In thinking about street based, or should I broaden this and say public theatrical performance, I’m drawn again to the remarkable theatrical performances of Jesus in the stage of the public arena. His audience wasn’t the gladiatorial amphitheatre, but it was the crowd from the boat, the crowd of the mountain, the baying crowd, the small group, the moment of conflict with religious leaders, or the individual. There is no sense that I’m saying that Jesus acted, in a hypocritical way, ie masked a real action (ie played a part whilst pretending to be another) but that the scenes we re told about we dramatically theatrical.
Did Jesus do Holy Theatre?
Imagine the scene of the frightened disciples, and Jesus stood on the tossing boat to calm the storm, imagine the moment ina crowd that a woman touched him, he stopped and initiated the commotion, the woman who was accused, he bent down and wrote, the man who asked how he could live, and Jesus told a story about the compassion of the mortal enemy. Pure drama, pure improvised theatre. In addition, Jesus made new things holy, bread, sheep, gates and doors, now carry metaphors of truth, Vanhoozer (following Barth) states how that sacraments act to remember the past and rehearse the future, in the present (Vanhoozer 2005:412) , but Jesus made these things newly dramatic, often in the public sphere, giving new meaning in the present to the objects, that had some reference to the past, and will now behold and rehearse a new reality.
Was it fully Improvisory? Did Jesus initiate these circumstances? Or at least did he initiate them anymore that putting himself in the situation where the moment of action had to happen. Yet there were equally times when his drama was set in his own private conversation with his Father, away from the public stage, away from the audience.
It is not clear whether Jesus was ‘theatrical’ at all, theres no reference to him attending public spectacles, as these may have been evident – though theres equally no evidence of Jesus endorsing other artistic works ( books, music etc) The stories he told, whilst having dramatic quality – were not acted out bodily, yet were acted out through the act of speech and verbal description, and possibly in a more dramatic way than the pulpit may do so nowadays. Yet there is one exception, to the criticism that Jesus remained true to his actions, and didnt put on a performance with which to deceive. It occurs in Luke 24:28, back on the road to Emmaus- Jesus, we are told “acted as though he were going on” – it is one of the only occasions where Jesus, it could be argued, created a falsehood of intention, to prevent himself being revealed in this instance. Did Jesus deliberately deceive them, or was that just the recollection/interpretation of the two disciples on the road?
Either way it caused them to beg him to stay with them.
Does Jesus deliberately act as though he’s about to leave right now? Maybe he does play at playing his own staged play of which we are part – playing the comic who acts to appear and disappear, for our own good to actively beg him to stay.
Its not just a physical enacted Drama that Jesus performed in the here and now, in his incarnation, but as Vanhoozer argues, as there is communicative activity, there is Drama within the Trinity, sharing the act of perfect communicative agency- for the Son, the Spirit and the Father – all most notably in Johns Gospel. As the Scottish Minister said “it is most true of the blessed trinity each of us is to the other a theatre large enough” (Vanhoozer 2014;76) Going on to say that the sendings/missions of the Spirit and the Son are the acting out of whats been going on in Gods triune life eternally. Jesus not only acts in the world incarnately, but enacts Trinitarianly.