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Actors Mikus Wallacius, Caiaphas, Petronius, Galenius, Mary Magdalene, James

Action Wallacius: Good evening and welcome to LX Minutes. I am Mikus Wallacius and we are here at the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea on the outskirts of Jerusalem, Judea—the focal point of some very unusual happenings in the Roman Empire. This is where the body of Jesus of Nazareth was interred after his crucifixion. At the urging of the Jewish high priest and the Pharisees, the religious ruling class of the Jews, Pontius Pilate, the provincial governor, ordered his execution. This Jesus was a traveling rabbi and holy man. Because of his radical teachings and unorthodox methods (including reports of miracles and healings), he fell into disfavor with the strongly traditional, organized Jewish religious leaders. They had him arrested on the grounds of religious blasphemy and political insurrection, resulting in the death sentence rendered by Pontius Pilate. Three days after his execution the body disappeared from the tomb. The claim has been made that Jesus of Nazareth has risen from the dead, and rumors are rampant all over the city of his appearance to many individuals.
The first person we will interview about this event that has rocked all of Palestine is Caiaphas, the high priest.

Caiaphas, who was Jesus of Nazareth?
Caiaphas: He was a blasphemer and a rabble-rouser. A mad carpenter from Nazareth who incited the people! He claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God, and some of the people began to proclaim him king. He got what he deserved!
Wallacius: Well, Caiaphas, now the corpse of Jesus is missing and your people seem to be very embarrassed by this. We have heard that Jesus claimed that after three days he would rise again from the dead. The rumor has spread all over Jerusalem that Jesus is alive and many people are convinced this is true. Do you believe Jesus came back to life as he said he would?
Caiaphas: We pay no attention to his lunatic ramblings! I told you this blasphemer was insane!
Wallacius: Well, Caiaphas, what happened to the body?
Caiaphas: His disciples stole the body! They are responsible for perpetrating this hideous lie!
Wallacius: This presents an extreme problem Caiaphas. Did you not request a guard from Pilate as well as place a detail of your temple guard at the tomb? You must have been aware of Jesus’ claims?
Caiaphas: Well, we, uh,…
Wallacius: And did you not seal the entrance to the tomb with a 3000-lb. stone stamped in wax with the Imperial Seal of Rome?
Caiaphas: Yes, but
Wallacius: How could, and why would, a ragtag group of eleven frightened men— men who all deserted Jesus in his greatest hour of need—overpower the Roman Legion, your temple guard, carry off a 2 1/2 ton stone, and make off with the body of a dead religious leader and leave behind the burial shroud and grave clothes!
Caiaphas: You don’t mean to tell me you believe this nonsense.
Wallacius: We understand, Caiaphas, that you really had it in for Jesus because he pointed out the hypocrisy and corruption rampant in your religious system; for instance, the money changing scandal at the temple that made your father-in-law, Annas, a rich man. Allegations have been made that Jesus’ trial was in gross violation of your Jewish law with false witnesses being brought against him and that since the disappearance of his body even members of your own sect, the Pharisees, are saying he was the Messiah—
Coiaphas: I will discuss this nonsense and blasphemy no longer! (stomps out)

Wallacius: Well? Our next interview is with Petronius Flavius, a centurion in the Roman Legion. Petronius, weren’t you in command of the soldiers at the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth?
Petronius: Yes, that is correct. My men also composed the guard at the tomb of Jesus.
Wallacius: How many men were in the guard stationed at his tomb?
Petronius: Sixteen men, fully armed with swords, shields, and spears, as well as some of the Jewish Temple Guard.
Wollacius: The Pharisees have claimed that Jesus’ followers stole his corpse to claim he arose from the dead. Could they have taken the body by force?
Petronius: That would be impossible! The Roman Legionnaire is without equal as a fighting machine. Those sixteen men could have held that tomb against an army of one hundred men. And they would have—to the death.
Wallacius: Is it possible that the guard fell asleep, and the disciples of Jesus were able to sneak in and make off with the body?
Petronius: That is ridiculous! There’s no way they could’ve removed the stone from the entrance of the tomb without waking half of Jerusalem. Besides that, the penalty for sleeping on your post is to be burned alive in front of the rest of the legion. The Jewish Sanhedrin cooked up that story and bribed their guards to keep quiet by promising to protect them from disciplinary action. They did this because they are so scared of this carpenter!
Wallcicius: You are the commander-of-the-guard. What did they report to you?
Petronius: They were blinded by a great light and the earth shook. They were knocked to the ground, unconscious. When they came to, the stone was rolled away and the body was gone! They immediately came and woke me up and reported what had happened.
Wallacius: This is incredible. Did you believe them?
Petronius: These are seasoned, hardened soldiers who have served under me for years. They wouldn’t lie to their commander.
Wallacius: Well, Petronius, what do you think happened to the body in the tomb?
Petronius: I have been a soldier for years and I have seen thousands die, but never did I see a man die like him. Truly, he was the Son of God. I’m convinced— he’s alive.
Wallacius: Thank you, Petronius. We now have Galenius, Governor Pilates’ Press Secretary. Galenius, what is the official statement from the governor’s office on the disappearance of the body of Jesus?
Galenius: There is no official comment from Pilate. He has gone on a retreat to the coast of Lebanon for health reasons. The whole Jesus affair was distasteful to Pilate. He found no fault in the man, but the Jews demanded he be crucified. In compliance with their Passover tradition, he offered a pardon to a prisoner. They chose Barabbas, the revolutionary, and demanded the death of Jesus. He washed his hands of the whole ordeal when he handed Jesus over to be crucified.
Wallacius: Well, Galenius, what do you think has happened?
Galenius: I’m just as puzzled by this as anyone! How could a man rise from the dead? What happened to the body? If Jesus is alive and all those other stories I heard about him are true, then he must be some sort of god. I just wonder what sort of god would allow himself to be crucified?

