These “interviews” can be performed as a skit, read out loud, or read collectively within a Sunday school lesson setting. The characters focused on here are some of the lesser-known “unsung” heroes of the story, in hopes that children gain deeper appreciation for the story.
An Unexpected Burden: Simon of Cyrene
As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. -Luke 23:37
Resurrection Reporter: Thank you for joining “Resurrection Reporting…” We are chatting today with a few eye witnesses to the amazing and frankly miraculous events following Passover and involving the man named Jesus. It is said that He has come back to life after a brutal crucifixion, but we want to know more…We speak first with a man who traveled quite a ways to the Holy city, only to find himself spontaneously conscripted into labor. Simon, thank you for joining us today.
Simon: It’s an honor to be here, truly. And I am still rather in shock by all of it. I just…it was…
RR: Simon, can you explain what brought you to Jerusalem?
Simon: Well, it is every Jew’s dream and goal to come to Jerusalem for the Passover. I came to celebrate and commemorate this amazing holiday. It wasn’t an easy journey.
RR: How long did it take you to get here?
Simon: More than a month… it was over 900 miles of unpredictable conditions and risky travel. Cyrene is a great distance and I was relieved to arrive in the famed city of Jerusalem. I was unprepared for the crowd and chaos going on here though.
RR: And had you heard about Jesus before coming?
Simon: Well, news of the great teacher has reached great distances. I had heard of the Rabbi and His supposed miracles, but it wasn’t the first time a prophet has been celebrated. I was skeptical. In fact, I had hoped that by coming to Jerusalem I might see him in order to decide for myself what to make of all these Messiah rumors…
RR: What happened when you arrived in Jerusalem?
Simon: Well, I was quite tired from the trip and eager to find an inn to rest. However, when I heard the commotion in the streets and saw the Roman guards, I had to find out what was going on. I heard someone in the crowd say it was Jesus being led to Calvary. I didn’t understand why the teacher and miracle worker I had heard about was condemned to such a horrific execution. Before I knew what was happening, one of the Romans grabbed me and ordered me to carry the cross…I was instantly perplexed and boggled.
RR: Is it common for other people to bear a criminal’s cross?
Simon: No…and that’s what confused me. I was prepared to refuse, Roman or no Roman. Crucifixion is a punishment reserved for the most heinous of crimes. I had committed no act against the government—I wasn’t about to be paraded down the street for all to see carrying the implement of torture. Not to mention this is no simple branch…the patibulum, which is the cross beam that condemned are forced to haul, is usually at least a hundred pounds of rough wood. I would not have jumped in line for such a duty.
RR: But you didn’t refuse the soldiers’ demand?
Simon: I saw Him. I… (Falters slightly) You asked if it’s typical to carry a cross for someone else. Well, it is not typical to flog a prisoner before crucifixion either. One look at Jesus almost made me sick. He…he barely looked alive. He had been beaten. Blood streamed from the thorn crown they had rammed onto his head. His back looked like chewed meat. He was weak and shaking. He couldn’t have carried the cross. He could barely walk.
RR: So you were willing to do it, seeing his pain?
Simon: I didn’t know all of the details. All I knew was that this man couldn’t have been guilty of anything. He was bearing a burden far too great for anyone. I felt I had no choice. If I could have, I would have prevented the death. But the least I could do was bear the burden for a short distance.
RR: There are rumors that Jesus has returned. Do you believe He could be alive?
Simon: If anyone could be the Messiah, it has to be Him.
RR: Well, you heard it folks. Simon the Cyrene is a believer. Back to the studio…
A Murderous Rebel, Replaced and Released…Bailing out Barabbas
“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate,10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. -Mark 15:9-11
RR: Well, I am here with Barabbas, the prisoner who was released in place of Jesus. Now, word on the street is that Pilate did not want Jesus killed. In fact, he tried in multiple ways to let him go. It is customary during Passover to let one prisoner receive a pardon, and the governor thought maybe this could be a way to release the Christ. But the crowd did not call for that. Barabbas, welcome.
(Barabbas says nothing)
RR: Well…could you tell us why you were in prison, sir?
Barabbas: (after a pause) I was with a group of rebellious zealots. We are sick and tired of this Roman oppression. Down with the Romans! Out with foreign rule! We don’t consider a few acts of murder too great a price for relief from this suffocating government.
RR: So…you committed murder?
Barabbas: I hardly consider it murder when the scum we are ridding are so horrible. More a favor to society. But yes, there were some killings involved in our actions. We were in jail awaiting trial. Actually, we were awaiting execution, time and details to be determined…
RR: Are you aware of the tradition of prisoner release?
