THE CROSS: A Play

by Samu Batara (1977)

I. The Garden
THE CURTAIN opens with the garden scene and the characters Jesus, Peter, James and John. JESUS: Sit here while I go over there and pray. The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and watch with me. JESUS: (throws himself face down to the ground) Father, my Father! All things are possible to you. Take this time of suffering away from me. But not what I want but what you want. JESUS: (returns to the three sleeping disciples) Are you asleep? Were you not able to watch with me for a little while? Keep watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. JESUS: (again goes away and prays) Father, if this suffering cannot be taken away unless I face it, your will be done. JESUS: (returns again to the sleeping disciples, shows some regrets, and goes away) Father, if you will, take this suffering away from me. Not my will however, but your will be done. JESUS: (returns to the sleeping disciples) Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, The Son of Man is now handed over to the power of sinful men. Get up! Let’s go! Judas and crowd with swords, clubs and torches arrive. JUDAS: Peace be with you, Teacher! (kisses Jesus) JESUS: Judas, is it with a kiss that you betray the Son of Man? The crowd arrests Jesus. Peter strikes the slave’s ear. JESUS: (to Peter) Put your sword back in its place. You should know that all who take the sword will die by the sword. (to the crowd) Did you have to come with swords and stones to capture me, as though I were a rascal? Every day I sat down and taught in the Temple. Why did you not arrest me there? THE CURTAIN closes.

II. Be Watchful
VOICE: Keep watch and pray that you may not fall into temptation. The curtain opens with a darkened village scene. A man (Alu) and a lady (Hila) are silently moving about, being cautious to get out of the place. After a while, an old man (Yandu), the father of the lady, holding an axe and a spear traps the couple. YANDU: (fierce looking) You, snake! Don’t try to run away, or I’ll kill the two of you. ALU: (shaking and confused) No. No. HILA: Dad, please calm down. Please hold your anger, Dad.

YANDU: (to the young man) You, devil! You have been sleeping secretly with my daughter here and there. And she has told me she was pregnant. So you are the father of that new life in her womb. ALU: (still confused, searching for words) No! She has been going around with a lot of men here in the village. You should know that, old man. HILA: Alu? What do you mean? After you have used me for your pleasure, you now say that? YANDU: (to the young man) Man, you are going to marry my daughter! Don’t ever try to escape. Marry Hila, or you will die by these (raising the axe and spear). ALU: But I am not the father of that baby in her womb you are talking about. HILA: You forced me into it (crying). (shouting) You could not wait! YANDU: Come on! You naughty young man, come to the house. From there, we will call for your family and you marry my daughter. ALU: My! But I’m too young to marry. I have to go back to the university when the school year opens next month. YANDU: That doesn’t matter. You will go if you will. But first, you are going to marry my daughter. ALU: (pleading) But is it not better for me to finish my studies first? YANDU: Did you ask that before you fooled around with my daughter? Did you think of that? Another old man, Kongi, enters. KONGI: What’s going on here? What’s the argument all about? YANDU: Kongi, it is good that you have come. This way we can make arrangements easier. This son of yours has to marry my daughter. KONGI: Yandu, is that not rushing too much? YANDU: Ask your son. He did the rushing. KONGI: What do you mean? YANDU: Kongi, you should know that my daughter is pregnant… with your grandchild. This lustful son of yours is the father. I found them together tonight. ALU: But she has gone around with other men here in the village before I slept with her. YANDU: Young man, don’t ever claim that lie again. You don’t have to make silly excuses. My daughter is not going to suffer shame by bearing a child without a known father. (facing the young man squarely) So you have to marry her and you will take care of your own child. Your own child, understand? ALU: No! It’s not mine. KONGI: Son, what have you done? Did you not think of your studies? ALU: I’m sorry, Dad. But you know that the lady is famous for that. And I’m sure somebody else fathered the child that old man is talking about, if it was true that that daughter of his is pregnant. YANDU: What? You think of us as liars? We better start planning for the wedding. Be assured that we will not ask for too high bride price. ALU: Bride price for her? Cheap lady! KONGI: (to Alu) Son, did you know what you were doing? You could not wait and finish your studies before seriously involving yourself in such a silly mess. YANDU: Kongi, as I told your son earlier, he can go back to the university, wherever that is, after the wedding. I repeat, don’t try to run away from her. Once you do, my clan calls for a tribal war. We are going to kill you and all your people. THE CURTAIN closes as a voice says: Be watchful and be prayerful for temptation is so great.

