Jesus for Today - Discussion Questions for small groups
Jesus for Tomorrow - Ideas for use in schools at Key Stage 3
Looking further at the Biblical text - ideas for discussion
Looking further at the People of the Passion - ideas for discussion
Looking further on location - ideas for discussion
The Cheltenham Passion Play - Credits
See below for links to the Script
To find out more about the Cheltenham churches go to Churches in Cheltenham
To find out more about Jesus visit REJesus
For a look at the world of Jesus's day take a look at From Jesus to Christ
For more on the Bible visit The Bible - the Book that bridges the millennia and visit The Bible Society
And for in-depth study of the New Testament the New Testament Gateway is a good place to start
For comments, links to cinema and to art works and other resources linked to the Bible have a look at the Text this Week
In 2009 Richard Cleaves, the author of this web site and producer of the video helped to lead a visit to Israel and Palestine - you can see the record of our pilgrimage together with a sequence of video clips I took throwing light on the story of Jesus at the Highbury Pilgrimage Blog,
There are more pictures and reflections at the Blog he kept of a Conference on Reconciliation at the Tantur Institute in Bethlehem
He has put more links and other material on the Highbury Congregational Church web site www.highburychurch.co.uk
The Cheltenham Passion Play Script
To read the script of the Passion Play click on the following links - to read the Script from start to finish click on Introduction and then at the foot of the page click on 'Newer Posts'
The Passion Play
The concept of our Passion Play was very much inspired by the wonderfully creative work of Sara Jay in her Treatment for the Play. In the early stages of planning she pointed out to us the dramatic potential there is in the structure of a five act play. On Good Friday, as we reached the end of Act 4 at about 3-00 pm, the very moment of the death of Jesus on the cross, there was a sense of incompleteness. This could surely not be the end. It wasn’t! There was one more Act to come. And at 8-00 on Sunday morning Act 5, Resurrection, brought us to the climax of the Play and its powerful message. On the day of the Passion Play, Act 2 was called Remembrance. As we moved from the Park on to the streets the heckling, the shouting, and one potentially serious incident of road rage prompted us to give it a new and more appropriate heading for the Video - Conflict.
Our play begins with God at the beginning of time and then joins Jesus 2000 years ago. Preaching to the crowds he caught the imagination of twelve people and many more. He offered people the bread of life, living water ... and much more. We discover that Jesus means as much today as he did then.. We can see he really is the One who makes a difference to us all - bringing healing to people’s lives and a new way of life to live.
We follow Jesus through the Gateway into the Town. It is a triumphant entry as the King of kings comes in peace with a donkey. Arriving at the Temple Jesus is angered by the way religious people have exploited God for their own ends. He tells a story about a vineyard and then shares bread and wine with his followers. What words of comfort and peace he has to share.
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus agonises over the choices he must make. Finally, he puts himself into his Father’s hands. His followers cannot keep awake. It is not long before Judas arrives and betrays him with a kiss. Even Peter denies having anything to do with Jesus. The religious authorities and the civic authorities reject him. And finally even the crowd shout for his blood.
The way of the cross leads us to Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, where Jesus is crucified. “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing. Father, I place myself into your hands.” With words of forgiveness he dies and is buried.
The tomb is found empty. The gardeners are at work. And then through the crowd one of them walks forward. It is not a gardener. He calls Mary by name. And she knows that it is Jesus. But no one believes her. They see, they touch and they believe. “Even more blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.” Jesus provided many more God-revealing signs than we had time for in our play. We’ve told our story so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing have real and eternal life.
Looking further at the Biblical Text
The biblical text on which the Passion Play is based can form the basis for personal reflection, group Bible Study and for historical research on the stories of Jesus at school. The script uses Eugene Peterson’s modern paraphrase of the New Testament, The Message. Peterson’s hopes for The Message, were the hopes we had for our script: “Written in the rhythms and idiom of contemporary language - the way you’d talk with friends, write a letter or discuss politics, The Message brings out the expressive, earthy flavour of the New Testament Greek ... it will allow you to experience firsthand the same power and directness that motivated its original readers to change the course of history many centuries ago.” The script keeps closely to the biblical text, linking passages in unexpected ways to bring home the message more powerfully.
The play begins by identifying Jesus using the titles that appear in John 1. It then weaves together the feeding of the 5000 [John 6], the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5-7], the call and naming of the first disciples [Matthew 4:18-22, 10:1-4], the beatitudes, addressed to John, Andrew, Peter and Judas respectively [Luke 6:20-22] and the invitation to follow [Luke 11:9] It goes on to tell of the healing of the woman in the crowd [Luke 8:42-48] and then weaves the story of the woman at the well [John 4 and at verse 35 ...] together with the parable of the sower [Mark 4:1-9]. The disciples’ confession of faith [Mark 8:27-38], and their subsequent misunderstanding of the nature of greatness [Matthew 20:20-28 and John 12:20-33] ] leads on towards the Gate and the entry into Jerusalem [Matthew 21:1-11, Luke 19:29-44, with John 8:12 and 10:9]
The cleansing of the Temple brings together Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-33, Luke 19:45 - 20:8, and Matthew 11:28-30 and moves on to the High Street where there is an echo of the start of the play as Jesus is identified once more using the titles of John 1. The tension mounts as Jesus addresses the woes of Luke 6: 24-26 to James, John, Peter and Judas respectively and tells the Parable of the Vineyard, or the Cheltenham Millennium Wine [Luke 20:9-19]. Matthew 23:37-39 is a suitable comment on the parable. The anointing, the footwashing, the betrayal and the Last Supper weave together Matthew 26:1-30 and John 13-30, while the words of comfort shared by the women are taken from John 14-16.
The scene at the Garden of Gethsemane, the religious trial and the trial before the civic authorities brings together the story told in Matthew 26:31-27:31, Mark 14:26 - 15:20, Luke 22:39 - 23:31, and John 18 - 19:16 and 19-22. The penitence of Judas and his death is based on Matthew 27:3-10. The Way of the Cross brings together Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12 in the NRSV and some of the traditional Stations of the Cross.
The crucifixion scene is based on Matthew 27:32-56, Mark 15:21-41, Luke 23:26-49, and John 19:16-37. The Burial is based on Matthew 27:57-66, Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56, and John 19:38-42.
ResurrectionTo recap the story so far we made use of Nick Page’s wonderful poem The Baker and then based the story of Easter on John 20.