Several years ago when I was teaching Sunday school for twelve- and thirteen-year-olds, my class was looking for a Palm Sunday reader’s theater to perform for the congregation. We specifically wanted something that would give worshipers an idea of what people along the route were thinking as Jesus entered the city. After checking out several drama websites and not finding anything, I decided to write a reader’s theater script. We have since performed this drama with both children only and adults only. You may use simple costumes or have all the actors dressed in black. This is also very effective when the actors memorize their pieces.
The Script (based on Matthew 21)
Narrator: As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem and came to the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to Bethphage ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there with her colt. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them.” The disciples went and did as Jesus instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds yelled, “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” A mixture of people stood in the crowd that day, some believing, some scoffing. What did the people think as they saw Jesus ride by?
Donkey Seller: Bethphage has always been known for selling donkeys, and my family takes pride in the fact that we’ve been in this business for generations. When these two young men approached me and asked to borrow a donkey and its colt—well, I’ve never heard of that in my whole life! But there was something commanding about their presence—something that made me believe them. I’m not sure who this “Lord” is who needed the donkeys, but I just felt I could trust them. I don’t know [shakes head] . . . my wife says I’m crazy—she says I’ll probably never see those donkeys again.
Disciple: I’ve been following Jesus for three years, and I know the wonderful miracles he has done. So why wouldn’t he let us treat him more like the king we know him to be? Why didn’t he let us get a horse—or at least a camel—for him to ride on? What was he thinking by riding a donkey? Kings don’t act that way!
Child: We were on our way home from temple school and didn’t really know what was going on . . . only that everyone was excited and yelling “The King is coming!” People started ripping branches off the trees and laying them on the road for the donkey to walk on; some people even took off their coats and laid them on the road. It was exciting!
Pontius Pilate: [arrogantly] Everyone in the palace was astir about some parade that was taking place outside Jerusalem. As if I, Pontius Pilate, would care about that. Those Judeans are always having some religious festival or another. I get so tired of all their sacrifices; the stench of their smoke comes up to my palace and ruins my garden parties. They’re always prattling on about “one true God.” But as long as they stay out of my hair, I’m a big believer in “live and let live.”
Parent: [sincerely, heartfelt] We owe Jesus our daughter’s life. She died suddenly—one of those swift summer fevers that comes up out of the swamps of Capernaum—and within hours our precious girl was gone. We had heard Jesus preach and even seen him healing people. We sent word to him, telling him that our daughter was sick—hoping, praying that he could do something. Before Jesus could come, a servant came and told us she had died. We gave in to despair, but Jesus followed us to our house and told us she was only sleeping! He took her by the hand and helped her stand up! She was alive again! I don’t know if Jesus is everything he claims to be, but he had compassion on our family, and we love him.
Pharisee: I can’t believe the gall of that man! Claiming to be a king! Organizing a parade! Deceiving people into thinking he’s some kind of big deliverer! Well, we on the Sanhedrin have had about enough of him. Everyone’s coming to Jerusalem for the Passover, and that will be the perfect time to get rid of this troublemaker!
Roman Soldier: I’ve been stationed here in Jerusalem for a little more than a year, and I just want to go home to Rome. I’ve had it with the trouble brewing here all the time—the zealots, the rabble rousers, the crucifixions—it’s enough to turn your stomach. Just today another guy was proclaiming himself a king. People were shouting and throwing their coats into the road. I can only see a bad end ahead for him. The Romans don’t take kindly to anyone with plans to overthrow the government.
Zealot: Finally! This Jesus has been preaching and teaching for three years, and that’s all well and good, but it’s time to make a move! Now that he’s publicly proclaimed that he’s a king, we’ll finally see some action! It’s time to get rid of the oppressive Roman government—the taxes alone are enough to cripple anyone. If he wants to set up some sort of kingdom that talks about “another world” and “heaven,” that’s fine, but I’m more interested in a king that will take over here and now.
Narrator: A mixture of people stood in the crowd that day, some believing, some scoffing. What did the people think as they saw Jesus ride by? Who do you see as Jesus rides by?
- Donkey seller
- Pontius Pilate
- Roman soldier
Running Time: approximately five minutes
Set Up: Actors can be in a line left to right so that you see all the actors at once. Alternately, they can line up behind each other so that only the actor at the front of the line can be seen. Each actor should step to the microphone for his or her part.