Lent -- Easter
Palm/Passion Sunday Service
From Palms to Passion:
The Story of Jesus’ Last Days in Jerusalem
The story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and then of
his passion — betrayal, arrest, torture and interrogation, and crucifixion as a
criminal — form an essential part of the Christian story. Each of the gospel
writers told that story with particular aims and individual messages. Yet for
many worshipers, it is rare to hear the story in its entirety. This document is
a script that presents the entire narrative.
worship script is designed to be delivered by three readers. Rather than
assigning parts the three read lines in succession (with some alterations for
dramatic effect). Each reader thus plays many roles, and the voices of narrator,
Jesus, Peter, and so on, are shared. When any group speaks, whether a crowd of
onlookers or the disciples, the congregation reads. Verses of hymns punctuate
the story, providing a change of pace and delivering the message in a different
of scripture used below is from The
Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian
Translation, translated by Priests
for Equality, Copyright © 2009 Sheed and Ward. reprinted by permission of the
Congregations may wish to use the script in
three ways. In the first, you may print the entire script in the bulletin,
which sometimes has the disadvantages of
requiring much paper and leading people to read more than listen — but could
also raise the level of attention to the story. In the second, you may print only
the congregational responses, with “lead-in” phrases, and the speaker could cue
worshipers to speak their lines together. In the third, you may project the
congregational responses, as well as hymn verses, on a large screen.
Words of Welcome
Call to Worship
Lent began in the wilderness; it
concludes in Jerusalem.
now come near to the end of one story. Another will soon begin.
have followed Jesus this far;
we remember how he faced betrayal, falseness, rejection, and torment.
And we witness, once
more, that he taught and walked in love
through every step of the journey.
The Entry Into
Narrator (Reader 1): Having
said this, Jesus went ahead with the ascent to Jerusalem. Approaching
Bethphage and Bethany, near what is called the Mount of
Olives, Jesus sent two of the disciples with these instructions:
(Reader 2): “Go into the village ahead of you. Upon
entering it, you’ll find a tethered colt that no one has yet ridden. Untie it
and lead it back. If anyone should ask you, ‘Why are you
untying it?” say, ‘The Rabbi needs it.’”
(Reader 3): They departed on their errand and found
things just as Jesus had said. As they untied the colt, its
owners said to them, “Why are you doing that?”
(Reader 1): They explained that the Rabbi needed it. Then
the disciples led the animal to Jesus and, laying their cloaks on it, helped
(Reader 2): People spread their cloaks on the roadway
as Jesus rode along. As they reached the descent from the Mount of Olives, the entire crowd of disciples joined
them and began to rejoice and praise God loudly for the display of power they
had seen, saying,
Crowd (Children): “Blessed is the One who
comes in the name of Our God! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest!”
(Reader 3): Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said
Pharisees (Adults): “Teacher, rebuke
(Reader 1): Jesus replied,
(Reader 2): “I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the very stones
would cry out!”
Procession of Palms
Children and others in the congregation
may parade around the sanctuary singing and waving palms.
Hymn Pave the Way with Branches Sing!
Prayer and Praise 132
1. Jesus is coming. Pave the way with branches. Jesus
is coming. Hosanna!
Chorus: Hosanna. Jesus is coming, Hosanna to the
Prince of Peace.
Hosanna. Jesus is coming, Hosanna to
the Prince of Peace.
2. Hope for the downtrod. Pave the
way with branches. Hope for the downtrod. Hosanna!
3. Land for the landless. Pave the way with branches. Land for the landless.
4. Debts are forgiven. Pave the way with branches. Debts are forgiven. Hosanna!
5. Release for the captives. Pave the way with branches. Release for the
6. The suffering servant. Pave the way with branches. The suffering servant.
Words and music Bret Hesla © 1999. All rights reserved. Permission given to congregations for one
Prayers of the People
The Lord’s Prayer
Call for the Offering
Choral Affirmation All Glory, Laud and Honor verse 3 TNCH 216
you received their praises, receive our prayers
justice and whose mercy and sovereignty hold sway.
glory laud and honor to you O chrsit we sing,
whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring!
cast these gifts before you, O God,
as palms were cast before Jesus long ago.
lay them on your altar in praise, thanksgiving, and joy.
them back from our hands,
they may become a greater blessing in your hands.
Jesus’ name, Amen.
The Passion According to St. Luke
(Reader 3): Now the Feast of the Unleavened Bread,
also known as Passover, drew near, and the chief priests and
the religious scholars sought a way to kill Jesus, for they feared the people.
