In 2000 the directors of The Way of the Cross at Second Baptist asked me to play the role of Jesus in the Temple Scene one more time. I insisted that they needed to get a young man, 33 – 35 years old, to play Jesus. In 2000 I was 67 years old.
There were only two scenes in the drama where Jesus had an actual speaking part. One was the Temple Scene and the other was the Lord’s Supper Scene. The directors kept saying that I did the role very well and that they had not been able to find anyone else to take the role. I am sure that was not exactly true because others did the role for ten years before I started doing it.
That year as I began to think about the role I began to think about the children. There were a lot of children in the groups that saw the pageant; sometimes over half the people were less than 12 years old. Almost every group had some children. One of my mentors told me many years ago, “Always speak so a 12-year-old boy can understand you and perhaps some of the adults will get it.”
When the script had the first Pharisee ask, “Tell me, teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” The response from the King James was, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, etc.” In 1999 I added a little sarcasm with, “You know the law of Moses” and in 2000 to get the attention of the children I said, “You have known the law of Moses since you were a little boy like one of these children,” and then gave the scripture quote.
After quoting the second commandment I admonished the Scribes and Pharisees about their over-emphasis on laws, rules and regulations. I said “rules and regulations” because I wasn’t sure the little children would identify with laws but they certainly knew about rules.
I then turned to the Pharisees and said, “Laws, laws, laws! All you think about is laws. You make up all kinds of laws. You make laws for the people that you do not keep yourself. You spend so much time worrying about laws that you miss the meaning of life.”
I then turned my attention back to the children. “Do not be like these Scribes and Pharisees. They are hypocrites.” “Now listen my friends (which is the same as Jesus saying verily, verily I say unto you), if you want to be great in the Kingdom of God you must learn to be a servant. Only those who are willing to give their lives away for others will be known as great in the kingdom of God.”
“Do you know what those Scribes and Pharisees really want? They want to be seen! They do not care whether they do good or not if they can’t be seen. Haven’t you noticed that they always want to sit at the head of the table? They want to sit in the best seats in the Synagogue.”
I paused and let the statement sink in and then said, “What really makes these Pharisees happy is for someone to look at them and say, ‘My isn’t he pious?’ or ‘isn’t he righteous?’ or ‘isn’t he such a good person?'”
“You must also learn to be humble. It does no good for you to give your life away if you are like these Scribes and Pharisees.” Then I turned and looked directly at the Scribes and Pharisees and added, “because you are arrogant, bigoted, and conceited (and any other demeaning name that might come to mind).”
Use of a Prop
I then looked back at the audience and spoke in a confidential tone. “You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup but neglect the inside.” This was a paraphrase of Matthew 23:25. I then amplified the statement by saying, “They are like a man who spends his entire life polishing the outside of his cup while the inside is filthy.”
I found a stainless steel bowl in Mary Jo’s kitchen and smeared the inside with peanut butter. While I was talking about the outside of the cup I would polish it with a cloth and then I would turn it over so the audience could see the inside. The children’s eyes would almost pop out.
The last two sentences of the script read, “You forget about your sins of pride, greed and self-righteousness. You try to cover up your sins with respectability.”
I closed with, “You may think you are righteous and respectable but God knows all about your inside sins; He knows exactly what you are!”
And the lights went out.