"SAINT JOHN IN EXILE"
A visit to the Beloved Disciple
His Cave of Imprisonment
Imperial Prison Colony, lsland of Patmos
Donald B. Berrigan, MA, Ph.B.
Copyright Dean Jones Productions
OVERTURE TO ACT ONE
CHOIR AND INSTRUMENTAL ACCOMPANIMENT
"JESU, JOY OF MAN'S DESIRING" -
THE STAGE SUGGESTS THE INTERIOR OF A CAVE.
THERE IS MAKESHIFT FURNITURE OF LASHED DRIFTWOOD:
A WRITING DESK UPON WHICH ARE TWO WRITING QUILLS
IN A SMALL CERAMIC JAR, A DESK STOOL, A SMALLER
STOOL, A LOW CHEST-
UP CENTER, AGAINST WHICH LEANS JOHN'S ROUGH-
ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST, 86 YEARS
OLD BUT IN GOOD HEALTH, ENTERS FROM THE REAR OF
HIS CAVE OF IMPRISONMENT IN THE ROMAN PENAL
COLONY ON THE AEGEAN ISLAND OF PATMOS. HIS
HIS ROBE OF COARSE HOMESPUN IS WORN BUT CLEAN,
AND TIED ABOUT THE WAIST WITH A FRAYED ROPE.
ON HIS BALD PATE HE WEARS A HEBREW SKULLCAP.
IN HIS TIME-
ING QUILLS AND A SHARPENING STONE. OBLIVIOUS
TO THE AUDIENCE, JOHN CALLS OUT TO HIS DISCIPLE,.
Now, then Papias! These quill pens are all sharpened. Your ink
JOHN ADDS HIS QULL PENS TO THOSE IN THE JAR ON
THE WRITING DESK.
This will be a letter to the seven churches.
Good arithmetic, my boy! Nine copies is just what I'll need. Seven in Greek, one in Aramaic for me, and one in Latin, just in case.
Now, Papias don't start crying "hand cramps" again!
After all those copies you made of the Acts of the Apostles, I know you have fingers of iron!
JOHN CHUCKLES AFFABLY. HE PUTS HIS SHARPENING STONE ON THE HIGH TABLE AND TAKES UP HIS STAFF.
Now then. John to the seven churches which are in Asia: grace be to you, and peace, from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, even Our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One.
I received your letters with joy and gratitude. My thanks for your -
JOHN SEES THE AUDIENCE AND IS DELIGHTED.
Well! You’ve arrived early! Splendid! Splendid! I wasn’t expecting you so soon. How was the crossing from Ephesus? Rough? Windy? Usually is. I hope the Roman guards down at the pier were not too troublesome. Searched you, did they! Well, they're looking for scriptures, and those new-
You know, if the penal colony commander here ever decides to really enforce the Romans’ anti-
JOHN SPEAKS T0 AN INDIVIDUAL IN THE AUDIENCE.
Where's Timothy? Down in the camp. No trouble? Ah. Distributing the food. Good, good.
JOHN SPEAKS TO THE AUDIENCE AGAIN.
Well, welcome to Patmos.
Beautiful, beautiful Patmos.
HE LAUGHS AGAIN.
I wasn't laughing when the Romans brought me here, almost three years ago now. They put me down in the quarry, cutting marble. I was eighty-
And I was not a model prisoner. All day, while I held the cutting chisel, l’d be telling the man swinging the hammer all about Jesus. Before the Romans knew it, I‘d converted half the inmates and five guards.
That's when the Commander found me out and shut me up in this cave. Surprised me. He could’ve killed me. When he didn't I got suspicious, wrote Timothy in Ephesus and asked him to see if he could find out why. Turns out the Commander
has a secret order not to kill me, or even hurt me. Seems the Procurator in Ephesus is afraid if anything happens to "that Christian sorcerer" there’ll be riots in the streets. Riots, over me, can you imagine that?
He may be one of those people who have heard I'll never die. That got started because of something Jesus said to Peter about me. Then the Romans tried to boil me in oil and Lord Jesus delivered me, the rumor really spread. l’ve never been able to stop it. But I must say, since I just turned eighty-
JOHN DEMONSTRATES HIS SPRYNESS.
See what I mean?
DESPITE HIS BOAST, JOHN IS WINDED. HE CARRIES HIS SMALL STOOL TO DOWN CENTER AND SITS ON IT.
The Romans, they don't understand us Christians. Why when I die, I want a celebration. Can you imagine what the Romans will think of all the praising God at my funeral? Oh, they'll be there, just to be sure I am.
But I'm glad I’m still in the fight. If there's battle smoke, I want to smell it. Trouble is, there's precious little of it here in this cave. But I’m not complaining, Beloved! I have all the amenities. It's musty and damp, but quite roomy as caves go. Big enough to chase pneumonia around in, and catch it.
For furniture, the Romans have given me their latest style: Romanus prisonus. This piece should be called Romanus porcupinus.
JOHN SUDDENLY DRAWS HIS LEGS UP AWAY FROM THE FLOOR.
And the Romans allow pets. There go two of them now. Cave rats you can ride to market!
JOHN PURSUES THE RATS, MENACING THEM WITH HIS STAFF.
I call these two Annas and Caiaphas, they're always together. Missed them again. I've given them all names. Herod stays back in under there. And over in there, Pontius Pilate. Sometimes at night when I'm asleep he comes out and does my toenails.
Where was I? Oh, yes. Well, when I found out I had an inch and was fairly safe here, I immediately took a mile. I arranged for Timothy to start visiting me from Ephesus, carrying supplies and letters back and forth, and even bringing visitors. Then his young friend Papias here, volunteered to stay and help me.
JOHN TAKES THE AUDIENCE INTO HIS CONFIDENCE.
We've got a regular scriptorium going here, right under the Roman's noses. And that’s a lot of shade. We copy out the Epistles, the Acts, the three gospels, and send them back to Ephesus where Timothy secretly distributes them to the churches. They’re also used in training my young missionaries.
