Good Friday Reading of Matthew’s Passion
Scripted for Many Voices
Take and use this script, or parts of in, in any way that is useful to you in planning this service. Intersperse music at different points, create times of silence, or add a slide show to accompany the reading.
This worship script is designed to be delivered by three readers, but you may want to incorporate more folks, depending on who shows up on screen. 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, everyone reads.
The translation of scripture used below is from The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation, translated by Priests for Equality, Copyright © 2009 Quixote Center. Reprinted by permission of the Quixote Center.
Betrayal and Arrest
Narrator (Reader 3) 47While Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived—accompanied by a great crowd with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. 48Judas had arranged to give them a signal. “Whomever I embrace is the one,” he had said; “take hold of him.” 49He immediately went over to Jesus and said, “Shalom, Rabbi!” and embraced him. 50Jesus said to Judas,
Jesus (Reader 1) “Friend, just do what you’re here to do!”
Narrator (Reader 2) At that moment, the crowd surrounded them, laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. 51Suddenly, one of those who accompanied Jesus drew a sword and slashed at the high priest’s attendant, cutting off an ear. 52 Jesus said,
Jesus (Reader 3) “Put your sword back where it belongs. Those who live by the sword die by the sword. 53Don’t you think I can call on my Abba God to provide over twelve legions of angels at a moment’s notice? 54But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen this way?” Am I a robber, that you have come armed with swords and clubs to arrest me? Every day I sat teaching in the Temple precincts, yet you never arrested me.”
Narrator (Reader 1) 56All this happened in fulfillment of the writings of the prophets. Then all the disciples deserted Jesus and fled.
Jesus before Caiaphas
Narrator (Reader 2) 57Those who had seized Jesus led him off to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the religious scholars and elders had convened. 58 Peter followed at a distance as far as the high priest’s residence. Going inside, Peter sat down with the guards to await the outcome. 59The chief priests, with the whole Sanhedrin, were busy trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put him to death. 60 They discovered none, despite the many false witnesses who took the stand.
Narrator (Reader 3) Finally two came forward 61who stated, “This man has declared, ‘I can destroy God’s sanctuary and rebuild it in three days.” 62The high priest rose and addressed Jesus, “Have you no answer? What about this testimony leveled against you?” 63But Jesus remained silent. The high priest then said to him, “I order you to tell us under oath, before the living God, whether or not you are the Messiah, the Firstborn of God?” Jesus replied,
Jesus (Reader 1) 64“You have said it yourself. But I tell you: soon you will see the Chosen One seated at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Narrator (Reader 2) 65At this, the high priest tore his robes and said, “Blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? You yourselves have heard the blasphemy. 66What is your verdict?” They responded, “He deserves death!” 67Then they spat at his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped Jesus, 68saying, “Play the prophet for us, Messiah! Who struck you?”
Peter Denies Jesus
Narrator (Reader 3) 69While this was happening, Peter was sitting in the courtyard. One of the attendants came over and said, “You were with Jesus the Galilean too, weren’t you?” 70But Peter denied it in front of everyone. He said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” 71When Peter went out to the gate, another attendant saw him and said to those nearby, “This one was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72Again he cursed and denied it: “I don’t know him!”
Narrator (Reader 1) 73A little while later, some bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You certainly are one of them! Even your accent gives you away!” 74At that, Peter began cursing and swore, “I don’t know the man!” Just then a rooster began to crow, 75and Peter remembered the prediction Jesus had made: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” Peter went out and cried bitterly.
Jesus Sent to Pilate; Judas Despairs
Narrator (Reader 2) 27: 1At daybreak, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took formal action against Jesus to put him to death. 2 They bound him and led him away to be handed over to Pilate, the governor.
Narrator (Reader 3) 3When he saw that Jesus had been condemned, Judas, who had betrayed Jesus, felt remorse. He took the thirty pieces of silver back to the chief priests and elders, 4and said, “I have sinned! I have betrayed innocent blood!” “What’s that to us?” they answered. “That’s your affair!” 5So Judas flung the money into the sanctuary and left. Then he went off and hanged himself. 6The chief priests picked up the silver, observing, “ It’s against the Law to deposit this in the Temple treasury, since it is blood money.” 7After some discussion, they used the money to buy Potter’s Field as a cemetery for foreigners. 8 That is why that field, even today, is called Blood Field. …
Narrator (Reader 1) 11 Then Jesus was arraigned before Pontius Pilate, the governor, who questioned him. “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied,
Jesus (Reader 2) “You say that I am.”
Narrator (Reader 3) 12Yet when Jesus was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no reply. 13Pilate said to Jesus, “Surely you hear how many charges they bring against you?” 14But Jesus did not answer Pilate on a single count, much to the governor’s surprise.
Narrator (Reader 1) 15Now, on the occasion of a festival, the governor was accustomed to release one prisoner, whomever the crowd would designate.
