The Resurrection of Jesus
PETER: I am Simon Peter, chief of the disciples, the rock on which the Church of Jesus will be built. Brethren, let me tell you something about myself. Before Jesus was arrested, he warned me that a time would come when I would pretend not to know him. I always regarded myself as the bravest and most loyal of his followers, and when he told me that I got very angry and upset. I told him to his face that he was wrong, even if it meant death I would never deny him. But when they came for him in the night, that dreadful night when everything fell apart, and took him into the High Priest's palace to examine him, I followed at a distance, then stood outside and warmed myself by the fire. I was full of terror, and I didn't know what to do; and a serving girl came and asked me if I was one of his disciples; and I swore that I didn't know him, I'd never met him, I'd never had anything to do with him. It was a bitter black night and I was desperate with fear, and that was the darkest moment of my life. But brethren, it was also the moment when I made a discovery. I found out that there's something even worse than fear and worse than death: losing your faith. Losing the thing you love and believe in most of all. Jesus and his teachings, they were the rock on which I built my whole life; and now I'm going to be the rock on which the Church of Jesus will be built. I've been to the bottom, I've tasted defeat, and I'm here to tell you that I'm never going to deny him again. Even though he's dead, even though they've crucified him, I know this isn't the end of the story. This is just the beginning. They think they've killed him, but he isn't dead really. He was the Son of God. You can't kill the Son of God. He's still alive. Great things are going to happen. There are going to be miracles. People are going to be astonished. Nothing can stop this thing now it's got started.
[Enter Satan and John]
SATAN: Well, that's that. We'd better all go home and keep our heads down for a bit.
PETER: What are you talking about, Thomas?
SATAN: It's over. They've clamped down. The streets aren't safe for us any more. It's time to adopt a low profile. They've killed Jesus. There's no point in the rest of us getting crucified as well.
PETER: I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying right here. If they want to crucify me they can crucify me.
SATAN: What's that going to achieve?
PETER: It's going to show them that they can't frighten us into silence. Not all of the Pharisees are against us. It was Caiaphas who got Jesus crucified, but Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were sympathetic to us. In any case, if it's God's will for us to carry on the work of Jesus, then no power on earth can stop us. The more they persecute us, the stronger we'll get.
SATAN: Big words. Admirable words. But look what happened to John the Baptist's disciples after he was imprisoned and executed. Where are they now?
PETER: Many of them came over to us.
SATAN: Yes, and now that Jesus is dead, they'll move on to the next prophet.
PETER: Not if we give them the right leadership. John the Baptist was a great man, but he was just a man, and he worked on his own. He didn't commission his followers to carry on his work after his death, so his work died with him. Jesus was more than a man, he was the Son of God, and he has given us his great commission, to carry his word to all the nations. Brethren, our work is only just beginning. We need to get ourselves organised.
JOHN: John the Baptist's teachings were never collected together and written down. That's what we need to do with the teachings of Jesus, before they begin to be forgotten and confused.
SATAN: Now there I agree with you, John. He had some good sayings.
JOHN: He was the truth. He was the truth made flesh. The truth was with God right from the beginning of time, but men forgot it. Jesus came from God to remind us of the truth, and show us the way back to it. He was the truth, the way, and the light.
SATAN: Yes, well, you write down all his teachings in a book, then, so that people don't forget them.
PETER: Write down not just his teachings, John, but his story. All the miracles that proved his divinity.
SATAN: What miracles?
PETER: The miracles he performed. Bringing the dead back to life...
SATAN: I never saw him bringing anyone dead back to life.
PETER: I saw it with my own eyes.
SATAN: Well, I didn't see it with mine.
PETER: He cured the blind and the lame. He brought the dead back to life. He walked on water. And he himself rose from the dead after he was crucified.
SATAN: What? He did what?
PETER: Write everything in a book, John, but when the book is complete it must be kept and interpreted by the Church of Jesus. Brethren, the written word can be understood in many ways. Look how the Pharisees spend their time arguing over the jots and tittles of the law, disregarding the substance of God's word. It was Jesus who showed them their errors, and they hated him for it. So in the Church of Jesus we won't be like the Pharisees: we will speak with one voice. The Book of Jesus shall be a record of his story, his miracles and his sayings; but the Church of Jesus will keep that book and interpret it to the people.
JOHN: I'll have to ask everybody for their memories of Jesus, while they're still fresh.
PETER: But be careful of Mary Magdalene. Take everything she says with a pinch of salt.
SATAN: Why, what's the matter with Mary Magdalene?
PETER: Oh, come on, Thomas, you know what she's like. She goes round claiming to be Jesus' favourite. She says he showed her visions that he never showed anyone else. Her vanity corrupts everything she says. She wants the whole story to be about her. Women are unreliable in these things.
