In our daily Bible study, we were reading about the Israelites at Mount Sinai and the Ark of the Covenant, and we wanted to see if we would be allowed to tour the Holy Land site in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It was only a 2-hour trip, so we hit the road.
When we arrived, we were surprised to learn that the Passion Play was to be presented that evening, and our granddaughter had never seen the play. We quickly bought tickets for the play and for the buffet dinner merely 150 yards away. Touring the Holy Land site would wait for another visit. The meal was wonderful.
I may be mistaken, but I think most of you have read the account of the last weeks of Jesus’ life, His arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection in the New Testament. You might have seen a portrayal at church during Passover or Easter or seen a movie about it. But have you ever seen it live at Eureka Springs, or at Oberammergau, Germany? Seeing it like that enables the reality of the event to sink deep into our emotions and our mind.
The Passion Play in Eureka Springs started in 1968, but the production in Germany has been performed every year from 1634 to 1680, and one summer each decade since 1680, with the characters played by the inhabitants of the village of Oberammergau, Bavaria, Germany. However, it was postponed in 2020 because of the pandemic, but will be presented in May of 2022.
The producers send scouts throughout the town and recruit those who look like they might fit one of the Biblical characters.
I don’t remember what decade in the 1900s this was, but as a scout was looking for someone to play the part of Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, he saw a man who appeared to be down on his luck. He looked disheveled, scruffy, unkempt. The scout asked him if he would be willing to be Judas in the upcoming production.
The man looked at the scout, eyes opened wide, then filled with tears as he began to cry. The scout immediately apologized, thinking he had offended or insulted the citizen, but the shabbily-dressed man motioned for him to wait a minute. Regaining his composure, the man said, “Ten years ago I was a well-to-do businessman in town and a valued member of our church. I was highly respected throughout our community. Ten years ago, I played the part of Jesus.” He began sobbing again as he ambled around the corner and out of sight. What happened to him? Did pride overtake him after playing the part of Jesus? Probably.
I’ve never been to Oberammergau, but I have seen the production five times in Eureka Springs. It’s amazing that I, a spectator, a student of the Bible, can be emotionally and spiritually impacted by watching this highly-professional Bible production, but one who played the most important part of the play in Oberammergau, that of Jesus Christ, lost his sense of reality, lost his job, lost his family, and seemingly lost his identity.
Many of us today are also hurting in some area of our life. Some of us are angry at God because He won’t play by our rules. Some of us have become arrogant and use scripture against the One who inspired the writing of Scripture. Some of us hurl insults at God and at His people, thinking that we are hurting them.
Please understand that you are hurting only yourself and those close to you. You can never hurt God; He’s above that. The hurt, the suffering, the torture, the excruciating anguish Jesus experienced was associated with bearing our sin while being beaten half to death, then mercilessly crucified. All for us. Why? Because He loves us. Jesus loves you!
Jesus came to give us peace and life. He came to help us establish our identity and help us identify with God.
I don’t know if the man in Oberammergau ever played the part of Judas, but I hope he eventually restored his relationship with Jesus.
Please understand, God doesn’t play by our rules. The Creator of the universe has His own rules, and He came to give us eternal life.