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Six Steps to the Sepulcher

for use on the six Sundays in Lent

or a Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday gathering


Items needed:   five separate stations:

          Cenacle: room with a large table set for supper

               Lois ( a servant) will need

                    a number of chairs

                    three basins:

                     one for clean water

                     one for washing

                     one for used water

                         a few towels to dry visitorsí feet.

               Philip will need

                     a jar of honey (donít give honey to children under two years of age because it can make them sick.)

                     matzo bread

            Garden of Gethsemane: outdoor garden or indoor arrangement of flowers and plants.

                Peter will need a blossom to give to each visitor, either live or paper.

             Pilateís throne room: one central big chair, decorated, if possible, or draped in purple cloth.

                Publio (soldier) will need

                       Dried rosebush or other thorny canes, with the thorns still on them

            The road to Golgotha: an outside path, sidewalk, or lane, a corridor,or an aisle in the sanctuary.

                Veronica will need small stones

            Golgothaís peak

                 Mary will need large nails and 4x6 boards

                a hammer

Six people over 16 years of age: three women, three men

    Lois (a servant) and Philip in the Cenacle

    Peter in the garden

    Publio (a soldier) in the throne room

    Veronica on the road

    Mary at the cross

Have each of the characters at their stations before the visitors begin the activity.  Costumes for the characters are helpful, even a hat or insignia will work, but they are not strictly necessary.  Each of the characters may read or memorize verbatim the following scripts, ad-lib based on the character, or do some of each.

These vignettes may be used individually in the order given, one for each week of Lent.  If this is done, following the first week, it may be helpful to remind visitors of what happened the week before.  Alternatively, some or all may be used as an initial activity at a pre-Easter ďEaster PartyĒ, or as childrenís church for Maundy Thursday or Good Friday.

If they are used all at once with a small group, the progression from the Last Supper to Golgotha may take place in the order listed.  With larger numbers, for the sake of crowd control, smaller groups may start with the first, and go ad seriatim, or visitors may go to any of the stations in the order they choose.  In this case, characters should wait until a group has assembled to begin their monologues.  For large groups, it may be of help to give a two minute warning for the end of one section and a second signal for a one-minute preparation time before the next presentation begins.  A dress rehearsal will help in the timing of the signals and ensure that everything needed is at hand and ready.  Visitors to each station are to be encouraged and invited to participate, but with a light hand.  Groups of children will do well to have a familiar adult accompany them on their journey.


Welcome!  Thank you for coming to be the guest of my master.  One of the first things you must do, being good guests, is have your feet washed.  This may seem a little silly to you, since you all have shoes on most of the time, and your feet donít get too dirty.  We, however, didnít always wear shoes, and only very rich people had shoes that covered their whole foot.  So when our guests finally had walked all the way to the cenacle and were ready to sit down to supper, their feet were pretty dirty and tired and some of them had blisters and cuts from the stones in the streets.

Getting your feet washed feels really nice.  We do it because it helps guests feel welcome and relaxed, not to mention cutting down on the amount of dirt inside the dining room.  Since I was the lowest servant of the house, I got stuck with the job of washing our guestsí feet.  I was supposed to wet their feet and rub them with a cloth to get the dirt off, then rinse and dry them.  Sometimes it was a child who toted the basin of clean water around to the guests.  This time, though, I didnít have to do it!  Jesus himself took up the basin and the towel.  He said he did it to help his friends remember that if they want to be great leaders, they must serve the people around them, even doing the humblest jobs.  This was a very big surprise to most of us.  Now, if you like, I will wash your feet the way we used to do for our guests.  (The servant seats the person who will have their feet washed, removes their shoes, washes them up, and puts their shoes back on.)  If you are a Christian, Jesus wants you to remember to serve others the way he served his disciples.


