Have you ever considered what it would be like to be related to Jesus as a friend or a family member during the time of Gethsemane and the crucifixion? When you see Jesus going through all that he went through from the garden to the cross in an Easter production or movie or even within your own imagination, it is sobering.
My husband and I experienced this feeling of sadness and emptiness from the rejection Jesus endured watching it at our churches’ Easter musical production. Our church’s productions typically include a cast of 250+ people each Easter and Christmas, and we had seen David (our son) in one before so we knew it would be special, yet this was not the typical joy of seeing him use his acting skills.
I don’t recall David telling us how involved he was in the production this time other than having a few lines; he simply let us know when he was traveling to do the pre-filming. I knew he was one of the thieves, but didn’t know that his role was one of three main threads of stories that would be woven together throughout the whole production… until the night that we went to see it.
If you know David, he has a heart for God so it was difficult to watch him play a polar opposite character of who he is. His passion for the Lord, to worship Him, to spend time in His presence and to love people the way Christ loves, and to be the hands and feet of Jesus to others, is David. And yet when I saw him play this mean, hateful, bitter man, I was a bit stunned.
Dom DeMeo, Philip and David Kloehr
Seeing the fellow thief, Phillip, take on a caring role for his sick wife that caused him to steal and yet ultimately repent on the cross brought the thought that we had hoped David could play the nicer thief. Then there was my momma’s heart concerned for both of them as they hung up on the crosses for a long time, waiting for Jesus to come and be raised between them. So much was happening from seeing up close the pain Jesus’ experienced dragging the cross over his bloody, beaten body and the three of them together.
I was moved by the way they told the back stories of the thieves’ heart aches and reasons why they became thieves. But then what was most devastating to watch was when we saw the struggles each one of them had as they tried to breathe on the crosses. The tears came rolling down my face as I saw my son on the cross next to Jesus. My heart is always moved when I see what Jesus did for us to sacrifice Himself so greatly to bring forgiveness to us and offer salvation.
The heart breaker came as I didn't know that David would be the thief who would reject Christ. When I saw David up there for a lengthy time, watching him labor in the midst of the dark, red tone overcast, dense fog, it drew a whole range of emotions for each one on the cross. I was aware that David was physically exhausted from the rehearsals where he hadn't been strapped up on the cross well, draining his energy as he had to stay on the cross for a long period. But in all that knowing of his struggle, doing it night after night, back-to-back 2 times Saturday night and 2 times Sunday morning, I knew it was taking a toll on him in many ways.
David Kloehr to the left of Jesus Christ on the cross
The willpower to act against saying “yes” to Jesus was a hopeless feeling my husband and I walked away with on David’s behalf. And to think of how many people each day walk away from God without saying “yes” to His gift of eternal life and a close relationship with Him is sobering to imagine.
My husband and I felt numbed by how difficult of an acting role this was for David. This is because of his close relationship with Jesus Christ and having to push Jesus in a crowd in a scene and to then look over at the cross and deny Him and be hateful to Him… we know that had to be hard for him to play the role. When we drove home that night, my husband and I were just like, wow, we can't imagine David would ever want to do that again! For us, it was so heavy and depressing; to see our son having to act in a role where he rejects Christ was an overwhelming thought.
If you know my family, we are passionate for God and serving Him any way with all our hearts. Not to say that we know what Mary went through at all, but I got a glimpse of what it must have been like to see your son being rejected and not liked. Matter of fact, David was not allowed to come back out on stage with the rest of the cast where they helped at the altar call for salvation. He didn’t get to hear everyone sing praises and rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus. All the acclimates, the laughter, the hugging, and the joys everyone else experienced, well, David had to be left behind. Frankly he looked kind of scary with all the bruises and blood all over him and they didn't have time to wash him down nor did they want to scare the kids at the altar call. We understood, but it made the role even harder to accept. My thought… a double rejection when left behind… is his what God experiences with us?
Sheryl and David
We love God and yet we get distracted, and we reject time with Him or possibly avoid doing His will or what He desires us to do - love others to draw them to Jesus Christ. Many thoughts have flooded my mind in seeing the imagery and what it all meant. The sacrifice that Jesus went through and His love for His disciple John and mother Mary at the foot of the cross. I don't know about you, but it gave me a new perspective on rejection. Christ said “yes” to us by doing what He did. And even my son, when I saw that he still went through it night after night. Though he wasn't feeling good as it took a toll on his body and would need to rest to recoup from it, he kept his word and was a part of making a difference for God’s Kingdom. Yes, it is worth the sacrifice it might take for us as individuals for others to know Jesus Christ.
What is it that you have walked through? Out of your pain and hard times, God brings hope from the storms of life. The sacrifices we make are temporary. And yet it's easy to get caught up in the details of our life where we get distracted and not realizing I reject what God said when somebody came around me that I should have spoken to. What is our part each day? To love people with God’s love? God wants no one to perish but that all would have life eternal with Him. It's not a condemnation to you or I, it is just a reflection on why we want everyone to receive the salvation that Jesus Christ gave each of us. It is such a meaningful moment for us to be an extension of sharing the love of God. The sacrifice that God made so that we can be His light… isn't it worth it? I don't know about you, but I've seen it in a new way and I pray you do too. May it motivate us to love and see people around us. Who is it that needs the message of hope that lies within us? Even as 1 Peter says, we have this hope. What are you to do to make an impact to love somebody into the Kingdom of God today?
When we feel rejected, He felt the same way. And yet we can know that we are always loved and accepted by God. I hope you know that beloved; receive that love. And when you feel rejected, reach out to someone that might feel rejected too and share His love, who knows, they may need to be known, received and loved unconditionally as well. What a treasure we have to share His hope with those who need it! AMEN?! AMEN!!
Special thanks to John Daugherty, the creative director, writer, actor and more at Victory Church. We appreciate your tireless work to bring creative stories to share the message of the Gospel. Thank you also to Dom DeMeo for your anointed voice when you sing. Was good to see you work together with David, and Philip in telling a powerful story.
See the full version of the musical, Master Piece at Victory Church's YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/S8WveEfPZ4c