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Good Friday Ideas

Passion of the Redeemer

Setting: A cross and a crown of thorns

Prelude

Welcome and Call to Worship

They shouted
"Crucify him
crucify him!"
Pilate asked
"Shall I crucify
your King?"

The chief priests answered, "We have no king but the emperor."
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus;
and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to The Place of the Skull

There they
crucified him
and with him
two others,
one on either
side with Jesus
between them.
Pilate also had
an inscription
written and put
on the cross.
It read "Jesus
of Nazareth, the
King of the Jews."
—from www.liturgisiesonline.com.au

*Hymn: "’Tis Midnight, and on Olive’s Brow”  CCS 456

*Invocation

*Response

Ministry of Music: "He Was Despised" from Handel’s Messiah

This piece can be found on most Messiah recordings. Contact Herald House for the most recent recording of the Independence Messiah Choir.

The Passion of the Redeemer

Read by different readers. After each scripture, sing one stanza of "Jesus, Remember Me”  CCS 459

The Lamb of God : John 1:29
"Jesus, Remember Me"  CCS 459

Despised and Rejected : Isaiah 53:3, 50:6
"Jesus, Remember Me"  CCS 459

Wounded for Our Transgressions : Isaiah 53:4–6
"Jesus, Remember Me"  CCS 459

Trust in God : Psalm 22:8
"Jesus, Remember Me"  CCS 459

Rebuke : Psalm 69:20
"Jesus, Remember Me"  CCS 459

Sorrow : Lamentations 1:12
"Jesus, Remember Me"  CCS 459

The King of Glory  : Psalm 24:7–10

Hymn: “Shadows Lengthen into Night”  CCS 470 (1st 4 stanzas)
OR "Rejected and Despised”  CCS 462

The Arrest: John 18:1–12

Hymn: "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" stanza 1  CCS 463

The Interrogation: John 18:13–27

Hymn: "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" stanza 2  CCS 463

The Trial: John 18:28, 19:16

Hymn: "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" stanza 3  CCS 463

The Crucifixion: John 19:16–37

Ministry of Music: "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"  CCS 457

The Burial: John 19:38–42

Following the reading of this last scripture, turn off most or all of the lights

Ministry of Music: "Were You There" stanzas 1–4  CCS 458

Sung as a solo.

At the conclusion of the music, turn out all lights. From the back or from just outside the room, a male voice is heard:

Male Voice:  "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

Turn on just enough lights for people to leave. Encourage a quiet exit with a quiet postlude.

Tenebrae Service

The Light

The sanctuary should have low lighting. Scripture readers may need a penlight or flashlight. There is no prelude or opening hymn. Ten unlit candles are placed in the front of the worship space. The presider enters from the rear, carrying a tall lighted candle (the Christ candle) and places it in a stand located in the midst of the assembly. An intergenerational group of ten people come forward and retrieve the candles from the rostrum, go to the Christ candle, light their candles, and then replace the candles on the rostrum.

Responsive Reading and Prayer

Leader:  Jesus Christ is the light of the world.

People:  A light no darkness can extinguish.

Leader:  O God of unchanging power and light, look with mercy on your people.

People:  Bring your salvation to us all, so that the world may see your light.

All:  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Readings and Psalms

Reading 1: The Lamentation of the Prophet Jeremiah: Lamentations 1:1–14
OR Lamentations 1:1–2, 7–8, 11–12, 14; 3:19–23

Extinguish the first candle.

Psalm: Psalm 22 or Psalm 71

Extinguish the second candle.

Prayer offered in the tone of the two scripture texts above

Extinguish the third candle.

Reading 2: The Betrayal: Mark 14:43–50

Extinguish the fourth candle.

Psalm: Psalm 27 or Psalm 51

Extinguish the fifth candle.

Period of Silent Prayer

Extinguish the sixth candle.

Reading 3: The Letter to the Hebrews: Hebrews 4:14—5:10

Extinguish the seventh candle.

Reading 4: Ezekiel 36:24–28 or Hosea 6:1–6

Extinguish the eighth candle.

Prayer for Knowing God

Extinguish the ninth candle.

