“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”
I’m going take this opportunity to talk about my choice of terminology in these plays. You’ll already have noticed that I have the disciples calling Jesus “rabbi”. I debated long and hard about whether to have them simply call him by his name, but decided in the end that the name “Jesus” was just too fraught with cultural baggage and unfortunate associations, not the least because it’s so often used as a swear word. (I’d never be able to have a character say, “Jesus!” without it sounding like a swear!) I quickly rejected “Lord” because that would fit too easily into the doctrinal frameworks I’m trying so hard to avoid.
I finally decided on “Rabbi” as the best choice: a word we would never consider calling Jesus ourselves, and which would therefore jolt us out of our existing theological worlds, but which the disciples could have used perfectly naturally. (And do in fact use on a couple of occasions in the Gospels.) And when someone needs to name him by name – when introducing him to someone else, for example, or when someone who doesn’t consider him a rabbi needs to talk about him – that name will be “Joshua”. Like “rabbi”, it’s an appropriately Hebrew name that could conceivably have been used for him.
When you read this particular play, you’ll notice that I call members of the nation of Israel “Israelis”. The standard term of course would have been “the Jews,” but I rejected it for many of the same reasons I decided not to have the disciples call Jesus by his name. I then considered “Israelites” or “Hebrews”, but they sounded too Old Testament. Finally, I struck upon “Israeli.” It’s what we would call a citizen of the nation of Israel today, right? and so why not then as well? Sure, it brings in connotations of the modern day Arab-Israeli conflict, but I actually welcome that, since one of the aspects of these stories that often gets glossed over in our Sunday Schools is the political context, which might have been even more charged than it is today. The Israelis of that time were not only in conflict with their Roman oppressors, but with their Arab neighbors (one of which, as we’ll see in the story of the Syro-Phoenician Woman, was in turn oppressed by the Israelis) and even (as we see in today’s play) with their “half-cousins” the Samaritans.