For the second time in three days, I slipped into a theatre seat to watch “The Promise,” a recent local musical based on the life of Christ. I knew some of the actors in the cast, including the man playing Jesus. But it seemed too short the first time, so I wanted to see it again.
A four-month old baby girl played the Christ child. Her mother told me that several times during the five-performance run, little Jesus began bellowing during those moments onstage. Unable to placate the child, Mary passed her bundle to Joseph. In real life, the man playing Joseph knew the baby well. No wonder he led the live horse (playing a donkey) so carefully across the stage. That was his child in Mary’s arms. My tiniest grandbean, Lois, who knows her daddy’s (my son-in-law’s) touch well.
When cheering crowds welcomed Christ as miracle worker and political savior, several village children joined them. Skipping and dancing, blithely unaware of the political undertones, they jostled for position next to Jesus.
One little girl dashed on stage, thrust herself against Jesus’ side and stuck there grinning. Later, a mother brought to him her disabled child. Hoping. Believing. When Jesus leaned low to touch him, the child leapt to his feet and threw himself into his healer’s arms.
My grandbeans. How could I not pay close attention to the story? I knew those children. But when I followed the urge to attend “The Promise” a second time, I hoped for more. I wanted to experience the story of my Saviour for what it really is: truth. Truth about a man whose story has more historical veracity than that of many notable characters on textbook timelines. A man who said, when confronted by an angry mob eager to stone a woman caught in adultery, “Let him who has no sin cast the first stone.” And at another time,“‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” Also, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
I ached to immerse myself in the story that has changed the world and longs to heal it. To join the disciples in the boat on the raging Sea of Galilee. To listen to Jesus teaching in the Temple. To wave palm branches as he rode an unbroken colt into Jerusalem. To stand, horrified, at the cross, knowing he bore the weight of sins I would one day commit. I longed to join Mary Magdalene at his tomb, bowing before our resurrected Saviour. Lord. Redeemer. Son of God.
A few weeks after that performance, I saw the Hollywood movie, Son of God. That professional retelling, while excellent, didn’t move me as much as the one at our local theatre. Somehow, knowing and loving the players made the old familiar story new again.
But that’s not surprising. Easter rejoicing, like Christmas joy, depends on how well we know the main character.