In effort to capture the mood and culture of first century Israel, the characters open with song. The lyrics are in Hebrew but the English translation of the beautifully written words is spoken in between.
The drama then opens with Yeshua in the Garden of Gethsamane, talking to Peter, James and John.He implores them to pray with and for Him.
They kept falling asleep. They were oblivious to the agony Yeshua was experiencing.
“Please, Abba!” Yeshua cries,
“If there’s any other way! You’ve relented before.”
Knowing His disciples are in and out of sleep, Yeshua rouses them again.
“Please, I need you to pray!” The attention is now on John bar Zebedee.
John tells us of a time in his childhood where he first felt that sense of an inexplicable pending doom. He knew something was wrong. He just didn’t know what it was. Even worse – he didn’t know how to fix it. John is visibly tormented.
“I’ve never seen Him like this,” he says.
“Please, someone just tell me how to fix it,” he says.
This is an emotion I know well. I can’t count the number of times I have been gripped by that sense of dread and looming danger that I can’t quite identify. I’ve often discerned tension or conflict and wanted to scream,
“Please! Tell me how to fix it!” So I knew what John bar Zebedee was saying. I knew exactly what he meant. My heart broke for him.
The next character that drew me in with his struggle was Judas Iscariot. You may find it surprising and even disturbing that I say this, but I found a sense of empathy and compassion for him that surprised even me. Yes, that’s right. He did the unthinkable. He turned Yeshua over to the Jewish leaders for a measly 30 pieces of silver.
Have you ever pondered why and come up with more than the knee-jerk canned answers like
“He was a traitor, or it was God’s plan?” If not, try. You’d have to hear his disillusionment with what he believed Yeshua’s mission to be. You must listen… as he grapples with how to have faith that God will provide every need, as he and his small group of friends live hand-to-mouth every day, busy with Yeshua’s mission.
So much for the radical take back of the Jewish people from the tyranny of Rome that Judas had been expecting. Yeshua didn’t seem to understand the gravity of the political climate. Watch the frustration build -until finally, he accepts Satan’s lie about his role and responsibility.
Dare, if you will, take a step back and ask yourself:
“Haven’t I been there too? While Judas did the unthinkable for a handful of silver, haven’t there been times I’ve sold Him out for less?” A nod of approval, a feeling of acceptance? Aren’t we, too, under the assault of doubts and fears? Am I the only one? I know I’m not. In the end, Judas realized he was used as a pawn. He didn’t expect things to go the way they did.
“They’ll never get a conviction,” he said.
He was wrong and he literally couldn’t live with himself when he realized what he had done.
That’s what shame will do.
Another perhaps, lesser known character in this Story is Joseph of Arimathea. Not one of the twelve, Joseph is from an entirely different world. He is one of the Jewish leaders and he knew the law inside and out. He carried a lot of responsibility in the role he had. While some of the leaders despised the influence Yeshua had in society, Joseph felt His teachings had a ring of authenticity.
Rather than find his miracles to be offensive to the Torah, or a threat to the establishment, Joseph found them inspiring. He would not declare this among his peers, however. He convinced himself it was better to be silently in agreement than to risk being wrong and mislead the people. A pivotal moment of reckoning came, but too late. In the end, though he had the opportunity to speak up in Yeshua’s defense, he was silent.
Once again the conflict is relatable. Today our country is more divided than ever. Relationships have been threatened if not broken, as a result of polarizing political stances and issues. As with Joseph, it is tempting to take the path of least resistance and stay silent. Also like Joseph, at any given moment we may find that silence is a luxury no longer afforded to us. What then? In the end, whatever the issue or political persuasion, the question will be asked “Who do you say that I am?” and that will be the only answer that matters.
What stood out to me in a different way than ever before was that while Joseph wasn’t willing to take that stand, Yeshua still chose him to be the one whose tomb would hold his lifeless body. The lesson here seems to be “I’m still willing to choose you, even if you’re not sure what to do with me and I choose to rest my lifeless body there so that you could someday be in eternity with me.”
Again, what great love, what mercy that God would do this. Imagine the honor Joseph felt when he was the one qualified to say: “Mine was the ground where our risen Lord first walked.”
