Readers’ Theater for Good Friday or Palm Sunday: The Gospel of Luke

Download the reading: readers-theater-luke-22v39-23v561-2

This reading has four parts, preferably two female (1, 2) and two male (3,4) readers.  This year’s passion narrative is taken from Luke 22:39-23:56.  Click the link for access to the passion narrative according to Matthew or Mark.

If the division of parts is confusing, it may help to think of this as a fast-paced narrative, almost as though the different readers are stumbling over one another and cutting each other off to tell the story.

Note to congregation: The congregation plays the part of the crowd. On the slide, you will see your responses and the line that precedes them. Please join us for those responses. Also note that the congregation stands when the people come to Golgotha.

1:        Hear the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke:

3:        And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives,

1:        And the disciples followed him,

3:        And when he came to the place, he said to them:

4:        Pray that you may not enter into temptation.

2:        And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed,

4:        Father,

1,2,4: If you are willing,

4:        Remove this cup from me.  Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.

3:        And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.

2:        And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly;

3:        And his sweat became like

2,3:    great drops of blood

3:        falling down to the ground.  And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them,

4:        Why are you sleeping?  Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.

1:        While he was still speaking, there came a crowd.

2:        And the man called Judas,

1:        one of the twelve,

2:        was leading them.

1:        He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him,

4:        Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?

1:        And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said,

2,3:    Lord, shall we strike with the sword?

1:        And one of them

2:        struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear.  But Jesus said,

4:        No more of this!

1:        And he touched his ear

2:        And healed him.

1:        Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him,

4:        Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs?  When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me.  But

1234:            This is your hour,

4:        And the power of darkness.

PAUSE

2:        And they laid hands on him,

1:        Laid hands on him and seized him.

2:        And they brought him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance.      And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together,

3:        Peter sat down among them.

2:        Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said,

1:        This man also was with him.

1234:            But he denied it.

3:        Woman, I do not know him.

4:        And a little later someone else saw him and said,

1,2:    You also are one of them.

1:        Again,

1234: He denied it.

3:        Man, I am not.

1:        And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying,

1,2,4: Certainly this man was also with him,

4:        for he too is a Galilean.

2:        But Peter said,

1234:            Man, I do not know what you are talking about.

2:        And immediately,

1:        While he was still speaking,

2:        The rooster crowed.

2,4:    And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.

3:        And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him,

4:        Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.

3:        And he went out and wept bitterly.

PAUSE

2:        Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him … as they beat him.

1:        They also blindfolded him and kept asking him,

2,3:    Prophesy!

1:        Prophesy!

2:        Who is it that struck you?

1,2:    Prophesy!

1,2,3: Prophesy to us, you Christ!

PAUSE

4:        When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together,

3:        Both chief priests and scribes.

4:        And they led him away to their council, and they said.

2:        If you are the Christ,

1,2,3: Tell us.

1:        But he said to them,

4:        If I tell you,

1234: You will not believe,

4:        And, if I ask you, you will not answer.  But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.

1:        Are you then the

1,2,3: Son of God?

1:        And Jesus said to them,

4:        You say that

1234:            I AM.

1:        What further testimony do we need?  You have heard his blasphemy from his own lips.

2:        Blasphemy!

3:        Blasphemy!

1,2,3: Blasphemy!

2 looks at the audience to address them

2:        People, what is your decision?

1,3,4,C:         He deserves death.

PAUSE

1:        Then,

1,2,:   the whole company of them,

1:        Arose and brought him before Pilate.

3:        And they began to accuse him.

1:        We found this man

1,2:    Misleading our nation

3:        And forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar,

2:        And saying that he himself is Christ, a King.

3:        And Pilate asked him

1:        Are you the King of the Jews?

4:        You have said so.

3:        Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds.

1:        I find no guilt in this man.

3:        But they were urgent, saying,

2:        He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.

1:        When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean.

2:        And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction,

3:        He sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time.

1:        When Herod saw Jesus,

1,2,3: He was very glad,

2:        For he had long desired to see him,

1:        Because he had heard about him,

2:        And he was hoping to see some sign done by him.

3:        So Herod questioned him at some length,

4:        But Jesus made no answer.

1:        The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him.

2:        And Herod with his soldiers

1,2:    Treated him with contempt

2:        And

1,2:    Mocked him.

4:        Then, arraying him in splendid clothing,

3:        Herod sent him back to Pilate.

2:        And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.

1:        Pilate then called together the

1,3:    chief priests,

1:        And the

1,2,3: Elders

1:        And the

1234: Rulers of the people,

3:        And said to them,

2:        You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people.  And after examining him before you, behold

1,2,3: I did not find this man guilty

2:        Of any of your charges against him.  Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us.  Look,

1,2,3:             Nothing deserving death

2:        Has been done by him.  I will therefore punish him and release him.

1:        But they all cried out together,

1234:            Away with this man!

3:        Release to us Barabbas!

1:        Barabbas was a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city

3:        And for murder.

4:        Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting,

2:        Crucify!

2,3:    Crucify!

1,2,3: Crucify him!

4:        Why?  What evil has he done?  I have found in him no guilt deserving death.  I will therefore punish and release him.

2:        But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified.