I‘m glad I can still be useful, Beloved. And I'm glad you've come to visit me, too.
Do you know, the seven churches have even asked me to write a gospel? Can you imagine that? They call it the gift that only I can give. I suppose they mean by that, as far as we know, I'm the last living disciple who saw The Lord in person. Luke is still with us, thank God. His letters are such a strength and encourage-
I told the churches: taken together, Matthew, Mark, and Luke are as complete and inspiring a record of Jesus’ acts and words as our faith will ever need. I, the youngest and least worthy of His disciples should, just should not presume to add to it.
JOHN RISES, CROSSES NEAR THE CAVE ENTRANCE.
Papias, bring your young eyes over here. Look, down there, coming up the cliff path from the quarry. I know it's a Roman, but can you make out who it is? The penal colony commander! Now what have I done? Can't think of anything new. You know, it could mean he's finally decided to listen to my proposal on helping the prisoners!
Quick, Papias! Hide these copies of Peter's epistles, and these new papyrus copies of Luke’s gospel! Put them in that chest way back there in the dark! Wait, Papias. Leave that copy of Luke's Gospel right there in the open. Yes, right where he can see it. Of course he'll confiscate it!
JOHN ABRUPTLY STOPS TALKING AND SETS HIMSELF FOR THE COMMANDER'S VISIT.
JOHN SEES THE COMMANDER ENTER THE CAVE, AND PRETENDS TO BE SURPRISED.
Commander! Come right in, sir. Sit down, sit down. Then stand if you prefer. Yes, sir, I believe I do have a workable proposal on the prisoners. All right, here it is. Commander, those walking skeletons you have working down there in that quarry will never cut enough marble to earn their keep, much less make you a profit, not as long as you persist in keeping them starved, sick, and demoralized. But let me get them some good food, warm clothes, and a decent place to sleep, give them a little hope that they can live long enough to be released. Then you'll have a work crew that will cut some marble for you! You'll see some of that profit you’re supposed to get. No, no, no cost to you. We'll provide everything. Who is "we?" Let’s just say some friends of mine on the mainland. Never mind if they’re Christians or what they are, Commander, we'll collect the food, the clothes. You just supply us with a Roman quartermaster's seal. We'll mark every shipment with it and when it gets to the pier in Ephesus, right aboard ship with no difficulty. Keep your secret? Keep our secret, Commander. If this thing is ever discovered, all you get is a reprimand. I get the slow boil in oil. The Lord Jesus delivered me from that once already. Yes, I know I told you about that, Commander, but I just want you to know, I don't want to tempt Him again.
THE COMMANDER MAKES A REMARK THAT IGNITES JOHN'S LEGENDARY TEMPER.
Profit? Profit! How much of your profit do I want! Commander, you pagans are all alike! You just cannot conceive of doing something for someone simply because-
JOHN'S CONSCIENCE OVERCOMES HIS RAGE. HE TRIES TO APOLOGIZE, YET KEEP HIS DIGNITY.
Commander, I’m sorry. I beg your forgiveness. This infernal temper has been my lifelong curse. But I will discipline it if it is the last thing I do in this life! Next time it may be? I see.
JOHN GETS BACK TO BUSINESS.
All right, Commander, you've heard my proposal. I don't want a widow's mite of your money. I do want to help those men down there in that quarry. You want promotion, and gold. Do yourself a favor. Say yes.
JOHN LOOKS INTENTLY AT THE COMMANDER, WAITING FOR HIS ANSWER.
JOHN'S FACE BRIGHTENS WITH SATISFACTION.
Good. Good. Commander, you may be closer to the Kingdom than you know. I’ll have Timothy make all the arrangements. Absolutely. You’ll be kept completely informed.
IN RESPONSE TO ANOTHER QUESTION FROM THE COMMANDER, JOHN PRETENDS NOT TO KNOW WHAT IS MEANT.
Scroll? What scroll? Oh, that scroll. Just something I was reading, why? Well, yes, it’s Christian, how can I deny it? A friend of mine named Luke. Now, Commander, you're not going to confiscate this one, too! You already have my copies of Matthew and Mark! And you never return anything! Well, what can I do but stay here in this cave and go mad with nothing to read! Take it, take it, if you must. Yes, yes, and good day to you, too.
AS THE COMMANDER LEAVES THE CAVE, JOIN PRETENDS TO SULK.
AFTER A LONG MOMENT, JOHN TURNS TO THE AUDIENCE.
Is he gone?
JOHN LAUGHS AND STRIDES TOWARD THE AUDIENCE HAPPILY.
There’s more than one way to get a pagan to read the Word! He doesn't know it yet, but next time he's going to confiscate Paul's Epistles. If they don't do it, nothing will. Such a hardhead. Wouldn’t surprise me if even Paul can’t reach him.
But I do pray for him, Beloved. I pray for that man.
Infernal temper! My brother James had it, too. He was worse than I was-
JOHN HEARS A QUESTION FROM AN INDIVIDUAL IN THE AUDIENCE.
Beg your pardon? When...
...when did I first see The Lord? Oh, Beloved, I'll never forget that! Andrew and I had to deliver salt-
JOHN BRINGS HIS STAFF FROM UP LEFT TO DOWN.
All along the way we heard of a new prophet called John the Baptist. We found him beside the Jordan River. He was a brawny, wild-
What a voice the Baptist had. He could out-
JOHN REMOVES HIS CLOAK.
The One who is coming. I first saw Jesus on a beautiful spring day at the Jordan River crossing called Bethabara. Andrew and I were helping the Baptist as he
Baptized so many, in the sunny, cool current. Suddenly I sense a strange quiet. I look up to see The Baptist gazing at the far shore.
A solitary man steps into the river comes and stands before The Baptist. But the usually fiery Baptist is strangely subdued:
AS THE BAPTIST
"Do you come to me, when it is I who should be baptized by you?" The stranger says:
"Let it be so now. We must fulfill all things rightly."