Reading 5: John 12:23–28 or John 8:21–30 or John 3:14–17

Extinguish the tenth candle and all other unnecessary lights.

The Sacrifice of Christ

The congregation kneels in silence. After a period of reflection, the presider goes to the Christ candle, removes it from the stand and processes to the front with the lit candle. Turn to face the congregation.

Scripture Reading: Mark 15: 33–39

Recessional

The presider blows out the Christ candle and leads the congregation in silence out of the sanctuary.

What Will We Do?

The sanctuary lights are low, possibly with no artificial lighting at all. There is a worship center in the front of the sanctuary with twelve candles, plus the Christ candle. The Christ candle, which is larger and gives off more light, is in the middle. When the time comes, the candles are extinguished with a candle snuffer or blown out. One of the candles will be extinguished after each reading. The readers may want to use penlight flashlights. All of the candles are lit as the congregation enters. There is no prelude or opening hymn. The people enter in silence.

Scripture Reading: Luke 22:41–46

First candle is extinguished.

Hymn: "Holy Woman, Graceful Giver”  CCS  464

If a piano accompanies, play the hymn through once, and the congregation sings the second time through. If there is a song leader, the leader sings once and is joined by the congregation the second time.

Scripture Reading: Luke 22:66–71

Second candle is extinguished.

Scripture Reading: Luke 23:1–7

Third candle is extinguished.

Scripture Reading: Luke 23:8–12

Fourth candle is extinguished.

Scripture Reading: Luke 23:13–17

Fifth candle is extinguished.

Scripture Reading: Luke 23:18–25

Sixth candle is extinguished.

Scripture Reading: Luke 23:26–31

Seventh candle is extinguished.

Scripture Reading: Luke 23:32–38

Eighth candle is extinguished.

Scripture Reading: Luke 23:39–43

Ninth candle is extinguished.

Scripture Reading: Luke 23:44–49

Tenth candle is extinguished.

Monologue  "Bereft: Mary Magdalene Speaks Her Grief"
(© John Arthur Horner, 2005. Used with permission.)

A flickering light. Mary Magdalene walks slowly in front of the congregation. She is stunned and at first takes no note of anything. She stands several moments in silence, focusing on nothing, simply holding her candle or lamp, flickering in front of us. Finally she speaks, to herself, to the universe—it’s hard to tell. Softly . . . lost—trying to find whatever it is she has lost, perhaps herself.

He is gone.

Long pause.

He is gone.

Another pause. Finally she seems to notice at least some of the congregation.

My friend . . . (short pause) My friend is gone. Gone. Dead. Murdered.

He is gone. (realizing) He is gone!

The sun will never shine again. We are lost in a world of darkness, of blindness, and the sun will never shine again, even in its ignorance.

How can we live? How can we even live, when life itself has died? When the joy of life, the love of life, the life of life has died?

He saw the nadir of my life, the destitution of my days. He saw me at my worst, and in that worst he was able to find my best. (straight to the congregation) My life stumbled its way, seven devils in its heart, each striving to dominate me, to corrode my soul, to defeat my heart.

And he found me. He, who knew me better than ever I have been known, he wrestled my devils and drove them from my heart. (short pause) Or he guided me and strengthened me as I faced them. (short pause) Or the love he lived for each of us poured into my soul. (pause) Or . . .

The devils fled.

I don’t know—I don’t know what he did. I don’t know. But my life before he did what he did and my life after are two separate lives. My heart was no longer captured—my life no longer entangled.

I saw the sun once again. I lived in its light and its warmth. I sang, and I danced, and I followed him.

Directly to the congregation.

Do you know what it is like finally to walk in the sunlight, when you have only ever groped in the darkness of the night? Do you know—Do you know what it is to awaken and open your eyes to health, when you have slept through fevered night terrors? Do you know—Do you know what it is to discover the new morning that is love, when all you have ever known has been the dusk that is indifference and the midnight that is despair?

Do you know?

Not even a week ago the temple walls sounded and echoed with the shouts and hosannas of children who laid down palm fronds and the clapping and cheering of their parents, sweeping out their cloaks so the donkey he was riding would not misstep as he entered triumphantly into Jerusalem!

And today!

Today they called for his death—for his crucifixion! As if he were some criminal!