Hi.  My name is Philip and I am one of Jesusí apostles.  This place weíre standing in is called the cenacle.  We call it the cenacle because of ďcenaĒ, the Latin word for dinner.  You might wonder why we have this special word for this rather ordinary dining room.  Itís because it was here that Jesus and we, his disciples, shared his last supper.  It was a holiday meal, like the ones you might eat to celebrate Christmas or Easter, or even your birthday.  It was a special meal for us, too, one we ate during the season of Passover.  Along with foods that we ate every day, we had special foods, things we didnít eat everyday.  (Philip might ask the visitors what special foods they have at holiday times.)  Some of the special foods we eat at Passover are horseradish and honey and a kind of bread called matzo.  Matzo is like saltine crackers, except bigger and without the salt.  (Philip offers some matzo and honey to whoever would like a taste.  While they are eating, he continues.)

The meal we had together was a complicated affair, full of things we did the same way every year.  These things are called rituals, since they help us connect with God and we never change the way we do them.  The head of the family, or the leader of the group is the boss.  He is the one who signals us what and when to eat and drink.  It is the same every year, usually.  But this meal was unique because Jesus did something he had never done before.  We were used to his taking the matzo and breaking it, and we were accustomed to his taking a cup of wine and passing it around the table.  As I said, that is what the head of the household is supposed to do.  But this time, he said that the bread that he was breaking was his own body, and the cup which he passed around had in it his own blood.  He asked us to remember him every time we shared bread and a cup.  It seemed pretty odd to us, but because we loved him, we all took our portion of what he handed out.  It made us feel close to him.  After he died and came back from the dead, we remembered what he said to us, and we share the bread and cup in his name.  It still makes us feel close to him.


            Isnít this a lovely place?  I used to like it a lot.  But it isnít as happy a place as it used to be since this is where James, John and I were when Jesus was taken away from us.  We had just finished supper, and Jesus invited us three outside to get a bit of air.  We left the others to finish off the leftovers and clean up, and followed Jesus to this garden.  He asked us to wait up with him, but then he went off by himself a few paces, over there.  We three knew enough to leave him alone when he did this.  We did try to stay awake while he was over there by himself, praying.  We really did try.  But you know how hard it is to both be quiet and not fall asleep when you are very tired, donít you?  The sweet smell of the flowers and the lullaby of the wind in the trees were too much for us.  Jesus wanted us to wait up with him, but we didnít want to interrupt his praying by making noise, and if you canít talk to stay awake, wellÖ  We fell asleep.

He came over in a little while and asked us again if we could stay up with him.  We were a little groggy, but we promised again that we would.  Then he left us again to pray more and again we fell asleep.  It might have been funny if Jesus hadnít seemed so sad and worried.  I really did want to keep watch, I really did.  I listened to a little bit of his prayer, when he asked his Father if the cup that was coming might pass from him.  I didnít know then what he was talking about, but when he returned a third time and told us that his hour was here, I knew that something was going to happen, and it didnít look good.

Then Judas, who had left us while supper was still going on, appeared out of nowhere.  He walked right up to Jesus and kissed him on the cheek, and suddenly there were soldiers with swords and knives, who, rattling and threatening, grabbed Jesus and forced him to go with them.  I was so scared that I snatched someoneís saber and slashed the ear off of some poor soul.  Jesus told me to put the sword away.  He picked up the fellowís ear and put it right back on.  He was going with these people peacefully, and he didnít want anyone to get hurt.  I want you to take one of these flowers to remember that Jesus gives peace.  (Peter distributes the blossoms to the visitors.) After he healed the cut, they led him away, and I didnít even get to say goodbye.


            Attention!  You are now in the presence of the Throne of Pilate the Great, potentate of all of Palestine.  While you are in the royal throne room you will keep silent and not speak unless you are spoken to!  Understood?  What sort of trouble are you knaves in, that you should wish to appear before our glorious and equitable ruler?  What is your petition, that you should present your smarmy selves to his awesome majesty to plead your cause?  Do you dare stand in this magnificent place merely to inquire about a common prisoner named Jesus?

