Passion Sunday – a Reader’s Theater for Worship


The Lord be with you!
And also with you.
Let us lift up our hearts!
We lift them up to the Lord!
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise!

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth. In your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility. Mercifully grant that today and every day we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

Sing Hymn #269 Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days

During this hymn – all readers move to their seats.

The Procession (Mark 1:1-11)

Children’s Message

Narrator: It was the time of the Passover, and Jesus and his disciples came to the village of Bethany, very close to Jerusalem and Jesus sent two of them ahead of the group with these instructions:

Jesus: Go to the village across from you. As soon as you enter, you’ll find a colt tethered, one that has never yet been ridden. Untie it and bring it. If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ say, ‘The Master needs him, and will return him right away.'”

Disciple1: We went and found a colt tied to a door at the street corner and untied it. Some of the people standing there asked, “What are you doing untying that colt?” But we told them exactly what Jesus had instructed us, and the people left us alone. We brought the colt to Jesus, spread our coats on it, and he rode it.

Crowd: I was standing on the side of the road, heading into Jerusalem myself for the festival when I saw Jesus riding on the colt. People around me started throwing their coats on the street before him. I eagerly grabbed the palm branch someone handed me and we placed them at his feet also. The Passover is a festival about freedom and liberation – and as we saw him come in… we all felt like hope was in the air. Someone cried out “Hosanna!” “Save NOW!” and soon the crowd was filled with Hosannas…. Surely, Jesus was coming in God’s name.

Sing #279 Filled with Excitement {Jesus will lead the procession as the kids and everyone follow around with palm branches and we take the offering during this time.}

The Passover (Mark 14:1-2,10,12-17)

Narrator: (stand to read) Jesus came into the city of Jerusalem, then entered the Temple. He spent time just taking it all in. But by now it was late, so he went back to Bethany, just a short distance outside of Jerusalem, with his disciples to stay at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. (sit back down until next line)

Caiaphas: (stand) In only two days the eight-day Festival of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread would begin. As the Chief Priest, my job was not only to perform religious duties, but in a time of occupation by Rome, I found myself constantly torn between appeasing the governor Pilate and keeping the peace. The crowds spoke enthusiastically about Jesus… too enthusiastically. I don’t know what I feared more – an uprising of the people, or that the Romans would intervene and destroy both the temple and us as a nation. In many ways, I understood that he would have to be sacrificed for the good of the nation. It would be better for this one man to die, than for the whole nation to be destroyed. We began to look for a way that we could seize Jesus secretly and kill him. We couldn’t do it in the open during Passover Week. We don’t want the crowds up in arms, after all.

Judas: (move from disciple group to Lectern) Then, I, Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ disciples went to those religious leaders, determined to betray him. I’m not sure what came over me, but there were some things that I had witnessed that I just didn’t understand – like the woman who poured lavish and expensive oils over Jesus. Some things had just seemed to get out of hand. When I showed up before them, the priests couldn’t believe their ears and promised to pay me well. So I started looking for just the right moment to hand him over. (Caiaphas sits, Judas goes back to disciples)

Disciple2: It was the first of the Days of Unleavened Bread, when we always prepare the Passover sacrifice. We were mere visitors in Jerusalem, so we turned to Jesus and asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations so you can eat the Passover meal?”

Jesus: Go into the city. A man carrying a water jug will meet you. Follow him. Ask the owner of whichever house he enters, ‘The Teacher wants to know, Where is my guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ He will show you a spacious second-story room, swept and ready. Prepare for us there.”

Narrator: The disciples left, came to the city, found everything just as he had told them, and prepared the Passover meal.

{during this response, the disciples/Jesus all move to the “table”}

#288 All: Were you there when he gathered with his friends (X2)
Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble
Were you there when he gathered with his friends

The Last Supper (From Mark 14:18-31)

Narrator: (stand and use pulpit mic) Jesus and his disciples gathered round the supper table to eat. Then their teacher stood up among them and spoke.

Jesus: “I have something hard but important to say to you: One of you is going to hand me over to the conspirators, one who at this moment is eating with me.”

Disciple1: We were absolutely stunned and started asking one another, “It isn’t me, is it?”

Jesus: It’s one of the Twelve, one who eats with me out of this very bowl. In one sense, what will happen tonight is an act of treachery that has been foretold by the scriptures. But in another sense, the person who turns me in – who turns traitor to the Son of Man – well, better never to have been born than to do this!