I tried. I tried with all I had to make my voice heard, to call out his name. But I could not drown the voices of the toadies of Caiaphas, who called out the name "Barabbas! Give us Barabbas!"

That this murderer should live, would be freed, while the son of life should be condemned to die upon a Roman cross, like some run-of-the-mill thief!

Very brief pause.

(softly) Where is God? (Beat.* Loudly) Where is God? How can the God of creation stand dumbly by while creation itself turns in upon itself, watching the fall of darkness, the death of the sun?

They ran away! They all ran away! Judas betrayed him, and Peter denied he even knew who he was! Only John has dared show his face. (loudly) What is this world coming to? He was whipped and mocked and forced to carry the cross of his death to the place of his death!

Where has God gone?

(Very softly.)

Where has God gone?

As they hammered the spikes into his flesh, as they hoisted him up into place, as they thrust the spear into his side, as they rolled dice for his clothes and mocked him, daring him to come down from the cross, as he prayed for us and it was finished—.

Where did the living God of Israel go?

My friend has died, and the sun will never rise again.

Directly to the congregation.

What will I do?

She looks at us, numb with grief, then blows out her lamp. She leaves.

*A beat marks a transition in the scene, usually a shift in the direction a character is thinking. That means that a beat is usually accompanied by a pause, most often fairly short, to indicate the transition.

Solo: "Were You There" stanzas 1 and 2..CCS  458

Sung a Capella, preferably by a woman.

Scripture Reading: III Nephi 4:17b–21

Eleventh candle is extinguished.

Congregational Hymn: "Were You There" stanzas 3 and 4..CCS  458

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 53:7–9

Twelfth candle is extinguished.
Christ Candle is extinguished.

Hymn: "Jesus, Remember Me”  CCS  459

This is sung in the dark as many times as feels right.

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:79

The presider recites or reads Luke 1:79, while relighting the Christ candle.

Scripture Reading: John 8:12

The presider turns to the congregation, takes the lit Christ candle from the table, and recites or reads John 8:12.

As the service ends, the congregation is invited to follow the Christ candle as it is carried out of the sanctuary. The presider takes the Christ candle and leads the congregation out of the sanctuary in silence.

Good Friday Service

To prepare the setting, form a cross with luminarias. (Luminarias, from the Mexican tradition, are candles set in sand inside of a paper bag.) Arrange them in the center of the room if you have movable seating. If you have pews, place them beside the aisles leaving the entrance to the row open. Extend the luminarias across part of the front and onto the rostrum, thus making the vertical and horizontal parts of the cross. The church should be darkened except for the luminarias. You may use candles, battery lights, or small electric Christmas lights, instead, if you prefer. Worshipers enter either to quiet meditation music or silence—you decide. As the congregation gathers, assign one or two people to place each individual’s name on a small strip of paper.

An Invitation to Worship

The next three days of Holy Week commemorate Jesus’ betrayal, crucifixion, death, and his lying in the tomb. This is a somber time, yet we are an Easter people who claim also to be the people of the cross. In all of Jesus’ life he personified love—even in death. So let us remember, and also anticipate, the gift of new life!

Statements

Have three readers placed throughout the congregation; using lapel mikes and small flashlights would be helpful.

Reader 1: This is the night—the awful night when the disciple who dipped in the dish betrayed him.
Reader 2: This is the night that he prayed in the garden all alone, asking that God would spare him, yet that God’s will would be done.
Reader 3: The crowds mocked him, no longer calling him king.
Reader 1: On the morn he stood before Pilate who pronounced he should be crucified.
Reader 2: Along the way to a hill called “The Skull,” Simon of Cyrene carried his cross.
Reader 3: The women wept and cried out for him, but he asked the daughters of Jerusalem to weep not for him but for the world.
Reader 1: The crowds jeered and shouted, “Crucify him!”
Reader 2: At the cross the soldiers placed a purple robe upon him. And they placed a crown of thorns on his head.
Reader 3: They spat upon him. He thirsted and they offered him wine mixed with gall.
Reader 1: Then they nailed him to the cross and HE DIED.
Reader 2: (softer) He died.
Reader 3: (soft and reflective) He died.