JOHN: Well, Jesus was very fond of her.
PETER: Yes, but not as fond as she claims. And he made it clear that I was the rock on which his church would be founded. In other words he expected me to take charge after his death, not her.
[Enter Mary Magdalene]
MARY: Comrades! A miracle!
SATAN: Rather a lot of miracles, all of a sudden.
MARY: I've just come from the tomb. I went to anoint his body with spices. But I didn't know how I was going to roll away the stone from the door, as it's so big and heavy.
PETER: You should have asked me first, Mary. We could have gone together.
MARY: I couldn't sleep, so I went as soon as the sun came up. And when I arrived, the stone had already been rolled away. So I went inside, and there in the sepulchre was the linen his body had been wrapped in, lying empty; and the napkin they put round his head, folded separately.
JOHN: What! Somebody stole his body!
MARY: That's what I thought, at first.
SATAN: That's not what I call a miracle.
MARY: Listen to the rest, Thomas. When I looked again, there were two angels, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body had lain.
PETER: Yes, brethren, angels.
SATAN: How did you know they were angels?
MARY: They were two young men dressed in white, and they shone like two bolts of lightning.
SATAN: Perhaps they were just unusually clean.
MARY: They asked me why I was weeping, and I said it was because I'd come to see Jesus, but now his body was missing.
JOHN: And what did they say?
MARY: They didn't say anything: they just smiled.
SATAN: Unusually clean and a bit stupid.
MARY: I went back out into the garden, and I saw a man who I thought must be the gardener, and I said to him, 'Do you know where the body of Jesus of Nazareth has been taken?' And he looked at me and said, 'Why do you look for the living amongst the dead?' And as soon as he said it I recognised him: it was Jesus himself.
JOHN: What! Jesus himself! Jesus is alive!
PETER: Yes, brethren, risen from the dead, just as I told you.
MARY: You told them!
PETER: Yes, Mary, I told them he had risen from the dead. I was telling them just before you got here. Make sure you remember all this carefully, John, so that you can write it down afterwards, without any mistakes.
MARY: How could you tell them?
PETER: Because, Mary, I have seen him myself. He came into my room last night. He showed me the holes in his hands, where the nails had been, and the spear-wound in his side.
SATAN: You mean you dreamt of him.
PETER: No, Thomas, I mean I saw him. In the flesh.
JOHN: Did he speak to you?
PETER: No, he just showed me his wounds.
MARY: He spoke to me. He said, 'Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my father'.
PETER: Oh yes, he said that to me too.
MARY: You said he didn't speak.
PETER: I'd forgotten. Now I remember. Make sure you get all this, John.
SATAN: Well, this is nonsense.
PETER: What do you mean?
SATAN: I'll tell you what I mean. I mean nobody's seen Jesus. He hasn't really risen from the dead. You're either letting your imaginations run away with you, or else you're just making it up.
MARY: Thomas, I saw him with my own eyes.
PETER: And so did I.
SATAN: Absolute rubbish.
PETER: Don't make a note of any of this, John.
MARY: How do you account for the empty tomb?
SATAN: I don't account for it. I haven't yet seen it with my own eyes.
MARY: Oh, so you're not going to accept the word of your comrades any more? You're only going to believe the evidence of your own senses?
SATAN: All right, I'll believe in the empty tomb if you want me to. An empty tomb's not so difficult to explain. I'll tell you how the Pharisees will explain it, for a start. They'll say we removed the body ourselves, so that we could claim Jesus had risen from the dead.
JOHN: That's true. That's exactly what they'll say.
PETER: But there's no need for any of that to go in the book.
MARY: What's all this about a book?
PETER: John's going to write a book about Jesus.
MARY: Is he? I was going to write one myself.
PETER: Oh, that's just typical.
MARY: What does that mean? Why shouldn't I write one? I knew him better than anyone else.
PETER: No you didn't. And the Church of Jesus can't afford to have contradictory accounts appearing all over the place. Write your version of events if you must, but you'll have to submit it to the Church of Jesus for approval.
MARY: The Church of Jesus? What Church of Jesus? What's all this about the Church of Jesus?
JOHN: So, am I putting it in the book that Jesus rose from the dead?
PETER: Yes, definitely. Put it in.
SATAN: Well, I don't believe a word of it. He was crucified. He was put to death. We all saw him hanging there. It's not something any of us are likely to forget in a hurry. He was a proper flesh-and-blood human being, and they put him to death. They scourged him. They banged nails into his hands and his feet. They stuck a spear in his side, and blood and water came out. We all saw it: it was horrible. And now you're telling me he's all right after all, as if we were living in some sort of dream-world. Well, I won't believe it unless he comes in here and I see him with my own eyes. If I actually stick my fingers into the holes in his hands and the spear wound in his side, that's when I'll believe it.