The Baptist baptizes Him, and as the man leaves, The Baptist says to Andrew and me: "Do you see, do you see the Holy Spirit of God, descending on Him like a dove out of Heaven? This is He for whom the world has been waiting. Now follow Him."
JOHN CROSSES TO STAGE RIGHT.
Well, Andrew and I followed Him, and when we caught up with Him, I didn’t know what to say, so I blurted out: "Rabbi, Rabbi, uh, where are you staying?"
OLD JOHN SHAKES HIS HEAD, AMUSED AT YOUNG JOHN'S YOUTHFUL INEPTITUDE.
Jesus smiles and says: "Come and see." Well, He had a little camping place up in the hills, and we stayed there all that day with Him, and into the night, talking in the firelight about everything in the world.
The next morning Jesus asked Andrew and me to go north into Galilee with Him. On that leisurely six-
He invited Andrew and me to follow Him! I still don’t know why. The only thing that gave me the courage was: from the first moment I saw Him, somehow I had the feeling that He needed a friend. And strange as it may seem, I thought I could be that friend. And that's how it turned out.
JOHN MUSES IN SILENT REMEMBRANCE FOR A MOMENT, THEN PRESSES HIMSELF TO CONTINUE, RELUCTANT TO RELINQUISH THE REMINISCENCE. JOHN CARRIES THE SMALL STOOL UPSTAGE RIGHT.
When we reached Capernaum, I hurried to get my brother James, and Andrew got his brother, Simon Peter, who was already known all around the Sea of Galilee as the fisherman with the stormy, emotional nature. We also brought our good friends Phillip and Nathanael. We wanted them all to meet Jesus.
JOHN PAUSES TO DIGRESS. HE PICKS UP THE SHARPENING STONE AT STAGE RIGHT, SHARPENS QUILLS AS HE TALKS.
You must understand something, Beloved. We were very ordinary men. Coarse, countrified, with no education but our trade, and what we had learned growing up in the synagogue. Jesus called us in terms we could understand: "I will make you fishers of men." But it would be a long time before we even began to know what He really had in mind.
JOHN PUTS TH SHARPENING STONE ON THE WRITING DESK, AND THE QUILLS IN THE JAR.
Our first lesson, our first shock, came when Jesus gave us His view of the Messiah.
JOHN PICKS UP THE CROSS FROM THE WRITING DESK.
We, like all Jews, were looking for another Joshua, a second King David, who would drive out the Roman parasites forever. Imagine our surprise when Jesus proved to us, from scripture, that not only Israel, but the whole gentile world was also to be set free! The Gentiles! And the Messiah would be, not a Lord of Battle, but a Prince of Peace.
JOHN HOLDS UP THE CROSS.
And His kingdom would be greater than the Romans‘ and last forever, because it would be where they, or any like them, could never invade and conquer it: in the hearts of good people who love God and treasure peace. It would be a Kingdom of God. That's you, Beloved. I didn’t understand it then. I understand it better now, every time I look into your faces.
JOHN RESPONDS TO A QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE.
I beg your pardon? Miracles?
JOHN REPEATS THE QUESTION FOR ALL T0 HEAR.
Did I see miracles? Yes. Yes, Beloved. I saw many miracles. Some before great numbers of astonished people.
JOHN PUTS THE CROSS ON THE CHEST.
Others in front of only a few witnesses, like The time a nobleman came to Him,
asking healing for his sick boy who was far away in Capernaum. As that father found out when he came home, even as he had been talking with Jesus, his boy had been healed. Jesus cured so many: the crippled man at the pool of Siloam, the man born blind.
JOHN RESPONDS TO ANOTHER QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE.
My favorite miracle? I think it was the feeding of the thousands, I suppose because it meant so much to me personally. You see, Beloved, every miracle Jesus did had more than one purpose. They were public proofs that Jesus was who He said He was. But they were also private signs to us, His disciples. By the time we had finished feeding five thousand hungry men, and their families, with just what that little boy had in his basket, five barley loaves and a few salt fish, I began to understand. Little could become much in Jesus’ hands. Jesus could take the little I was, and make me into something useful for His great work. Do the same for you. Right Then I decided: if Jesus was willing to try the impossible, the least I could do was cooperate. After that, the crowds grew. I don't blame them. Best bread I ever tasted! We took up twelve baskets of leftovers, had them for supper that night.
JOHN RECEIVES ANOTHER QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE.
What's that? Hate, hate Jesus? Ah!
REPEATING THE QUESTION FOR ALL TO HEAR.
If the people loved Jesus, why did the Temple Priests hate Him? Because, Beloved, they preferred their kingdom to God's.
Temple spies began to follow us everywhere. Then Herod arrested and beheaded John the Baptist. Now everything Jesus did took on a new urgency. He chose six more of us to complete His twelve "Apostles," messengers: Matthew the ex-
We were to help them find release from the sin enslaving them, show them how to forgive and be forgiven, how to find a life-
JOHNS THOUGHTS BEGIN TO MOVE TO THE CROSS AS HE GOES UP LEFT.
When Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave, the fame of it flew before us, striking terror into the hearts of the Temple authorities. What nation wouldn't want a king who could raise the dead? Could all the legions of Rome defeat an Israel led by such a power? The priests were afraid this was what the people were thinking, and they were right. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, thousands greeted Him, waving palm branches, throwing down their clothes to make a carpet for the colt He was riding. And they shouted the traditional greeting for a victorious king of Israel: "Hosannah! Hosannah to the Son of David!" And the priests trembled. It was obvious to all who had eyes. If Jesus wanted the people to make Him king, Romans or no, all He had to do was say so. It was then they decided to kill him.
That night, at Lazarus’ home in Bethany, when Peter demanded Jesus save Himself, he got the most terrible rebuke. "Get away from me, Satan! You're thinking as men think, Peter. See these things as God does." From that hour, Peter carried a hidden sword.