Ministry of Music: “’Tis Midnight and on Olive’s Brow”  CCS 456  solo or choral group
 OR Hymn: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”  CCS 457

Reflections on the Cross

Ahead of time, assign four people to give testimonies on the following. Each can be five or six minutes long.

  • Betrayal by one whom is trusted
  • Aloneness in time of tribulation
  • Being wrongly accused
  • The dying away of one’s spirit

Congregational Time of Silence

Ministry of Music: “Were You There”  CCS 458

Prayers

Ahead of time, assign three people to give prayers on the following.

  • Help us to repent of our trespasses and empty ourselves of unloving thoughts and deeds.
  • Cleanse and heal us, that we may be as one—that Jesus’ love may fill us with peace.
  • In times of despair may we find hope in the cross and Jesus’ unending love.

Congregational Prayer: The Lord’s Prayer

*Hymn: “Touch Me, Lord, with Thy Spirit Eternal”  CCS 574
OR “Tenderly, Tenderly, Lead Thou Me On´  CCS 256

*The Promise

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God. Believe also in me, for I will come again.

*Closing

The presider can invite those present to come forward and draw a name from a basket. For the coming year, this person will be your “secret pal.” You can do loving acts of caring for them throughout the year.

*Postlude

Exit to the social hall for light refreshment anticipating the coming Easter Sunday.

Rejected and Despised (2018)


Prelude

Opening Hymn

“Jesus, Remember Me” (sing acapella three to four times, or as desired)              CCS 459

OR “How Long, O God, How Long?”         CCS 455

Invitation to Worship

Tonight, we journey with Christ to the cross and contemplate the cost of discipleship in our own lives and communities. Though we know the story ends in resurrection, we are invited to not rush to resolution. We come together on Good Friday to be present to the suffering in us and in our world, to remember that new life comes through sacrificial love, and to allow ourselves to seek the holy even in the darkest of nights.

Good Friday welcomes the vast spectrum of our humanity as we find ourselves, in moments of crisis, sometimes at our best, and sometimes at our worst. We give thanks for the grace that holds us in all conditions. As we make this journey tonight, pay attention to where you find yourself in this story and to God’s emerging invitation for you.

Scripture Reading

John 18:3–11

Prayers of the People

Reader 1:  Sometimes, God, we are Judas. In greed or fear, we choose self-fulfillment over the deep call of discipleship. We reject and betray you in a hundred different ways, often unnoticed. Sometimes what we think is best for us leads to the suffering of others. Awaken us, God, and forgive our complacency.

Reader 2:   Sometimes, God, we are Peter. We lash out in anger at injustice without contemplating your invitation to compassion. In fear or rage, we often resort to violence of action or word, forgetting so quickly your call to love our enemies. Give us the courage to put our swords back in our sheaths and embrace your powerful example of nonviolent love.

Both Readers:   Amen.

Song of Response

“Soften My Heart” (sing twice)  CCS 187

“O Lord, Hear My Prayer”             CCS 192

Scripture Reading

John 18:33–36, 19:2–6

Prayers of the People

Reader 1:  Sometimes, God, we are Pilate, thinking we can somehow distance ourselves from suffering and injustice by placing the burden on someone else. It’s easy to point the finger, blame the system, and not take responsibility for our part. Forgive our lack of courage in the Pilate moments of life, when we choose to let things take their course rather than boldly stand against the powers that be.

Reader 2: Sometimes, God, we are the crowd. We can be so fearful of what threatens to change us. We rant and chant and feel the false comfort of like-minded people around us. It can be so tempting to blend in. For the moments we have chosen what is popular instead of what is right, we pray for mercy and forgiveness.

Both Readers:   Amen.

Song of Response

“Kyrie Eleison”  CCS 184

“Lord, Have Mercy”        CCS 197

Scripture Reading

John 19:16–18, 23–27

Prayers of the People

Reader 1:  Sometimes, God, we are the soldiers, doing what we are told without regard to the consequence. We are so bombarded by suffering in our world, that our hearts can grow hard and numb to the pain happening around us. We can be careless and cruel in our assumptions about others and our indifference to their needs.

