PALM SUNDAY — Year A

Gospel: Matthew 26:14-27:66

NOTE: The Passion reading is divided into eight speaking roles:

I} Narrator

2} Jesus

5} Woman

6} Speaker One (disciple)

3) Judas

4} Peter

7) Speaker Two (high priest)

8} Pontius Pilate

Where possible, the roles should be distributed among eight readers. Where this is not pastorally possible, the two Speaker roles could be proclaimed by a single person.

The Passion is proclaimed without the Gospel greeting. Candles and incense are never used

The Passion of our Savior Jesus Christ according to Matthew.

NARRATOR: One of the Twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went off to the chief priests and said:

JUDAS: What are you willing to give me if I hand Jesus over to you?

NARRATOR: They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that moment he looked for an opportunity to betray Jesus.  On the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came up to Jesus and said:

SPEAKER ONE: Where do you want us to prepare the Passover for you?

JESUS: Go to this person in the city and say, “The Teacher says: ‘My appointed time draws near.  I am to celebrate the Passover in your house.’ ”

NARRATOR: The disciples then did as Jesus ordered, and prepared the Passover supper.  When it grew dark, he reclined at table with the Twelve.  And while they were eating he said:

JESUS: I give you my word; one of you is about to betray me.

NARRATOR: They were greatly distressed and started asking him in turn:

SPEAKER ONE: Surely, it is not I, Teacher?

JESUS: The one who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will hand me over.  The Chosen One is going, as scripture says, but woe to the one by whom the Chosen One is betrayed!  It would be better for that one never to have been born at all.

NARRATOR: Then Judas, the betrayer, spoke:

JUDAS: Surely it is not I, Teacher?

JESUS: You have said it yourself.

NARRATOR: During the meal Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples.

JESUS: Take this and eat it; this is my body.

NARRATOR: Then Jesus took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them.

JESUS: All of you must drink from it, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out in behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you, I will not drink this fruit of the vine from now until the day when I drink it anew with you in Abba God’s reign.

NARRATOR: Then, after singing songs of praise, they walked out to the Mount of Olives.  Jesus then said to them:

JESUS: Tonight your faith in me will be shaken, for scripture has it, “I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed.”  But after I am raised up, I will go to Galilee ahead

of you.

NARRATOR: Peter responded:

PETER: Though all may have their faith in you shaken, mine will never be shaken!

JESUS: I give you my word, before the cock crows tonight you will deny me three times.

PETER: Even thou I have to die with you, I will never disown you.

NARRATOR: And all the other disciples said the same.  Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemani.

JESUS: Stay here while I go over there and pray.

NARRATOR: Jesus took along Peter, James and John, and began to experience sorrow and distress.  Then Jesus said to them:

JESUS: My heart is nearly broken with sorrow.  Remain here and stay awake with me.

NARRATOR: Jesus advanced a little farther and fell prostrate in prayer.

JESUS: If it is possible, let this cup pass me by.  Still, let it be as you would have it, not as I.

NARRATOR: When Jesus returned to the disciples, he found them asleep.  Jesus said to Peter:

JESUS: So you could not stay awake with me for even an hour?  Be on guard, and pray that you may not undergo trial.  The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.

NARRATOR: Withdrawing a second time, Jesus began to pray:

JESUS: If this cup cannot pass me by without my drinking it, your will be done!

NARRATOR: Once more, Jesus returned and found the disciples asleep; they could not keep their eyes open.  Jesus left them again, withdrew somewhat, and began to pray a third time, saying the same words as before.  Finally Jesus returned to the disciples and said to them:

JESUS: Sleep on now.  Enjoy your rest!  The hour is on us when the Chosen One is to be handed over to the power of evil.  Get up!  Let us be on our way!  See, my betrayer is here.

NARRATOR: While 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.  Judas had arranged to give them a signal, saying:

JUDAS: The one I embrace, take hold of him.

NARRATOR: Judas immediately went over to Jesus, embraced him, and said:

JUDAS: Peace, Rabbi.

JESUS: Friend, do what you are here for!

NARRATOR: At that moment, they stepped forward to lay hands on Jesus, and arrested him.  Suddenly one of those who accompanied Jesus put his hand to the sword, drew it, and slashed at the high priest’s attendant, cutting off his ear.  Jesus said to him:

JESUS: Put back your sword where it belongs.  Those who use the sword are sooner or later destroyed by it.  Do you not suppose I can call on the One who sent me to provide at a moment’s notice more than twelve legions of angels?  But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say it must happen this way?