JOHN CROSSES UP CENTER TO THE HIGH TABLE.
A few nights later, on the eve of Passover, we had our last supper together, in the upper room of a house owned by Mark's parents. Most of what Jesus said that night I believe you know from Matthew, Mark, and Luke's gospels. But I have a few remembrances of my own.
After supper, Judas left on an errand. We didn’t expect him to. Passover. Then slowly a great sadness settles over us. Jesus knows how troubled we were. Yet, He doesn’t spare our feelings.
JOHN MOVES DOWN RIGHT.
It’s as if He’s saying: "No longer are you disciples. Now you are ministers. Now
you will have to stand. Love one another. Love one another and the world will know you are mine. The hour is coming when all of you will run away and leave Me. But even then I will not be alone, for the Father is always with Me."
Peter leaps to his feet.
"Master, I will never leave you! I'd lay down my life for you!" "
Would you, Peter? This is the truth I tell you: before the rooster crows, you will deny three times you even know Me."
When I say I go to the Father, your hearts are filled with sorrow. But I must go so that you will receive the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, your understanding, and your power. Without Him, you’ll accomplish nothing. But I will come again, and then nothing will ever take away your joy. Do not be afraid of what the world will do to us now. I have overcome the world." Then Jesus prays that none of us be lost in what was coming.
We follow Jesus out into the clear, starry night, up the dark ravine of Kidron, along the temple walls. Their drains are gushing the blood of the thousands of Passover lambs now being slain on the altars within. I’ll never forget the feeling that comes over me as Jesus steps across that coursing scarlet flood.
We come at last to our favorite garden, Gethsemane. Jesus asks Peter, James, and me to stay near Him while He prays. In the moonlight, I see Jesus cast Himself down on the ground, stricken of soul. And I hear Him pray that if it be the Father's will, this cup will pass from Him. I want to go to Him, give Him what comfort I can, but we never intruded on His times of prayer. I sit down, lean against the trunk of an olive tree. For what seems only a moment, I let my eyes close. The next thing I know, Jesus’ hand is on my shoulder. On His face, dark sweat like drops of blood! And oh, the sadness in His voice: "John, could you not watch with Me this little while?" My best friend, and my Lord has been in the Lake of Fire. I have been asleep.
JOHN’S SHAME IS DEEP AND PROFOUND
Peter cries out a warning. Where? I see them! Coming up from Kidron! Torches, helmets, spears! Master! We must leave here! But Master! Temple police, coming to arrest us!
Look! Leading them: Judas!
JOHN SHOUTS, LOUDLY AND LONG, POINTING AT JUDAS, AS IF IN AN ANGUISHED NIGHTMARE.
They sweep in through the gate. Jesus steps forward and confronts the captain:
Who do you seek?
AS THE CAPTAIN
Jesus of Nazareth!
I am He."
The soldiers fall backward to the ground, such is Jesus’ power over them had He chosen to use it. Again He commands the captain:
It is me you want. Let these go.
The captain hesitates, bewildered by his own suddenly weakened will. He motions to his men. Peter leaps forward, sword in hand, cuts off the ear of Malchus, the High Priest's servant. Jesus intervenes:
Peter! Put away your sword! Shall I not drink this cup The Father has given Me? With that I panic. Coward that I was, I run into the darkness of the olive grove, hide among the trees. Somehow in the moon shadows, Peter finds me. He wants to follow the receding line of torches.
No, Peter! They let us go once! They won't again! Why should we risk that? Because we love Him?
Yes, because we love Him. We catch up with the Temple Police as they enter the mansion of old Annas, the ex-
A servant woman is keeping the door. Somehow She remembers me as the fishmonger boy from Galilee. But not Peter.
AS THE SERVANT WOMAN
Aren’t you one of this Jesus’ followers?
No, certainly not!
She believes him and lets him in. In the garden, the guards have started a fire . As we warm ourselves, one notices Peter.
AS GUARD 1
You! You look like one of the Nazarene's men!
I tell you, I wouldn't know the man if I saw him!
Inside the house, a commotion. Jesus is led out into the courtyard. There's a bruise on His cheek, on His lip a trace of blood. He looks at us, but for our sakes, gives no sign He knows us. Another guard confronts Peter:
AS GUARD 2
Here! I know you. You were in Gethsemane tonight!
I was not in Gethsemane!
AS GUARD 2
You were the one with the sword!
Sword! I’m a fisherman! I wouldn’t know what to do with a sword!
AS GUARD 2
You were the one who protected Him!
Why would I protect a man I don’t even know?
A rooster crows. In Jesus’ eyes I see a haunting sadness as they lead Him away.
Outside the compound, Peter weeps, falls to the pavement. Grief and shame possess him. The stones of the alleyway grind into the flesh of his knees, hands, face. He howls to the night sky.
Lord God! Have mercy on me, and Judas Iscariot!
But I feel no pity for Peter. I didn’t deny the Master. Then Jesus’ words return to me from the dark garden.
John, could you not watch with He this little while?
And I see my own sin against Him.
JOHN WALKS TO THE CHEST, PLACES HIS STAFF OVER HIS SHOULDERS, LIKE THE CROSSBAR OF A CRUCIFIX.
Outside the city walls, the sunlight warms us as we follow to the place where the Romans like to kill our people. A little hill called Golgotha, shaped like a human skull. At the gate of Jerusalem, where everone can see them hanging on their crosses. Peter And l, afraid of arrest, hide ourselves in the curious mob.
With Jesus are two thieves. The Roman soldiers crucify them first. They fight it, scream in despair like mutilated animals.
On the ground between them, Jesus lays Himself on His cross, offers His hands and His feet. I remember His words.
No man takes my life. I lay it down of myself."
Iron nails! Falling hammers! Crimson blood spurting up from wrists and ankles. They raise the cross and the full weight of His body falls on His flowing wounds. Still He does not cry out.
A soldier raises a ladder, tacks a sign above His head, in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin: Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews. Pontius Pilate has made a joke. Angry Pharisees push past us to the soldiers:
AS A PRIEST
Take down that sign! He is not our King!