Reader 2: Sometimes, God, we are the beloved disciple and the women at the cross, standing steadfast amid what we would rather not see. We take the grieving into our own lives and care for them as members of our family. Sometimes we do not know what to do, but we are willing to be present and trust that is enough.

Both Readers:   Amen.

Song of Response

“God Weeps” (consider using this as a ministry of music)              CCS 212

OR “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”              CCS 206

Scripture Reading

John 19:28–30, 38–40

Prayers of the People

Reader 1:  Sometimes, God, we are Jesus, releasing whatever keeps us from living the depth of our call. Sometimes we are willing to surrender to your Spirit even in the worst circumstances of life. Though we know you do not will our suffering, we pray that we will know you are with us in the midst of it.

Reader 2:  Sometimes, God, we are Joseph and Nicodemus, working behind the scenes, allowing our compassion and love to overcome our fear of what others might think. We offer what we have, and tend to the sacred with great reverence. We may not always be aware of how our humble offerings might just be the place where new life comes bursting forth.

Both Readers:   Amen.

Song of Response

“Were You There”           CCS 458

OR “Why Has God Forsaken Me?”            CCS 460

Communal Sharing or Brief Homily

Where do you find yourself in this story tonight? Are you Judas, Peter, Pilate, the crowd, the soldiers, the beloved disciple, or the women at the cross? Are you Jesus, Joseph, or Nicodemus? Reflecting on the prayers of the people, what character resonates most with you as you dwell in this sacred story? What is God’s invitation to you this night?

Invitation to Silence

God is present even here, even now, even in the places we would rather not be. In feeling God’s absence, we remember our yearning for God’s presence. In the silence, we make space for Spirit to hear our sighs and longings too deep for words.

Let us enter silence to gently listen for what is deeper than words emerging in us this night.

After a time of silence, we will sing together, and then you are invited to stay in silence and leave when you feel ready.

Chime three times.

Communal Silence (3–5 minutes)

Chime three times.

Closing Prayer

“Jesus, Remember Me” (sing this song multiple times as a closing prayer)             CCS 459

OR “How Long, O God, How Long?” (sing as a closing prayer)       CCS 455

Leave in silence…


Sermon Helps - JOHN 18:1—19:42

Exploring the Scripture

The Gospel of John presents Jesus’ passion from his arrest, the inquiry before Annas, Peter’s denial, and the trial before Pilate, through Jesus’ death and burial. Many details found in the ac­counts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are absent in John: Simon of Cyrene, Jesus’ prayer of for­giveness, repentance by the “good thief,” several sayings from the cross, the sanctuary veil, and the centurion. The overall theme is that Jesus is fully in control of both his life and his death. John’s Christ does not writhe in agony. He does not struggle in Gethsemane or cry out on the cross. He embraces death as God’s will and a way to return to God in victory.

Throughout the account, Jesus controls the action. He causes those arresting him to step back and fall to the ground (John 18:6). He re­interprets questions during trial. He denies Pi­late’s claim to have power over him (19:11). John stresses that Jesus went to death himself, with no human help.

During Jesus’ trial, Pilate is forced by the Jewish leaders to pronounce the death sentence on Jesus. When challenged by those leaders about the inscription, Pilate reversed their plan by affirming as fact the charge they brought against Jesus. Thus, he confesses Jesus’ sover­eignty publicly, while the chief priests continue to reject it.

John describes in detail how the soldiers di­vided Jesus’ clothing and cast lots for the seam­less tunic. By citing Psalm 22:18, the evangelist implies the soldiers who crucified Jesus fulfilled prophecy. Some scholars suggest John’s empha­sis on keeping the seamless tunic intact is sym­bolic of the unity of Jesus’ followers. The soldiers could not destroy what belonged to Jesus.

At the cross, Jesus is surrounded by soldiers, Jewish leaders, and a faithful community of friends, followers, and his mother. From them he forms a new family who is to care for one another. Finally, he declared that all was now finished—his proclamation of the kingdom, his sojourn as the Son of God, the new relationship of faith between his physical family and the dis­ciple community. The prayer language found in Psalm 69:21 about thirst, can be understood now as expressed in John 18:11, “…Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” Jesus has not only drunk the cup, he continues to thirst for it, drinking until everything re­quired of him is completed.

“Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (19:30b). Even in death, Jesus is in charge. No one takes his spirit from him. He alone gives it back to God.

From first to last, through life and death, Jesus is the mover and controller of both present and future. “I lay down my life…I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:17–18). In John’s Gos­pel, Jesus was victor, triumphant over pain and death, fulfilling his appointed role of Messiah as he orchestrated his own end.

How shall we understand the meaning of his death? We know Jesus proclaimed and mod­eled the kingdom of God, a kingdom of grace and compassion for all. He could have avoided death. All he needed to do was deny the kingdom and go with the social order of the day. Instead, he set his face boldly toward Jerusalem, and continued to act out the kingdom even when threat­ened with execution. Christ died for us, for the cause of the kingdom he proclaimed. How shall we respond to the continued call to bring about God’s kingdom today?

Central Ideas

  1. John is writing to his historical communi­ty at the end of the first century. We must hear the story of the cross according to the Roman-Greek and Jewish cultures, and the purpose of John’s Gospel: to proclaim the sovereignty of Christ and bring people to faith.
  2. Although we are a community separated from John’s era by 2,000 years, we are not re­moved from the life-giving and saving work of Christ.
  3. The cross has many meanings. One way of understanding its significance is to realize that Jesus died for the kingdom of God, which threatened the powerful of his day.

Questions for the Speaker

  1. How does Jesus’ behavior leading to being in control of his own death fit with your theol­ogy?
  2. How might the people of the congrega­tion hear John’s faithful account about the life-giving and saving work of Christ today? Would people today hear it in the same manner as John’s community might have heard it in its time?
  3. How might you communicate Christ’s in­tent to draw all people to him on the cross of Calvary? What meaning might this have for disciples today?
  4. What is your understanding of the use of the word good (as in Good Friday) in de­scribing this day and text? 

Small-group Worship Suggestions

Good Friday

John 18:1—19:42 NRSV

The Facilitator Notes provide an overview of Sacred Space and how to use the resource to best meet ministry needs. This is a must read for first-time users.

The weekly outline and handouts provide everything needed to plan and facilitate a scripture-focused Sacred Space gathering and includes additional options such as Thoughts for Children.


Gathering

Welcome

On Good Friday we remember the crucifixion of Jesus. It is a time of somber reflection. Traditionally in sacred spaces, sanctuaries, and chapels, the room and altar are stripped bare. The absence of flowers, symbols, and banners speaks to the reflective nature of observing Good Friday.

Prayer for Peace

Share the following instructions aloud for today’s silent Prayer for Peace: In this time of darkness and confusion let us wait in silence as we silently unite our prayers for peace. I will ring the chime and light the candle of peace to signal when our prayer begins. We will hold silence together for one minute. At the end of that silence, I will ring the chime, and together we will say, “Amen.”

Ring a bell or chime three times slowly.
Light the peace candle.

Wait one minute in silence.
Ring a bell or chime one time.

As a group, respond aloud: Amen.

Spiritual Practice

Prayer of Compassion

Read the following aloud:

Many religious traditions teach the importance of naming our losses and our sorrows. When we suppress our sorrow it can intensify and literally make our bodies ill. In the Christian tradition, Good Friday represents the day Jesus died on the cross. His body literally was battered and bleeding. One gospel writer records Jesus crying out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 NRSV).

When we recognize and name Jesus’ pain we are connecting not only to his suffering, but to ours and others’. How many times have we cried out in a similar way? It is the suffering that makes the resurrection such an incredible story. Life and death, peace and suffering are parts of the paradox of life.

The name Good Friday comes from this concept. Joy is so sweet because of the bitterness we have tasted in the suffering. When our hearts are broken open and we are able to name our pain, we develop compassion for others who suffer. Through compassion we are able to appreciate the new life that emerges as resurrection overcomes death.

Give the following instructions: I will read aloud the words to a prayer one sentence at a time. Listen carefully for the first four words of each sentence. I will pause at the end of the sentence, and you will respond aloud, saying together those words. For example the first four words of the first sentence are, “God, open our eyes.” After I read the whole sentence you will all say aloud together, “God, open our eyes.”