            Well, since it seems that indeed, you do, I will comment on what I know.  He was dragged here early, very early, one Friday morning.  He was a mess, let me tell you.  Blood on his hands, his knees smudged with mud, dog-tired, he looked as if he were up late partying with friends.  Accused of a few things, he was, like claiming he was God, or at least, a king, and inciting riots in the streets.  An unsavory character, that one.  We had to throttle him a few times to try to get him to talk to Pilate.  He wouldnít say a word in his own defense.  Not one word.  They exchanged some nonsense about truth, but I had no interest in knowing the details.  Pilate soon wearied of the questioning, and sent the prisoner out to be whipped.

We did as we were ordered.  In fact, we did it one better, and put a crown on the manís head, since he claimed to be king.  It didnít hurt us that it was a crown made of sharp thorns.  (Publio passes the rose canes around, encouraging the visitors to touch the thorns and feel how sharp they are.) After we had made fun of him (it is our job to be as intimidating as we can, after all), we brought him back to Pilate.  Pilate had a hard time deciding what to do next, so he went to that window over there and asked the crowd that had gathered what they wanted done with this scoundrel.  All I heard was ďCrucify him!Ē  So Pilate asked for a basin, washed his hands of the whole affair, and sent the victim off to be executed on a cross.  Maybe if he had defended himself, heíd still be alive.


            Do you know where this road leads?  You may think it goes to (insert the name of the place to which it really does lead), but I know it as the path to the hill of skulls.  Itís a creepy name for a creepy place, the place where Rome gets rid of all of its local enemies.  In our language we call it Golgotha, or, if youíre from Rome, Calvary.  We usually avoid this place, itís outside the city walls, and it sometimes smells pretty bad.  The soldiers are not too concerned over the bodies of the people they crucify, you know.  One day I was here with a few of my friends, coming back home.  We noticed a big crowd standing among the pebbles, lining the path on both sides.  We wondered what was going on, so we stopped.  We saw lots of women crying their eyes out, some soldiers carelessly cracking their whips and yelling at some poor guy, Simon of Cyrene, Iím told, hauling a beam uphill.  The man behind him looked like he would be Romeís latest victim.  Hecklers in the crowd had thrown stones like these at him.  (Veronica shows her visitors the collection of stones.)  His face was so bruised and sweaty that he could hardly see.  There was a band circling his forehead that punctured his skin, and his face looked awful.  Wrestling through the crowd, I took out my towel and bent down to wipe his face, trying to clear his vision.

He surprised us all when he paused, heaved himself up to look straight at the group of women, and told them ďDaughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.Ē  Usually, when men take this road they are sinking in self-pity, or complaining about the injustice of their sentence.  What condition must he think we are in if he, so close to death, can pity us?  It makes me wonder.  I would like each of you to take one of these stones, and remember Jesusí journey to Golgotha, and his care and compassion for the people he met on his way.


            This is the last place I saw my friend Jesus alive before Joseph of Arimathea put him in his tomb.  We women who were close to Jesus had been told by some of the disciples that Jesus had been captured and taken to the authorities.  We were afraid that this would happen.  Even though Jesus had only meant good, there were some folks who just didnít understand what it was he was talking about.  They became afraid of him.  They probably thought they were doing the world a favor by crucifying him.  I didnít know then that they did do the world a favor.  I was too sad and fearful to notice.

            The soldiers were cruel when they put people to death.  A cross was the worst way they knew to get rid of someone.  After forcing their captive to carry the wood up the hill, sometimes they would tie the culprit to the crossbeam and hoist them up.  That happened if they werenít in too much of a hurry to have them go, or if they werenít supposed to suffer too much.  In Jesusí case, though, they must have thought he was the worst kind of criminal, because they used nails and a hammer to keep him up there.  (Demonstrate hitting a nail into the 4x6)  Imagine what that might feel like if it went through your wrist or ankle.  Jesus suffered a lot because it hurt so much.  He did this for us, so that we would not have to suffer.  Jesus cares enough about each of us to go through all this pain so that we can be reconciled, reunited with God.  One of these nails is for each of you.  (Mary gives each visitor a nail.)  When you see it, remember that Jesus loves you, really truly loves you enough to die for you.

This page was last edited on November 08, 2010
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