16At the time they were holding a notorious prisoner named Barabbas. 17So when the crowd gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you wish me to release for you? Barabbas? Or Jesus, the so-called Messiah?” 18Pilate knew, of course, that it was out of jealousy that they had handed Jesus over. 19While Pilate was still presiding on the bench, his wife sent him a message:
Pilate’s Wife (Reader 2) “Have nothing to do with that innocent man. I had a dream about him last night which has been troubling me all day long.”
Narrator (Reader 3) 20But the chief priests and elders convinced the crowds that they should ask for Barabbas, and have Jesus put to death. 21 So when the governor asked them, “Which one do you wish me to release for you?” they all cried,
Pilate (Reader 3) 22Pilate said to them, “Then what am I to do with Jesus, the so-called Messiah?”
Crowd “Crucify him!”
Pilate (Reader 1) 23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” Pilate asked. But they only shouted louder,
Crowd “Crucify him!”
Narrator (Reader 2) 24Pilate finally realized that he was getting nowhere with this—in fact, a riot was breaking out. Pilate called for water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, declaring as he did so, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours.”
26At that, Pilate released Barabbas to them.
Jesus Humiliated, and taken to the Place of Crucifixion
Narrator (Reader 3) Pilate had Jesus whipped with a cat-o’-nine-tails, then handed him over to be crucified.
27 The governor’s soldiers took Jesus inside the Praetorium and assembled the whole cohort around him. 28They stripped off his clothes and wrapped him in a scarlet military cloak. 29 Weaving a crown out of thorns, they pressed it onto his head and stuck a reed in his right hand. Then they began to mock Jesus by dropping to their knees, saying, “All hail, King of the Jews!” 30 They also spat at him. Afterward they took hold of the reed and struck Jesus on the head.
Narrator (Reader 1) 1Finally, when they had finished mocking him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes and led him off to crucifixion. 32On their way out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon, whom they pressed into service to carry the cross. 33 Upon arriving at a site called Golgotha—which means Skull Place— 34they gave Jesus a drink of wine mixed with a narcotic herb, which Jesus tasted but refused to drink. 35Once they had nailed Jesus to the cross, they divided his clothes among them by rolling dice;
36 then they sat down and kept watch over him. 37Above his head, they put the charge against him in writing: “This is Jesus, King of the Jews.”
Narrator (Reader 2) 38Two robbers were crucified along with Jesus, one at his right and one at his left. 39People going by insulted Jesus, shaking their heads 40and saying,
Crowd “So you are the one who was going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days! Save yourself, why don’t you? Come down off that cross if you are God’s Own!”
41The religious authorities also joined in the jeering:
Crowd 42“He saved others but he cannot save himself!
So he’s the King of Israel!
Let’s see him come down from that cross, and then we will believe in him.
43 He trusts in God; let God rescue him now!
after all, he claimed to be God’s Own!”
44The robbers who had been crucified with Jesus jeered at him in the same way.
Narrator (Reader 3) 45At noon, a darkness fell over the whole land until about three in the afternoon. 46At that hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice,
Jesus (Reader 1) “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Narrator (Reader 2) 47This made some of the bystanders who heard it remark, “He is calling for Elijah!” 48One of them hurried off and got a sponge. He soaked the sponge in cheap wine and, sticking it on a reed, tried to make Jesus drink. 49 The others said, “Leave him alone. Let’s see whether Elijah comes to his rescue.”
Narrator (Reader 3) 50 Once again, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, then he gave up his spirit.
Congregations hearing the Passion read traditionally pause here
in silent prayer
Hymn What Wondrous Love is This? Verse 1 TNCH 223
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that Christ should come in bliss
to bear the heavy cross for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the heavy cross, for my soul!
Song in the public domain; may be used without further permission.
Narrator (Reader 1) 51Suddenly, the curtain in front of the Holy of Holies was ripped in half from top to bottom. The earth quaked, boulders were split 52 and tombs were opened. Many bodies of holy ones who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 After Jesus’ resurrection, they came out of their tombs and entered the holy city, and appeared to many.
Narrator (Reader 2) 54 The centurion and his cohort, who were standing guard over Jesus’ body, were terror-stricken at seeing the earthquake and all that was happening, and said, “Clearly, this was God’s own!”
Narrator (Reader 3) 55A group of women were present, looking on from a distance. These were the same women who had followed Jesus from Galilee as ministers to him. 56 Among them were Mary of Magdala; Mary, the mother of James and Joseph; and the mother of Zebedee’s children.
Narrator (Reader 1) 57When evening fell, a wealthy man from Arimathea named Joseph, who had become a disciple of Jesus, 58came to request the body of Jesus; Pilate issued an order for its release. 59Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in fresh linen 60and laid it in his own tomb, which had been hewn out of rock. Then Joseph rolled a huge stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away.
61But Mary of Magdala and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.
Invite people to enter the sabbath, the time of holy waiting, trusting Jesus, and all of our lives, to God.
Matthew Passion Narrative for Good Friday, Year A, adapted as a community reading by Susan Blain