(Reader 1): Then Satan took possession of Judas, who
was called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. He went to the chief
priests and the Temple
guards to discuss with them how he might betray Jesus. They
were delighted and agreed to give him money. Judas accepted,
then began to look for the opportune moment to hand Jesus over to them—when
people were not present.
(Reader 2): When the day of the Feast of the
Unleavened Bread arrived, when the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed, Jesus
sent Peter and John out with the instructions,
(Reader 3): “Go and make the preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
(Reader 1): The disciples asked,
“Where do you want us to prepare the seder?”
(Reader 2): Jesus answered,
(Reader 3): “When you enter the city, a man will meet you carrying a jar
of water. Follow him into the house he enters. Say to the
owner of the house, ‘The Rabbi asks, “Where is the guest room where I can eat
the Passover seder with my disciples?” The owner will show
you a large furnished upper room. Make the preparations there.”
(Reader 1): They went out and found everything as
Jesus had told them. And they prepared the Passover.
(Reader 2): When the hour had come, Jesus took a
place at the table with the apostles. Jesus said to them,
(Reader 3): “I’ve longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
I tell you, I will not eat it again until everything is fulfilled in the
reign of God.”
(Reader 1): Then taking a cup of wine, Jesus gave
thanks and said,
(Reader 2): “Take this and share it among you. I tell
you, I will not drink wine from now on, until the reign of God comes.”
(Reader 3): Then Jesus took bread and gave thanks for
it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying,
(Reader 1): “This is my body, which will be given for you. Do this in
remembrance of me.”
(Reader 2): Jesus did the same with the cup after
supper and said,
(Reader 3): “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, which will be
poured out for you.
“Look! The hand of my betrayer is at this table with me. The
Chosen One is following the appointed course.
But woe to the person by whom that One is betrayed!”
(Reader 1): Then they began to argue among themselves
as to which of them would do such a deed.
(Reader 2): Another dispute arose among them about
who would be regarded as the greatest. But Jesus said to
(Reader 3): “Earthly rulers domineer over their people. Those who
exercise authority over them are called their ‘benefactors.’ This
must not happen with you. Let the greatest among you be like the youngest. Let
the leader among you become the follower. For who is the
greater? The one who reclines at a meal, or the one who serves it? Isn’t it the
one reclining at table? Yet here I am among you as the one who serves you.
are the ones who have stood by me faithfully in trials. Just
as God has given me dominion, so I give it to you. In my
reign, you will eat and drink at my table, and you’ll sit on thrones judging
the twelve tribes of Israel.
Simon! Satan has demanded that you be sifted like wheat. But
I’ve prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. You, in turn, must give
strength to your sisters and brothers.”
(Reader 1): Peter answered,
(Reader 2): “Rabbi, with you I’m prepared to face
imprisonment and even death!”
(Reader 3): Jesus said to them,
(Reader 1): “When I sent you off without purse, traveling bag or
sandals, were you in need of anything?”
“No, nothing!” they replied.
(Reader 2): Jesus said,
(Reader 3): “Now, however, the one who has a purse had better carry it;
the same with a travelling bag. And if they don’t have a sword, they should
sell their cloaks and buy one! For I tell you, what was
written in scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘The suffering servant was
counted among criminals’—for whatever refers to me must be fulfilled.”
(Reader 1): And they said,
“Look, Rabbi, here are two swords!”
(Reader 2): Jesus answered,
(Reader 3): “That is enough.”
(Reader 1): Then Jesus went out and made his way as
usual to the Mount of Olives; the disciples
Hymn Journey to Gethsemane,
verse 1 TNCH
Journey to Gethsemane,
Go and feel the
Watch the anguish of this hour;
Do not hide or
Learn from Jesus how to pray.
(Reader 2): When they reached the place, Jesus said
(Reader 3): “Pray that you not be put to the test.”
(Reader 1): Then Jesus withdrew about a stone’s throw
from them, knelt down and prayed,
(Reader 2): “Abba, if it’s your will, take this cup
from me; yet not my will but yours be done.”
(Reader 3): When Jesus rose from prayer, he came to
the disciples and found them sleeping, exhausted with grief. He
said to them,
(Reader 1): “Why do you sleep? Wake up, and pray that you not be subjected
to the trial.
(Reader 2): While Jesus was still speaking, a crowd
suddenly appeared with Judas, one of the Twelve, at their head. Judas came over
to Jesus to embrace him, but Jesus said,
(Reader 3): “Judas, are you betraying the Chosen One with a kiss?”
(Reader 1): Those who were around Jesus, realizing
what was going to happen, said,
“Rabbi, should we strike them with our swords?”