NARRATOR: At that very time, Jesus said to the crowd:

JESUS: Am I a brigand, that you have come armed with swords and clubs to arrest me?  From day to day I sat teaching in the Temple precincts, yet you never arrested me.  Nonetheless, all this has happened in fulfillment of the writings of the prophets.

NARRATOR: Then all the disciples deserted Jesus and fled.  Those who had apprehended Jesus led him off to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and elders convened.  Peter kept

following at a distance as far as the high priest’s residence.  Going inside, Peter sat down with the guards to see the outcome.  The chief priests, with the whole Sanhedrin, were busy trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put him to death. They discovered none, despite the many false witnesses who took the stand.  Finally two came forward who stated:

SPEAKER ONE: This one has declared, “I can destroy God’s sanctuary and rebuild it in three days.”

NARRATOR: The high priest rose and addressed Jesus:

SPEAKER TWO: Have you no answer to the testimony leveled against you?

NARRATOR: But Jesus remained silent.  The high priest then said to Jesus:

SPEAKER TWO: I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Messiah, the Chosen One of God?

JESUS: It is you who say it.  But I tell you this.  Soon you will see the Chosen One seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.

NARRATOR: At this, the high priest tore his robes:

SPEAKER TWO: He has blasphemed!  What further need have we of witnesses?  Remember, you have heard the blasphemy.  What is your verdict?

ALL: He deserves death!

NARRATOR: Then they began to spit in his face and hit him.  Others slapped Jesus, saying:

ALL: Play the prophet for us, Messiah!  Who struck you?

NARRATOR: Peter was sitting in the courtyard when one of the serving girls came over and said:

WOMAN: You too were with Jesus the Galilean.

NARRATOR: Peter denied it in front of everyone:

PETER: 1 don’t know what you are talking about!

NARRATOR: When Peter went out to the gate, another woman saw him and said to those nearby:

WOMAN: This one was with Jesus the Nazarene.

NARRATOR: Again, he denied it with an oath:

PETER: I don’t know this one!

NARRATOR: A little while later, some bystanders came over to Peter and said:

ALL: You are certainly one of them!  Even your accent gives you away!

NARRATOR: At that, Peter began cursing and swore:

PETER: I don’t even know this one!

NARRATOR: Just then a rooster began to crow, and Peter remembered the prediction Jesus had made.  “Before the rooster crows you will three times disown me.”  Peter went out and

began to weep bitterly.  At daybreak all the chief priests and the elders of the people took formal action against Jesus to

put him to death.  They bound him and led him away to be handed over to the procurator Pilate.  Then Judas, who had handed Jesus over, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, began to regret

his action deeply.  Judas took the thirty pieces of silver back to the chief priests and elders and said:

JUDAS: I did wrong to deliver up an innocent person!

ALL: What is that to us?  It is your affair!

NARRATOR: So Judas flung the money into the temple and left.  He went off and hanged himself.  The chief priests picked up the silver, observing:

ALL: It is not right to deposit this in the temple treasury since it is blood money.

NARRATOR: After consultation, they used the money to buy the potter’s field as a cemetery for foreigners.  That is why that field, even today, is called Blood Field.  On that occasion, what was said through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, “They took thirty pieces of silver, the value of a person with a price on his head, a price set by the Israelites, and they paid it out for the potter’s field just as Our God had commanded me.”  Jesus was arraigned before the procurator, Pontius Pilate, who questioned him:

PILATE: Are you the King of the Jews?

JESUS: As you say.

NARRATOR: Yet when Jesus was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no reply.  Then Pilate said to Jesus:

PILATE: Surely you hear how many charges they bring against you?

NARRATOR: Jesus did not answer Pilate on a single count, much to the procurator’s surprise.

Now, on the occasion of a festival, the procurator was accustomed to release one prisoner, whom the crowd would designate. They had at the time a notorious prisoner named Barabbas.  Since

they were already assembled, Pilate said to them:

PILATE: Which one do you wish me to release for you, Barabbas or Jesus, the so-called Messiah?

NARRATOR: Pilate knew, of course, that it was out of jealousy that they had handed Jesus over.  While Pilate was still presiding on the bench, his wife sent him a message:

WOMAN: Do not interfere in the case of that holy one.  I had a dream about him today which has greatly upset me.

