The Thorn and my role as a Roman centurion
Each year during the Easter season, New Life Church hosts The Thorn.
The Thorn is a visually dynamic and heart-stirring theatrical portrayal of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Thorn is not your average Passion play. This production is rated PG-13. And for good reason. The second half of the play is dominated by the Roman centurions who arrest Jesus, beat him, whip him and ultimately crucify him. There is hardly a dry eye in the house when he is being nailed to the cross at center stage.
I am one of those Roman centurions.
Though I have attended Woodmen Valley Chapel for 10 years, I am involved in The Thorn because I enjoy telling the Passion story. In my opinion - and from what I understand from doing research and talking to others - there is no better Passion production in the United States.
The show is an interactive play complete with martial arts, powerful music, live vocal performances, a narrator, pyrotechnics, burning torches, fake blood (that looks real), and of course real props. You would not want me to stab you with my sword or dagger.
The cast includes up to 500 actors, as well as dozens of stage crew and directors and behind the scenes folks, all working together to make sure the experience leaves a lasting impression on the audience members.
My buddy Steve Dodd is coming in from Texas to play the role of Maximus this year. He will be the most blinged-out centurion of all. Leon Lowman is Steve’s right-hand man, and Greg Jones is the centurion with the coyote on his head.
I first became involved with The Thorn seven years ago. I always thought it might be cool to be a centurion. I also liked the idea of joining a group of guys who appeared to be having fun, yet serious about telling the Passion story in a deep and meaningful way.
As a “rookie” you are more of a support staff for the “veterans.” You do what they ask and have a servant’s heart.
This year I am especially blessed with several key roles. After the “Heaven and Hell” opening scene (this scene includes the creation story, Adam and Eve, the fall of Lucifer, Moses and Pharaoh, the parting of the Red Sea, etc.) I charge the stage with my fellow centurions and ransack Jerusalem. I am the last centurion on stage and I get to (fake) kill a guy who is upset that his daughter was just (fake) killed by one of my fellow centurions. He charges me wanting revenge, but I quickly end his life.
After the “My Deliverer” scene comes “Miracles.” I am the dead girl’s dad. In other words, I approach Jesus with my dead daughter and my Roman wife and ask Jesus to heal her. When he does I am overjoyed and thank him. Of course, I will later be one of the centurions that arrest him.
The final act of the first part of the performance is “Triumphal Entry.” This is where Jesus enters Jerusalem. Joyful people are waving palms and cheering for him. The centurions walk through the audience and we work our way onto the stage. In this scene we almost arrest Jesus, but the Pharisees, led by Caiaphas, order us to hold off for the time being.
The whole mood of the play changes after intermission. After Judas agrees to betray Jesus, the centurions appear in the “Garden Scene.” This is where we arrest Jesus. I am one of two lead centurions who carry a torch and lead our company away.
The play quickly shifts to the “Mob Scene” where the crowd is thirsty for blood. I, along with my son, Garrison, lead out Barabbas and show him to Jesus’ mother and to the crowd. Jesus is brought onto the other part of the stage by two more centurions. The crowd eventually asks for Pontius Pilate to release Barabbas; and so we do.
Next up is the “Whipping Scene.” This is where Jesus is given 40 lashes. I am on stage during this scene cheering for the whipper to all but kill Jesus.
Next up, “Road to Calvary.”
This is the most emotional part of the play. By now, most of the 4,000 people in the audience are crying. The centurions walk through the audience screaming at the top of their lungs while Jesus is carrying his cross.
I am on stage during this time, making sure the two thieves get nailed to their crosses and preparing for the upcoming crucifixion of Jesus. I then help secure Jesus’ cross into place, and then oversee the nailing of spikes into Jesus’ hands and feet. I help lift his cross and then exit the stage while a song is played.
Jesus eventually dies and we go back on stage to remove him from his cross and carry him away to the tomb. But, as you may already know, the story does not end there. Jesus eventually is resurrected and ascends into heaven.
The final scene of the play shows the apostles preaching the Good News throughout the world. Several hundred people are on stage in a dramatic and joyful ending to powerful performance.
The Thorn will be at New Life April 10-13. If you have never seen the show I suggest you call the box office to reserve seats. If you have seen it, I highly suggest you come again and take a few friends with you.
Be sure to hunt me down in the lobby after the performance so we can pose for photos.
I hope to see you at the performance.