Roman spears push them back:
AS A ROMAN SOLDIER
We have our orders! The sign stays!
JOHN LEANS HIS STAFF AGAINST THE TABLE UP CENTER.
And so, in mockery and jest, Jesus is first proclaimed to the nations. He speaks:
Father, forgive them, they know now what they do."
Even now He prays! Even now! For the soldiers at the foot of His cross, gambling for His clothes. And I realize: they crucified Him on orders, in pagan ignorance. And these Pharisees, spitting and looking on so self-
But what of us, His Twelve? For three years we followed Him. We saw His signs and wonders, learned the secret of who He really was, and why He had come, and still we betrayed Him, deserted, denied Him. And I see the damning difference. We know what we have done!
Four women approach the cross, brave women, weeping. The mother of Matthew and James, Jesus’ mother, her sister, and Mary Magdalene. His mother looks back at me, terrible pain in her eyes. Peter, l’m going to her. I don’t care. Let them notice me! My life is worthless to me now. Why should I be afraid?
JOHN APPROACHES THE CROSS.
Oh, God! My heart breaks.
JOHN FALLS AT TH FOOT OF THE CROSS.
Where the cross is planted, dark red mud is made from Jesus’ blood. His swelling ankles, disjointed by the iron spike. His lacerated arms, cramping legs, modesty outraged, whip-
His eyes move between me and His mother. She comes to my arms. He rises up on the nails:
Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord.
The sky darkens. There’s a deathlike stillness. Jesus stares at the horizon, His eyes dancing madly, as if seeing horrors even He who commanded and cast out devils cannot bear to look on. He lifts up on the nails.
(He cries out) My God! My God! Why have you forsaken Me?
It is finished.
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.
A spear point rises, gores into Jesus’s side. Blood and water gush forth into the dusty earth. Blood and water, the certain mark of death.
Now come Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. They'd dared to go to Pontius Pilate and beg for Jesus’ body. While Jesus lived their discipleship was compromised by embarrassment, hesitation, and prudent concealment. Yet now, no sooner is He dead, than by their presence they openly declare for Him. And Peter, too, standing beside me for all the world to see. I remember Jesus’ prophecy:
When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to Me.
Even now it is working, the strangely compelling power of the cross! We raise a ladder, extract the stubborn nails, take our murdered Master down. He ends where it began, cradled in His mother's arms.
Joseph leads us down the hill to his private garden and a new-
A silken napkin for His head. A body-
JOHN PORTRAYS THE EVIL SPIRIT.
I will sift you now like wheat, you who also are forsaken!
Peter and I hide, a night, a day, another night, in fearful anguish and despair, thinking on all we’ve seen and lost! Over and over again, Ihear in my mind Jesus’ cry from the cross:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
There’s no denying what it seems to mean, and yet, there Is something more, something familiar; "Eloi, eloi, lama sabacthani;" something from my childhood, in the synagogue? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,-
JOHN PUTS ON HIS PRAYER SHAWL AND SINGS THE TWENTY-
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me and from the words that I cry? I am poured out like water. They pierce my hands and my feet. They number all my bones. They part my garments among them, and cast lots for my clothes. Al that see me laugh me to scorn. They shoot out the lip, they shake the head saying: "He trusted in the Lord, he trusted in the Lord, he trusted in the Lord.
OVERCOME, JOHN COLLAPSES.
LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK.
END OF ACT ONE
OVERTURE TO ACT TWO
CHOIR AND INSTRUMENTAL ACCOMPANIMENT
"THE GLORY OF THE LORD" -
JOHN ENTERS FROM UPSTAGE RIGHT, CARRYING A SMALL CERAMIC JAR, EATING FROM IT SOMETHING SMALL.
HE IS RELAXED, AND SMILES IMPISHLY AT THE AUDIENCE.
Some people don’t like these.
HE EATS ANOTHER.
But I acquired a taste for them from John the Baptist. That’s right, locusts and wild honey. Care for some? Anyone?
HE CHUCKLES AND SMILES.
All the more for me.
You know, I was just thinking: Jesus had a wondrous singing voice. Did you know that? He did. In fact, all of us Twelve liked to sing.
All except Judas. I don't know why. Judas had a fine speaking voice but he never sang with us. We loved to sing with Jesus as we walked along the highroads. Most of us were sharp or flat. Peter just loud.
JOHN GETS AN APPEALING IDEA.
Would you like to sing one of Peter's favorite songs? Would you? Good! Good! Andrew wrote the words. I made up the music myself.
JOHN BEGINS THE SONG, HIS GESTURES AND CLAPPING ENCOURAGING THE AUDIENCE T0 JOIN IN.
Lord God almighty,
Thou art holy,
Maker of the sea and land,
The universe and skies!
Lord God almighty,
Thou art holy,
Dwell within my heart and mind,
My fingers and my eyes!
JOHN SINGS WITH THE AUDIENCE, THE VERSE AND CHORUS REPEATING, UNTIL THE INTERLUDE IS FULFILLED. HE CHUCKLES HAPPILY, REMINISCING.
I remember once we were hiking along singing that song. Peter is really into the spirit of it, his hands high in praise, his eyes lifted
up to heaven-
I suppose I shouldn't be so blatant about it, but Peter was my favorite. You just couldn't help liking the man. He was a walking bundle of outrageous extremes. No one ever praised or encouraged Jesus as much as Peter did. Or interrupted and interfered with Him as much.
Oh, but I'll tell you, Peter was never the same after the Lord let him walk on water. Walking on water's a heady thing, Beloved. Change you, too! It was only a few steps, but Peter was so courageous after that.
JOHN COUGHS, STICKS A FINGER IN HIS MOUTH.
Those little legs get in your teeth.
