Five Passion Monologues for Palm Sunday

Gail Godwin


Mk. 5:21-24, 35-43; Lk. 8:40-42, 49-56; Matt. 9:18-19, 23-26

My father was Ya ir, an official of our synagogue. This story is about me, but I want to tell you about my father first. He was a devoted man, devoted to our ancient religion; he had many duties at our synagogue, and he loved to take care of the hidden everyday things nobody noticed as well as the big showy important ones. I was proud of him, even when I was a tiny girl. And he loved me very much.
Now this happened when I was twelve. I got very sick and ran a high fever and they said I was delirious. My mother was crying and my father said, “There is this strange young rabbi preaching nearby, I have heard that he puts his hands on people and heals them. I am going out to seek him and beg him to come to our house and put his hands on our child.”

And then I was suddenly floating up above my bed and the whole household was gathered, weeping and praying over my body. My mother told a servant to go out after my father and tell him it was too late. I wanted to comfort my mother, but some force was pulling me away through a dark tunnel. And then I came into the most peaceful light. Some kind, beautiful beings were coming toward me and holding their arms out to me. I wanted so much to go with them. I was running toward them, feeling lighter and lighter, when this hand closed over mine. I fought the hand, but it was too strong, it was pulling me back. A stern man’s voice was saying something. I tried not to hear, but it was too powerful for me to escape.

Talitha, koum!

the voice said. “Little girl, get up.”

I opened my eyes, and I was in my bed. My mother and father were bending over me, weeping with shock and happiness, and a strange man stood over me smiling. The uncanny thing was, he looked like those kind, beautiful figures I had been running toward!
He released my hand and touched my face gently. “You were just sleeping,” he said. And he told my parents to give me something to eat.


Mk. 15:40, 16:1; Matt. 20:20, 27:56

I hardly know how to introduce myself. As the wife of Zebedee the fisherman? As the mother of those tempestuous two boys, James and John? Or as the woman who joined up with several other women and followed Jesus, providing for his material needs and ministering to him during his short passionate term on this earth?

I myself am unable to separate these identities. If I had not married my husband, we wouldn’t have had our sons. If we hadn’t had our sons, they wouldn’t have climbed out of the boat and followed Jesus that day, leaving Zebedee with his servants to finish the day’s job. And if they hadn’t gone off with this charismatic young teacher, I wouldn’t have followed them to see what the attraction was all about. And if my husband hadn’t been the man he was, as generous with his prosperity as he was generous in allowing us to follow the demands of our spirits, our lives would have been—less than they were. Certainly mine would have. I would have stayed behind and had no part of that glorious adventure that was to bring us so much life—and so much pain.

My sons, I’m afraid, took after their mother. Jesus called them the “Boanerges”—which means “Sons of Thunder,” or “Sons of Trembling.” They were passionate, like me, and impulsive. They made me ask Jesus to promise them the choice of seats of honor in his kingdom, the seats on either side of him. The others were furious, with them and with me, for making the request. Jesus told my sons that it wasn’t in his power to give them privileged places in the kingdom they spoke of, but he promised them they would have the chance to drink his cup of suffering. They eagerly accepted, and his promise came to pass.

We saw Jesus tortured and killed first, then James, fourteen years after, the first of twelve to be martyred—by Herod Agrippa. I was able to keep John a while longer before he drank his cup of suffering. It was just the two of us by then, Zebedee was dead. John and I wept together. We shared memories and exchanged stories. He had been places with Jesus that I hadn’t. But I had been places, too, that he was astounded to hear about.

Though I wake up some mornings heart-broken by the short-sightedness and cruelties of the world, I also ask myself how many mothers have shared such experiences with her sons, and with one who was beyond all I can tell you, but also like a son.


Jn. 3:1,4,9; Jn. 7:50; Jn. 19:39

I am known as Naqdimon—a few close friends call me “Naqui.” I’m a member of the Sanhedrin: we are a high priestly council that protects the ethics of our people as we make our way through this turbulent world of alien powers and changing beliefs.

I am a spiritual guide and a teacher. Some of our council had said he posed a threat; others claimed he was an impostor, a madman; still others presented themselves at the temple, showing how he had healed them; still others, silently and discreetly, had led me to believe that here was another spiritual teacher who might have some guidance for me. 

I went by night, wanting to avoid the crowds, hoping to find him alone for a private talk. I intended to judge for myself. 

He was in the company of a few others, but when we began to talk, he was so totally present to me that it seemed we were alone. I found myself speaking words I hadn’t prepared. “Rabbi,” I said, “I know you are a teacher from God. Nobody can perform the miracles you do unless God is with him.” He seemed to know me. He said, “You are the pre-eminent teacher of the Israelites here. What can I do for you?” I replied that those who guide others are also seekers of guides and that I hoped to hear whatever he had to tell me about God’s imperial rule. 

He said, “As God as my witness, no one can experience God’s imperial rule without being reborn.”

“How can an adult be reborn?” I asked. “Can I re-enter my mother’s womb and come out a second time?”

“Look here,” he said. “You are a wise man. You know the difference between these things. What is born of the human realm is human. What is born of the spirit realm is spirit.”

“I still don’t see—” I protested.

“Why are you surprised?” he said. “The spirit blows every way, like wind. You hear  the sound it makes, you feel it on your face, but you can’t see where it’s coming from or where it’s headed. That’s how it is with every one reborn of the spirit.”

“But—how can these things be?” I persisted. I, the spiritual guide, felt out of my realm.

His patience was admirable. He reminded me of myself when faced with a tense, literal-minded student hearing me teach the invisible God.

Then he spoke . . . he spoke ardently about love. How I wish I could remember what he said! Like those poor students of mine, I strained my brain so hard to listen that I could no longer hear. When I finally heard words again, he was looking at me rather sadly and saying: “Light is come into the world, but men love their darkness.”