As we prepare to pray, let’s focus and take a few deep, cleansing breaths in and out. (Silently lead the group in a few deep, cleansing breaths.)

Read the following prayer aloud, pausing as indicated.

God, Open our eyes that we may see the suffering of those around us.
God, Open our eyes.

Pause for 10 seconds of silence.

God, Open our ears that we may hear the stories of those oppressed among us.
God, Open our ears.

Pause for 10 seconds of silence.

God, Open our hearts that we may fill with compassion and love for all.
God, Open our hearts.

Pause for 10 seconds of silence.

Amen.

Time to Reflect

One of Community of Christ’s five Mission Initiatives is Abolish Poverty, End Suffering. How is God opening you to see, hear, and love? Why is it important for us to see, hear, and name suffering?

Sharing Around the Table

John 18:1—19:42 NRSV

Note: Today’s reading is very lengthy. Consider reading the scripture aloud using different readers for each paragraph, allowing time to hear the story as it unfolds as a whole.

After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him 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 was better to have one person die for the people.

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not. ”One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”

After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”

Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”

When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says,

“They divided my clothes among themselves,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.”
And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

The Gospel of John tells the story of Jesus’ passion from the time of his arrest through his death and burial. Many details in the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are absent in John. The overall theme John conveys is that Jesus has full control in his life and death. John’s Christ does not writhe in agony. He does not struggle in Gethsemane or cry out on the cross. He embraces death as God’s will and a way to return to God in victory.

Jesus causes those arresting him to step back and fall to the ground (John 18:6). He reinterprets questions during trial. He denies Pilate’s claim to power over him (19:11). The Gospel writer of John emphasizes that Jesus embraced death of his own accord, without human help.

During the trial, Jewish leaders force Pilate to pronounce the death sentence on Jesus, but they do not escape the irony of the inscription Pilate orders prepared and placed on the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Jesus’ sovereignty is proclaimed publicly even in the face of the chief priests who continue to demand his execution.

John details the ensuing events, careful to cite Psalm 22:18, communicating the message that in Jesus prophecy is fulfilled. Soldiers, Jewish leaders, friends, followers, and his mother gather at the foot of Jesus’ cross. This assortment of diverse people foreshadows those who will become a new family or community, following in the way of Jesus and caring for one another.

Jesus’ life, ministry, and proclamation of the kingdom, along with the prayer language in Psalm 69:21 about thirst, are summed up in the poignant words Jesus utters in John 18:11, “Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” Jesus willingly drinks the cup and continues to thirst and drink until he has completed all that is required of him. “Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (19:30b). According to John’s account, even in death Jesus is in charge. No one takes his spirit from him. He alone gives it to God.

From first to last, John’s Jesus is the mover and controller of present and future. Jesus was victor, triumphant over pain and death, fulfilling his appointed role of Messiah, which he himself orchestrated to the end.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus proclaimed and modeled the kingdom of God, a kingdom of grace and compassion for all. He could have avoided death. All he needed to do was deny the kingdom and go with the social order of the day. Instead, he set his face boldly toward Jerusalem, and continued his actions of kingdom living even when threatened with execution. Christ died for the cause of the kingdom he proclaimed.

Questions

  1. How do you see Christ’s inclusion of all people in the group gathered at his cross? How does this speak to us as disciples today?
  2. How is walking the way to the cross with Jesus on Good Friday important to our understanding and celebration of Easter?
  3. How is God inviting us to respond to the continued call to bring about God’s peaceable kingdom today?

Sending

Generosity Statement

“Faithful disciples respond to an increasing awareness of the abundant generosity of God by sharing according to the desires of their hearts; not by commandment or constraint” (Doctrine and Covenants 163:9). The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing small-group ministries as part of your generous response.

The offering prayer is adapted for Lent from A Disciple’s Generous Response:

God of light and shadow, We share resources so others may know the presence of your Son. May these offerings bring joy, hope, love, and peace into the lives of others that they might experience your mercy and grace. Amen.

Invitation to Next Meeting

Closing Hymn

CCS 456, “’Tis Midnight and on Olive’s Brow”

Closing Prayer

Optional Additions Depending on Group

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