"The Passion of our Lord, according to St. Matthew."

Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve disciples.  He went to the chief priests and asked, "How much will you give me if I help you arrest Jesus?"  They paid Judas thirty silver coins, and from then on he started looking for a good chance to betray Jesus.

On the first day of the Festival of Thin Bread, Jesus' disciples came to him and asked, "Where do you want us to prepare the Passover meal?"

Jesus told them to go to a certain man in the city and tell him, "Our teacher says, 'My time has come!  I want to eat the Passover meal with my disciples in your home.'"  They did as Jesus told them and prepared the meal.

When Jesus was eating with his twelve disciples that evening, he said, "One of you will surely hand me over to my enemies."

The disciples were very sad, and each one said to Jesus, "Lord, you can't mean me!"

He answered, "One of you men who has eaten with me from this dish will betray me.  The Son of Man will die, as the Scriptures say.  But it's going to be terrible for the one who betrays me!  That man would be better off if he had never been born."

Judas said, "Teacher, you surely don't mean me!"

"That's what you say!"  Jesus replied.  But later, Judas did betray him.

During the meal Jesus took some bread in his hands.  He blessed the bread and broke it.  Then he gave it to his disciples and said, "Take this and eat it.  This is my body."

Jesus picked up a cup of wine and gave thanks to God.  He then gave it to his disciples and said, "Take this and drink it.  This is my blood, and with it God makes his agreement with you.  It will be poured out, so that many people will have their sins forgiven.  From now on I am not going to drink any wine, until I drink new wine with you in my Fathers kingdom."  Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.

Jesus said to his disciples, "During this very night, all of you will reject me, as the Scriptures say,

'I will strike down
     the shepherd,
and the sheep
     will be scattered.'

But after I am raised to life, I will go to Galilee ahead of you."

Peter spoke up, "Even if all the others reject you, I never will!"

Jesus replied, "I promise you that before a rooster crows tonight, you will say three times that you don't know me."  But Peter said, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never say I don't know you."

All the others said the same thing.

Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane.  When they got there, he told them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray."

Jesus took along Peter and the two brothers, James and John.  He was very sad and troubled, and he said to them, "I am so sad that I feel as if I am dying.  Stay here and keep awake with me."

Jesus walked on a little way.  Then he knelt with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, don't make me suffer by having me drink from this cup.  But do what you want, and not what I want."

He came back and found his disciples sleeping.  So he said to Peter, "Can't any of you stay awake with me for just one hour?  Stay awake and pray that you won't be tested.  You want to do what is right, but you are weak."

Again Jesus went to pray and said, "My Father, if there is no other way, and I must suffer, I will still do what you want."

Jesus came back and found them sleeping again.  They simply could not keep their eyes open.  He left them and prayed the same prayer once more.

Finally, Jesus returned to his disciples and said, "Are you still sleeping and resting?  The time has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to sinners.  Get up!  Let's go.  The one who will betray me is already here."

Jesus was still speaking, when Judas the betrayer came up.  He was one of the twelve disciples, and a large mob armed with swords and clubs was with him.  They had been sent by the chief priests and the nation's leaders.  Judas had told them ahead of time, "Arrest the man I greet with a kiss."

Judas walked right up to Jesus and said, "Hello, teacher."  Then Judas kissed him.

Jesus replied, "My friend, why are you here?"

The men grabbed Jesus and arrested him.  One of Jesus' followers pulled out a sword.  He struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.

But Jesus told him, "Put your sword away.  Anyone who lives by fighting will die by fighting.  Don't you know that I could ask my Father, and right away he would send me more than twelve armies of angels?  But then, how could the words of the Scriptures come true, which say that this must happen?"

Jesus said to the mob, "Why do you come with swords and clubs to arrest me like a criminal?  Day after day I sat and taught in the temple, and you didn't arrest me.  But all this happened, so that what the prophets wrote would come true."

