthy of the price Jesus paid. It would affect the way we present ourselves, for we wouldn't need the approval of the world to know our worth. It would change the way we value everyone around us, because we would remember that Jesus died for them too. It would turn our lives upside down!
This view truly would change everything, both for each of us individually, and for the church as a whole. It would empower us to make big chances in our broken world. Because of this, acting in this scene was one of the most humbling experiences of my life.
His Final Week Wasn't Really His Final Week
To me, titling the production His Final Week was ironic in a few ways. First, only about three-fourths of the drama was the events of the Passion Week. Second and most important, it really wasn't His final week on earth! Aside from portraying the resurrection, this production also portrayed a few of the resurrection appearances (like the men on the road to Emmaus, and Jesus asking "Peter, do you love me?") and the ascension. It was such an incredible experience being able to portray one of the first people to hear the news that Jesus is alive. Tears of sorrow turned to tears of joy as we ran to declare the truth to everyone else (literally, since I was still catching my breath from crying in the crucifixion scene! lol). It was such a powerful reminder of the real ending of the Easter story.
So many try to end the story of Easter either at cross or at the empty tomb. Although these are important parts of the story, this is not the end by any means. The truth is that the important part of the conclusion to the Easter Story is the resurrection appearances, especially to the apostles. Jesus could have risen from the death, and then immediately ascended to the Heavenly Father, but He didn't. Why is that?
This truth was so powerful to me, that this year for Easter, I wrote a drama that specifically focused on Jesus’ resurrection appearances for my home church called “The Door.” I think it’s important for us to remember how incredible it is that these men became emboldened by Jesus' resurrection to declare to the world that Jesus is alive. It’s still true today. Without them, we would not know the truth either.
[If you want to read more about my internship experience, click here]