1:        And their voices prevailed.

2:        Crucify him!

2,4:    Crucify him!

1,4,3: Crucify him!

2:        Crucify him.

2 looks at audience to address them

2:        People, what will you do with Jesus who is called Christ?

1,3,4,C:         Crucify him!

PAUSE

3:        So Pilate decided that

1:        Their demand should be granted.

3:        He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder,

2:        For whom they asked,

3:        But he delivered Jesus

1,4:    Over to their will.

PAUSE

4:        And as they led him away,

1:        They seized one Simon of Cyrene,

3:        Who was coming in from the country.

1:        And they laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.

3:        And there followed him a great multitude of the people

2:        And of women

3:        Who were mourning and lamenting for him.

2:        But turning to them, Jesus said,

4:        Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but

2,4:    Weep for yourselves,

4:        And

2,4:    Your children.

4:        For behold, the days are coming when they will say,

2:        Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!

4:        Then they will begin to say to the mountains,

3:        Fall on us!

4:        And to the hills

1:        Cover us!

4:        For if they do these things

2,4:    When the wood is green,

4:        What will happen when it is dry?

3:        Two others,

1:        Who were criminals,

3:        Were led away to be put to death with him.

1:        And when they came to the place that is called The Skull

THE CROWD STANDS

1:        There

1234: They crucified him

1:        And the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

2:        And Jesus said,

4:        Father

1,2,4: Forgive them,

4:        For they know not what they do.

3:        And they cast lots to divide his garments.

2:        And the people stood by, watching,

1:        But the rulers scoffed at him.

2:        He saved others;

3:        Let him save himself!

2:        If he is the Christ of God,

1:        The Christ of God!

2,3:    His chosen one!

1:        The soldiers also mocked him,

3:        Coming up and offering him sour wine and saying,

1234:            If you are the King of the Jews,

2:        Save yourself!

1:        There was also an inscription over him,

1,2,3: This is the King of the Jews.

2 looks at the audience to address them,

2: People, hail your king.

123C:            Hail, King of the Jews!

PAUSE

3:        One of the criminals who were hanged

1,3:    Railed at him, saying,

3:        Are you not the Christ?

1,3:    Save yourself!

1:        And us!

3:        But the other rebuked him.

3:        Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man

1,2,3: Has done nothing wrong.

3:        Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

4:        Truly, I say to you,

1234:            Today

4:        You will be with me in paradise.

2:        It was now about the sixth hour, and

1:        There was darkness

2&4:  Darkness

1&3:  Darkness

1:        over the whole land until the ninth hour,

3:        While the sun’s light failed.

2:        And the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

1:        And the rocks were split

2:        And the curtain was torn

3:        And the earth shook

2:        And the curtain was torn

1:        And the rocks were split

3:        And the earth shook

2:        And the curtain was torn

4:        And the tombs were opened

1,2,3,4 All repeat their lines in a muddle and building noise until 2 interrupts

2:        And the curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom.

1:        Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said,

4:        Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!

3:        And having said this,

2:        He breathed his last.

THERE IS A PERIOD OF SILENCE

1:        Now when the centurion saw what had taken place,

3:        He praised God, saying,

2:        Certainly, this man was innocent.

4:        And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle,

3:        When they saw what had taken place,

4:        Returned home, beating their breasts.  And all his acquaintances

1:        And the women who had followed him from Galilee

4:        Stood at a distance watching these things.

2:        Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea.

1:        He was a member of the council,

3:        A good and righteous man,

1:        Who had not consented to their decision and action;

2:        And he was looking for the kingdom of God.

3:        This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.

4:        Then he took it down ,

2:        Took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and

1:        Laid him in a tomb cut in stone,

2:        Where no one had ever yet been laid.

3:        It was the day of Preparation and the Sabbath was beginning.

2:        The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and

1,2:    Saw the tomb

2:        And

1,2:    How his body was laid.

2:        Then, they returned and prepared spices and ointments.

4:        And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

PAUSE

4:        Here ends the reading.

10 thoughts on “Readers’ Theater for Good Friday or Palm Sunday: The Gospel of Luke

  1. sarah hoskins says:

    Hi Marissa! I love this! Could you send me a word doc. copy of the Luke Reading? Thanks so much!

    • marissaburt says:

      Sure! We’ve done the Palm Sunday reading reader’s theater style the past few years, and it’s a wonderful experience: for those reading and those in the congregation. If the division of parts comes across as confusing, it helps to think of it as fast paced – almost like four people kind of stumbling over each other to tell the story. I’ll shoot you an e-mail now. Hope you all are well –

      M

  2. May I use this in worship this week? We are working through the book of Luke, and I am looking for a way to make the long reading come alive.

  3. Megan says:

    I loved this! I’ve been looking for something like this to share with the women’s group of our church. Based on the previous comments it sounds like this is an open script that can be shared. Is that still the case?
    Beautiful, creative, powerful. Loved it!

  4. Marissa-
    I would like to use this piece of work. Would you send me the document in .doc form?
    Thanks-
    Molly Fraser
    Light of the Hill UMC
    Puyallup, WA

  5. Annette Shutt says:

    Hi Molly, Could I use this on Palm Sunday? It is great!

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