Good Friday is the penultimate day for Christians around the world. It’s a reminder that the first day of the week is coming, the day that brings hope, the day that brings faith. But I’m sure the first Good Friday didn’t feel like it was a penultimate day, waiting for another reveal. Not, it would have had an air of finality about it. After all, dead is dead. Or is it?
To commemorate this Good Friday, I’d like to share with you a short play I wrote for a Good Friday service last year, simply entitled “Dead is Dead”.
Jabez, husband of Naarah, follower of Jesus
Naarah, wife of Jabez, follower of Jesus
Daughter, of Jabez and Naarah
Setting: At their home in Jerusalem the day after the crucifixion of Jesus.
Jabez is sitting eating some bread, giving it to her child. Child runs off to the side of the stage and is playing in the dirt. The Jabez is standing in a contemplative pose.
NAARAH: Do you want something to eat? (He shrugs it off.) I remember the first time I saw him. He had a single loaf of bread in his hand. (in thought) On the hillside. The crowd was massive, and I pushed my way in. I was just curious, nothing else.
JABEZ: Curiosity is better left alone unless you want a dagger in your heart.
NAARAH: I refuse to believe it was all for nothing.
JABEZ: It doesn’t matter what you believe when yesterday is still seared into our memory. We saw it with our own eyes, and that’s the end of it.
(The girl runs up from behind and tugs on the arm of her papa.)
GIRL: Papa, papa. Come here. Come here.
NAARAH: But it doesn’t make any sense. How can it be finished? There’s more to it than just yesterday. Our eyes have seen things, and you know it. It’s not like the first unbelievable thing we saw was yesterday.
GIRL: Papa, papa.
JABEZ: (gruffly to girl) Not now. Can’t you see your mother and I are in a conversation? (The girls runs off and starts digging and playing in the dirt off the side of the stage.) Why did I let you drag me into this?
NAARAH: Don’t blame your lack of faith on me.
JABEZ: Faith is now the last thing we need. We have given everything for him. And now what are we going to do? We’ll be outcasts. That bread in your hand might be some of the last you’ll ever have.
NAARAH: Stop it.
JABEZ: How could we have been so foolish?
NAARAH: I came to you and told you what I saw. That’s all. The rest was your decision.
JABEZ: And what exactly did you see? Perhaps your heart was a little too emotionally involved to see things objectively.
NAARAH: I’m not going to let your bitterness cloud my vision. I was on that hillside, and he took that loaf of bread and a small fish and fed thousands with them. Emotion doesn’t fill an ox cart full of bread. Tears have never multiplied fish. It happened, and you know it happened. Because you saw what he did for the blind beggar. (He turns away disgusted.) Don’t turn away from me. You know what I’m talking about. How many times did you pass him in the streets as he sat near the well in his ragged clothes? And you saw the rabbi heal him. I know it. I saw the faith in your eyes when you came home that day.
JABEZ (emotion) Where is faith now? Nailed to a bloody, wooden cross.
(The daughter comes back over to him.)
GIRL: (pulling on his arm) Papa! Come over here and look.
JABEZ: Not now!
(Daughter walks away again.)
NAARAH: It may not all make sense, but I refuse to believe it was all for nothing.
JABEZ: Yes, I saw with these very eyes what he did to the blind beggar, and I can’t explain it. But those same eyes witnessed something very different yesterday. Stop blinding yourself with reckless faith. Stop seeing what you only want to see. He’s gone.
NAARAH: But perhaps …
JABEZ: Dead is dead. It’s no different if he had fallen into a well or been bit by a viper or the Roman Legion sliced off his head. Either way, dead is dead, and we’d both be much better off if we can admit that fact. Jesus of Nazareth is dead. And life doesn’t come from death.
GIRL: Papa …
JABEZ: Not now!
GIRL: Someone’s coming.
(He looks and sees a Roman soldier coming at him quickly.)
(Jabez tries to run, but knocks into his daughter who falls to the ground. He stops to pick her up and Naarah comes to get the girl as the soldier punches Jabez to the ground.)
I should slice you here, and I would if it were up to me.
(Standing over him with a sword to his throat.)
JABEZ: What have I done?
ROMAN: Your neighbors have let it be known that your household was part of the rebellious movement of Jesus of Nazareth.
JABEZ: Please don’t hurt my family.
ROMAN: I am here to make one thing perfectly clear, and let the pointed edge of my sword re-enforce it. The governor of Judaea will crush anyone who perpetuates rumors or prophecies about the Nazarene. He is dead, and all thoughts of rebellion are buried in his corpse, or the likes of you will be buried alongside him. Do I make myself understood?
ROMAN: Stand to your feet. (Jabez slowly stands) I just need to make sure you understand.
(He smacks him twice and Jabez staggers to the other side of the stage and falls on his face near the place the girl had been playing. Naarah and the girl are crying, and they go to his side.)
ROMAN: I think we understand each other now.
(The soldier exits.)
NAARAH: Jabez. Are you all right? Oh, God our father help us. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of God. Jabez. He’s gone. It’s okay. He’s gone. Are you all right?
JABEZ: No matter what happened yesterday, I’m not going to let Roman tyranny rip the faith out of me.
NAARAH (smiling) No, I suppose you wouldn’t.
GIRL: Papa, I want you to see something. Look! (She points out to a place in front of them.) The olive seeds we planted. Remember, you said they were no good. But look, they are sprouting, papa!
(He looks out on the plants and reaches for them.)
JABEZ: That’s impossible. I stopped watering those a month ago.
NAARAH: Look at them!
(Jabez starts laughing.)
JABEZ: A miracle in the desert. Life indeed coming from death.
(Holding on to each other.)
Maybe we should wait and see what tomorrow will bring.