Yes, so solid Peter was, right up ‘til the time Jesus was taken. Then, after that, he becomes more cowardly than I am, if that’s possible. He has this fear that Jesus
will never forgive him. Peter, don't you remember what He said to you about forgiving: ‘til seventy times seven! But he just can't seem to accept it. He sits in the room near the city wall where we are hiding and just stares into the flame of the oil lamp. But no sooner does Mary Magdalene bang on the door, claiming
the tomb is open, the body gone, than Peter is dragging me out the door. That early morning we race each other through the deserted streets of Jerusalem, like we used to as boys in Galilee, but this time, I get there first.
IN YOUNG JOHN’S VOICE.
I see the waning watch fire, just coals now, but no-
are broken, the stone rolled away. I'm afraid to go in. Peter comes running up, takes one look, and goes right into the tomb. I follow him.
Peter! The body's gone. But the linens! The linens are still here. If someone stole the body, would they strip it first? There’d be no reason to. Peter, these grave clothes have not been moved! Look, they're still in the same folds I made myself when we put Him here! You see? The shoulders, the arms!
I am the Resurrection and the Life!
MUSIC SOFTLY IN UNDER, SYMBOLIZING JOHN'S DAWNING BELIEF IN JESUS’ RESURRECTION.
Peter, do you remember, at Lazarus’ tomb? I am the Resurrection and the life! Peter! Something, something wonderful has happened here! He's raised our Temple up again! Yes! Yes! Jesus is risen! Come on, Peter, we've got to tell the others!
JOHN RUNS FROM THE TOMB INTO THE STREETS, SHOUTING JOYFULLY.
Andrew! James! Jesus is risen! Phillip! Nathanael! Jesus! He's risen! He’s alive! Jesus is alive!
MUSIC UP TO FULL AS LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK.
AFTER A FEW MOMENTS JOHN APPEARS IN SILHOUETTE. HE RAISES HIS ARMS IN PRAYER, AND CONTINUES PRAYING ‘TIL THE MUSIC FlNISHES.
LIGHTS: IN T0 PERFORMANCE LEVEL.
OLD JOHN’S VOICE.
By evening of that day, Peter and I find all of the Twelve except Judas, and Thomas, who'd believed his doubts and left Jerusalem. We all meet in the Upper Room. Peter has difficult news.
Brethren, I hate to tell you this, but Judas is dead. Ashamed of what he did, he hanged himself.
There’s vengeful approval in the room, but Peter rebukes it: "Are any of us without blame? Can we follow the Master’s commandment just once and not judge Judas? Let us pray for ourselves, that we fall not into a worse temptation!"
Then Mary Magdalene speaks:
I have seen the Lord! This morning, outside the tomb!
Seen the Lord! Mary, I was in the garden this morning, so was Peter! We didn‘t see Him! Why should He show Himself only to you?
Why shouldn’t He? Because I'm a woman? Maybe the Lord’s trying to tell you men something! There was no doubting her sincerity. But I doubted.
Then, the atmosphere in the room seems somehow to change. There’s a sound in the shadows near the door, and into the light steps Jesus. We are petrified! I'm ashamed to tell you, Beloved, but we didn't want to come near Him. Then Jesus says:
Don't be afraid. It's Me. Touch Me. Come here, John.
I have no choice but to take His hand. It’s warm, real. The nail wounds are almost healed. He shows us His side. The imprint of the spear is closed and fading. He smiles, talks with us. He's the same in every way. Jesus has returned to us, not as a vision or a spirit, but Jesus Himself, just as He said He would, back from the cross and the tomb! Death could not keep Him!
Beloved, what a night! How we rejoiced! We praised God! How I wish you could have been there! He spent that entire evening with us, and then, just before He left, He breathed on us, and said:
Receive, receive, receive the Holy Spirit.
And then as quietly as He’d come, He was gone, down the wooden steps and into the dark, windy night.
JOHN PAUSES, CONTEMPLATING AGAIN THE WONDER OF IT.
Jesus comes to us again in Jerusalem, and this time Thomas is with us. He had said:
Unless I put my finger into the nail wounds, and my hand into Jesus’ side, I will never believe!"
Thomas was a strong, determined man, and he desperately wanted to be certain. Jesus knew his boast, and He makes him carry it out. Thomas falls to his knees:
My Lord and my God!
Jesus looks at Thomas, and at all of us:
Have you believed only because you have seen me? Blessed are they who shall not see me, yet will believe.
Jesus was speaking of a faith far greater than we, His Twelve, would ever have, Beloved. He was speaking of a faith like yours.
Then Jesus says for us to go home to Galilee, and he’ll come to us again.
JOHN MOVES TO CENTER.
Home. Galilee. We work on my father's neglected boats. We scrape and paint hulls, repair rigging. No word. Frustration, fear. We mend sails, fix nets. Still nothing. Suspicion. Doubt. Had we really seen what we'd thought we‘d seen? Now Thomas says:
Why do you doubt? He's coming to us!
That sunset, Peter gets up, slams his fist on the table and says:
I can’t stand it! l‘m going fishing!
And we say: We’re coming with you! We fish all night, catch nothing. The sun comes up red on the water. I know it’ll be a hot day. We give up and sail for home. As we near the shore, I see a solitary man, standing on the beach. He calls out to us:
AS JESUS (IN THE DISTANCE)
Lads! Have you any fish?
No! We've caught nothing! Try the next landing!
AS JESUS (IN THE DISTANCE
Cast your net to the right and you'll find!
Peter and I lock eyes! This preposterous proposition we've heard once before! We throw the net to starboard, and it's full of fish, choice, fat, hundreds of them! Peter! It's the Lord! Of course Peter dives right overboard and swims toward shore!
The rest of us follow in the boat, dragging the huge catch. And there on the beach are Peter and Jesus. They've made a fire of coals, and are baking some flatbread, ready for the fish. Jesus says:
Come, eat with Me.
Beloved, I really wish you'd been there. It was like the old days, hot food, good fellowship by the lake. And the life, oh, the life in Him, Beloved! I can still see his eyes, smiling, so full of life! Those same eyes I closed with coins in the tomb.