Barabbas: Of course. But I hardly expected to be chosen. And when I heard that Jesus had been taken in, I figured the crowd would easily beg him to be let out.
RR: Why did you assume that?
Barabbas: Word travels around. I heard how excited and celebrating the crowds were when Jesus first came into town. They hailed him as Messiah. Surely these same people would be in favor of setting Him free from prison.
RR: What do you think happened?
Barabbas: It’s only a guess, but I think the priests were upset by Jesus. I have heard things about Him. It’s possible they bribed the crowds to cry against Him. All I know is, one minute I was in my cell, head spinning, body stinking, stomach growling. Next minute, I was in front of the crowds next to Jesus, who didn’t look so grand himself. And then the crowd was hollering my name…they removed my shackles. They let me go. And Jesus…they took Him away…
RR: Where did you go once they released you?
Barabbas: I couldn’t quite believe it. I didn’t quite believe it. I… I followed Him. I followed Jesus. By the time they whipped Him, He was too weak to even carry His own Cross. Some foreign man took it up to the hill. I watched. That should have been me up there. I don’t know this Jesus well, but I know He was innocent. It should have been me. (leaves quickly)
RR: Now did you hear that…Barabbas? Sir?? Well, it looks as though the conscience of a criminal may be returning, even after a lucky break. We will try to catch up with Barabbas. Meanwhile, there’s one more man we’d like to talk to….
Eager Undertaker: Joseph of Arimathea
As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. -Matthew 27:57-61
RR: Well, we have heard mixed reviews from skeptic naysayers…some say that Jesus did not actually die on the cross, but maybe just fainted. Others are claiming his body was stolen by disciples. Well, joining me now is a man who can put those possibilities to rest. Joseph, thank you for agreeing to share with me your role in this amazing story.
Joseph: I am happy to explain. I have been blessed in my metal business with great wealth. The Lord has provided well for me. I am also a respected member of the Sanhedrin, or I should say…I was.
RR: The Sanhedrin? But aren’t they part of the crew who voted to, well…to kill Jesus?
Joseph: I am ashamed to say yes. I was certainly not in favor of that vote. I tried to persuade them otherwise. I have come to respect Jesus…even to love Him. Some would say I am a follower myself. But to keep my job as member of the council I certainly couldn’t let word get out about that. I actually didn’t think they would really follow through with crucifixion. I had so much hope…we all did.
RR: So what inspired you to bury Jesus?
Joseph: I stood with Mary and watched Him up there, suffering on the cross. I saw Him dying a criminal’s death, mocked and spit upon by others. It wasn’t fair. I couldn’t abide by it. Mary was distraught. I realized that this man was so important, so amazing…Jesus was the Messiah, I know it. I wait, as do so many others, for the kingdom of God. This was its fulfillment. I couldn’t let Jesus just die anonymously and be disgracefully cast aside. But I couldn’t take him without permission, either…
RR: Permission? Who did you ask?
Joseph: I had to go to Pilate. This was not easy. The governor does not look too kindly on men of my standing. He could easily have refused me or even arrested me. I was more than slightly nerve-wracked.
RR: But you could have easily just sat by and left. Why did you go so boldly to Pilate when it could have cost you so much?
Joseph: I loved Jesus. I do love Him. I don’t care what it costs, I had to see Him put to respectable rest.
RR: So where did you place His body?
Joseph: I have a family tomb set aside. Getting along in years, I may myself need it before too long. But I would much rather it get used now by one so much more worthy than I. I knew I could place Jesus in my tomb. But first, I had to retrieve His body and prepare it for burial.
RR: But wouldn’t that make you unclean according to Jewish standards?
Joseph: What are standards when Christ came to change eternity? Yes, it was risky. I will doubtlessly lose my place of standing, much of my money, and possibly my life or freedom for what I did. But I do not regret or deny my actions for a moment. Every ounce of my being now lives to find out more about Jesus, and to honor Him however I can.
RR: Have you heard the word He may be alive?
Joseph: I know He is. I know that He died. He was in my arms. I wrapped Him in linen, embalmed Him with spices. And I know His body is no longer in the tomb.
RR: What would you say to those who claim the body may have been stolen?
Joseph: I was worried it might happen. I had a stone rolled across the tomb to prevent it. This was no pebble. It took four grown soldiers to place it there, and I had them guard the place. This was no robbery. It is God’s doing. He is risen! He’s alive!
RR: Well, there you have it, folks…from those who saw and touched Him firsthand, the story of Christ’s death and declared resurrection. It seems they believe it…do you??