Call to Worship
A reading from Matthew 21:1-10
One: Rejoice, rejoice, you children of Zion! Shout for joy, you daughters of Jerusalem! Look and see, your king is coming to you.
All: He comes triumphant and victorious. Yet he is humble and riding on a donkey.
One: The Lord will save his people the way a shepherd rescues his own flock.
All: We will rejoice and celebrate this good news!
Processional hymn and palm parade
Reading 1: Matthew 26:1-5 – Plot to arrest Jesus (Handcuffs)
We now begin our reading of the Passion Story. The Passion, from the Greek word “to suffer,” is the account of Jesus’ final days, as he entered Jerusalem, was arrested and eventually executed by crucifixion. To really celebrate Easter, we have to also remember this part of Jesus’ story. We hear first of the plot to arrest Jesus as we begin reading in Matthew chapter 26. As we move through the story, we will be building a visual representation of the story amidst the palms. First, we bring a pair of handcuffs to remember that Jesus would be treated like a common criminal.
Reading 2: Matthew 26:6-13 – Anointing of Jesus (Bottle of perfume)
We continue with the story of the woman anointing Jesus with expensive perfume. Such ointment was used to anoint a body for death, which this woman does for Jesus ahead of his crucifixion. We bring a beautiful bottle to remember how she spared no cost in anointing him. Just as the woman shared all that she had with Jesus, we have an opportunity to share what we have with him through our offering. May we give generously and out of our abundance.
Call to Confession
A reading from Matthew 26:14-16 – Judas agrees to betray Jesus (Coins)
Our story continues with verses that can only lead us to confession, as we remember the ways we, too, have betrayed Jesus when things got tough. Matthew writes:
Then one of the twelve, 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.
The coins remind us of Judas’ betrayal. This is a difficult week in our faith life. But we peer out into the darkness and remember the promises of Easter as we dare to confess together saying:
Prayer of Confession (from Matthew 26:31-35)
All: Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.’ Peter said to him, ‘Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.’ 34Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And so said all the disciples.
And so we all say, Lord. But like Peter, we do deny you. With our lips, with our actions, with our hearts. We beg your forgiveness. Amen.
Promise of Forgiveness
Friends, the promise of forgiveness is sure and true in Jesus Christ our Lord. But this week, for a moment, let us dwell on the suffering that made such good news possible, before we jump ahead to the celebration. We give thanks for all that God has done for us.
Reading 3: Matthew 26:47-56 – Betrayal and arrest of Jesus (Sword)
The moment has come for Judas to betray Jesus into the hands of the authorities. Jesus shows that he goes willingly into their hands in order to fulfill the scriptures. We bring forward a sword to remember how his followers thought violence could end this nightmare; but Jesus intends to see things through, so that he might live out his calling completely.
Reading 4: Matthew 26:69-75 – Peter denies Jesus (Rooster)
After Jesus was arrested, the time came when Peter denied his friend, just as Jesus had predicted. We bring a rooster to remember the sadness Peter felt when he realized what he had done.
Reading 5: Matthew 27:1-2, 24-31 – Jesus handed over to Pilate; Mocking of Jesus (Crown of Thorns)
After the religious authorities had questioned Jesus, they sent him to the Roman governor, Pilate. Pilate offered to release one criminal for the crowds, but the people chose to release Barabbas instead of Jesus. We bring a crown of thorns to remember the way they called Jesus mockingly, “King of the Jews,” not understanding what kind of king Jesus had come to be.
Reading 6: Matthew 27:32-44 – Crucifixion of Jesus (Cross)
On the way to the cross, Jesus refused the wine mixed with gall, which might have lessened his pain and suffering. The people taunted Jesus mercilessly asking him to prove himself by saving his own life. We bring a cross to remember this most terrible and holy event in the life of our faith and in the human life of Jesus.
Reading 7: Matthew 27:45-51 – Death of Jesus (Sponge with vinegar)
The darkness and earthquake that happen as Jesus dies remind us that this was a world-shaping, cosmic event. We bring a sponge sitting in a bowl of vinegar to remind us of these last moments of Jesus’ life.
Reading 8: Matthew 27:57-61 – Burial of Jesus (Stone)
Matthew’s account of Jesus’ death ends with his burial in a borrowed tomb. The two Marys believed that this was the end of Jesus’ story. We bring a stone to remember how the tomb was locked and closed.
EMMA NICKEL serves as stated supply pastor of Ebenezer Presbyterian Church in Greensburg, Kentucky. She is passionate about small church ministry, cooking and playing with her cat, Scout.