JOHN PAUSES, REMEBERING. THE MEMORY IS BOTH SWEET AND PAINFUL.
Oh, the stories I could tell you. Jesus returning to The Father. The Holy Spirit falling on us at Pentecost. And with our new understanding and power we preach, fearlessly, in the streets of Jerusalem, and in the Temple itself! Thousands believe, and the Jewish church takes root. It’s in our first gentile mission, in Syrian Antioch, that the Romans, our most dedicated enemies, in scorn, give us the name we’re now known by: Christians.
Then, tragedy sows the gospel to the farthest frontiers of the Roman Empire. About twenty-
Only by a miracle leading do Jesus’ mother and I escape to Ephesus where Timothy’s church takes us in. Soon after, the Romans break in. And Jesus‘ tearful prophecy comes true. In the Holy City the Romans leave standing not one stone upon another.
I heard later one million Jews were exterminated. Be watchful, Beloved. Be watchful, that the world never see such a government approved attempt at extermination again.
JOHN HEARS A CALL FROM THE AUDIENCE.
What's that? Write?
Oh, will I write a gospel. Beloved, copying, as we do here, is one thing. Almost anyone can do it. But writing. That’s another thing completely. Matthew, and Luke, and Mark setting down Peter’s words, all wrote primarily from the Jewish point of view. They explained Jesus as the long-
JOHN LOOKS AT THE AUDIENCE WITH A DISCOMITED HESITATION.
I'm considering telling you something, Beloved. I hesitate, not because I don't trust you or love you, but I’m not sure that I understand enough to make it clear to you.
JOHN HESITATES AGAIN, DECIDES TO GO ON.
Not long ago, the Commander begins allowing me a walk each day out along the sea cliffs, and it’s out there, on the Lord's day, that I come into The Spirit. I hear a loud voice behind me, like a trumpet in the sunny air.
AS THE VOICE
I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last!
I turn. I see seven golden candle stands! And walking among them, one like the Son of Man! His hair, glistening snow! His eyes, fire! His face, the sun in all its power! He speaks again, this time in a voice like mighty, falling waters:
AS THE VOICE
Write this Revelation in a book, and send it to the churches!
And then, it seems the sky opens! I fly above a sea of crystal, to the Rainbow Throne of God! A book! The Lamb’s Book of Life, sealed with seven seals! The Lamb of God breaks the seals! Tribulation dawns! Four fearful horsemen – War, Pestilence, Famine and Death, ride across the world! The powerful and the rich, the weak and the poor, the renowned and the obscure, hide themselves in caves and mountains! God's wrath has come! Who can stand?
Then from out of the sky, a fiery star explodes above the earth! The cities of the nations are burned to dust in an hour! Millions die! The rest pray to die, but death eludes them ‘til its own good time. Now, in all the earth, no lamplight shines, no working men, no careful wives, no children play, the voice of the bride and the bridegroom, heard no more.
And then, a golden city, coming down from Heaven! From all the world and all the ages the raptured faithful gather at the gates. They open: angels! The heavenly host! And Jesus! He says:
Come in. Come in. This is the place I have prepared for you. The Father awaits us.
JOHN FEELS THE ECSTACY AGAIN.
Oh, Beloved! It’s a miracle my mind contains all that the glorified Christ reveals to me. Poor Papias! He'd heard speaking in tongues before, but nothing like this! And the Lord has said: Write this revelation in a book. And so I must write. And the letters from the churches persist: "Bless us with the gift that only you can give."
JOHN GRADUALLY GETS A NEW INSIGHT.
Alpha and Omega. Jesus’ ministry might best be understood by the Gentile world as the logos, the Word, the order and logic of the universe shown as the mind of
God, made man! Jesus’ sinless life and self-
was there, with The Father, and He will be there, Omega! Until at the end all the Revelation I have seen will be fulfilled! It's as Paul taught me, so many years ago: "Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, today, and forever."
JOHN SEES TIMOTHY ENTER THE CAVE.
Oh, Timothy! My son! Come in, come in! Most of my guests here, I'm sure you already know. Well, no, I don’t think they’ll mind.
Beloved, Timothy seems to have something he wants to say to me. Would you pardon us for a moment?
JOHN GOES ASIDE WITH TIMOTHY AND LISTENS TO WHAT HE HAS T0 SAY. IT BECOMES APPARENT THAT THE NEWS IS VERY BAD. JOHN, STRICKEN, RETURNS TO THE AUDIENCE.
Beloved, we've just learned that the Romans have crucified Luke, a few days ago, in the Greek district of Achaia where he was preaching. Oh, Luke, Luke, beloved physician.
OVERCOME WITH GRIEF, JOHN TURNS AWAY FROM THE AUDIENCE. THEN, HIS TEMPER RISES TO HIS AID.
Well, they have stilled his mortal voice, but the God-
MUSIC UNDER CHOIR AND INSTRUMENTAL ACCOMPANIMENT.
Jesus warned us His Church would be a costly bride. And as always, His prophecy is true. Her price has proven to be unspeakable terror, and rivers of blood.
Glory! Glory to the Lord, Our God! Glory!
It began with Stephen, when Paul, not yet one of us, had him stoned in the street of Jerusalem.
My brother James was next, beheaded, for preaching the risen Christ in the Temple.
Matthias, tied to a cross, draped with carrion, eaten by vultures.
Jude Thaddeus, crucified, and shot to death with arrows!
Nathanael, skinned alive, crucified in double agony.
Glory! Glory! Glory!
Phillip was hanged, from a column of a pagan temple. Andrew crucified. Matthew beheaded in Egypt. Mark, dragged to death behind a chariot in Alexandria. James Alpheus thrown from the roof of Herod’s temple. Thomas, preaching in India, speared by a mob. Simon the Zealot, sawed to pieces alive!
Glory! Glory! Glory!
Peter and Paul were arrested in Rome, while thousands of believers gorged Nero’s lions in the Colosseum. Paul beheaded on the Appian Way.
