Passion Play for Palm Sunday

(includes entire service format)

Prelude:  “The March” by Cindy Morgan (from CD "The Loving Kind")

Opening Hymn  UMH 277, v. 1,3 “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus”

Scene 1

Location:  Entering Jerusalem

Narrator:  When they had come near Jerusalem, Jesus sent two disciples to fetch a donkey.  He said, “If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

 Two disciples fetch a donkey from the sacristy and bring it to the door of the sanctuary.  (The donkey is a young child wearing the Christmas play donkey head.)

Narrator:  A large crowd, such as yourselves (wink, wink) spread palms on the road and shouted “Hosanna!  Hosanna!”  If you are on the aisle, you may lay your palm in the aisle.  If you are not on the aisle, you may wave your palm.  All may shout “Hosanna!  Hosanna!”

Audience puts palms in aisle and wave them, shouting “Hosanna! Hosanna!” as donkey walks into the sanctuary followed by Jesus, then disciples.  Audience and choir sing FWS 2075, v. 1,2 “King of Kings” while this procession makes its way to the stage. 

 Jesus and disciples sit down.  Donkey removes costume head and sits down for children’s sermon.

Jesus:  Let the children come to me.  (Jesus explains to the children why He has come to Jerusalem.)

 Children are dismissed to children’s church.  (They get to walk over the palms.)

Greetings, Announcements, Joys & concerns

Pastoral Prayer

Scene 2

Location:  Temple or street corner (in former Joyful Noise corner)

As the narrator reads, the chief priest pays Judas.  This takes place silently in the corner where Joyful Noise used to play.

Narrator:  One of the twelve disciples, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray Him to you?”  They paid him thirty pieces of silver.  And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray Him.

Scene 3

Location:  Upper Room

Softly in the background, play CD of “Food, Glorious Food” from Oliver.  (Probably won’t have time to play the entire song.)

Narrator:  It was the time for celebrating Passover.  The disciples asked Jesus, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?”  He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teachers says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’”  So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.

As the narrator is reading, the disciples (Peter, James, and John)  set up the stage with a table and chairs.  (Just 5; not 13.)  When the scene is set up, Jesus and the disciples sit down. As they are sitting down, Judas arrives and sits down too.   They appear to be (silently) conversing and happy, except that Judas looks a little guilty and uncomfortable.  Suddenly  the music stops and there is dead silence.  The disciples freeze.

Jesus:  Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.

John:  Surely not I, Lord?  (Jesus looks compassionately at each speaker.)

James:  Surely not I, Lord?

Jesus:  The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.    The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!  It would have been better for that one not to have been born.

Judas:  Surely not I, Rabbi?

Jesus:  You have said so.

Jesus and the disciples remain seated at the table while the choir sings “How Beautiful.” 

Jesus:  (acting out bread & wine with imaginary props) (Jesus takes a loaf of bread, and after blessing it, breaks it, gives it to His disciples, and says) Take, eat; this is my body.  (Then He takes a cup, and after giving thanks, he gives it to them, saying) Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus and the disciples stand up.  The disciples move the table aside.

Jesus:  You will all desert me.

Peter:  Not I.

Jesus:  (looking compassionately at Peter) This very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.

Peter:  Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.

James:  Nor I.

John:  Nor I.

Judas:  Nor I.

Jesus, Peter, James and John walk off the stage to one side.  Judas walks off the other side.

Scene 4

Location:  Gethsemane

As Jesus, Peter, James and John get into place, the choir sings UMH 290, v. 1 “Go to Dark Gethsemane.”

Narrator:  Jesus is deeply grieved and agitated.  He asks his disciples to go with him to Gethsemane.

Jesus:  (looking agitated) Remain here and stay awake with me. (Peter, James, and John sit.  Jesus crosses to other side of stage and kneels in prayer.)

My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not my will but thine.

(After a moment, Jesus returns to find the disciples asleep.) 

(looking at Peter) Could you not stay awake with me one hour?  Stay awake and pray that you many not come into the time of trial.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

(A second time, Jesus goes off and kneels to pray.)

My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.

(Jesus returns to find the disciples sleeping again. Then he returns to pray a third time.)

My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.

(Jesus returns to the disciples.)

Get up, let us be going.  My betrayer is at hand.

Judas and a soldier arrive. 

Judas:  (telling the soldier) The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.

Judas kisses Jesus and the soldier grabs his arm to take him.

James draws his (cardboard or imaginary) sword and cuts off the ear of the soldier.

Jesus:  Put your sword back into its place.  Do you think I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen this way?

The disciples desert Jesus in different directions. 

Scene 5

Location:  High Priest’s House

Narrator:  Jesus is brought to the High Priest’s house for questioning.

(High Priest is standing at lecturn.  Soldier brings in Jesus.  Peter follows at a distance, off stage.  He stands halfway up the opposite side aisle and looks miserable.  Judas watches, partly hiding,  from beside stage on Joyful Noise side.)

