The Passion of Our Lord

This dramatic reading of John's passion narrative uses the NIV text of John 18-19; small changes were made in the biblical text to encourage greater clarity in this script.

The following roles are necessary:

Evangelist (Narrator)
A Servant Girl
An Official
A Bystander
A Servant
A Chorus of Priests
Several Soldiers
The Crowd

Main readers, such as the Evangelist and Jesus, may be positioned at the pulpit and a lectern; other roles may be spoken from the front pews and/or the side aisles.

The "crowd" parts (in John 18:40,19:6, and 19:15) are spoken and shouted by the entire congregation; these lines must be rehearsed with the congregation just prior to the service. The congregation is expected to participate in the "crowd" parts by follou'ing the Jniv] text in their own Bibles.

This Passion reading may constitute the "Service of the Word" in an evening service on Passion (Palm) Sunday. The script would also be most appropriate for a Good Friday service, for it is traditional to reserve John's passion narrative for Good Friday. In either of these services the reading may be preceded or followed by a brief homily, if necessary.

The Passion reading may also serve as the central portion of a Tenebrac service, with its gradual extinguishing of lights, draping of chancel items in black, cessation of instrumental accompaniment, and silent recessing from the church.

JOHN 18:1-14

Evangelist: When Jesus had finished praying, h his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. C other side there was an olive grove, and he a disciples went into it.

Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disci 4mJ0Ls came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priest; Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happe to him, went out and asked them,

Jesus: Who is it that you want?

Soldiers: Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus: Iam he.

Evangelist: And Judas the traitor was standing there with them. When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. Again Jesus asked them,

Jesus: Who is it that you want?

Soldiers: Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus: I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.

Evangelist: This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken would be fulfilled: "I have not lost one of those you gave me."

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. But Jesus commanded Peter,

Jesus: Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?

Evangelist: Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for [all] the people.

Following this reading, all shall pray in silence, and then sing: "Wliat Wondrous Love" [PsH 379]

JOHN 18:15-27

Evangelist: Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest's ourtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there, and brought Peter in.

Servant Girl: Surely you are not another of this man's disciples?

Peter: I am not.

Evangelist: It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter was also standing with them, warming himself.


Meanwhile, the former high priest Annas questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching, to which Jesus replied,

Jesus: I have spoken openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.

Evangelist: When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face.

An Official: Is that any way to answer the high priest? Jesus: If I said something wrong, testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?

Evangelist: Then Annas sent Jesus, still bound, to Caiaphas, the high priest.


As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked,

A Bystander: You are not one of his disciples, are you?

Peter: I am not.

Evangelist: One of the high priest's servants, a relative of Malchus, whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him,

A Servant: Didn't I see you with him in the olive grove? Evangelist: Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.

Following this reading, all shall pray in silence, and then sing: "Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended" [HB 191, PsH 386,RL 285,TH 179]

JOHN 18:28-19:3

Evangelist: Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor [Pilate]. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked,

Pilate: What charges are you bringing against this man?

Priests: If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.

Pilate: Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.

Priests: But we have no right to execute anyone.

Evangelist: This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled.

Then Pilate went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him,

Pilate: Are you the king of the Jews?

Jesus: Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me?

Pilate: Am I a Jew? It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?

Jesus: My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.

Pilate: You are a king, then!

Jesus: You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.

Pilate: What is truth?

Evangelist: With this Pilate went out again to the Jews and said to them,

Pilate: I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release "the king of the Jews"?

Evangelist: [But] the crowd shouted back,

Crowd (voices through each other): No, not him! Give us Barabbas! (John 18:40)

Evangelist: Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe, and went up to him again and again, saying,

Soldiers (voice through each other): Hail, king of the Jews! Evangelist: And they struck Jesus in the face.

Following this reading, all shall pray in silence, and then sing: "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" [HB 194, PsH 383, RL 300,TH 178]

JOHN 19:4-18

Evangelist: Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews,

Pilate: Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.

Evangelist: Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.

Pilate: Here is the man!

Evangelist: As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw Jesus, they [all] shouted,

Crowd (voices through each other): Crucify! Crucify!(John 19:6)

Pilate: You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.

Priests: We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.

Evangelist: When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid. He went back inside the palace and asked Jesus,

Pilate: Where do you come from? Evangelist: But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate: Do you refuse to speak to me? Don't you realize I have the power either to free you or to crucify you?

Jesus: You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.

Evangelist: From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting,

Priests: If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.

Evangelist: When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge's seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour, [when] Pilate said,

Pilate: Here is your king.

Evangelist: But the crowd shouted,

Crowd (voices through each other): Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him! (John 19:15)

Pilate: Shall I crucify your king?

Priests: We have no king but Caesar.

Evangelist: Finally Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

Following this reading, all shall pray in silence, and then sing: "Were You There" [HB 201, PsH 377:1,2]

JOHN 19:19-30

Evangelist: Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, The King of The Jews. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate:

Priests: Do not write "the King of the Jews" but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.

Pilate: What I have written, I have written.

Evangelist: When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothing, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

Soldiers: Let's not tear it, [but] decide by lot who will get it.

Evangelist: This happened that the Scripture might be fulfilled which said, "They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." So this is what the soldiers did.


Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother,

Jesus: Dear woman, here is your son,

Evangelist: and to the disciple,

Jesus: Here is your mother.

Evangelist: From that time on, this disciple took Jesus' mother into his home.


Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said,

Jesus: I am thirsty.

Evangelist: A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said,

Jesus: It is finished! Evangelist: With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Following this reading, all shall pray in silence, and then sing: "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" [HB 198, PsH 384, RL 292,293, TH 186]

JOHN 19:31-42

Evangelist: Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other [man]. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.

The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," and, as another Scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced."


Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the [leaders of the] Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Following this reading, all shall meditate and pray in silence, and, after due time, sing: "I Will Sing of My Redeemer" [PsH 479]

Hymns were selected from the following hymnals: The Hymnbook (HB), Psalter Hymnal (PsH), Rejoice in the Lord (RL), and Trinity Hymnal (TH).

Bert Polman was a hymnologist, professor and chair of the music department at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. He passed away in July 2013. 

Reformed Worship 18 © December 1990, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.