All of Jesus' disciples left him and ran away.

After Jesus had been arrested, he was led off to the house of Caiaphas the high priest.  The nation's leaders and the teachers of the Law of Moses were meeting there.  But Peter followed along at a distance and came to the courtyard of the high priest's palace.  He went in and sat down with the guards to see what was going to happen.

The chief priests and the whole council wanted to put Jesus to death.  So they tried to find some people who would tell lies about him in court.  But they could not find any, even though many did come and tell lies.  At last, two men came forward and said, "This man claimed that he would tear down God's temple and build it again in three days."

The high priest stood up and asked Jesus, "Why don't you say something in your own defense?  Don't you hear the charges they are making against you?"  But Jesus did not answer.  So the high priest said, "With the living God looking on, you must tell the truth.  Tell us, are you the Messiah, the Son of God?"

"That is what you say!" Jesus answered.  "But I tell all of you,

'Soon you will see
     the Son of Man
sitting at the right side
     of God All-Powerful
and coming on the clouds
     of heaven.'"

The high priest then tore his robe and said, "This man claims to be God!  We don't need any more witnesses!  You have heard what he said.  What do you think?"

They answered, "He is guilty and deserves to die!"  Then they spit in his face and hit him with their fists.  Others slapped him and said, "You think you are the Messiah!  So tell us who hit you!"

While Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, a servant girl came up to him and said, "You were with Jesus from Galilee."

But in front of everyone Peter said, "That isn't so!  I don't know what you are talking about!"

When Peter had gone out to the gate, another servant girl saw him and said to some people there, "This man was with Jesus from Nazareth."

Again Peter denied it, and this time he swore, "I don't even know that man!"

A little while later some people standing there walked over to Peter and said, "We know that you are one of them.  We can tell it because you talk like someone from Galilee."

Peter began to curse and swear, "I don't know that man!"

Right then a rooster crowed, and Peter remembered that Jesus had said, "Before a rooster crows, you will say three times that you don't know me."  Then Peter went out and cried hard.

Early the next morning all the chief priests and the nation's leaders met and decided that Jesus should be put to death.  They tied him up and led him away to Pilate the governor.

Judas had betrayed Jesus, but when he learned that Jesus had been sentenced to death, he was sorry for what he had done.  He returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and leaders and said, "I have sinned by betraying a man who has never done anything wrong."

"So what?  That's your problem," they replied.  Judas threw the money into the temple and then went out and hanged himself.

The chief priests picked up the money and said, "This money was paid to have a man killed.  We can't put it in the temple treasury."  Then they had a meeting and decided to buy a field that belonged to someone who made clay pots.  They wanted to use it as a graveyard for foreigners.  That's why people still call that place "Field of Blood."  So the words of the prophet Jeremiah came true,

"They took
     the thirty silver coins,
the price of a person
     among the people of Israel.
They paid it
     for a potter's field,
as the Lord
     had commanded me."

Jesus was brought before Pilate the governor, who asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"

"Those are your words!" Jesus answered.  And when the chief priests and leaders brought their charges against him, he did not say a thing.

Pilate asked him, "Don't you hear what crimes they say you have done?"  But Jesus did not say anything, and the governor was greatly amazed.

During Passover the governor always freed a prisoner chosen by the people.  At that time a well-known terrorist named Jesus Barabbas was in jail.  So when the crowd came together, Pilate asked them, "Which prisoner do you want me to set free?  Do you want Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?"  Pilate knew that the leaders had brought Jesus to him because they were jealous.

While Pilate was judging the case, his wife sent him a message.  It said, "Don't have anything to do with that innocent man.  I have had nightmares because of him."

But the chief priests and the leaders convinced the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be set free and for Jesus to be killed.  Pilate asked the crowd again, "Which of these two men do you want me to set free?"

"Barabbas!" they replied.

Pilate asked them, "What am I to do with Jesus, who is called the Messiah?"

