For about 5,000 young people in Brunstad Youth Club, who have come together for the first international Easter camp in three years, the story has really come to life in recent days. Under the title “Jerusalem 33 AD,” thousands of volunteer hours have been spent on creating a completely unique experience, to convey the message of Easter to new generations.
Bible stories come alive in a town from 33 AD
When the local church in Oslo and Follo take on the task of recreating life in Jerusalem in 33 AD, they really go in for it:
Hundreds of actors and extras in contemporary costumes are just part of the participants’ experience this Palm Sunday. Sheep, pigeons, and even a camel have been hired, while street musicians set the mood in open spaces and traditional Israelite food is prepared on large barbecues between the cabins in the village.
Around 20 storytellers move around; some dramatize well-known Bible stories, others tell the story through conversations with the young people they meet. Since there are almost 30 nationalities represented at the camp, they speak different languages, in order to communicate with as many people as possible.
“Our job is to tell some of the well-known stories about people from Jesus’ time, but in a way that makes it more vivid than what they may have read before,” explains Susi Almås.
She is dressed in a red robe, with a light shawl over her head, and says that she has prepared by thoroughly reading the events in the four gospels.
“I discovered interesting details I hadn’t noticed before, and in that way the stories came to life much more for me as well. For example, how Peter was overcome with fear when Jesus was no longer with them, even though he had been so brave before. Then he did what was actually completely unthinkable for him, and denied that he knew Jesus. But Jesus didn’t give up on him; He already knew what was going to happen, and still had only faith and hope for Peter.
“That is something I want to convey to the young people through this story: there is hope and faith for them too, because Jesus loves them.”
Theme night: Easter changed the world
It’s time for the big theme night. When the performance starts in the main hall, 170 actors, extras and singers from BCC Grenland are ready behind the stage. A large technical crew handles light, sound, image and direction, and there are many elements that must work.
“The idea and script for the stage show were actually written two years ago, for Easter 2020. But when the world shut down in the pandemic, everything was put on hold,” says Trine Sandersen, director for the evening together with Randi Fosse.
Since then, the Bible X video game, which was only on the drawing board in 2020, has been developed into a beta version. The young people have been able to test this out during the last two months.
“During the test period, they have experienced some of the things that happened during Jesus’ last days, by entering this biblical game universe. This means that they are well prepared for tonight’s program,” says Trine Sandersen.
She explains that the vision behind the game, the stage show and everything else is that the young people should understand the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection in 33 AD, and what enormous opportunities this created for us who are alive today.
A mighty night – where all means available are used
It is completely dark in the hall when the show starts this evening. Then the huge LED scene lights up. Movie sequences from the Bible X game and a feature film premiere convey dramatic scenes from the last days of Jesus. Actors and singers amplify the action from the stage, to music composed for the occasion.
It all makes a powerful impression. From the Passover meal with Jesus and the disciples, His desperate prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the furious crowd before Pilate, to Jesus’ last words from the cross at Calvary.
All means available are used so that the next generation will receive their own understanding of what happened this first Easter almost 2000 years ago, when Jesus overturned the Jewish Passover tradition, and the Christian era began.
These events were some of the most dramatic in world history. And perhaps most importantly: they created completely new opportunities for those who want to believe in Him. These opportunities are open to all those who accept salvation and enter into the covenant that Jesus invites us to.
Church leader Kåre J. Smith participated in the theme night, and inspired the young people to enter a life in which they serve God in truth. He spoke about how God can do a mighty work of salvation in us, when we let ourselves be cleansed in thought, word and deed.
“The whole theme night was an incredibly powerful experience. From beginning to end really, I was almost blown away by it all. I can only imagine how much time and effort has gone into the preparations. It makes me extra grateful, also for my place in the church,” says Adelle Cheetham (22).
She comes from Urbana, USA, and has traveled here with 45 young people from the American congregation.
400 families invite the young people to a Passover meal
The story that has been conveyed has made a strong impression on the participants, but the evening is not over yet. Now the Passover celebrations continue in the cabins in the village. Almost 400 families have opened their cabins, and youth groups from different countries and nationalities find their way to their hosts for the evening. This also illustrates how the Jews of Jesus’ day were accommodated with the locals when they celebrated the Passover feast in Jerusalem. All host families are dressed in contemporary costumes, and show great hospitality even with limited space in the living room.
Slow roasted Passover lamb with accessories according to an Israeli recipe feature on the menu, while the music and festivities continue in the streets. Happy young people sing as the evening darkness settles, while torches and campfire pans create a magical atmosphere between the cabins. It is an unforgettable experience, and for most, the celebration lasts beyond midnight before the young people find their way to their own apartments.
“It was fantastic to experience the atmosphere outside,” says Adelle Cheetham.
Together with friends from Urbana, she has been out in the streets, letting themselves be carried away by the atmosphere.
“This whole experience just made me think that ‘this is the church.’ Words cannot describe what it is like to be back.”
The theme evening “Jerusalem 33 AD” will be shown again in the main hall on Maundy Thursday at 6 p.m., for participants in BCC’s Easter conference. .