Passion Play’s Supporting Characters by Julie Arduini

Each year our church shares the greatest story ever told with a Passion Play. It’s a Broadway-like production with as many as 100 in the cast that also features an ensemble and live animals. The actors are lay people with a desire to gift the Lord and the community with five presentations between Palm and Easter Sundays.

We’ve been part of that church for eight years and my husband and children have been involved for most of those years. That means I not only see the presentations each year, I’m often there for rehearsals. I’m quite familiar with the story and what to expect in each scene. Thing is, each rehearsal and performance moves me. I’ve yet to watch even one healing scene and remain unfazed. When Jesus lifts the dead girl and she returns to life, I sob to the point of fearing emitting noises that would distract from the show. We nearly lost our daughter at three months old, and I envision Jesus lifting her for healing that day, something I will never take for granted. It truly is the greatest story ever told.

Our son, circa 2007.

Our son, circa 2007.

Between the play and the History channel’s The Bible, I’ve been  thinking about what writers would call the supporting characters. They are part of the story, well-developed if done right, but don’t overshadow the protagonist. When I think of Jesus and His journey to the cross, there are so many who have a story of their own.

Peter–The disciple who spoke first and thought later. He loved Jesus with fierce passion, only to deny Him when it mattered most.

Now a teen, he plays Philip, a disciple, this year.

Now a teen, he plays Philip, a disciple, this year.

Barabbas–A criminal set free. In our play, we reflect on the possibility that the one who first realized and perhaps appreciated Christ’s sacrifice would be Barabbas.

The thieves on the cross–One mocked Jesus. The other understood  they deserved their punishment, but Jesus did not. He asked Jesus to remember him, and Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43, NIV

Mary–I didn’t fully appreciate her place in the story until I saw Passion of the Christ. She sacrificed twice. First, choosing to be the vessel to her and our savior. Second,  watching His death. Not understanding how this violent murder equals redemption and life. A mama’s heart shattered.

John–He not only witnesses the crucifixion of his beloved friend, he promises Jesus to care for Mary.

Judas–Deceived by money and false promises, his kiss is remembered today. He died a tormented soul.

When I think I found the secondary story to focus on, another aspect of Christ’s love pops up and I’m enchanted by Jesus all over again.

Our daughter in her first year as a town's girl, 2011.

Our daughter in her first year as a town’s girl, 2011.





This holiest of weeks, what supporting character captivates you? Any of the above? Herod? Pontius Pilate? Someone else? I’d love to read your thoughts.

Have a blessed Easter!

About juliearduini

Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to find freedom in Christ by surrendering the good, the bad, and ---maybe one day---the chocolate. She’s the author of the new contemporary romance series SURRENDERING HEARTS (Anchored Hearts, Repairing Hearts, +four more.) Her other romance series is SURRENDERING TIME (Entrusted, Entangled, Engaged.) She also co-wrote a YA series with her daughter, SURRENDERING STINKIN’ THINKIN’ (You’re Beautiful, You’re Amazing, You’re Brilliant.) Her stand-alone romances include MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN and RESTORING CHRISTMAS. Julie maintains a blog at and participates in the team blog Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at
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