Under the Shadow of the Cross


For Holy week this year the BBC produced a version of "The Passion" which I will largely refrain from commenting on as I only saw the Good Friday "post watershed" episode through being otherwise engaged the rest of the time. If the rest of it was as good as that then I may get the DVD for future viewing. I would appreciate other people's refelctions if they saw more of it than I did. But it set me thinking about previous dramatic versions of Jesus' life and death. The obvious comparison is with Mel Gibson's "spiritual snuff movie" but it was Sally, my wife who reminded me of Dennis Potter's "Son of Man", a decidedly sceptical view, but one with some interesting insights... and particularly of the following part of Act 2 Scene 3.


Jesus and his disciples have been having a discussion in the shadow of a cross. Then, almost absent-mindedly Jesus wanders over to it and starts to caress it.

JESUS: Good timber, this. Hewed with the grain from the heart of the tree. I could fill a room with tables and chairs with wood like this. [He chops the air with his hand.] Cha-ow! Split, it would, straight as ever you could want. Yes! There’s nothing like a bit of wood in your hands. Chaow! Not a knot in it, see? Good stuff. [He puts his head against the cross, as though it were a pillow, momentarily closes his eyes and whispers] Father. Father. [His shoulders start to shake, as though in sobbing.]
[ANDREW steps forward anxiously to comfort him, putting his hands on Jesus’ shoulders.]



ANDREW: Oh, Master, please...
[But JESUS turns swftly, and we see that, far from sobbing, he is in fact shaking with laughter.]
JUDAS: Wh-what is it?
JESUS: A tree! A t-tut-tree! [He laughs out loud, then speaks, still smiling.] God puts it in the soil. A tiny little seed. He sends the sun to warm it. He sends the rain to feed it. He lets the earth hug the little plant like a mother with a baby. So it grows. Years and years it grows. Little roots like veins twisting underneath our feet. First it’s a sapling, tossed by the wind, a feeble thing. But still sun, rain, still it grows. And grows. Oh, a huge thing. A great, strong tower climbing towards heaven. Older now than a man, than two men. What has it not seen? Eh?
PETER: [child-like] Go on — go on!
JESUS: Cha-ow! Down it comes! Crash! Oh, great tree, brought low by the axe. Eh? But God doesn’t mind -
JUDAS: [aloof, still] Doesn’t he? How do you — ?
JESUS: No-oo. What are trees for? Wood. God wants us to build. To have tables to eat off. Chairs to sit on. He has filled the earth with good things, all for man, for me, for you. So He doesn’t mind, does He? No-oo. All that sun. All that rain. All those years. All that struggle from seed to giant — well, tables and chairs are fine things too! But look what we do. Look! A cross! To kill a man! All that sun. All that rain. And here is the end of it — something to hold up and stretch out a man while he dies! [Again, he throws back his head and laughs. The others are paled, and even rather disapproving.]
JOHN: But what is funny about that, Lord?
JESUS: Man!
ANDREW: What?
JESUS: [angry rhetoric] Man! That’s what is funny about it! Man, silly, stupid, murdering man! We take the good things God gave us in order to hurt each other!…
[The scene continues… then, towards the end of it…]
ANDREW: I didn’t even see it – I didn’t even…
JESUS: [harshly] It is part of the landscape.


It set me wondering, whether we are blind to the many instruments of murderous cruelty littering our landscape.

Comments

crookedshore said…
It was a very good adaptation David...though he steered well clear of any hint of the supernatural. I'm not even sure what he did with the resurrection (ooops, sorry for revealing the end if you haven't seen it).

That aside though...it was good, particularly in establishing the political and religious dimension to the crucifixion.

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