Why participate?

Every year around Lent, I hear my church friends saying they want to do a Bible study to get more out of Easter. If that is your goal, you will never get more out of the story than participating in a production of it. You will hear, if you listen, the story told many times – you will have to ponder exactly what it means to the character you are portraying. Was Judas the enemy of Christ or just confused? How did Peter really feel – and therefore act – when Jesus told him he would betray Him three times that night?
Most Bible studies tend to be done with the head alone – you try to understand the passages you are reading, and you may only read them a few times. In a production, you read and hear the lines many times as we prepare – and you will experience this in your heart as well as in your mind. You will see and hear and smell the other elements in the scene – we know it is not the original – but the the three-dimensional surroundings bring context to words you have only thought about before. You will experience Jesus’ messages in real time – you cannot stop the play and go back – you will react to the criticisms and praises he receives as they happen. What does one of His disciples think when a Pharisee tries to trap Jesus with legalistic questions? Are you confident Jesus can rise to the challenge or concerned you might be following a fool? Of course, you know the answer for yourself, but to act in a play, you must figure it out and show it for the character. That means deeply thinking about your character. When you are confronted with the experience of an angry mob, where will you stand? Will you flee or not? The disciples fled from Gethsemane – what sense can you make of that? Were they frightened? Did they feel abandoned by Jesus when he surrendered instead of calling down a legion of angels to fight?
The theological questions you face sitting in a comfortable room with a few friends and a warm cup of coffee may all seem less important when you are in a field freezing and watching Jesus being paraded through the streets of Jerusalem. The experience strips away your defenses.

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