Brent Maze: Telling the Easter story

By BRENT MAZE,

Easter is probably one of my favorite holidays for one reason — Passion plays.

I love to see how different people have portrayed the final week of Jesus, whether it be in a church cantata or musical to seeing all of the various movies.

It all started with watching the Easter musicals that my home church in Kimberly, Ala., did every year. It was the one time when the church went all out to put on a big production.

We’d use spotlights, strobe lights, dry ice, costumes, banners, sets, etc. We even would put black plastic over the stained glass windows to make sure the sanctuary was dark for the performances since the sun is still very much in the sky for a 6 p.m. performance.

It would be one of the few times during the year that the choir would put on robes while learning a bunch of new music.

One of my cousins, Jeff Self, played Jesus year-after-year. In some ways, he just kind of fit what you’d expect in a person playing Jesus. He had the beard. He had the strong hands you’d expect from a carpenter.

In the way he played the Messiah, it just seemed to fit.

Our choir director got volunteers to come and decorate the stage, turning the 1970s style stage with a choir loft into a scene right out of Jerusalem. The stones of the tomb were made from paper wrapping a chicken wire core.

The stone covering the tomb was different than most that I had seen. It was in the shape of a door instead of a circular design.

The baptistry was outfitted with a life-size cross that would eventually be where Jesus would be crucified.

The cantata always began with Jesus performing some of his miracles prior to the Passion Week. There was always the scene where the woman who had lived a sinful life came and anointed his feet with the perfume. The Cece Winans song “Alabaster Box” would have been appropriate for the musical, but that song wouldn’t be released until 1999.

Then, Jesus would make the triumphant entry to Jerusalem. Unfortunately, he just walked in. We weren’t able to have him ride on a donkey in our church.

The scene would then move quickly to the upper room where the disciples had the last supper. You always hoped that Judas would make a different decision, but unfortunately he left the dinner early to make arrangements for the betrayal.

The scene then moved to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus asked his disciples to help pray in his hour of need, but the disciples always fell asleep.

Then, Jesus was arrested and brought to Pilate, where the crowd, including the choir, always asked for the release of Barabbas over Jesus. That would lead to the crucifixion and the earthquake upon Jesus’ last utterance on the cross, “Into your hands, I commend my spirit.”

After that, Jesus was placed in the tomb awaiting his resurrection. But when the choir sang “Then Came the Morning,” that was Jesus moment to come out of the tomb, which was filled with dry-ice fog.

What brought the moment to the climax was when Jesus would actually kick down the door – that’s the reason why the stone looked like a door – of the tomb and emerge with the keys of death, hell and the grave in his hands.

This is the point where our church took a little liberty with the Passion story. An angel was the one who rolled the stone away.

However, the imagery of Jesus kicking down the door of grave always stuck with me.

Perhaps it was a little bit of artistic liberty, but perhaps maybe there’s just a chance that Jesus can break down the doors in our lives – the doors that separate us from each other, the doors that prevent the church from being what it should be.

Contact Brent at bmaze@-newtoncountyappeal.com.

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