JESUS: Peace be with you.
SATAN: Good grief.
PETER: My lord and master! I always knew they couldn't kill you.
JOHN: Are you really alive?
JESUS: Yes, John, I'm really alive.
JOHN: Not a ghost?
JESUS: No, John, I'm flesh and blood. Here, take my hand.
JOHN: Are you going to stay with us?
JESUS: Not for long. Soon I shall ascend to my father. But one day you will all be with me in paradise.
JOHN: I'm going to write a book about you, Jesus.
JESUS: Well done, John.
JOHN: I'm going to tell everybody that you were the Truth and the Light, the Word of God which lived with God right from the beginning of time. You were that Word made flesh, and you came into the world and lived amongst us, but the world didn't recognise you.
JESUS: John, your book will change the course of the world.
PETER: I'm sorry I ever denied you, Jesus. I said I'd never betray you, even if it cost my life, but then I let you down.
JESUS: Don't worry, my friend. That failure has given you your strength. You are my rock. And one day you will make amends.
MARY: Jesus, will you visit me in my dreams?
JESUS: You know I will.
MARY: None of them understood you as well as me.
JESUS: It is just as you say, Mary.
MARY: I love you, Jesus.
JESUS: I love you too.
JESUS: Now, I would like a little time alone with Thomas.
[Peter, Mary and John go out]
JESUS: So. Thomas. Satan. Would you care to put your finger into the holes in my hands, or thrust it into the spear-wound in my side?
SATAN: No thank you.
JESUS: Blessed are those that see and believe. But even more blessed are those that believe without seeing.
SATAN: Well, that's a licence for self-delusion, if ever there was one.
JESUS: Then what have you got to say? Have I come back to life, or haven't I?
SATAN: It would seem so.
JESUS: Well, there you are.
SATAN: But where's all this getting you, Jesus? That's what I'd like to know. I thought you came to earth to show people the truth. I thought the whole point was that you were going to be human like everybody else, not some kind of angel or magician or circus act. You were going to rely purely on the value of your words. And now what's happened? You've got it all muddled up with miracles and life after death. Nobody's going to be interested in your teachings, after this. They're only going to care about going up to heaven and living forever.
JESUS: No, some of them will still care about my teachings.
SATAN: Perhaps some of them will. But can't you see how you've messed everything up, coming back to life like this?
JESUS: I came back to life because they wanted me to. It's their faith that brought me back from the dead. You thought they were just making things up, Satan, but they really believe all those things: the miracles, bringing the dead back to life, me coming back to life myself. If people believe things strongly enough, they make them true.
SATAN: But there's no coherence in it. It doesn't make any sense. One minute you're a normal human being, powerless to prevent yourself being crucified by Pilate - and the next minute you're some kind of superman with immortal powers. How does that fit together?
JESUS: Satan, it's your nature to doubt everything.
SATAN: I suppose that's fair comment.
JESUS: What you've never understood, right from the beginning, is that truth isn't simple or single. It's multiple. It's complex. Different things can be true at the same time. Contradictory things can be true at the same time. We don't live in just one world, we live in many, all overlapping with each other. If you insist on logical coherence, sooner or later you'll be reduced to despair. God isn't a mathematician, he's an artist.
SATAN: Or to put it another way, God doesn't think, he just acts. He doesn't have a plan. He just has power, and an impulse to use it.
JESUS: Perhaps. If you choose to look at it that way.
SATAN: Well, I can already see what's going to happen as far as your legacy's concerned. They're already starting to dispute amongst themselves. Peter's trying to shut Mary out. Mary's trying to make herself the central figure. John wants to create a written record, and Peter wants that record to be controlled by the church. They've all got their own ideas about what you represent and how it should be packaged. If the Pharisees had enough sense to leave them to their own devices for a few years, they'd soon split up into factions. And if they ever do manage to establish their church as a power in the world, they'll probably be far worse than the Pharisees ever were. In a few hundred years they'll be using your teachings about peace to justify wars and persecution.
JESUS: It doesn't matter.
SATAN: Doesn't it?
JESUS: What will be will be. I have spoken my words. Whether people hear them or not, or how they choose to interpret them, is up to the people themselves. I believe that my truth will reach out to all the nations. But whether it does or not, it is now time for me to go back to my father.
SATAN: While I stay here and watch things fall apart.
JESUS: While you stay here, and journey to and fro upon the earth, and walk up and down in it.
SATAN: Like a hunting dog that's lost the scent.
JESUS: Goodbye, Satan. Farewell. I'll see you at the end of time.