Glory to God! Glory to God! Glory to thee, O God!
Peter was forced to watch his beloved wife crucified on Vatican Hill, and all through her agony, he cried out to her: "O, thou Beloved, remember Christ! Remember Christ!
Glory! Glory! Glory to God!
Peter felt unworthy to die as Jesus had. So he asked to be, and was, crucified head downward. Beloved, if someone comes to you and says: "I will believe your gospel if you can give me one proof," tell them. Tell them of these ordinary men who overturned the world, and proclaimed to the last, some from their own crosses, the life-
Glory! Glory! Glory! Glory! Glory! Glory! Glory! Glory! Glory!
EMOTIONALLY EXHAUSTED, JOHN STARES INTO THE PAST, FILLED WITH PRIDE FOR HIS BRAVE COMRADES.
What's that, Papias? Message? Let me see it.
From the Commander. God forbid he's changed his mind about helping the prisoners.
JOHN UNROLLS AN UNSEEN SCROLL AND READS IT.
JOHN'S FACE ILLUMINATES WITH JOYFUL SURPRISE.
Timothy! Emperor Domitianus is dead! The Roman Senate has declared an amnesty! The Christian persecution is over!
JOHN FALLS TO HIS KNEES IN GRATITUDE, PRAYS.
Oh, Lord, Our God, King of the Universe, you have delivered us out of the hands of our enemies! Oh, thank you, Jesus! Timothy! Many thousands have died. But thousands more will live!
JOHN GETS TO HIS FEET, DELIGHTED.
Think of it, Papias! We can go home! And Timothy, the churches will be able to worship openly again! Yes, yes, and Papias, we'll visit them all together! How they’ll welcome us! And my school! There’ll be so much to do!
JOHN'S DEMEANOR BECOMES A BIT MORE WARY AS HE SEES THE COMMANDER ENTER THE CAVE.
Commander! Well, thank you for the good news! When can we leave? Today! Splendid, splendid!
JOHN STARTS TO BUSTLE ABOUT THE CAVE BUT IS HALTED IN HIS TRACKS BY THE COMMANDER’S QUESTION.
You suppose what? Now I’ll give up helping the prisoners!
JOHN GRITS HIS TEETH AND BITES HIS TONGUE, TRYING TO SUPPRESS HIS RISING TEMPER. HE IS NOT SUCCESSFUL.
Commander, you are a trial to me! How could you think that I'd give up helping those men, just because I'm free in Ephesus? From Ephesus, Commander, I can help them even more! Yes, yes, what is it, what new condition?
JOHN IS SO IRRITATED AND DISSAPPOINTED THAT HE ONLY HALF HEARS THE COMMANDER'S ANSWER.
Christian instruction. For who?
THE COMMANDER'S ANSWER TO THIS GETS JOHN’S FULL, BUT INCREDULOUS ATTENTION.
For you? Commander, if this is some trick! Well, no, no, yes. I do believe you, Commander! I do praise God for it! Praise God! You see? You just took me unawares, that's all. But only if I instruct you! But that would mean I’d have to stay here for months! You can’t believe the Lord would want-
TO HIS OWN EXASPERATION, JOHN REMEMBERS WHERE.
My footnote in that gospel of Luke I gave him! Lord, why do you answer my dearest prayers at the worst possible time? What, Papias? You’ll stay if I will! I'm surrounded!
JOHN CASTS ABOUT FOR SOME EXCUSE T0 EVADE THIS NEW COMISSION AND GO HOME TO EPHESUS. BUT A NEW INSIGHT COMES.
Write this Revelation, and perhaps a gospel. Would I have time to write in Ephesus? I cannot defy the Lord's command.
JOHN STRUGGLES AGAINST WHAT HE NOW KNOWS IS GOD'S WILL. FINALLY, HE SUBMITS TO IT.
Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord.
JOHN GIVE NEW ORDERS.
Papias, go with Timothy down to the pier. Tell the pilot the boat for Ephesus will have to leave without me. But you be aboard, and be back here in forty-
AS THE COMMANDER LEAVES THE CAVE, HIS PARTING REMARK SURPRISES AND PLEASES JOHN.
And God bless you, too, brother!
TO THE AUDIENCE.
Wonder of wonders! If God can reach that man, He can reach anybody!
JOHN PAUSES A MOMENT, GATHERS HIS THOUGHTS.
Beloved, we've had good fellowship together. I've walked and talked again with Jesus, and I understand Him better, and as always, love Him more. And I see clearly now what He intends for what remains of my life: a witness that will endure. So, if the Holy Spirit will lead, and the Father grant me the days, I'll give the churches what they’ve asked for: a gospel for the Greeks and the Romans. And this will be its message: for God so loved us; He so loved the world, that He gave us Himself in His only son, that whosoever believes in Him need never die, but have everlasting life. Life, Beloved! Life is what He offers us! Life has come, death is conquered! Hell cannot prevail against you ever again! This is why I declare these things to you, what my eyes have seen, and my hands have touched, that you might have victory, in fellowship with us; for truly our fellowship is with the Father and with the Son.
Whenever fear enters your mind, disease your body, enslavement or death your spirit, speak the name of the Prince of Life! Speak the name of Jesus! Hell itself will be put under your feet!
Oh, Beloved, we're not born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, the will of a man. We're sons and daughters of God! And it does not yet appear what we shall be. But we know this: when He comes again, and He will, let no man take that from you! When He comes again, we'll see Him as He is! And we shall be like Him! O Beloved, be like Him now. Love one another, and the world will know you are His. Oh, little children, love one another.
CHOIR: REPRISE OF THE ENDING OF "Glory".
JOHN BEGINS TO LEAVE THE CAVE. HE TURNS TO THE AUDIENCE AND WAVES A WARM FAREWELL.
JOHN LEAVES THE CAVE.
THE MUSIC FINISHES AS THE LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK.
JOHN RETURNS FOR BOWS.