The Mark Drama is a new theatre-in-the-round performance of the Gospel of Mark, that has been popular in Europe and is now being trialled in Australia. Over the weekend The Village Church in Sydney’s inner west put on three performances of the play, with local actors. Eternity writer Tess Holgate was there.
We take our seats in the second row. I want to be close to the action, but not right in it.
Honestly, I am quite nervous about seeing this performance of the Gospel of Mark. I fear seeing my Lord Jesus mocked and murdered. I fear seeing myself in the crowd. I fear seeing myself in the Pharisees. I fear seeing myself in the disciples.
So many of my fears are realised.
The disciples are so devoted, yet so blind. With a little bit of creative license they joke and jest about the things Jesus asks them to do. It’s easy to relate to them. They follow Jesus wherever he goes, but they understand so little. I am like them. They bicker and argue over meaningless things. When Jesus calms the storm, they don’t understand who he is. When Jesus tells parables, they don’t understand them. Jesus meets their lack of understanding with frustration and then compassion. “Are you trying to not understand?” and then, “this is the meaning of the parable”.
Lurking at the edges of the action are the Pharisees. Always watching, always looking for an opportunity to catch Jesus out. Their hard and critical hearts are on show for the whole world to see. It takes everything within me to not stand up and scream at them, “how can you ask THAT after seeing what Jesus JUST DID?” They are seeing, but not seeing. How often I am like that.
The screams of the crowd at Jesus’ trial still resonate in my ears. “CRUCIFY HIM!” “BLASPHEMER!” I sat there wringing my hands; tears streaming down my face. How could they do this to my Lord? How could I do this to my Lord? In that moment, Jesus’ distress became so much more real to me than it had ever been before.
At the crucifixion the echoes of the nails hitting his hands pierce my soul. Jesus cries out. His pain is palpable. How could I do this to my Saviour?
The Mark Drama is not just a performance of the Gospel of Mark; it is an experience.
The house lights are on for most of the performance; I have nowhere to hide. It is my hand on the end of hammer at the crucifixion. It is my voice screaming “CRUCIFY HIM!” and “BLASPHEMER!” I am the Pharisee who cannot see. I am the Disciple asking stupid questions.
But I am also the women who come to Jesus’ tomb and find it empty. The angel tells them, “he is not here; he has risen”. Their exclamation “can it be true?” is also mine. Can it be true? Can Jesus really have risen from the dead?
The lights come on. It is finished. And I am left with this question: “Can it be true?”
Audience members are given the opportunity to sign up for an Introducing God course to find out more. But there’s no pressure. There’s no big sell. If “can it be true?” is your question, then there is a gentle encouragement to continue asking that question. It’s a novel evangelistic idea, and I think it works.