The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ
according to Saint Matthew (Chap. 26:1-75; 27:1-66)
PALM SUNDAY opens Holy Week, known as the “Great Week” where Christians commemorate the sufferings and death of Jesus on the Cross in order to save us.
The Palm Sunday liturgy first recalls Jesus entering into Jerusalem, acclaimed by the crowd.
Gospel Scripture according to Saint Matthew, chap. 21, 1-9
And when they drew near to Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, on the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her; loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone say anything to you, you shall say that the Lord has need of them, and immediately he will send them.” Now this was done that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, ‘Tell the daughter of Sion: Behold, thy King comes to thee, meek and seated upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ So the disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. And they brought the ass and the colt, laid their cloaks on them, and made Him sit thereon.
And most of the crowd spread their cloaks upon the road, while others were cutting branches from the trees, and strewing them on the road. And the crowds that went before Him, and those that followed, kept crying out, saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’
After the distribution of the blessed palms, during the solemn celebration of Mass, the complete text of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ from Saint Matthew is read.
Here we see three priests sharing the reading: one reads the narration, a second reads the words of Jesus and the third reads those of all the other characters in the story.
Judas the traitor
And it came to pass when Jesus had finished all these words, that He said to His disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover will be here; and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered together in the court of the high priest, who was called Caiphas, and they took counsel together how they might seize Jesus by stealth and put Him to death. But they said, “Not on the feast, or there might be a riot among the people.” Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to Him with an alabaster jar of precious ointment, and she poured it on His head, as He reclined at table. But when the disciples saw this, they were indignant, and said, “To what purpose is this waste? for this might have been sold for much and given to the poor.” But Jesus, perceiving it, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has done Me a good turn. For the poor you have always with you, but you do not always have Me. For in pouring this ointment on My body, she has done it for My burial. Amen I say to you, wherever in the whole world this Gospel is preached, this also that she has done shall be told in memory of her.” Then one of the Twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests, and said to them, “What are you willing to give me for delivering Him to you?” But they assigned him thirty pieces of silver. And from then on he sought out an opportunity to betray Him.
The Last Supper
Now on the first day of the Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Where dost Thou want us to prepare for Thee to eat the Passover?” But Jesus said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Master says, My time is near at hand; at thy house I am keeping the Passover with My disciples.’” And the disciples did as Jesus bade them, and prepared the Passover. Now when evening arrived, He reclined at table with the twelve disciples.
And while they were eating, He said, “Amen I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” And being very much saddened they began each to say, “Is it I, Lord?” But He answered and said, “He who dips his hand into the dish with Me, he will betray Me. The Son of Man indeed goes His way, as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It were better for that man if he had not been born.” And Judas who betrayed Him answered and said, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “Thou hast said it.” And while they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed and broke, and gave it to His disciples, and said, “Take and eat; this is My body,” And taking a cup, He gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, “All of you drink of this; for this is My blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it new with you in the kingdom of My Father.” And after reciting a hymn, they went out to Mount Olivet. Then Jesus said to them, “You will all be scandalized this night because of Me; for it is written, ‘I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go before you into Galilee.” But Peter answered and said to Him, “Even though all shall be scandalized because of Thee, I will never be scandalized.” Jesus said to him, “Amen I say to thee, this very night, before a cock crows, thou wilt deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I should have to die with Thee, I will not deny thee!” And all the disciples said the same thing.
Then Jesus came with them to a country place called Gethsemane, and He said to His disciples, “Sit down here, while I go over yonder and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be saddened and exceedingly troubled. Then He said to them, “My soul is sad, even unto death. Wait here and watch with He.” And going forward a little, He fell prostrate and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou willest.” Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And He said to Peter, “Could you not, then, watch one hour with Me? Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again a second time He went away and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cup cannot pass away unless I drink it, Thy Will be done.” And He came again and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And leaving them He went back again, and prayed a third time, saying the same words over. Then He came to His disciples, and said to them, “Sleep on now, and take your rest! Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go. Behold, he who betrays me is at hand.”
The Arrest of Jesus
And while He was yet speaking, behold Judas, one of the Twelve, came and with Him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, that is He; lay hold of Him.” And he went straight up to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, “Friend, for what purpose hast thou come?” Then they came forward and set hands on Jesus and took Him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached out his hand, drew his sword, and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put back thy sword into its place; for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or dost thou suppose that I cannot entreat My Father, and He will even now furnish Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then are the Scriptures to be fulfilled, that thus it must take place?” In that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “As against a robber you have come out, with swords and clubs, to seize Me. I sat daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not lay hands on Me.” Now all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples left Him and fled.
