The Centurion 

Easter Drama | by Richard Ruddle

Biblical References: Matthew 2: 1-8; Matthew 8: 5-13; James 4:14; Ephesians 6:16.

Tribune: Julian
Centurion: Marcus Gaius
Deputy: Claudius
Soldier / Legionairre: Octavion
Soldier / Messenger: Lucious
Older Woman; Caretaker of Blind Brother 
Young Man Healed by Christ: Woman’s Brother

Narrator: (Enters) 

Our story begins in Jerusalem during the reign of Herod the King. King Herod was gravely troubled by reports from three wise men that had traveled from the east; seeking the newborn King of the Jews as had been foretold. King Herod inquired after the birthplace and age of the new King. The wise men informed him that Bethlehem of Judaea was to be the birthplace and the child would now be a babe under two years of age. Fearing a threat to his throne, King Herod sent forth Roman Solders to find and destroy the child king. An ambitious young Legionnaire named Marcus Gaius, along with the other soldiers, obeyed orders and slew all the children aged two years old and under that were in Bethlehem and all the coasts thereof. Lamentation, weeping and great mourning for the children was heard throughout the land. “So be it with the enemies of Rome”, Legionnaire Gaius thought. But the cries of the innocent continued to haunt his dreams thereafter.

Years passed and Gaius earned promotion to the rank of Centurion for his unwavering loyalty to Rome and devotion to duty. King Herod died and once again there is political unrest in the land of Israel. In Capernaum, a prophet called Jesus is healing the sick, cleansing the lepers and performing wonders. Large crowds follow him wherever he travels. Centurion Marcus Gaius, now a proven veteran assigned to Capernaum, fears civil unrest and possible revolt among the citizens. The Centurion and his Deputy meet to discuss their strategy for handling the situation. (Exits as Centurion and Deputy enter).

Centurion: (Looks into distance and Speaks to his Deputy)
I don’t like the look of this. (looks side to side) That crowd is a mixture of religious fanatics and political troublemakers. Tell your Solders to keep close watch and inform me immediately of any problems. 

Deputy: (Slaps chest with clenched fist salute) I will do as you ordered. I have already placed two men in the crowd near the one who is supposed to be the prophet. If there is one treasonous word out of this so-called Prophet’s mouth or any of his followers, we will step in and arrest them all. 

Centurion: Good. I want everyone to know that Rome and (Points to self) I, will not tolerate any rebellious acts. I am a Centurion of Rome. Rome’s enemies are my enemies and I will show no mercy in apprehending them. Have you seen this “prophet” first hand? If so, what do you know of him? 

Deputy: I have only seen him from afar. Loyal followers closely surround him protecting him from the crowds. I have heard some of his speeches from a distance, however. 

Centurion: What kind of poison is he spreading? 

Deputy: He disguises his true intentions with words of love, peace and healing. My men tell me that he sometimes speaks about his followers inheriting the earth. I think he is suggesting the overthrow of Herod and ultimately Rome. 

Centurion: Does he ever speak of a Kingdom other than Rome or another ruler other than Caesar? 

Deputy: Yes sir. 

Centurion: Then he is an enemy of Rome. I must hear his treason for myself. Wait for me here while I join the crowd. I will get as close to him as I can and then return here. (Turns and observes messenger approaching). 

Soldier/Soldier/Messenger: (Enters and salutes the officers) Centurion, I have a message from the caretaker of your estate. Your most trusted servant lies ill, suffering greatly from palsy and they fear for his life. The Doctors don’t know what to do. I have been sent to bring you lest he die before your return. 

Centurion: (To messenger) My first duty is to Rome and my Emperor. I will hear this “Prophet” and then return to my house as soon as I can. I am sorely grieved because my servant has been with me for many years and is regarded highly. Return to them with that message. 

Soldier/Messenger: Yes, Centurion. (Salutes and leaves hastily). 

Centurion: (To Deputy) Wait for me here. It shouldn’t take long. (Leaves) 

Deputy: (Aside) I hope he knows what he is in for. A Roman soldier is about as welcome as the plague to that crowd. He could get himself killed. (Sarcastically) Wouldn’t that be too bad? 

Deputy: (Time passes while he paces back and forth nervously). (Aside) How can I turn this to my advantage? (Pauses to think) I’m much more qualified to lead than he is; plus I come from a wealthy family. (Proudly) My Father is a Senator. 

Woman: (Enters slowly, accompanied by young brother); (To male) Praise God! You’ are healed! After 15 years, you can see! You can see! 

Man: (Rubs eyes in disbelief and looks around) I knew He could do it, if I only had faith. He touched my eyes and commanded me to open them and see. (Speaks to Deputy) It was like someone removed a veil from my face. In that moment I could see again. 