They all yelled, "Nail him to a cross!"

Pilate answered, "But what crime has he done?"

"Nail him to a cross!" they yelled even louder.

Pilate saw that there was nothing he could do and that the people were starting to riot.  So he took some water and washed his hands in front of them and said, "I won't have anything to do with killing this man.  You are the ones doing it!"

Everyone answered, "We and our descendants will take the blame for his death!"

Pilate set Barabbas free.  Then he ordered his soldiers to beat Jesus with a whip and nail him to a cross.

The governor's soldiers led Jesus into the fortress and brought together the rest of the troops.  They stripped off Jesus' clothes and put a scarlet robe on him.  They made a crown out of thorn branches and placed it on his head, and they put a stick in his right hand.  The soldiers knelt down and pretended to worship him.  They made fun of him and shouted, "Hey, you king of the Jews!"  Then they spit on him.  They took the stick from him and beat him on the head with it.

When the soldiers had finished making fun of Jesus, they took off the robe.  They put his own clothes back on him and led him off to be nailed to a cross.  On the way they met a man from Cyrene named Simon, and they forced him to carry Jesus' cross.

They came to a place named Golgotha, which means "Place of a Skull."  There they gave Jesus some wine mixed with a drug to ease the pain.  But when Jesus tasted what it was, he refused to drink it.

The soldiers nailed Jesus to a cross and gambled to see who would get his clothes.  Then they sat down to guard him.  Above his head they put a sign that told why he was nailed there.  It read, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews."  The soldiers also nailed two criminals on crosses, one to the right of Jesus and the other to his left.

People who passed by said terrible things about Jesus.  They shook their heads and shouted, "So you're the one who claimed you could tear down the temple and build it again in three days!  If you are God's Son, save yourself and come down from the cross!"

The chief priests, the leaders, and the teachers of the Law of Moses also made fun of Jesus.  They said, "He saved others, but he can't save himself.  If he is the king of Israel, he should come down from the cross!  Then we will believe him.  He trusted God, so let God save him, if he wants to.  He even said he was God's Son.  The two criminals also said cruel things to Jesus.

At noon the sky turned dark and stayed that way until three o'clock.  Then about that time Jesus shouted, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you deserted me?"

Some of the people standing there heard Jesus and said, "He's calling for Elijah."  One of them at once ran and grabbed a sponge.  He soaked it in wine, then put it on a stick and held it up to Jesus.

Others said, "Wait! Let's see if Elijah will come and save him."  Once again Jesus shouted, and then he died.

At once the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  The earth shook, and rocks split apart.  Graves opened, and many of God's people were raised to life.  They left their graves, and after Jesus had risen to life, they went into the holy city, where they were seen by many people.

The officer and soldiers guarding Jesus felt the earthquake and saw everything else that happened.  They were frightened and said, "This man really was God's Son!"

Many women had come with Jesus from Galilee to be of help to him, and they were there, looking on at a distance.  Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of James and John were some of these women.

That evening a rich disciple named Joseph from the town of Arimathea went and asked for Jesus' body.  Pilate gave orders for it to be given to Joseph, who took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth.  Then Joseph put the body in his own tomb that had been cut into solid rock and had never been used.  He rolled a big stone against the entrance to the tomb and went away.

All this time Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb.

On the next day, which was a Sabbath, the chief priests and the Pharisees went together to Pilate.  They said, "Sir, we remember what that liar said while he was still alive.  He claimed that in three days he would come back from death.  So please order the tomb to be carefully guarded for three days.  If you don't his disciples may come and steal his body.  They will tell the people that he has been raised to life, and this last lie will be worse than the first one."

Pilate said to them, "All right, take some of your soldiers and guard the tomb as well as you know how."  So they sealed it tight and placed soldiers there to guard it.

                                                                                         Matthew 26:14-27:66

Contemporary English Version The Holy Bible (New York , NY: American Bible Society 1995)