Jesus in the palace of the High Priest
Now those who had taken Jesus led Him away to Caiphas the high priest, where the Scribes and the elders had gathered together. But Peter was following Him at a distance, even to the courtyard of the high priest, and he went in and sat with the attendants to see the end. Now the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin were seeking false witness against Jesus, that they might put Him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. But last of all two false witnesses came forward, and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it after three days,’” Then the high priest, standing up, said to Him, “Dost Thou make no answer to the things that these men prefer against Thee?” But Jesus kept silence. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure Thee by the living God that Thou tell us whether Thou art the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “Thou hast said it. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming upon the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his garments, saying, “He has blasphemed; what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” And they answered and said. “He is liable to death.” Then they spat in His face and buffeted Him; while others struck His face with the palms of their hands, saying, “Prophesy to us, O Christ! who is it that struck Thee?”
Denial of Saint Peter
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard; and a maidservant came up to him and said, “Thou also wast with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what thou art saying.” And when he had gone out to the gateway, another maid saw him, and said to those who were there, “This man also was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man!” And after a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Surely thou also art one of them, for even thy speech betrays thee.” Then he began to curse and to swear that he did not know the man. And at that moment a cock crowed. And Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said, “Before a cock crows, thou wilt deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. Now when morning came all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel together against Jesus in order to put Him to death. And they bound Him and led Him away, and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the procurator.
Then Judas, who betrayed Him, when he saw that He was condemned, repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it thyself.” And he flung the pieces of silver into the temple, and withdrew; and went away and hanged himself with a halter. And the chief priests took the pieces of silver, and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, seeing that it is the price of blood.” And after they had consulted together, they bought with them the potters field, as a burial place for strangers. For this reason that field has been called even to this day, Haceldama, that is, the Field of Blood. Then what was spoken through Jeremias the prophet was fulfilled, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of Him who was priced, upon Whom the children of Israel set a price; and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.’
Jesus at Pilate
Now Jesus stood before the procurator; and the procurator asked Him, saying, “Art Thou the king of the Jews?” Jesus said to him, “Thou sayest it.” And when He was accused by the chief priests and the elders, He made no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, “Dost Thou not hear how many things they prefer against Thee?” But He did not answer him a single word, so that the procurator wondered exceedingly. Now at festival time the procurator used to release to the crowd a prisoner, whomever they would. Now he had at that time a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.
Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said, “Whom do you wish that I release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that they had delivered Him up out of envy. Now, as he was sitting on the judgment-seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just man, for I have suffered many things in a dream today because of Him.” But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to destroy Jesus. But the procurator addressed them, and said to them, “Which of the two do you wish that I release to you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “What then am I to do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let Him be crucified!” The procurator said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they kept crying out the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!” Now Pilate, seeing that he was doing no good, but rather that a riot was breaking out, took water and washed his hands in sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just man; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.” Then he released to them Barabbas; but Jesus he scourged and delivered to them to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the procurator took Jesus into the praetorium, and gathered together about Him the whole cohort. And they stripped Him and put on Him a scarlet cloak; and plaiting a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head, and a reed into His right hand; and bending the knee before Him they mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spat on Him, and took the reed and kept striking Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the cloak off Him and put His own garments on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.
The Way of the Cross and the Crucifixion
Now as they went out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon; him they forced to take up His cross. And they came to the place called Golgotha, that is, the Place of the Skull. And they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; but when He had tasted it, He would not drink. And after they had crucified Him, they divided His garments, casting lots, [to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet, ‘They divided My garments among them, and upon My vesture they cast lots.’] And sitting down they kept watch over Him. And they put above His head the charge against Him, written, THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on His right hand and one on His left. Now the passers-by were jeering at Him, shaking their heads, and saying, “Thou who destroyest the temple, and in three days buildest it up again, save Thyself! If Thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross!” In like manner, the chief priests with the Scribes and the elders, mocking, said, “He saved others, Himself He cannot save! If He is the King of Israel, let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He wants Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers also, who were crucified with Him, reproached Him in the same way.
The Death of Jesus
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. But about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani,” that is, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” And some of the bystanders on hearing this said, “This man is calling Elias.” And immediately one of them ran and, taking a sponge, soaked it in common wine, put it on a reed and offered it to Him to drink. But the rest said, “Wait, let us see whether Elias is coming to save Him.” But Jesus again cried out with a loud voice, and gave up His spirit.
(Everyone kneels down for a few moments.)
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were rent, and the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep arose; and coming forth out of the tombs after His resurrection, they came into the holy city, and appeared to many. Now when the centurion, and those who were with Him keeping guard over Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, they were very much afraid, and they said, “Truly He was the Son of God.” And many women were there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
Burial of Jesus
Now when it was evening, there came a certain rich man of Arimathea, Joseph by name, who was himself a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered the body to be given up. And Joseph taking the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock. Then he rolled a large stone to the entrance of the tomb, and departed. But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulchre.
The celebrant says here:
Lord, deign to bless me. May the Lord be in my heart and on my lips, that I may preach His holy Gospel with dignity. Amen.
The Jews guard the Sepulchre
And the next day, which was the one after the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees went in a body to Pilate, saying, “Sir, we have remembered how that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Give orders, therefore, that the sepulchre be guarded until the third day, or else His disciples may come and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead’; and the last imposture will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, guard it as well as you know how.” So they went and made the sepulchre secure, sealing the stone, and setting the guard.