Deputy: (Disbelieving) Obviously some sort of sorcery. (Pushes man away) Be gone from me. I have nothing to do with Witches and Sorcerers. (Shoo’s them away and they exit). 

Centurion: (Returns with look of bewilderment and approaches Deputy).
I can’t believe it. He is truly a prophet! I saw him healing the sick with a word and the touch of his hand. He’s not at all what I expected. I found myself telling Him about my servant and asking the Prophet to say the word and heal him. He told me that it would be done as I believed and to go my way. As I started to leave he looked directly into my eyes and whispered, “ No more bad dreams, You are forgiven.” How could he know about my dreams? I ran straight back here. 

Deputy: You’re just confused. Your mind has been clouded by all of the stress this “Rebel” has caused. 

Soldier/Messenger: (Returns running and out of breath) Centurion! Centurion! It is a miracle. Your servant suddenly began to get better. All of his symptoms have gone. 

Centurion: (To Deputy) It is as He told me! (To Messenger) Return to my home and I will follow quickly (Messenger begins to leave). (To Deputy) Remain in this area with your soldiers. Keep the peace and send for me if anything serious happens. I must sort this out in my own mind. (Exchanges salutes and leaves following Messenger). 

Deputy: (Aside) I don’t know if he is bewitched or his mind has been clouded somehow. This “Prophet” is an enemy of Rome no matter what sorcery he performs. The Centurion better regain his senses before the Tribune finds out about it and he is sent to some distant outpost as punishment (strokes chin with hand) Hmmm.. (Suddenly Tribune enters and exchanges salutes with Deputy). Hail Tribune! 

Tribune: (Pompously) Where is Centurion Marcus Gaius? He should be here while this crowd of troublemakers is still together. 

Deputy: He has returned to his home briefly to tend to an emergency there. 

Tribune: Home problems come second to problems of the empire. This seditionist who call himself a “Prophet” has been declared an enemy of Rome and is to be arrested as soon as possible. Come, escort me to the Centurion’s home. (begins to exit very slowly) I’m not surprised that the Centurion deserted his post at such a time. I’ve wondered about his fitness to serve in the field. (Both walk slowly toward exit). Comes from a lower class family you know. (To Deputy) An ambitious Deputy with the right connections might find himself in line for promotion if the Centurion is too ill to command.

Deputy: (While exiting) Well Sir, he does have these dreams…

(Stage goes dark as narrator enters) 

Narrator: Months have passed. Centurion Gaius had been ordered to Rome where he was found fit for duty. Because of his prior experience at Capernaum, he is sent to Jerusalem and placed in charge of an Urban Cohort. His orders: to identify and arrest any and all persons stirring up the populace against Rome. His Deputy, Claudius, has accompanied him to observe and report to the Tribune on the Centurion’s conduct and effectiveness. Should the Centurion fail, the ambitious Claudius would be elevated in rank and given the command while the Centurion would return to Rome in disgrace. 

(Deputy and Centurion enter as the Deputy speaks) 

Deputy: From what I have been able to get from the locals, the same rebel leader who escaped us in Capernaum may be here. His radical followers are calling themselves “Christians.” 

Centurion: It couldn’t be the same man. He was a teacher and a healer, not a political agitator. Regardless of that, I will prove my loyalty to the Emperor and to Rome by crushing any threat to either one. 

Deputy: Sir, you will be happy to know that the Chief Priest and elders have a spy in the midst of the rebels. This man, a Jew himself, has close contact with rebel leader and has agreed to assist in his capture, (points to purse on belt) “for a price.” 

Centurion: (Looks knowingly at Deputy) Treachery always demands a price! How much? 

Deputy: A mere thirty pieces of silver. 

Centurion: (Again looks knowingly at Deputy) How cheaply loyalty is bought and sold these days! (Pauses) Tell the High Priest that we will pay the price and to move forward with his plan. How soon can we expect to take this rebel into custody? 

Deputy: Within hours as I understand it. The rebels are supposed to meet this very evening in the upstairs room of a local residence. While the group is eating, our spy will slip out and signal our soldiers. 

Centurion: Good! We may be able to get all of the leaders and end this “Christian Menace” once and for all. Go now and report to me before taking any further action. 

Deputy: As you command sir! (Salutes & exits). 

Centurion: (Aside) I know that Claudius would like to make me look bad so he can take over, I must keep a sharp watch on him from now on. If I can round up this radical sect and bring their leader to trial it will allay any doubts as to my fitness. (Begins to nervously pace up and back). 

Centurion: (Aside) Claudius has been gone for some time.. I’m ready to take action now. What can be taking so long? 

Soldier/Legionaire: (Enters, salutes and speaks) Centurion, I have a message from Claudius. 

Centurion: What is the message? 