Citizen:  This fellow (pointing at Jesus) said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.”

High Priest:  Have you no answer?

Jesus is silent.

High Priest:  Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.

Jesus:  You have said so.  But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.

High Priest:  He has blasphemed!  What is your verdict?

AUDIENCE:  He deserves death.  Prophesy to us, you Messiah!

Scene 6:

Location:  Courtyard (off to side opposite where Joyful Noise used to play)

Servant girl:  (pointing at Peter) You were with Jesus the Galilean.

Peter:  I do not know what you are talking about.  (cock-a-doodle-doo)

Another servant girl:  This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.

Peter:  I do now know the man.  (cock-a-doodle-doo)

Citizen:  Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.

Peter:  I do not know the man!

Rooster: cock-a-doodle-doo (Someone will need to make the sound effect unless Brandt finds a good sound bite online.)

Peter weeps bitterly and runs out of the room.

Choir and audience sing FWS 2137, v.3 “Would I Have Answered When You Called.”

Scene 7:

Location:  Temple (Joyful Noise corner)

Narrator:  Judas is feeling repentant for what he has done.  He goes to the temple to pray and tries to give the silver pieces as an offering.

Chief Priest is there.

Judas kneels in prayerful repentance, but careful not to appear to be kneeling to priest who is standing there.

Judas: (to priest) I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.

Chief Priest:  What is that to us?  See to it yourself.

Judas throws down the pieces of silver and exits out the door to the sacristy.

Narrator:  Judas went and hanged himself.

High Priest:  It is not lawful to put this money in the treasury, since it is blood money.

Narrator:  The priests used the money to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners.

Scene 8: 

Location:  Pilate’s House (pulpit)

Narrator:  Now Jesus stood before Pilate, the governor.  There was a large crowd outside.

Jesus faces Pilate.

Pilate:  Are you the King of the Jews?

Jesus:  You say so.

Pilate:  Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?

Jesus remains silent.  Pilate looks amazed.

Narrator:  It was the custom of the governor to release a prisoner for the crowd.  At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas.

Pilate:  (asking the audience) Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?

AUDIENCE:  Barabbas!

Pilate:  Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?

AUDIENCE:  Let Him be crucified!

Pilate:  Why, what evil has he done?

AUDIENCE:  Let Him be crucified!

The choir sings UMH 291, v. 1 “He Never Said a Mumbalin’ Word”

Pilate mimes washing his hands of the matter.

Narrator:  Pilate ordered Jesus to be flogged.  Then He was turned over to the crowd to be crucified.

Scene 9:

Location:  governor’s headquarters  (on center stage)

Narrator:  The soldiers stripped Jesus and put a scarlet robe on Him.  They twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on His head.  They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  Then they stripped Him and cast lots for His clothes.

Choir sings UMH 285, v. 1,2 “To Mock Your Reign, O Dearest Lord.”

Scene 10:

Locaton:  Golgotha (center stage)

Jesus stands with arms out, as if on a cross.  Two women look on from the side aisle.

Narrator:  Jesus was then taken to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, and hung on a cross.  Over His head they put the charge against Him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”  Two thieves were crucified with Him, one each side.  The people mocked Him.  The one thief taunted Him likewise.  The other repented.  At noon, darkness came over the whole land.  About three o’clock, Jesus cried out.

Jesus:  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Choir sings FWS 2110 v. 1,3 “Why Has God Forsaken Me?”

Narrator:  Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and breathed his last.

(Jesus’ head lolls over as if dead.)

Narrator:  The earth shook, and the rocks were split.  Many women were also there, looking on from a distance.  That evening, a rich man named Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Pilate ordered that it be given to him.  Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb.  (Joseph wraps a white sheet around Jesus and leads him to the room opposite the sacristy.  As the narrator reads the next line, Joseph shuts the door, symbolic of rolling a stone in front of the tomb.)  He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.  (Then the two Mary’s come to the door and sit outside it.)

Scene 11:

Location:  Pilate’s house (pulpit)

Chief Priests mimes talking to Pilate.

Narrator:  The chief priests remind Pilate that Jesus said He would rise again after three days.  Pilate then commanded that the tomb be made secure until the third day so that His body could not be stolen and no claim could be made by His disciples that He had risen.  Pilate ordered that a guard be placed by the tomb.  (Soldier stands by tomb door.)

Offertory:  Choir sings “What Wondrous Love Is This” (choral version)

Doxology:  All sing the standard doxology.

Closing Hymn:  UMH 288, v. 1,5  “Were You There”

No postlude.  Leave in silence.




UMH = United Methodist Hymnal

FWS = Faith We Sing Hymnal









Chief Priest / High Priest 



Servant girl 1 

Servant girl 2 



Mary 1 

Mary 2 

A Microsoft Word Document of this service is available below

Penny Chou,
Dec 1, 2009, 12:21 PM