(Reader 2): One of them struck the attendant of the
high priest cutting off an ear. Jesus said,
(Reader 3): “Stop! No more of this!” Then Jesus touched the attendant’s
ear and healed it.
(Reader 1): But to those who had come out against
him—the chief priests, the chiefs of the Temple Guard and the elders—Jesus
(Reader 2): “Why do you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a
robber? I was with you in the Temple every day, and you could have laid
hands on me any time you wanted. But this is your hour—the triumph of darkness!”
(Reader 3): They arrested Jesus and led him away,
arriving at the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance and
sat down in the midst of those who had kindled a fire in the courtyard and were
sitting around it. One of the high priest’s attendants saw
him sitting there at the fire, and she stared at him and said,
(Reader 1): “This one was with Jesus, too.”
(Reader 2): But Peter denied it and said,
(Reader 3): “I don’t know him!”
(Reader 2): A little later, someone else noticed
Peter and remarked,
(Reader 1): “You’re one of them too!”
(Reader 2): But Peter said,
(Reader 3): “No, I’m not.”
(Reader 2): About an hour later, someone else insisted,
(Reader 1): “Surely this fellow was with them, too. He even talks like a
(Reader 3): “I don’t even know what you are talking
(Reader 1): … Peter said. Just then, as Peter was still speaking, a rooster
crowed. Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered
Jesus saying, “Before a rooster crows today, you’ll deny me three times.” Peter
went out and wept bitterly.
(Reader 2): Meanwhile, those who held Jesus in
custody were amusing themselves at his expense. They
blindfolded and slapped him, and then taunted him.
Soldiers (Congregation): “Play the prophet! Which one struck
(Reader 3): And they hurled many other insults at
him. At daybreak the Sarthedrin—which was made up of the
elders of the people, the chief priests and the religious scholars—assembled
again. Once they had brought Jesus before the council, they
Interrogators (Congregation): “Tell us, are you the Messiah?”
(Reader 1): Jesus replied,
(Reader 2): “If I tell you, you’ll not believe me. And
if I question you, you won’t answer! But from now on, the
Chosen One will have a seat at the right hand of the Power of God.”
(Reader 3): Then all of them said,
(Congregation): “So you are God’s Own?”
(Reader 1): Jesus answered,
(Reader 2): “Your own words have said it!”
(Reader 3): They said,
Interrogators (Congregation): “What need
do we have of witnesses? We have heard it from his own mouth!”
(Reader 1): Then the whole assembly arose and led
Jesus to Pilate. They began to accuse Jesus by saying,
Crowd (Congregation): “We found this one subverting our
nation, opposing the payment of taxes to Caesar and even claiming to be
Messiah, a king.”
(Reader 2): Then Pilate questioned Jesus:
(Reader 3): “Are you the King of the Jews?”
(Reader 1): Jesus answered,
(Reader 2): “You have said it.”
(Reader 3): Then Pilate reported to the chief priests
and the crowds:
(Reader 1): “I find no guilt in him!”
Narrator (Reader 2): But they insisted,
Crowd (Congregation): “He stirs up the people wherever he
teaches, through the whole of Judea, from Galilee to Jerusalem.”
(Reader 3): On hearing this, Pilate asked whether
Jesus was a Galilean, and learning that Jesus was from
Herod’s jurisdiction, sent Jesus off to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at this time.
(Reader 1): Now, at the sight of Jesus, Herod was very
pleased. From the reports he had heard about Jesus, he had wanted for a long
time to see him. Herod hoped to see Jesus perform some miracle.
(Reader 2): Herod questioned him at great length, but
Jesus wouldn’t answer. The chief priests and religious
scholars stood there, accusing Jesus vehemently. So Herod
and the soldiers treated Jesus with contempt and ridicule, put a magnificent
robe upon him and sent him back to Pilate. Herod and Pilate,
who had previously been set against each other, became friends that day.
(Reader 3): Pilate then called together the chief
priests, the ruling class and the people, and said to them,
(Reader 1): “You have brought this person before me as
someone who incites people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence
and have found no basis for any charge against him arising from your
allegations. Neither has Herod, for Jesus has been sent back
to us. Obviously, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore,
I will punish Jesus, but then I will release him.”
(Reader 2): Pilate was obligated to release one
prisoner to the people at festival time. The whole crowd
cried out as one,
Crowd (Congregation): “Take him away! We want Barabbas!”
(Reader 3): Barabbas had been imprisoned for starting
a riot in the city, and for murder. Pilate wanted to release
Jesus, so he addressed them again. But they shouted back,
Crowd (Congregation): “Crucify him, crucify him!”