III.The Denial
THE CURTAIN opens while the arrested Jesus is dragged across by the soldiers and exit at the other side of the stage. The other disciples cautiously move away while Peter follows the crowd at a distance. The guards stop and build a fire. Peter finally sits and chews buai with them. Then a woman comes out. WOMAN: (pointing to Peter) You, too, were with Jesus of Galilee. PETER: No I was not. I don’t know what you are talking about. I don’t understand. 2nd WOMAN: Sure, he was with Jesus of Nazareth. (asking Peter) Aren’t you one of the disciples of that man? PETER: No, I was not. I swear that I don’t know that man. SLAVE: (comes to Peter) Stop denying. Didn’t I see you with him in the garden? PETER: No. May God punish me if I am not telling the truth. I do not know that man. A rooster crows. Peter moves slowly, weeping bitterly. THE CURTAIN closes.

IV.The Innocence
VOICE: No, I don’t know him. THE CURTAIN opens with a park scene. A young man (ALU) and a young lady (Enike) are strolling. ALU: My! It was a tough day today. Five exams. Three papers to submit. Two assignments. ENIKE: You mean you had to dillydally and, near due date, rush those term papers and assignments? ALU: Yes, Enike. Because you and I were always on those dates when I should be doing paper work. ENIKE: Come on, Alu. Don’t make excuses like that. I was able to finish my work without much difficulty. Perhaps you were just playful with your work. ALU: Honestly, I could not concentrate most of the time. ENIKE: Why? Some problems? ALU: Mmmm! Yes. ENIKE: Something personal? Or family problems? ALU: That sort. And… of course, thinking of you. ENIKE: Thanks, Alu. Sometimes you worry me too. ALU: With what? EHIKE: Well, you are soon going to graduate, while I’ll have another year before I finish my course. ALU: One year is not long. ENIKE: (jokingly) Maybe, long enough for you to find another woman once you got a job. Who knows? KONGI: (calls out from a distance)Aluu! Aluuu! ALU: (stops and looks around) As if I heard my name. Is someone calling? KONGI: Aluuu. Aluuuu. (appearing) ENIKE: Yes! (pointing) That old man over there. ALU: I’ll go and see him. Wait here.

ENIKE: No. Alu, Don’t go. He might hurt you. You just don’t know, he might have some fellow rascals hiding just near. ALU: No. I’ll be safe, Enike. Just stay away. But may I say, just run for your life in case (laughing) something happens. ENIKE: Alu, be careful, please. Alu moves nearer to the old man. KONGI: Alu, my son, I have been looking for you so long. I’m lucky to have found you here. ALU: (subdues speech) Please don’t speak too loud. You are going to disturb people here. KONGI: Son, your mother is very ill. I was going to bring her to town and try the so-called hospital. But I did not have enough cash. So I thought you might have some to spare from your scholarship money. ALU: But I don’t have any money to give you. You better go back to the village and remedy what you can do. (He moves away back to the waiting lady) The old man moves out in disappointment. ENIKE: You seem to know him well. Who is he? A relative? ALU: No, I don’t know him. He’s a beggar asking for money. Come on, let’s move to the coffee shop over there and get something to eat. ENIKE: Thanks. I thought you were not going to give me a treat tonight. ALU: And that was a wrong thought. (says no more word but shows some loneliness as the two move around) VOICE: (moaning) Hmmmmnnn. Huhhhhh. ENIKE: What’s that? A moan somewhere. VOICE: Hmmmmmnnnn. Mmmmmmmnnnnn. ENIKE: Somebody dying? ALU: Some spirits perhaps. A young child lying fallen with a bicycle comes into view. ENIKE: It’s a young fellow. There, he met an accident. Let’s help him. ALU: No, don’t get yourself involved. It will only require you to testify in court if that poor little thing died. Just an unnecessary hassle. They move away and finally sit at a table. They are served cups and eats. Silence reigns for a while. ENIKE: What’s bothering you? Your mind seems very far away. Is there anything wrong? ALU: (gives out a deep sigh) Shshsh! ENIKE: Cheer up. You know, I was going to surprise you. That’s why I was really hoping you would invite me to this place for some kind of celebration. (she whispers something to his ear). ALU: (surprised) No! Enike, you must be joking. I thought you have been careful with the necessary precautions. ENIKE: Cheer up, Alu. You should be happy about it. Don’t you like to have a dolly? Your own? Our own? ALU: My gosh! (shakes head) My! (downs his head unto the table) ENIKE: What’s happening with you, Alu? Don’t you like to accept what we both have pleasingly done? ALU: I’m sorry, Enike. (with some difficulty voicing out) I think it’s high time you should know that… that… that I am married. ENIKE: (shocked) Alu! ALU: With a daughter.

ENIKE: (boxes him) You fool! You fooled me! (crying) You lied. Why did you have to trick me into this? ALU: I’m sorry, Enike. But I am not happy with my family. I was forced into the marriage. ENIKE: (still crying) Alu, you have a responsibility towards them. And I was a fool to trust in you. ALU: Please understand, Enike. I care for you. (a pause) But can’t we do something to get rid of that thing in your tummy? ENIKE: No, you snake! No! Away from me. Don’t ever see me again. Let us pretend we did not know each other. I’ll take care of my child. And he will never know you. His foolish father is counted dead. Awayyyy! THE CURTAIN closes.

V. The Trial
The CURTAIN opens with the court scene. Pilate is seated in his throne. Jesus standS before him. Pilate moves out towards the people. PILATE: (to the crowd) What do you accuse this man of? CROWD: We would not have brought him to you if he had not committed any crime. We caught him misleading our people telling them not to pay taxes to the Emperor and claiming that he himself is a king. With his teaching he is stirring a riot among the people all through Judaea. PILATE: Why don’t you yourselves take him and try him according to your own law? CROWD: We are not allowed to put anyone to death. PILATE: (moves back to his seat and calls for Jesus) Are you the King of the Jews? JESUS: Does this question come from you or have others told you about me? PILATE: Do you think I am a Jew? It was your own people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What have you done? JESUS: My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom belonged to this world, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. No, my kingdom does not belong here. PILATE: Are you a king then? JESUS: You say that I am a king. I was born and came into this world for this one purpose: that is to speak about the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth listens to me. PILATE: And what is truth? (moves out to ask the crowd) You brought this man to me and accused him of misleading the people. Now I have examined him here in your presence and I have not found him guilty of any of the crimes you accuse him of. I cannot find any reason to condemn him. But according to your own custom, I always set free a prisoner for you during the Passover. Do you want me to set free for you this King of the Jews? CROWD: (shouting) No, not him! Not him! PILATE: Which one do you want me to set free for you? Jesus Barabbas or Jesus called the Christ? CROWD: We want Barabbas! We want Barabbas. Barabbas! PILATE: But what crime has this Jesus committed? I am not convinced that he has done anything to deserve death. But to satisfy you I will have him whipped and let him go. CROWD: Kill him. Kill him. Set Barabbas free for us. PILATE: (goes back, orders the guards) Have him whipped.

GUARDS: (mock Jesus, whip him, and place a crown out of thorny branches on his head) Long live the King of the Jews. (slap Jesus, whip him, make fun with him) PILATE: (moves out, speaks to the crowd) Look, I will bring him out here to you to let you see that I cannot find any reason to condemn him. Jesus comes out. PILATE: Look, here is the man! CROWD: Crucify him. Nail him to the cross. Nail him to the cross. PILATE: What crime has he committed? CROWD: Crucify him. Nail him to the cross. PILATE: You take him then, and crucify him. I myself find no reason to condemn him. CROWD: We have a law that says he ought to die, because he claimed to be the Son of God. PILATE: (asks Jesus) Where do you come from? Jesus doesn’t say a word. PILATE: (after a pause) You are not going to speak to me? Remember, I have the authority to set you free or to have you nailed to a cross. JESUS: You have authority over me, only because it was given to you by God. And the man who handed me over to you is guilty of a worse sin. A guard moves to Pilate and gives him a note from his wife. He looks at the note. PILATE: (speaks to the crowd) I really find no reason to condemn this man. There is nothing he has done to deserve death. I will have to set him free. CROWD: If you set him free, that means you are not a friend of the Emperor. Everyone who claims himself to be a king is a rebel against the Emperor. PILATE: (takes Jesus outside, sits him down on the Judgment seat) Here is your king. CROWD: (shouting) Kill him. Kill him. Crucify him. PILATE: Do you want me to crucify your king? CROWD: The only king we have is the Emperor. PILATE: (washes his hands) I am not responsible for the death of this man. It is your own doing. CROWD: Let the punishment for his death fall on us and our children. PILATE: (giving a signal to soldiers) Have him nailed to a cross. GUARDS: (strip off his clothes, put a scarlet robe on him, put a stick in his hands, and kneel before him for fun) Long live the King of the Jews. They take the stick from him and hit him over the head. They let him carry a cross. They move out with Jesus carrying the wooden cross with difficulty. THE CURTAIN closes.