Narrator: In the course of their meal, having taken and blessed the bread, he broke it and gave it to them.

Jesus & Pastor: Take, Eat. This is my body broken for you. Do this in Remembrance of Me.

Narrator: When they had finished eating, Jesus took the cup, he gave it to them, thanking God, and they all drank from it.

Jesus & Pastor: This is my blood, God’s new covenant, Poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in remembrance of Me.

Jesus: You’re all going to feel that your world is falling apart and that it’s my fault. There’s a Scripture that says, I will strike the shepherd; The sheep will go helter-skelter. But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you, leading the way to Galilee.

Peter: Even if everyone else is ashamed of you when things fall to pieces, I am Peter. I am your rock. I won’t be.

Jesus: Don’t be so sure. Today, this very night in fact, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.

Peter: Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you.

Disciple2: All of the rest of us disciples said the same thing.

{During this response, Judas goes to Caiaphas, Disciples & Jesus go to the “garden”.}

All (sung): Were you there when he gave them bread and wine? (X2)
Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble
Were you there when he gave them bread and wine? (X2)

In the Garden of Gethsemane (Read Mark 14:32-50)

Narrator: (stand and use pulpit mic) Jesus took some of his disciples, Peter, James, and John, with him to a quiet place called Gethsemane.

Jesus: Sit here while I pray.

Narrator: He plunged into a sinkhole of dreadful agony.

Jesus: “I feel bad enough right now to die. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

Narrator: Going a little ahead, he fell to the ground and prayed for a way out.

Jesus: Abba, Father, you can—can’t you?—get me out of this. Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want—what do you want?

Narrator: He came back and found them sound asleep. Disappointed, he said to Peter,

Jesus: Simon, you went to sleep on me? Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert, be in prayer, so you don’t enter the danger zone without even knowing it. Don’t be naive. Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God; but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.

Narrator: He then went back and prayed the same prayer. Returning, he again found them sound asleep. They simply couldn’t keep their eyes open, and they didn’t have a plausible excuse. He came back a third time.

Jesus: Are you going to sleep all night? No—you’ve slept long enough. Time’s up. The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up. Let’s get going. My betrayer has arrived.

Narrator: No sooner were the words out of his mouth when Judas, the one out of the Twelve, showed up, and with him a gang of ruffians, sent by the high priests and their counselors, brandishing swords and clubs.

Judas – Charlotte: (speak at lectern mic) I worked out a signal with them. “The one I kiss, that’s the one—seize him. Make sure he doesn’t get away.” I went straight up to Jesus and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The others then grabbed him and roughed him up.

Disciple1: (use the mic by the plant ) One of us who were standing there pulled out a sword, swung, and came down on the Chief Priest’s servant, lopping off the man’s ear. And Jesus turned to scold us all!

Jesus: What is this, coming after me with swords and clubs as if I were a dangerous criminal? Day after day I’ve been sitting in the Temple teaching, and you never so much as lifted a hand against me. What you in fact have done is confirm what the scriptures have said all along.

Disciple2: (use the mic by the plant ) We were all so scared that all of us disciples turned and ran.

{Jesus moves to where the Caiaphas is sitting. Disciples/Judas sit down in the pews. Peter sits in the stool again)

All: Were you there when he knelt and prayed to God? (X2)
Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble
Were you there when he knelt and prayed to God?

In the Courtyard (Mark 14:53-56,66-72.)

Narrator: (pulpit mic) Jesus was led to the house of the Chief Priest, where some of his council had gathered. In the cover of darkness, they held a secret meeting .

Peter: I followed at a safe distance until they got to the Chief Priest’s courtyard, where I hung back, and mingled with the servants and warmed himself at the fire.

Caiaphas: (lectern mic) We knew that we didn’t have enough evidence or time to try Jesus in the regular Sanhedrin Council , so we met secretly amongst ourselves and to look high and low for evidence against Jesus – anything that we could find that we could use to sentence him to death. But we found absolutely nothing. Lots of people came forward who were willing to lie, but none of the witnesses agreed with one another.

Peter: As I stood in the courtyard, one of the servant girls came in and looked at me.

Crowd:. (pulpit mic)You were with the Nazarene, Jesus.

Peter: I denied it “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I moved farther away from her and heard a rooster crow. But the girl spotted me again and began to talk with the others.

