More than two decades ago, a Greensburg pastor asked Rick Zabrosky if he’d participate in the city’s Passion of Christ drama that had taken place for several years.
Zabrosky agreed to a small role: Barabbas, the murderer whom the crowd asked Pontius Pilate to free instead of Jesus Christ.
The next year, the pastor asked Zabrosky if he’d return to the drama — but this time playing Jesus.
In Zabrosky’s words, “You can’t say no to a minister.”
The 56-year-old Greensburg resident has portrayed Christ in the “Way of the Cross” drama ever since.
Nearly every Good Friday for more than 20 years, local church members walk through the streets of downtown Greensburg to reenact the events leading up to the Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross.
The drama returned to the city on Good Friday after a two-year hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Zabrosky, who had no prior acting experience, described it as a “humbling” experience to portray the Son of God. He believes no one is able to fill the Lord’s shoes when acting in a Passion drama.
However, the energy trading firm analyst said he does his best to show Jesus’ humility, physical exhaustion and love as he carries a cross through the city streets with actors portraying Roman guards pushing and kicking him.
“I don’t think I can ever measure up to what I need to do (during the drama),” Zabrosky said. “I try to do my very best and I try to get better at it every year. … I do actually ask (Jesus) to help with the whole situation, and He really does.”
Zabrosky has created countless memories through his involvement in the drama. His family of him has been “deeply involved” with the event for years. This was the first year when none of his sons participated as actors.
Additionally, Zabrosky said he has met “great people” — both actors and spectators — through his involvement.
One year, a mother told Zabrosky she prayed that God would show her a way to teach her children about Jesus’ death and resurrection. Later that Good Friday, the woman happened to be traveling through Greensburg with her kids when they stumbled on the scene.
“It’s so good for the community. It really is,” Zabrosky said. “Every time it’s over, someone comes over to us and says, ‘Wow, that wasn’t what I was expecting it to be.’ … It really has been a blessing.”
The drama is based on the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection, which can be found in the Bible’s New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The Greensburg reenactment hasn’t changed much over the years, with the only major difference being the actors who portray biblical figures such as Pilate, Mary, female followers of Jesus and high priests.
Sue Amatangelo — who has been involved in the event since its beginning and has played Mary, the mother of Christ, for the past eight years — described Zabrosky as “excellent” at his role.
Each time Amatangelo and Zabrosky take the stage, she said, she is filled with emotion and cries.
“It’s divine intervention,” Amatangelo said. “It’s fulfilling.”
Zabrosky’s time portraying Jesus may come to an end soon. Though he said he will portray the Lord “as long as they want him to, or as long as they need him,” the 56-year-old believes a younger person should play the role in the next few years.
Many historians believe Jesus was about 33 years old at the time of his crucifixion, meaning Zabrosky was closer to Christ’s age when he began the role over two decades ago.
“I enjoy and love doing the part,” he said. “But it’s probably time for me to hand the reins over to someone younger and keep this going for the next 20 years.”
Zabrosky believes the drama offers “hope and light” to the Greensburg community. He is grateful that the actors, local churches, Westmoreland County Courthouse and Greensburg Police Department help make the event a reality every year.
Ultimately, he hopes it helps spectators reflect on Christ’s death and resurrection during Easter weekend.
“You start to think about what Jesus went through for us; it’s amazing,” Zabrosky said. “He did n’t have to do this for us, but he He did because he He loves us.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism