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.

The 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 mode.

The translation 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 publishers.

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

One:          Lent began in the wilderness; it concludes in Jerusalem.

All:            We now come near to the end of one story. Another will soon begin.

We have followed Jesus this far;

today 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 Jerusalem
(Luke 19:28-40)

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:

Jesus (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.’”

Narrator (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?”

Narrator (Reader 1): They explained that the Rabbi needed it.  Then the disciples led the animal to Jesus and, laying their cloaks on it, helped him mount.

Narrator (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!”

Narrator (Reader 3): Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus,

Pharisees (Adults): “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

Narrator (Reader 1): Jesus replied,

Jesus (Reader 2): “I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the very stones would cry out!”


The 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. Hosanna!
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 captives. Hosanna!
6. The suffering servant. Pave the way with branches. The suffering servant. Hosanna!

          Words and music Bret Hesla  © 1999. All rights reserved.  Permission given to congregations for one time use.


Prayers of the People

Pastoral Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer


Call for the Offering


Choral Affirmation       All Glory, Laud and Honor verse 3                                       TNCH 216                                                            


      As you received their praises, receive our prayers today,

      Whose justice and whose mercy and sovereignty hold sway.

      All glory laud and honor to you O chrsit we sing,

      To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring!


Offertory Prayer unison

      We cast these gifts before you, O God,

      as palms were cast before Jesus long ago.

      We lay them on your altar in praise, thanksgiving, and joy.

      Receive them back from our hands,

      that they may become a greater blessing in your hands.

      In Jesus’ name, Amen.


The Passion According to St. Luke
(Luke 22:14-23:56)

Narrator (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.

Narrator (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.

Narrator (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,

Jesus (Reader 3): “Go and make the preparations for us to eat the Passover.”

Narrator (Reader 1):  The disciples asked,

Disciples (Congregation): “Where do you want us to prepare the seder?”

Narrator (Reader 2):  Jesus answered,

Jesus (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.”

Narrator (Reader 1):  They went out and found everything as Jesus had told them. And they prepared the Passover.

Narrator (Reader 2):  When the hour had come, Jesus took a place at the table with the apostles.  Jesus said to them,

Jesus (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.”

Narrator (Reader 1):  Then taking a cup of wine, Jesus gave thanks and said,

Jesus (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.”

Narrator (Reader 3):  Then Jesus took bread and gave thanks for it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying,

Jesus (Reader 1): “This is my body, which will be given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Narrator (Reader 2):  Jesus did the same with the cup after supper and said,

Jesus (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!”

Narrator (Reader 1):  Then they began to argue among themselves as to which of them would do such a deed.

Narrator (Reader 2):  Another dispute arose among them about who would be regarded as the greatest.  But Jesus said to them,

Jesus (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.
“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, 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.”

Narrator (Reader 1): Peter answered,

Peter (Reader 2):  “Rabbi, with you I’m prepared to face imprisonment and even death!”

Narrator (Reader 3):  Jesus said to them,

Jesus (Reader 1): “When I sent you off without purse, traveling bag or sandals, were you in need of anything?”

Disciples (Congregation): “No, nothing!” they replied.

Narrator (Reader 2):  Jesus said,

Jesus (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.”

Narrator (Reader 1):  And they said,

Disciples (Congregation): “Look, Rabbi, here are two swords!”

Narrator (Reader 2): Jesus answered,

Jesus (Reader 3): “That is enough.”

Narrator (Reader 1):  Then Jesus went out and made his way as usual to the Mount of Olives; the disciples accompanied him.


Hymn                   Journey to Gethsemane, verse 1                                                      TNCH  219

                        Journey to Gethsemane,
                        Go and feel the tempter’s power;
                        Your Redeemer’s conflict see;
                        Watch  the anguish of this hour;
                        Do not hide or turn away;
                        Learn  from Jesus how to pray.

 Narrator (Reader 2):  When they reached the place, Jesus said to them,

Jesus (Reader 3): “Pray that you not be put to the test.”

Narrator (Reader 1):  Then Jesus withdrew about a stone’s throw from them, knelt down and prayed,

Jesus (Reader 2):  “Abba, if it’s your will, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.”

Narrator (Reader 3):  When Jesus rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping, exhausted with grief.  He said to them,

Jesus (Reader 1): “Why do you sleep? Wake up, and pray that you not be subjected to the trial.

Narrator (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,

Jesus (Reader 3): “Judas, are you betraying the Chosen One with a kiss?”

Narrator (Reader 1):  Those who were around Jesus, realizing what was going to happen, said,

Disciples (Congregation): “Rabbi, should we strike them with our swords?”

