The Carpenter of Jerusalem

(Bible reference: Matthew 27.15-26)

The Carpenter of Jerusalem is a monologue which assumes that the Romans would have required a local (Jewish) carpenter to make their crosses. Barabbas is described in Luke 23.19 as being in prison on charges of "insurrection and murder". The variant reading in Matthew 27.17 (adopted in Good News Bible) gives him the name "Jesus Barabbas" which adds a curious twist to the choice Pilate was offering. He is imagined here as the leader of the group, of whom two accomplices were also to be crucified. The person chosen for this monologue needs to give due care to pauses - for imagined conversation and for writing the inscriptions. The effect can be strengthened by having the inscriptions prepared beforehand on cards and symbolically "written" by the carpenter as he speaks. One of them is hurriedly changed for the officer. And would this carpenter of Jerusalem have had any special thoughts because one of the victims was to be the Carpenter of Nazareth?

It's all in a day's work, I guess, but I still don't like it. I'm a carpenter here in Jerusalem and I take pride in my work.

But these awful Roman soldiers! They'll come in at short notice and say, "Make another cross - and hurry!"

It's my fellow Jews that they put to death on the crosses I make -and I don't like it at all!

True, they've broken the rules in some way or another - many of them have even broken our own Law - some may well deserve death, but not in this brutal Roman way!

And me? I have to make the crosses for them. "Make it quick", the officer says, "or the next one might be for you!"

Oh, here comes an officer now...

Yes, sir! Three crosses you say?... oh... the riot in the town. The inscriptions too... of course... I'll do them right away... "Nezzar Rokba ... Rebel Jew" ... "Mizbah Hadda ... Rebel Jew" ... "Jesus Barabbas ... Rebel Jew"... the ringleader?... I think I heard that... Yes, of course, I'll have them ready...


Well, that's that lot finished. They'll be here to pick them up soon - then the crucifixions this afternoon.

Here's that officer again now.

A change, you say, but... the ringleader set free! Who's the third cross for, then?... "Jesus of Nazareth ... King of the Jews"...

So, it's the Carpenter from Nazareth, the one who left woodworking and took up preaching - a strong and good fellow. He's going to die on one of my crosses!

From Between the Lines. Dialogues for Worship by Peter J. Blackburn published by Testimonium Fellowship 1992, © Peter J. Blackburn.
Permission is given for copying of this document for local use with this copyright notice intact. For any other proposed use the specific permission of Peter J. Blackburn must be sought.

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