VI.The Cross
THE CURTAIN opens. (On one side of the stage is a dying woman, Semba, and Kongi, the husband and other people watch her, some crying. On the other side of the stage is a sorcerer doing all the actions of his craft) SEMBA: Alu. Alu, my son. I like to see my son before I die (keeps repeating). KONGI: No, Semba, my wife, don’t you die. (While these events go on, Jesus carrying his cross comes in, approaches the sorcerer, stumbles and fall. The shocked sorcerer throws his things, falls down before Jesus. As Jesus moves on to the other side of the stage, the crying people and the sick woman get up fall down before him). The CURTAIN closes.

THE CURTAIN opens inside a house. A mother, Hila, and her daughter, Tamina, are talking with each other. TAMINA: It’s really late night, Mum. Dad has not come home yet. HILA: Yes Tamina. But why are you so eager to see your father? Our life is a hell with him around. Let him do what he likes somewhere rather than be home to disturb our peace. TAMINA: I have been wondering, mum, how on earth you came to find a Dad who is so unkind. HILA: My daughter, you better stop asking yourself such silly questions. I loved your Dad. And we should love him, for he is our own. TAMINA: Mum, sometimes I cannot afford to see you being treated cruelly by him. There is a knock at the door, while mother tries to silence her daughter. HILA: That’s your father now. Go and open the door for him. TAMINA: (moves reluctantly to open the door) Goodnight , Dad. ALU: (enters in a disorderly condition, holds a half-filled bottle of beer) Ha, goodnight. Am not your Dad. Hic. (moves toward Hila) I was hoping to find food, hic, set ready for me whenever I arrive, hic. What have you been doing, lazy woman. (slaps her, tramples her) TAMINA: O Dad. Have pity on Mum, Dad. (tries to interfere) HILA: (crying) But Alu, you have not left us any money to buy food with. How dare you expect us to feed you with nice food! ALU: Hic. It’s high time you start doing something. Hic. Don’t content yourself just sitting all day chewing buai. HILA: (crying) Yes you know we have our food garden. And it’s all we get food from. You can’t expect it to produce enough to support you. ALU: Stop arguing with me, woman. Hic. You could probably go out and collect empty bottles to sell. Hic. (slaps again) TAMINA: Dad! Have pity, Dad. Please. HILA: O, Alu (crying). TAMINA: Dad, I can’t afford this kind of life anymore. I am going to leave you (shouting, crying). I can’t live in this house of harm anymore. (she gathers a bilum of things) HILA: ) Tamina, please don’t leave me. No, don’t go. Ohh Tamina! ALU: Hic. Come on, you go. That would leave your mother with less mouth to feed. Hic. You are old enough to work for your own living. Hic. You can feed yourself. Or look for your real father. HILA: O Alu, how heartless you are. ALU: You, woman (slaps her). Get up and prepare something to eat. Hic. I am hungry. Understand? (tramples her) Just then, Jesus carrying a cross comes in and stumbles, then gets up. ALU: (turns around, amazed, changes reaction) Oh, no! Nooo. (falls, face down to the ground). CURTAIN closes. CURTAIN opens. Two rascals armed with pocket knives hide among giant stones and shrubs, making signs to each other, while waiting for a victim to pass by. After a while, the runaway daughter, Tamina, passes by. The rascals spring out to the lady who becomes terrified, screaming as the two grab her to the bush. TAMINA: No, please. (screaming) Have pity. No! Ohhh! RASCAL 1: Stop screaming, or we are going to cut your throat.

TAMINA: Ohhh. Helppp. Please. (striving to resist) RASCAL2: There’s no one to help you here. No use for you to scream. RASCAL 1: (laughing) You better give yourself to us, and we are going to make you feel good. So good! The two drag and hide the lady, gag her moaning. Then Jesus carrying his Cross enters and stumbles down. The rascals turn around, shocked, fall face down before Jesus. THE CURTAIN closes. THE CURTAIN opens. A woman, Enike, sits inside a house, nursing a baby, humming a lullaby. Thieves armed with axes and bush knives enter in a cautious break. ENIKE: Who are you? What do you want? (screams) THIEF1: Keep quiet if you don’t want to die. THIEF2: We will kill you anyway. So woman, you better point to us where your valuables are? THIEF3: Some money? THIEF1: Jewelries? While the thieves search the place and help themselves with the loot, Jesus carrying his cross enters, stumbles and gets up. THIEVES: (leave their search in shock, slowly come before Jesus, and fall face down) O noo! Nooo! CURTAIN closes. THE END. This play was staged a few times by college students, complete with colorful ethnic costumes, props, and message-filled musical scores, in the Balob Teachers College Chapel stage, Lae City, Papua New Guinea, during the annual Spiritual Enrichment Week between 1977 and 1983 when the author served as a College Chaplain. It always received acclamation and standing ovation from audiences composed of Faculty, students and Anglican and Lutheran Church members and missionaries in the city.

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