Narrator (Reader 2):  One of them struck the attendant of the high priest cutting off an ear.  Jesus said,

Jesus (Reader 3): “Stop! No more of this!” Then Jesus touched the attendant’s ear and healed it.

Narrator (Reader 1): But to those who had come out against him—the chief priests, the chiefs of the Temple Guard and the elders—Jesus said,

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!”

Narrator (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,

Attendant (Reader 1): “This one was with Jesus, too.”

Narrator (Reader 2):  But Peter denied it and said,

Peter (Reader 3): “I don’t know him!”

Narrator (Reader 2):  A little later, someone else noticed Peter and remarked,

Bystander (Reader 1): “You’re one of them too!”

Narrator (Reader 2): But Peter said,

Peter (Reader 3): “No, I’m not.”

Narrator (Reader 2):  About an hour later, someone else insisted,

Bystander (Reader 1): “Surely this fellow was with them, too. He even talks like a Galilean.”

Peter (Reader 3):  “I don’t even know what you are talking about!”

Narrator (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.

Narrator (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 you?”

Narrator (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 said,

Interrogators (Congregation): “Tell us, are you the Messiah?”

Narrator (Reader 1): Jesus replied,

Jesus (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.”

Narrator (Reader 3):  Then all of them said,

Interrogators (Congregation): “So you are God’s Own?”

Narrator (Reader 1): Jesus answered,

Jesus (Reader 2): “Your own words have said it!”

Narrator (Reader 3): They said,

Interrogators (Congregation):  “What need do we have of witnesses? We have heard it from his own mouth!”

Narrator (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.”

Narrator (Reader 2):  Then Pilate questioned Jesus:

Pilate (Reader 3): “Are you the King of the Jews?”

Narrator (Reader 1): Jesus answered,

Jesus (Reader 2): “You have said it.”

Narrator (Reader 3):  Then Pilate reported to the chief priests and the crowds:

Pilate (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.”

Narrator (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.

Narrator (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.

Narrator (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.

Narrator (Reader 3):  Pilate then called together the chief priests, the ruling class and the people,  and said to them,

Pilate (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.”

Narrator (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!”

Narrator (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!”

Narrator (Reader 1):  Yet a third time, Pilate spoke to the crowd,

Pilate (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.”

Narrator (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 life arraigned;
                        Crowned with thorns and mocked by all,
                        Faithfully this pain sustained.
                        Greater still than shame, or loss;
                        Jesus now must face the cross.

 Narrator (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,

Jesus (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 dry?”

Narrator (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,

Jesus (Reader 1): “Abba forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.”

Narrator (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 One!”

Narrator (Reader 3): 3The soldiers also mocked him. They served Jesus sour wine  and said,

Soldiers (Readers 1 & 2): “If you are really the King of the Jews, save yourself!”

Narrator (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,

First Criminal (Reader 1): “Are you really the Messiah? Then save yourself—and us!”

Narrator (Reader 2):  But the other answered the first with a rebuke:

Second 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 wrong!”

Narrator (Reader 1):  Then he said,

Second Criminal (Reader 3): “Jesus, remember me when you come into your glory.”

Narrator (Reader 1):  Jesus replied,

Jesus (Reader 2): “The truth is, today you’ll be with me in paradise!”

Narrator (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,

Jesus (Reader 1): “Abba, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Narrator (Reader 2): Saying this, Jesus breathed for the last time.


Hymn                   Journey to Gethsemane, verse 3                                                      TNCH  219

                        Calv’ry’s mournful mountain climb;
                        See the Savior lifted high.
                        Mark that miracle of time,
                        God’s own Child is sacrificed;
                        “It is finished!” Jesus cries;
                        learn from Jesus how to die.

 Narrator (Reader 3):  The centurion who saw this glorified God, saying,

Centurion (Reader 1): “Surely this one was innocent.”

Narrator (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 bleed
                        And did my sov’reign die?
                        Would God devote that sacred head
                        For sinners such as I?

                        Was it for crimes that I had done
                        Christ groaned upon the tree?
                        Amazing pity! grace unknown!
                        And love beyond degree!


Narrator (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.

Narrator (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 in silence.


Closing Music                                     




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.

Copyright 2010 Local Church Ministries, Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 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.

Adapted words for Journey to Gethsemane copyright © 1995 Pilgrim Press and Alas, and Did my Savior Bleed copyright © 1995 Pilgrim Press are used with permission.


Rev. Susan A. Blain
Minister for Worship, Liturgy and Spiritual Formation
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, Ohio 44115