The Centurion’s Monologue: Who Are You at the Cross?

The following is an excerpt from Ripened, Restive, and Risen: A Resurrection Meditation. It’s one of many Easter dramas that I’ve written and directed over some 30 years. I produced this play for Calvary Chapel Vineland in the spring of 2010–a reboot from a choir cantata drama that I originally wrote and directed for First Family Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico way back in 1988. 

centurions monologue

The centurion’s monologue was a powerful piece of theatre in performance by the two gifted gentlemen who performed it so many years apart–the centerpiece of both productions. Here, for the first time, I am sharing an excerpt from my stash of theatrical plays. You see, my strong suit in writing is in crafting theatrical stage plays. Though, I have not thought to excerpt any here at The Writer’s Reverie

Until this Resurrection Week. 

Thinking on things in need of resurrection, I am looking to reformat my best stage plays so they can be available to a broader scope of churches and schools. I hope to release a couple of them before the end of this year–like the full length version from which this monologue is excerpted, Lord willing, in time for groups to produce next year at this time.

The Play’s the Thing: Curtain up!

Imagine now . . . Jesus has breathed His last. The sky has darkened, the earth shifts on its foundation. Just who are you in the crowd surveying the cross in this moment?

(Sound effect of thunder, lightning effect, Crowd screams – run from one side of stage to other in panic, then freeze in new positions; Centurion steps Down Center)

Centurion: 

(to Crowd, vexed) Move along!  Move along!  It is finished.  (looks up at cross, wondering to himself) That’s what He said.  (looks at a weeping Jewish man nearby) Fool! A weeping Jew! What kind of man is that? Shaking from head to foot. Wailing like all those fool women over there. Well, women weep. But men . . . (wipes eye with back of his hand) 

(to audience) You saw what just happened here. I’ve had to crucify many men in my service to Caesar before . . . but . . . something is . . . wrong here! Something is different! I admit. I’ve never felt like this before. Shaking from head to foot. Like that . . . other man. As though it were I who committed the crime and not this One I had nailed to this cross!

What kind of Man is this that when He dies, the very earth would quake as though heaving in mourning and grief . . . that the sun itself would turn away its light . . . that a  man such as I . . . a Centurion of the mighty Roman Legions . . . commander of over one hundred men! A man of not small significance in Roman ranks, but educated in ways of strategy and decorum . . . whose very presence commands the respect of the common man! Who has shamelessly and without regret, crucified hundreds of men! That such as I should now feel . . . guilt? That such as I be overcome with . . . fear?

My heart is beating faster than I’ve ever known in battle . . . my brow sweats. (pause–incredulous) I panic?

What kind of Man is this whom I have killed! A criminal? A rebel? Yes, I was there. I saw the Jews, led by those pompous, pious, self-righteous priests of theirs. I heard their accusations. “Crucify Him!” Crucify Him!”  they shouted, demanding the blood of this one called, Jesus!

I stood by and listened when Pilate questioned Him. He didn’t speak. He didn’t defend Himself at all! There seemed no crime in Him worthy of death, and, to be sure, I don’t know that I saw any great criminal either. So what if He claimed to be a King. So what if He broke some obscure Jewish religious law. At worst He was an ignorant  madman . . . at best He was . . . He was . . . (shakes head, pauses, looks about at Crowd) 

What kind of Man was this that these very people whom moments ago laughed at Him and mocked Him as He hung breathing His last, now cower in fear! Ha! Look at their faces . . . they know. Perhaps they feel guilt, too. They felt the earth shake and saw the sky grow dark. They can see there’s clearly something different about this Jesus they’ve killed–so unlike any other hung on a cross. But, does it touch them? Will it matter?

Does anything matter?

They will, more than likely, return to their cozy existence.The merchants will resume their buying and selling . . . the women to their weaving, milling, and grape treading. Tomorrow, all will be merry again . . . all will be, as it was. Except, that tomorrow, this man Jesus . . . as they demanded . . . will be dead.

And where are those men of faith who were His followers? His disciples? Have all His friends forsaken Him and left? Perhaps this man’s only crime was that He chose His companions poorly. Look at Him, hanging up there . . . what is there about Him that one would want to follow . . . (notices women, weeping Jew, and John) . . . but, these women and the one they call John. And that fellow with him. Pacing back and forth below the cross the whole time.  Pleading with Him to save Himself. What a spectacle that one fellow made, babbling on about faith . . . His body . . . blood . . . and something about . . . new life.  Humph.  Not after you die like that.

