|Copyright © 2001, 2003 - All rights retained by author|
|Written by: Jane E. Booth and C. W. Booth|
(Based and Taken from Acts 25 and Acts 26)
Cast of Characters:
Paul of Tarsus, An apostle of Jesus Christ
Festus Porcius, Roman governor of Judea
Herod Agrippa II, King of various domains in Judea
Bernice, Agrippaís sister
Roman Soldier, Assigned to guard Paul
(Sound of trumpet or flutes. Enter, in grand procession, AGRIPPA and BERNICE, and FESTUS, down center aisle. They stand stage right, until just before FESTUSí speech, when they are seated, AGRIPPA in chair (profile), FESTUS on bench (facing audience), and BERNICE on stool on AGRIPPAíS right. Applause and cheers from several prearranged people in the audience. AGRIPPA raises his right hand to the audience in recognition of the accolade.)
AGRIPPA: (leaning toward FESTUS) I see you have brought the commanders of Caesarea here today for this audience, Festus.
FESTUS: Several prominent men of the city as well, King Agrippa.
AGRIPPA: Is this audience so important, then?
FESTUS: I am not sure. There is a certain man I want to consult you about.
BERNICE: Who is he, one of your commanders?
FESTUS: Actually, he is a prisoner. Heís been here in Caesarea for some time. He was left a prisoner by Felix, whom I succeeded, as you know. Heís causing some trouble among the chief priests and the elders of the Jews in Jerusalem. They are asking for his execution.
AGRIPPA: And what has he done to merit this?
FESTUS: No real crime that I know of. But he seems to cause riots wherever he goes.
BERNICE: Is he to be executed today?
FESTUS: No, lady. It is not Roman custom to hand over any man before the accused meets his accusers face to face, and has an opportunity to make his defense against the charges.
AGRIPPA: So we are to hear his defense?
FESTUS: Well, I must admit, I have heard him once already. The Jews came here from Jerusalem several days ago. I made no delay in hearing them. But when the accusers stood up, they began bringing charges against him not of any genuine crime. They simply had some points of disagreement with him about their own religion.
AGRIPPA: To Jews, this is a crime.
FESTUS: And about a certain dead man, Jesus, whom Paul asserts to be alive.
BERNICE: I have heard of this man, and this sect. They believe Jesus was the Messiah.
FESTUS: Well, I am at a loss how to investigate matters such as this. I asked him to go to Jerusalem and stand trial.
AGRIPPA: You asked him?
FESTUS: He is a Roman citizen. He appealed his case. To Caesar.
AGRIPPA: All the way to Caesar, eh? A bold prisoner. His name, noble Festus?
FESTUS: Paul of Tarsus.
AGRIPPA: Iíve heard of him. I would like to hear the man myself.
FESTUS: Bring in the prisoner.
(ENTER PAUL and SOLDIER from stage left baptistry door, PAULíS hands in long chains, led by SOLDIER.. PAUL stops just before pulpit to face the King and bows his head to him.)
FESTUS: (stands) King Agrippa, and noble men, you behold this man about whom all the people of the Jews appealed to me, loudly declaring that he ought not to live any longer. But I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and since he himself appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him to Rome. Therefore I have brought him before you all and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the investigation has taken place, I may have something to write to Caesar. For it seems absurd to me in sending a prisoner, not to indicate also the charges against him.
AGRIPPA: (To Paul) You are permitted to speak for yourself.
PAUL: (stretching out his left hand) In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today; especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.
(AGRIPPA nods. PAUL addresses him, but also includes the audience, turning back and forth and using gestures)
PAUL: So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem; since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion. And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. (Extends arm in circle around him, pointing to the audience) Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead? (Pause)
So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. (Speaks slower, as if he regrets what he did) And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death, I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. (Pause, he takes a deep breath as if to put this behind him, and builds up the following story to a high point at "turn from darkness to lightÖ")
While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads." And I said, "Who are You, Lord?" And the Lord said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; delivering you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me."
So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death.
And so, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.
FESTUS: (loudly) Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.
PAUL: (laughs gently. To FESTUS) I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth. (PAUL looks at AGRIPPA, takes a step forward) For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, (Paul steps toward King) do you believe the Prophets? (SOLDIER blocks PAUL from proceeding to towards AGRIPPA. PAUL glares at SOLDIER and looks back to AGRIPPA) I know that you do.
AGRIPPA: (Sarcastically, but with fear that it is true) In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.
PAUL: I would to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I, (holds up his hands) except for these chains.
(KING AGRIPPA rises quickly and goes down the steps to the front of SR aisle. BERNICE and FESTUS follow)
FESTUS: (To AGRIPPA) What do you think?
BERNICE: What a fascinating man.
AGRIPPA: That is not the issue, Bernice.
BERNICE: But what if his story is true, and he has been appointed by God? We donít want to offend Him.
AGRIPPA: The prophets say the Messiah will come. But a Messiah such as Jesus? Dying the way He did? Itís unbelievable!
BERNICE: Why not believe him, if you believe in the same God? The gods donít always do what you expect.
AGRIPPA: You know Heís not like other gods. Itís complicated, Bernice. But one thing is sure. This man has not done anything worthy of death or imprisonment.
FESTUS: I agree.
BERNICE: Then youíll set him free?
AGRIPPA: He might have been set free, if he had not publicly appealed to Caesar.
FESTUS: (sighs) But he did. And I cannot hand him back over to the Jews. (Walks back up on platform) You have appealed to Caesar, Paul of Tarsus. To Caesar you shall go.
(EXIT PAUL and ROMAN SOLDIER, FESTUS, BERNICE, and AGRIPPA, down center aisle.)
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