This Easter service includes a readers’ theater based on John 20 from The Living Bible. It features five characters as readers: John (who also serves as narrator), Mary Magdalene, an angel, Jesus, and Thomas.
[As the service begins, the lights are dimmed. John is standing at the front of the stage.]
John: My name is John, Jesus’ disciple. I’m here to tell you an absolutely incredible story.
Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone was rolled aside from the entrance. She ran and found me and Peter.
[Mary stands and faces John.]
Mary: “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and I don’t know where they have put him!”
John: Peter and I ran to the tomb to see; I outran Peter and got there first. I stooped and looked in and saw the linen cloth lying there, but I didn’t go in. Then Peter arrived and went right inside. He also noticed the cloth lying there, while the swath that had covered Jesus’ head was rolled up in a bundle and was lying at the side. Then I went in too, and looked, and believed that Jesus had risen! Until then we hadn’t realized that the Scriptures said he would come to life again!
Peter and I returned as quickly as we could.
[Mary stands with her back to John, hands over her face, weeping. Angels are seated on a bench nearby.]
By that time Mary had returned to the tomb and was standing outside crying. And as she wept, she looked in and saw two white-robed angels sitting at the head and foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying.
Angel: “Why are you crying?”
Mary: “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put him.”
John: She glanced over her shoulder and saw someone standing behind her. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him! She thought he was the gardener. [Jesus stands; Mary turns to him.]
Jesus: “Why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”
Mary: “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
John: When Jesus said her name, Mary recognized him!
Jesus: “Don’t touch me, for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them that I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.”
John: So Mary came and found us, told us that she had seen the Lord, and gave us his message.
Christ has risen!
Death has been swallowed up in victory!
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?
Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
[All rise to sing one, two, or three opening songs.]
“Low in the Grave He Lay” Lowry, LUYH 186, SSS 185, TH 206
“Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” Wesley, LUYH 182, GtG 245, SSS 181
“Christ Is Risen! Shout Hosanna” Wren, LUYH, 204, GtG 248, SSS 147
Passing the Peace
Greeting words: “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”
[Congregation is seated.]
[John and Jesus are on stage.]
John: That evening all of us disciples were meeting behind locked doors, in fear of the Jewish leaders, when suddenly Jesus was standing there among us! After greeting us, he showed us his hands and side. We were overcome with joy when we saw our Lord!
Jesus: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
John: Then he breathed on us.
Jesus: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you refuse to forgive them, they are unforgiven.”
[Jesus leaves the stage. Thomas approaches John.]
John: Thomas, one of the disciples, wasn’t there at the time. Later on we kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord,” but he didn’t believe us.
Thomas: “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, and put my fingers into them, and place my hand into his side.”
“O Praise the Name (Anastasis)” Hillsong
[Congregation is seated.]
Eight Days Later
[Jesus, John, and Thomas are on stage.]
John: Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with us. The doors were locked, but suddenly, just like before, Jesus was standing among us and greeted us. Then he looked directly at Thomas:
Jesus: “Put your finger into my hands. Put your hand into my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
Thomas: “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus: [to Thomas:] “You believe because you have seen me. [to the congregation:] But blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway.”
“He Is Lord” Traditional, LUYH 227, SSS 658, WR 305
“Not Seeing Is Believing”
Prayer of Thanksgiving
“Alleluia, He is Coming” Butler
“Oh, How Good is Christ the Lord” Puerto Rican, LUYH 192, SSS 196
“I Will Sing of My Redeemer” (tune: HYFRYDOL) Bliss, LUYH 568, TH 681, WR 356