Messenger: Claudius has instructed me to tell you that the situation has changed since he spoke to you. The Christians met earlier than usual and proceeded to the Garden of Gethsemane. There was no time to notify you, so Claudius acted quickly and took some solders with him to arrest the Rebel Leader. On the way, Tribune Julian, who was in the area by chance, joined him. There was some resistance and Claudius struck one of the rebels with his sword, cutting off an ear. The Rebel Leader was captured, but most of his followers scattered. The Tribune is hailing Claudius as a Hero of Rome. 

Centurion: I see! Where is the Rebel Leader now? 

Soldier/Legionaire: There was some question as to the proper court to try Him. The Tribune ordered Claudius to take the man before the Governor Pilate without delay. He will be scourged, but the crowd wants Him crucified. 

Centurion: I have heard enough! If the man is to be crucified where will they take him? 

Soldier/Legionnaire: To Golgotha, the Hill of the Skull. 

Centurion: Return to this (Sarcastically) “Hero” Claudius, and tell him I am on my way to Golgotha. Tell him that I order him not to carry out the sentence until I get there. 

Soldier/Legionnaire: Yes Centurion! (Salutes and departs).

Centurion: (Aside) If this is the same man that cured my servant, forgave me and took my nightmares away, he is a good man, a prophet. I can’t stand by and let him be sacrificed. I’d better get to Golgotha right away. (Exits hastily – Scene goes dark and Narrator enters)

Narrator: With great determination, the Centurion has slowly made his way through the crowded city where large crowds line the path to the Hill of the Skull. As he hurries to the top, he sees three crosses and realizes he is too late. The crucifixion has already taken place. As he nears, he observes Claudius and his Legionnaire standing near a group of soldiers who are casting lots for the clothing of the crucified men. 

Deputy: (Sees the Centurion approach, salutes and speaks to him). Hail Marcus Gaius.

Centurion: (Does not return salute or greeting) Claudius, I gave orders that this crucifixion was not to take place until I got here. Why have you ignored my orders?

Deputy: Your orders mean nothing now! The Tribune has promoted me to Centurion and I am in charge here. The Tribune says that I know how to deal with the enemies of Rome. Not like you did in Capernaum. You have been stripped of your rank and are to report to him immediately. I suspect that you will be returned to Rome in disgrace.

Centurion: (To Deputy) Claudius, when I look at you; I see myself as a young man. You don’t realize what you have done. This man is a great prophet and not deserving of this. I’m going to see this innocent man you have slain. (Turns and hurriedly walks off stage).

Deputy: (To Legionnaire) What a fool. He doesn’t realize that if this Rebel were truly a prophet, He would have summoned divine help to escape execution. I don’t accept any of those childish superstitions. The Tribune believes that I have great potential and might even end up in the Roman Senate. (Thoughtfully) Yes; Senator Claudius! 

Deputy: (To Legionnaire) As soon as he gets back from viewing this crucified criminal, I want him taken into custody as a traitor. He might even share a similar fate with his “Prophet.” 

Soldier/Legionnaire: (Salutes Claudius) I will take care of it sir.

Deputy: (Looks toward the hill and observes the Centurion returning) He’d better hurry; the sky is getting dark and it may storm. 

Centurion: (To Deputy) He was thirsty and I tried to give him water, but he couldn’t drink. (Demonstrating with hand) His side had been pierced with a spear by one of your soldiers and he was dying. Before He died, He looked directly at me and forgave us from His own mouth. He forgave us from the cross just as He forgave me in Capernaum! I forgive you too Claudius and I will pray for you. (Walks slowly and exits). 

Deputy: (Shouting after the Centurion) I seek no forgiveness. I am a Centurion of Rome. Rome’s enemies are my enemies and I have no pity or forgiveness for them. 

Deputy: (Points to Centurion and speaks to Legionnaire) Seize him! I will deal with him later. I’ll show him what a real Roman Centurion can do! (Shouts excitedly) After Him, Seize him! Seize him!

Soldier/Legionnaire: (Salutes smartly) Immediately, Centurion Claudius! (Moves quickly off stage in pursuit of the disgraced Centurion).

Deputy/New Centurion: (Aside) Now I’ll show them all. Tribune, General, Senator, perhaps even Caesar. All will be mine. (Proudly struts off stage).

Narrator: Jesus taught us to love our enemies and do good to them. He asks us to pray for those who hate us, despitefully use us, and persecute us. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Our lives may vanish away unexpectedly. Our faith must be shown by our works TODAY. The Centurion forgave the treachery of his Deputy. Jesus forgave us all from the cross. Can we who trust and believe in Him do less? (Lights dim and Narrator exits).

Copyright 2008 Richard Ruddle - All Rights Reserved

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