Crowd: He’s one of them.

Peter: Again I denied it. I was afraid of being arrested. I just wanted to watch and see what would happen so that I could go back and tell the others. I knew I was being a coward, but it took all of my courage in the world just to be there. I thought I was off the hook, but after a while, someone else came up to me.

Crowd: You’ve got to be one of them. You’ve got ‘Galilean’ written all over you.

Peter: It was then that I got really nervous and I swore, “I never laid eyes on this man you’re talking about.”

Narrator: Just then the rooster crowed a second time. Peter remembered how Jesus had said,

Jesus: Before a rooster crows twice, you’ll deny me three times.

Peter: I collapsed in tears.

All: Were you there when his friends betrayed and ran? (X2)
Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble
Were you there when his friends betrayed and ran?

Jesus Is Tried by Pilate (Mark 15:1, 6-9)

Caiaphas: (lectern mic) After a whole night of meeting, when the sun began to rise, we arranged for a conference with the entire Jewish Council. We tied Jesus up and turned him over to Pilate. We thought if we were the ones who turned him over to the Romans, that the temple and the people would survive.

Narrator: It was a custom at the Feast to release a prisoner, anyone the people asked for. There was one prisoner called Barabbas, locked up with the insurrectionists who had committed murder during the uprising against Rome.

Pilate: (lectern mic) The crowd came up and began to present its petition to me, Pilate, to release for them a prisoner. I knew of the popularity of this Jesus figure, even though I knew little about him. But he was someone that seemed to be creating quite a following and under other circumstances that could be grounds for treason. And so I asked them – “Do you want me to release the King of the Jews to you?” (“crowd” holds up the cue card: Cue card #1: No)

Pilate: Noah: I thought it might be sheer spite that led the high priests to turn Jesus over to me. I hadn’t personally witnessed any insurrectionist spirit, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t capable of it. Better to squash a threat early than to let it lead to anything. But the religious leaders had by then worked up the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas. And so I again asked the crowds “So what do I do with this man you call King of the Jews?” (Cue card #2: Crucify him!)

Pilate: “But for what crime?” (Repeat Cue card #2.)

Pilate: So I gave the crowd what it wanted. I set Barabbas free and turned Jesus over to be whipped and crucified. One less peasant for me to worry about. One less revolt to have to put down.

Narrator: The soldiers took Jesus into the palace and called together the entire brigade. They dressed him up in purple and put a crown braided from thorns on his head. Then they began mocking him: “Long live the King of the Jews!” They banged on his head with a club, spit on him, and knelt down in mock worship. After they had had their fun, they took off the purple cape and put his own clothes back on him. Then they marched out to nail him to the cross.

(everyone sits down here, except Narrator. Jesus can speak line from the audience, and then turn off mic)

All: Were you there when they sentenced him to death? (X2)
Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they sentenced him to death?

The Crucifixion {Mark 15:23-43.}

Narrator: As we hear this next part of our story, I invite you to close your eyes and listen with a prayerful spirit.

Jesus was nailed to a wooden cross between 2 robbers. Being crucified was a horrible death normally reserved for criminals. His enemies laughed and hurled insults. As Jesus hung there in great pain the whole world grew very dark. It was as though the sun could not bear to watch what was happening. The crowd was hushed. Jesus repeated one of the psalms to himself.

Jesus: “My God, my God, Why have you abandoned me? I have cried desperately for help. But still it does not come.”

Narrator: After 3 agonizing hours he took one last deep breath. And then he died. It was toward evening when Joseph of Arimathea arrived to ask Pilate if he could take Jesus’ body for burial.

All: Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Holy Communion

Silent Confession

Pastor: We have heard throughout worship this morning the story of what Christ has done in our lives. We have given thanks to our God through words and deeds. And now we are invited to come to the table of our Lord, to share in the meal that began so long ago.

Gracious God, Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine. Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we maybe for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.

By your spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory, and we feast at his heavenly banquet.

Through your Son Jesus Christ, with the Holy Sprit in your holy church, all honor and glory is yours, almighty God, now and forever. Amen.

And now with the confidence of children of God, let us pray: Lord’s Prayer.

Sharing the Bread and the Cup

Closing Benediction

Special thanks to liturgies by Maria Hoshaw and James Love that formed the backbone of this worship service.

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