Wallacius: Those are the questions we are trying to answer. Thank you for your time, Galenius. The next person we talked with was Mary Magdalene, a follower of Jesus and the first one to find that his body was missing. Mary, what happened that Sunday morning?

Mary Magdalene: At dawn that morning, some of the other women and I went to the tomb to finish anointing Jesus’ body with spices. We were not able to finish the preparation for burial before the Sabbath and we went that morning to complete our task. Along the way we questioned ourselves as to who we would get to move the stone for us. When we arrived, we were shocked to see the stone already removed and when we discovered the body was gone, we were dismayed because we thought the authorities had taken the body of the Lord and hidden him from us. As we were weeping and confused, the angel of the Lord asked us why we were looking for the living among the dead, that Jesus was alive. This was more than we could handle and we could not take it in. I ran ahead of the older women to tell the disciples what had happened. None of them believed it—I wasn’t sure I did either—and Peter and John ran all the way to the tomb leaving me behind. When they got there, they found the tomb empty—just as I had told them—and the grave clothes lying there like an empty cocoon. I had almost caught up with Peter and John when I saw a man, who I thought was the gardener, and I asked him if he knew where the Lord’s body was. When he looked at me and called me by name, I then knew he was Jesus! My heart leapt within me! I went and told the disciples that I had seen the Lord! He appeared later that day to two of the disciples who were walking to Emmaus and later to all the disciples. He has appeared to us many times and explained what his death and resurrection, as foretold by the Scriptures, means. It is our salvation. He is the Messiah!
Wallacius: Mary, how did you become a follower of Jesus? Your background is not that of a religious person.
Mary Magdalene: No, it wasn’t. Before I met Jesus I was a prostitute, and my life was controlled by demonic forces. All I wanted was to be loved, but I hated myself and I thought the only worth I had was to use my body as a sex object to try to find love.
Wallacius: How did Jesus change that?
Mary Magdalene: I always avoided the synagogues and felt condemnation from the religious leaders, but Jesus was different. He showed me the love of God and his forgiveness and delivered me from demonic possession and my life of sin. I am free and know I’m a child of God! You can have that same freedom! That’s what Jesus’ death and resurrection is all about!

Wallacius: Uh, thank you, Mary. Our next interview is with James, a member of the Pharisees and the brother of Jesus of Nazareth. James, were you a disciple of your brother Jesus?
James: NO! Jesus was always a source of tremendous embarrassment to me. I guess I resented him ever since we were little. I worked hard to study the Mosaic Law to become a Pharisee, but he was the one that never did anything wrong. And then when he began preaching to people! How would you feel if your brother was telling people he was the bread of life? I thought he was crazy. Here I was a Pharisee, a model citizen, and he was calling us a pit of vipers! Whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones! That we were unclean and filthy on the inside! My embarrassment almost turned to hate. He violated the Sabbath, associated with riffraff and sinners and unclean people and then had the audacity to say our righteousness was filthy rags! I had tried to reason with him after that wedding at Cana but things got worse and worse as he did more and more outlandish things until finally I refused to acknowledge him as my brother.
Wallacius: Well, what happened when he was brought before the Sanhedrin and Pilate to be crucified?
James: I said nothing. He had claimed to fulfill prophecy and be the Messiah. That was blasphemy and warranted death. I wanted no one to know of my connection with him.
Wallacius: Did you go to his crucifixion?
James: No. I couldn’t face that.
Wallacius: Well, what do you think of the reports that Jesus has risen from the dead?
James: They’re not just reports. They are fact.
Wallacius: Are you sure? How do you know?
James: I have seen Jesus. I know he’s alive!
Wallacius: Is this why you are now with Jesus’ disciples?
James: Yes, it is! All of the Scriptures that never made sense to me have now come alive. Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecies! He is the hope of Israel! The Messiah! He was not an embarrassment to me! I was an embarrass-ment to him in my hard-hearted self-righteousness and my foolish pride. It was necessary for him to suffer and die for all of our sins and then to rise again and conquer death. I am now willing to die for him who died for me. He is no longer my brother—he is my Lord and my God! You need to make him your Lord!
Wallacius: Well, thank you, James. (to audience) You have heard our interviews. What do you think? Is Jesus alive? If this man has risen from the grave as they say, what does that mean for us? Those who follow Jesus are willing to suffer persecution for his sake. They really believe he is alive. This Jesus has really affected a lot of people, even his detractors. (visibly stirred) I must investigate this further! Who was this carpenter from Nazareth? Did he rise from the dead? Let us hear your thoughts and comments.

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