I am the man who came in darkness, heard and felt the light, then went away again into the darkness.

Yet I did what I could for him, during that wretched trial. Or did I do enough?

Here is a question from the teacher I am now: Can someone who has heard and felt and looked into the very eyes of Light and then gone away willingly into the darkness again—can that person still hope to be reborn someday?

I look into the eyes of my students as I slowly phrase this question. And when I see light kindled there, I dare to let myself hope.

Miriam of the Seven Demons

Luke 8:2

I have been called many names, but these are the two I claim. I was the woman who had seven demons. I am the disciple of Jesus of Nazareth. 

This is the story of the demons.

I am from Magdala, by the sea of Galilee. It is a crossroads for the best and the worst. From an early age, I saw that human kindness could live side by side with cruelty, poverty with wealth, cheating with fair-dealing, intelligence with stupidity. I grew up in a region marked by all the clashings and minglings of different cultures and religions, and all of this gave me a certain understanding about the complexities of life.

As a girl, my hero was Miriam, my namesake, the daring sister of Moses who preserved him for his destiny, who led the women in a wild ecstasy-dance when God smote the Egyptians, and who clamored—some say wrongly—to be a prophetess in her own right.

At the same time my body ripened, I began to feel pregnant with my own potential. I felt I could save the world and yet I longed to lie down in the right man’s arms and be saved. I sang too passionately, I danced too sinuously, I talked too smartly to those who thought I should be quiet and listen to them. 

I heard voices telling me things I knew it was better to keep hidden in my heart. You will be a prophet, Miriam. The Queen of Sheba was rich and powerful, but you will be loved and remembered longer. You will be the woman at the side of a great leader and minister unto him.

Then they betrothed me. At first I was flattered, because he was a man of wealth and esteem. But my voices grew strident, clashing and mocking and tormenting me. I began to behave oddly and the man withdrew. They told me I would end up insane or in a brothel. They tried to restrain me, but when I finally fought free of them and ran away, I am sure they breathed a sigh of relief. 

He found me, as he found so many others, lost and estranged from the human community. I was not mature or disciplined enough for that kind of solitude, and the demons soon moved in. I knew each of them with all my tormented senses. I saw the obscene writhings of their misshapen forms, could never shut out their raucous taunts. Their acrid taste polluted my mouth until I lost all appetite. At night in the dark, I could feel the ridges of their sharp little teeth gnawing on the last living substance of me. And the smell—it was beyond description. Because they manifested themselves through my five senses I thought there were only five of them, so I chewed a deadly herb to destroy myself—and by doing so destroy them.

But when I arrived at that place beyond bodily senses, I found to my horror there was still more of me to devour, two more things belonging to me, even without my senses, to keep them chewing away for all eternity.

That’s when I knew there had been seven of them, not five, and I resigned myself to be the damnable fodder of these two forever.

He made contact with that place in me beyond my senses. I knew without sight, sound, taste, smell, or touch that he was there. At first it was like a battle, and it seemed they were winning. Then there was a change.

Something shifted.

The first sense to return to me was my hearing and the first sounds I heard in my new life were the words of his prayer:

“Father, may the love you have for me pass into her through me. Some enemies are beyond mere exorcism. Nothing less than your power can vanquish these arch-parasites gorging on the noble feast she has provided. For her courage and understanding have outlived all her senses and provided these deadliest of fiends with their sustenance of choice. Courage and Understanding are their most coveted prey. Allow my prayer to be their deadly poison, restore her to her senses, and banish these and all lesser demons from the remainder of her earthly life. I ask this, Abba, in your dear name.”

When I came to myself, I looked into the eyes of a person I could never have imagined in his fullness, even with my great capacity for desire: a person large enough to see all of me, the one I could trust with my whole self with all its gifts and strengths.


Luke 10:38-42

We live in Bethany, a town located about a half-hour’s walk from Jerusalem. My brother Lazarus first introduced him to us, and after that he stopped to see us whenever his teaching travels brought him our way. He enjoyed coming to our house—often it was just my younger sister and myself at home—and we were always so glad to receive him. We both fussed over him. My sister bathed and anointed his feet and I ran to the kitchen to prepare the things he liked. Mary sat close to him and drank in his every word, which was just fine with me because that way he had someone to speak to and I could listen to what he said at a distance and take it slowly and safely into myself. He had an incredible presence about him, and sometimes it was just too much to have the presence and the words together in one room. I was afraid of being overwhelmed with—I don’t know—too much love. I could listen better in the kitchen, slicing meat and chopping herbs—setting out the bread and the olives and the goat cheese—and the figs which he doted on.

One time I was preparing an elaborate feast and got flustered and all hot in the face and I remember both with humor and shame how I must have looked standing in the doorway gripping my spattered serving cloth and imploring him: “Can’t you tell her to come and help me?”

I will never forget his words, but what remains in my heart was the tone of his voice when he called my name, the love in it and the look he gave me. You see, I had never let myself really look at him for long. I listened in the kitchen, holding back from his challenge. Now I experienced the power of the whole person. He was telling me (what I already knew) that I worried too much about household things, about getting everything perfect, when what he loved about our house was our hospitality, which always gave him sustenance and recharged his spirit for the road. Then he praised Mary, whom I had upset by my scolding, and said that she was helping by being beside him (which I also already knew).

But his look when he said “Martha, Martha,” calling me twice by name, in a tone he had never used before, will sustain me into my grave. He was calling me, the woman chopping and slicing in the kitchen, to be part of his kingdom. And I looked into his face and knew that he was calling me—and that I accepted. And daring to look at him steadily at last, I knew that he knew I was accepting, and was, in a sense, already there.