The highlight of the Daily Devotional tour of central Europe last summer was, of course, the Oberammergau Passion Play. This five-hour presentation of the last week of Jesus' life, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, has been performed every ten years since 1634 as a result of a vow made by the townspeople that they would do so if their town were spared from the Black Plague. Over 2000 people who were either born in the town or had lived there for twenty years were involved — half the town! I'd like to share three insights during the performance.
Luke 18:16 – Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." (NIV)
The part that was most moving for me took place at the very beginning for the Palm Sunday entrance, when we saw the big crowd of townspeople onstage, and especially the children who had been born in the town under ten years of age, for whom this was their very first Passion Play. The character playing Jesus was very attentive to them, playing with them, cuddling them, and lifting them up. It was too much to bear, and I think that the emotion that was released there dissipated the emotion that would normally arise during the scourging or the crucifixion, when we remembered that He suffered all that for us.
Matthew 26:14-15 – Then one of the Twelve — the one called Judas Iscariot — went to the chief priests and asked, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. (NIV)
Usually, Judas is perceived as an idealist who was disappointed in Jesus failing to throw out the Romans, or who was attempting to force His hand in self-defence. The thing that struck my wife Evelyn was that Judas was presented as having been tricked and deceived by the priests into handing Jesus over, never wanting Him to be killed. How easy it is for Satan to blind us as to the real consequences of giving in to his temptations.
Matthew 5:14 – You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. (NIV)
The thing that stood out for Karen McRae, a tour participant and minister of Presbyterian churches in Bluevale and Belmore, Ontario, Canada, came near the end, when Jesus' body was being carried into the tomb. Those on stage lit candles. While they were facing the audience, their light was bright, but when they formed into a circle with their backs to the audience, we could not see the lights. So it is with us as Christians. When we huddle to ourselves, the light of Christ doesn't shine out into the world, as when we go forth into the world with His light.
1 Peter 3:18 – For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit. (NIV)
The overall message of the Passion Play was that the sacrifice of Christ was for our benefit, and this was emphasized over and over, especially by the choir:
- Take this to heart, you sinners,
And remember this scene forever.
Christ died for your sins.
Prayer: Lord, may we never take for granted the love that You bear for us, which drove You to the cross as a sacrifice for our sin and disobedience against You. Thank You! Thank You! Amen.