They knew Him. They walked beside Him. And so Sight & Sound Theatres hopes to reintroduce audiences to Jesus in a way that is fresh and unexpected. Jesus, the newest stage production of Sight & Sound Theatre in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, brings Him to life through the people that He knew: James, John, Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus, and so many others.
“The play is centered around getting to know who Jesus was through the lives that He touched and encountered,” said Katie Miller, communications manager at Sight & Sound. “We see a lot of characters – who they were before Jesus and who they were after they encountered Jesus and allowed Him to change their lives.”
The approach to the story is one that has not been done before, Sight & Sound CEO Matt Neff believes. However, it captures the mission of Jesus in a way that will connect with those who know Him well and those who are meeting Him for the first time.
“I’m not just playing another character,” said Jonathan Blair, who acts Jesus. “I’m playing someone I know, whom I have a deep relationship with. So I approach playing Jesus as saying, ‘Let me show you what I know of this Person.’”
“Our desire is to capture the story of Jesus as a love that rescues story, and so we portray His story through the eyes of people whose lives He changed,” Neff said.
“Hopefully, people will see themselves reflected in the characters on stage and be able to identify with them,” Miller added.
Jesus is playing at Sight & Sound Theatre in Lancaster until January 5, 2019.
I had the privilege of seeing the premiere of Jesus in Lancaster on March 9, 2018. After speaking with members from all areas of the cast, crew, and leadership team, I found that the play was as good as promised. I did find myself rediscovering Jesus emotionally and empathetically, even in events and stories that I know by heart.
Three scenes, in particular, grabbed me with the impact of Jesus’ life and ministry. Near the beginning, a vignette acts out the story of the prodigal son. The father sees the son coming from far off and cries out, “My son!” The moment tugged at my heart, reminding me of the faithful way in which God loves us and eagerly receives us after waiting long for us to come to Him.
During the scene of the Last Supper, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. Judas returns to the room after having collected his silver for betraying Jesus, and Jesus calls him to come to Him and sit near Him. Judas is reluctant and at first refuses, but Jesus urges him again. Then, slowly, gently, humbly, Jesus washes that sinner’s feet. The moment pierced my soul. We are all Judas, I realized. We come before Jesus from our own sordid ways, too guilty to even bear to be near His goodness, but He kindly insists on pouring His grace out on us.
The scene of the Garden of Gethsemane was the most unique, shocking, and powerful. There, in the play, is where Jesus begins to undergo His Passion – not waiting till the cross like most dramas show. He cries in agony to the Father as He is riven with all the anguish and affliction of sin. The scene is rightfully disturbing: all the vengeance of sin being poured out on real flesh and blood, which we remain lost in – if not for Christ enduring its full wrath on our behalf.
We may be accustomed to seeing the cross, but this scene reminds us Christ’s suffering did not take place only on the cross and was not merely physical or inflicted by others. He experienced all the real effects of sin – made raw and real in flesh, mind, and spirit. And yet, even in that fiercest temptation, He remained righteous and obedient unto God and to making sacrificial atonement for us.