(Reader 1): Yet a third time, Pilate spoke to the
(Reader 2): “What wrong has this Jesus done? I’ve found nothing that
calls for death! Therefore, I’ll have him flogged, and then I’ll release him.”
(Reader 3): But they demanded that Jesus be
crucified, and their shouts increased in volume. Pilate
decided that their demands should be met. So he released
Barabbas, the one who had been imprisoned for rioting and murder, and Jesus was
handed over to the crowd.
Hymn Journey to Gethsemane,
verse 2 TNCH 219
Follow then to Pilate’s hall,
View the Lord of
thorns and mocked by all,
Greater still than
shame, or loss;
Jesus now must
face the cross.
(Reader 1): As they led Jesus away, they seized
Simon—a Cyrenean who was just coming in from the fields—and forced him to carry
the cross behind Jesus. A large crowd was following, many of
them women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. At
one point, Jesus turned to these women and said,
(Reader 2): “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me! Weep rather for
yourselves and for your children! The time is coming when it
will be said, ‘Blessed are the childless, the wombs that have never given birth
and the breasts that have never nursed.’ Then people will
say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us up!’ For
if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is
(Reader 3): Two others were also led off with Jesus,
criminals who were to be put to death. When they had reached
the place called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there—together with the criminals,
one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said,
(Reader 1): “Abba forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.”
(Reader 2): Then they divided his garments, rolling dice for them. The
people stood there watching. The rulers, however, jeered him and said,
Leaders (Congregation): “He saved others, let him save
himself—if he really is the Messiah of God, the Chosen
(Reader 3): 3The soldiers also mocked him. They served
Jesus sour wine and said,
(Readers 1 & 2): “If you are really the King of the Jews, save
(Reader 3): There was an inscription above Jesus that
read, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals
who hung there beside him insulted Jesus, too, saying,
Criminal (Reader 1): “Are you really the Messiah? Then save yourself—and
(Reader 2): But the other answered the first with a
Criminal (Reader 3): “Don’t you even fear God? We are
only paying the price for what we have done, but this one has done nothing
(Reader 1): Then he said,
Criminal (Reader 3): “Jesus, remember me when you come into your glory.”
(Reader 1): Jesus replied,
(Reader 2): “The truth is, today you’ll be with me in paradise!”
(Reader 3): It was about noon, and darkness fell on
the whole land until three in the afternoon, because of an
eclipse of the sun. Then the curtain in the sanctuary was torn in two, and
Jesus uttered a loud cry and said,
(Reader 1): “Abba, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
(Reader 2): Saying this, Jesus breathed for the last time.
Hymn Journey to Gethsemane,
verse 3 TNCH 219
See the Savior
Mark that miracle
God’s own Child is
“It is finished!”
learn from Jesus
how to die.
(Reader 3): The centurion who saw this glorified God,
(Reader 1): “Surely this one was innocent.”
(Reader 2): When the crowds that had gathered for the
spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts and
weeping. All the acquaintances of Jesus and the women who
had come with him from Galilee stood at a
distance, looking on.
Hymn Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed, verse 1 TNCH 200
Alas and did my Savior
And did my sov’reign
Would God devote
that sacred head
For sinners such
Was it for crimes that I
upon the tree?
And love beyond
(Reader 3): There was a member of the Sanhedrin named
Joseph, who had not consented to their action, Joseph was
from Arimathea and lived in anticipation of the reign of God. He
approached Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Joseph
took the body down, wrapped it in fine linen and laid it in a tomb cut out of
rock, where no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation
Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
(Reader 1): The women who accompanied Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph, saw the tomb and watched as the
body was placed in it. Then they went home to prepare the
spices and ointments. But they rested on the Sabbath, according to the Law.
The congregation reflects
From Palms to Passion: The Story of
Jesus’ Last Days in Jerusalem for Palm/Passion Sunday (Year C) was written by John A. Nelson,
Pastor and Teacher of Niantic Community Church, Niantic, Connecticut.
2010 Local Church Ministries, Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry
Team, United Church of Christ,
Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH
44115-1100. Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this
material for use in services of worship or church education. All publishing rights reserved.
Scripture text is
reprinted by permission of the publishers from The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation, Trans.
Priests for Equality, Copyright © 2009 Sheed and Ward.
Pave the Way with Justice copyright © 1999 Bret Hesla is
reprinted with permission. Permission is granted congregations for one time
use. Music for this song is included in
a separate file.
for Journey to Gethsemane copyright
© 1995 Pilgrim Press and Alas, and Did
my Savior Bleed copyright © 1995
Pilgrim Press are used with permission.