Yet, here they’ve stayed . . . through it all. They watched as I had my men beat Him and whip Him, and as He dragged His cross to this . . . place. They cried out as I drove the spikes into His hands and feet . . . shamelessly prostrating themselves before this dying mass of flesh.  And still they called Him . . . Lord. Lord?

What kind of Man was this!? I stand in awe of this one that I killed! The earth beneath my feet shook with pain when He said, “It is finished.”  Try as I might, can I believe otherwise?  Certainly this was a righteous man!  And I, a great and mighty Roman! A much feared Centurion . . .

I . . . am more the criminal.

Cling to His cross, you who mourn your Lord. And let the stench of indifference consume these who condemned Him. As for me, something I don’t understand has pierced my armor and cut my flesh . . . to my soul. Do I have the faith to believe . . . that . . . truly . . . this man was the Son of God?

(Crowd hums ‘Were You There’ as they slowly exit the stage; the Centurion is last to go off stage right, lingering with a solemn look at the ‘cross’ . . . BLACKOUT)

Scene.

The audience remains hushed in silence but for the whisper of stifled weeping.

Were you there?

Which part did you play on this momentous day in His Story?

The Writers Reverie blog signature, Kathryn Ross

Ripened, Restive, and Risen: A Resurrection Meditation by Kathryn Ross is based on the Gospel accounts in Mark 5, Luke 24, and John 20. The above excerpt is copyrighted 2010, Pageant Wagon Productions, LLC, All Rights Reserved. 

Sharing The Centurion’s Monologue this week with:

Vintage Mama’s Cottage

 Tell His Story

Thought Provoking Thursday

Sitting Among Friends

Faith Filled Friday

Spiritual Sunday

Word of God Speak 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Kathryn Ross

About Miss Kathy

"I teach families how to restore their God-given authority as the primary educator in their child’s life through the experience of reading together as a family. Learn how to use literature to create teachable moments, build strong minds, and bind loving hearts."

Kathryn Ross, writer, speaker, and dramatist, ignites a love of literature and learning to equip young and old towards developing a Family Literacy Lifestyle—reading together, learning together, loving together. Her works challenge families to deepen their literacy skills and grow into the greater things God has purposed for them. She’s taught in Christian and homeschool circles, trained in the Principle Approach® through the Foundation for American Christian Education. Miss Kathy owns Pageant Wagon Publishing, producing homeschool enrichment materials, devotional works, study guides, and theatrical dramas for church, school, and community production. She podcasts at TheWritersReverie.com and blogs at PageantWagonPublishing.com.

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing at Word of God Speak, Kathryn,
    Many blessings for a great Easter and a lovely week ahead.
    Janis

  2. Oh, this was beautiful! Vivid, moving, thought-provoking. I like to believe that the centurion came to belief in Jesus, and that somehow his life became a witness to others about what he experienced. Since having my own children, I’ve always tried to put myself in Mary’s place. What must she have been feeling as she watched her precious son die? Did she remember what He had said about His death? Did she remember what He said about what would happen afterward? Did she believe it? Oh, my heart breaks as I think of her heart.

    And yet, later, when the Truth of the resurrection became reality, what did she think then?!

    It’s too wonder-full for words…

    Hope you and yours had a wonderful Easter.

    GOD BLESS!

    • Thank you, Sharon. It is something I turn my mind to each year at this time. Producing both the plays in which I used this monologue remains a devotional experience that is imprinted deeply on my heart. Both the men who performed it had the room in tears by the conclusion of it. I am always so awed at how God can use the arts, layered one on another, to communicate Himself to hidden places in the human heart. Reading it may bless the soul, but hearing it given powerful voice cracking with emotion, on a dimly lit stage in ancient costume stays with me each time I read the words again. I hear both their voices–very different performances–but a powerful presence embraced with each. I hope your Resurrection Sunday was joyous. We are thanking God that Ed’s hernia surgery two weeks ago was successful. He’s out of work til mid-May–and more doctor visits to deal with other issues. Not sure what the rest of this year looks like for him working. Trusting the Lord through this challenging time.
      Joy!
      Kathy

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