NARRATOR: Meanwhile, the chief priests and elders convinced the crowds that they should ask for Barabbas and have Jesus put to death.  So when the procurator-asked them:

PILATE: Which one do you wish me to release for you?

NARRATOR: They all cried:

ALL: Barabbas!

NARRATOR: Pilate said to them:

PILATE:  Then what am I to do with Jesus, the so-called Messiah?

ALL: Crucify him!

PILATE: Why?  What crime has Jesus committed?

NARRATOR: But they only shouted the louder:

ALL: Crucify him!

NARRATOR: Pilate finally realized that he was making no impression and that a riot was breaking out instead.  Pilate called for water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, declaring as he did so:

PILATE: I am innocent of the blood of this just one.  The responsibility is yours.

NARRATOR: The whole people said in reply:

ALL: Let his blood be on us and on our children.

NARRATOR: At that, Pilate released Barabbas to them.  Jesus, however, Pilate first had scourged; then he handed him over to be crucified.  The procurator’s soldiers took Jesus inside the praetorium and collected the whole cohort around him. They stripped off his clothes and wrapped Jesus in a scarlet military cloak.  Weaving a crown out of thorns, they fixed it on his head, and stuck a reed in his right hand.  Then they began to mock Jesus by dropping to their knees, saying:

ALL: All hail, King of the Jews!

NARRATOR: They also spat at him.  Afterward, they took hold of the reed and kept striking Jesus on the head.  Finally, when they had finished making a fool of him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed Jesus in his own clothes, and led him off to crucifixion.  On their way out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon.  This man they pressed into service to carry the cross.  Upon arriving at a site called Golgotha – a name which means Skull Place – they gave Jesus a drink of wine flavored with gall, which Jesus tasted but refused to drink.  When they had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among them by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept

watch over him.  Above his head, they put the charge against him in writing, “This is Jesus, King of the Jews.”  Two insurgents were crucified along with Jesus, one at the right and one at

the left.  People going by kept insulting Jesus, tossing their heads and saying:

ALL: 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 Chosen One!

NARRATOR: The chief priests, the scribes, and the elders also joined in the jeering:

ALL: He saved others but he cannot save himself!  So he is the King of Israel!  Let’s see him come down from that cross, and then we will believe in him.  Jesus relied on God; let God rescue him now. After all, Jesus claimed, “1 am God’s Chosen One.

NARRATOR: The insurgents who had been crucified with Jesus kept taunting him in the same way.  From noon onward, there was a darkness over the whole land until mid-afternoon.  Then

toward mid-afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud tone:

JESUS: Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?

NARRATOR: That is:

JESUS: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

NARRATOR: This made some of the bystanders who heard it remark:

ALL: He is invoking Elijah!

NARRATOR: Immediately one of them ran off and got a sponge.  He soaked the sponge in cheap wine, and sticking it on a reed, tried to make Jesus drink.  Meanwhile the rest said:

ALL: Leave him alone.  Let’s see whether Elijah comes to his rescue.

NARRATOR: Once again, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, and then gave up his spirit.  Suddenly the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.  The earth quaked, boulders split, tombs opened.  Many bodies of saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After Jesus’ resurrection, they came forth from their tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.  The centurion and cohort who were keeping watch over Jesus were terror-stricken at seeing the earthquake and all that was happening, and said:

ALL: Clearly, this was the Chosen One of God!

(All kneel for a moment in prayer)

NARRATOR: A group of women were present looking on from a distance.  These were the deacons who had followed Jesus from Galilee.  Among them were Mary of Magdala, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of James and John.  When evening fell, a wealthy person arrived from Arimathea, Joseph by name.  He was another of Jesus’ disciples, and had gone to request the body of Jesus.  Thereupon, Pilate issued an order for its release.

(NARRATOR): Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in fresh linen and laid it in his own tomb which had been hewn from a formation of rock.  Then Joseph rolled a huge stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away.  But Mary of Magdala and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.  The next day, the one following the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees called at Pilate’s residence.

SPEAKER TWO:  We have recalled that the imposter while he was still alive made the claim, “After three days I will rise.”  You should issue an order having the tomb kept under surveillance until the third day.  Otherwise, Jesus’ disciples may go and steal the body and tell the people, “Jesus has been raised from the dead!”  This final imposture would be worse than the first.

PILATE: You have a guard.  Go and secure the tomb as best you can.

NARRATOR: So they went and kept it under surveillance of the guard, after fixing a seal to the stone.

(NOTE: No acclamation concludes the Passion reading.)