The only thing equally as important as compelling characters in a great story is conflict. Still Small Theatre Troupe did an outstanding job with this as well. Besides the tension and the friction between the twelve and the antagonists in this plot, they so creatively wove in the “dark side’s” role. In this production, Satan was one of the most verbal characters, incessantly accusing, insulting and taunting Yeshua even as Yeshua stood silent before his accusers.
At one moment, a false witness testifies against Yeshua as He stands before the Jewish council. Satan is standing right there-
“They were paid to say that!” he says,and reminds Yeshua once again, that even with everything he would endure, many would not believe that day.
The Father of Lies, as he is called, was actually speaking truth.
“Do you really think what you’re doing will change that?” he challenges the Son of God. As I sat there, taking in every word, feeling every vibe and reflecting on this Story I couldn’t help but wonder…what was worse for Yeshua? The emotional agony of being reminded He would be rejected by His friends and followers, and even by His own Father – or the physical torture? Either way, one or the other without all the sarcasm and half truths being hurled at Him in His darkest hour would have been enough to kill Him.
Unlike most dramas I’ve seen, All Heaven Broke Loose spent a lot more time on the “in between” moments of the unfolding of this Story. It wasn’t thirty seconds between Yeshua’s agonizing death, burial and resurrection. No…we sat with their grief-the women’s grief most notably. “I needed Him more than they did,” cries Mary Magdalene from a deep place of shock and grief.
Her sense of loss is simultaneously eclipsed by a stranglehold of fear.
“Everything is different now,” she cries.
As someone newly bereaved, I know this feeling well. I know what it is to shake and sob uncontrollably as I realize my world is forever different. I have lost many nights’ sleep and awoke in horror, feeling terrible loss and unbearable pain. Like Mary Magdalene, I know too well, that vortex of grief , the feeling of injustice and “this can’t be happening and yet it has.” My loved one suffered a lot; but of course, nothing compared to Yeshua.
My mind replayed moments of trauma I did experience with my loved one, but I can hardly fathom the terrifying and grotesque trauma Mary Magdalene witnessed. It must have been head-spinning, frightening and heart wrenching. In this production, I felt it all.
Most Passion plays end with the resurrection Sunday, or ascension. Another thing that brought a freshness to this version of the Story was that as it unfolded, so too did the characters’ internal dialogue. There were these ah-ha moments that we witnessed. One that stood out to me was the conversation the resurrected Yeshua had with Peter. You remember the one. Yeshua asks Peter three different times, “Do you love me?”
Peter is stunned He would ask and all three times Peter answers yes. The only thing more baffling than the question is Yeshua’s response:
“Feed my lambs.”Peter asks himself, why would he ask a fisherman to take care of sheep? This moment of clarity was one of the most beautiful in my opinion.
“He only asked if I love him. When my love isn’t enough, His is.”
True to Still Small Theatre Troupe’s minimalist approach, All Heaven Broke Loose is not an elaborate show with special lights or stage sets. There wasn’t one curtain drawn, a single prop used. Most of the characters slipped in and out of 2 or 3 roles, sometimes in a single scene, with nothing but a scarf to indicate which character they were at that given moment. Some of the performers weren’t even actors. The singing was not always right on key. There were no special effects- sound or otherwise.
That’s what made it so beautiful and it’s exactly why I’d urge you to go see it as soon as you can. Besides the fact it’s a powerful telling of the Greatest Story ever written about redemption and love and justice, there is something refreshing about seeing a complex narrative so simply done.
In an age of constant noise and distraction, the bare bones of this performance compels you to pay attention.
If you do that I guarantee you that you will “hear again.”
You will hear -maybe for the first time, the Still Small Voice of God whisper the invitation of His great love and mercy to you. Maybe, like me, you’ve heard things your whole life, but you would like to see this Story from a different angle – or…
Perhaps it’s been quite some time since you heard that Still Small Voice. Maybe life threw you a curve ball and left you feeling lost, confused or disappointed in what you perceived faith in God to be all about. I’ve also been there. Whether you hope to hear that Still Small Voice again or for the first time, I simply urge you to go next time this performance is available in your area.
Don’t forget to visit the website for Still Small Theatre Troupe. They are available for booking and would love to have your prayer support, donations or raw talent on their team.