Good Friday Service
As a call to worship read through Psalm 22.
Today we commemorate Good Friday. We remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross because of his love for humanity. This is often referred to as the passion of the Christ. In current times, passion is defined by a strong emotion, but the root word for passion means to suffer. To have compassion is to suffer with. On the cross, Jesus showed compassion, he suffered with us.
In today’s service we will meditate on Jesus’ seven statements from the cross. Together, these sayings constitute a powerful message from our Savior’s heart during the hours of his greatest personal agony. They reveal Jesus’ innermost feelings as he poured out his life for us.
(Participants can rotate through the stations or readers can take turns leading the meditations in the service.)
While they were nailing Jesus to the cross, he prayed over and over, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” Luke 23:34 (TPT)
As we journey with Jesus in his redemptive work on the cross, perhaps our thoughts turn reflective as we recall the atrocious events leading up to his crucifixion, yet we remember the compassionate words Jesus spoke, even as the spikes were driven into his hands: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” Jesus’ words transcend time and space. His words echo in our hearts today. Jesus invites you to ponder the question, “What are you doing?”
Take a moment and ask God to show you a picture of your heart. What do you see? What does it mean? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you recognize the hidden wounds that cause you to act a certain way. Don’t try to figure it out alone! The Holy Spirit is your Guide, the Helper—the Parakletos. Invite God’s healing light to illuminate the darkness and make you whole.
Today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)
God’s expansive view of humanity is evident in Jesus’ crucifixion. The disciples have scattered, and it is the Jewish leaders not the Romans that call for his death. Who would have expected the Messiah of glory to establish his kingdom as a martyr? It is not a Jewish person, or a religious leader that asks Jesus for forgiveness, but a convicted thief on the cross. What has the thief done to deserve forgiveness? He merely recognizes Jesus as the Son of God and asks. Jesus responds, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Once again, in God’s kingdom we see that the last are first.
Praise God, that through Christ’s sacrifice we are remembered and receive the grace we could never earn. Take some time to think about who you assume will be “last”. Is there a person or group that thinks of you as “last”? Ask God to give you the strength to turn towards him, to give you his eyes to see, receive, and give the undeserved grace that he poured out on the cross.
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27)
Whether connected by DNA or not, our “families” are connected by a long history, treasured memories, and shared experience. During his painful moment on the cross, Jesus sees two people he loves, Mary and John, and calls them family. He reimagines their relationship beyond the genetic bond. Through Christ, people of different experiences and cultures are united as brothers and sisters. Our compassionate Christ places the lonely in families.
In God’s loving presence, consider the experiences of your fellow brothers and sisters. Are there those who are easier to include than others? Is there a time where you feel uncomfortable with your brothers and sisters?
Ask God to unite our hearts in Christian love. To give us hearts and minds like his above. May the Spirit fill us with insight for shared hopes, goals, comforts, and cares. To know how to grieve and celebrate with one another.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” begins the Psalm Jesus was quoting (Psalm 22); it does not end it. The desperate opening line is answered with repeated, reassuring acknowledgements of God’s presence, not his absence. Verse 10 says, “From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” Verse 11 says, “Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.” Verses 19-21 declare, “But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of dogs. Rescue me from the mouths of the lions; save me from the horns of wild oxen.” Then verse 24 is the clincher: “For he [God] has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”
In typical rabbinic fashion, when Jesus quotes the opening line of Psalm 22, he is thereby referencing the entire Psalm, which speaks not of separation or abandonment but of God’s rescuing presence. Jesus spoke to God, knowing that his Father was listening. Perhaps most fully there on the cross, Jesus felt and knew the Father’s unyielding opposition to evil and his commitment to eradicate it. And that is what his cry of abandonment indicates. What events in the world have you crying out to God, and asking why? Are there situations in your personal life that feel forgotten by God? Present these areas to Jesus, ask him to reveal his rescuing presence.
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)
The human experience is not a smooth one. We are dependent in physical and emotional ways. The loneliness we feel, the pain we suffer, the entire spectrum of human emotions, Jesus experienced during his embodied life. On the cross, Jesus took on our anguish, trials, and disappointments, and overcame them all for all of us. In his compassion, Christ suffered with and for us. He partners with us in our lives. When we see someone in need hungering for compassion, thirsting to be loved – we can confidently minister to others from the well of grace and abundant love we have received.
Take a moment to reflect on times when you have experienced the light and love of Christ shining into dark moments. How have you experienced his care and concern for you personally? Is there someone to whom you can offer a cup of compassion?
“It is finished.” (John 19:30)
Jesus’ humility rings in his words. His was not a vain, I-showed-you attitude. He did not even say, “I did it.” He claimed no credit. He asked no pity. To the end, Jesus’ mind was on the work he came to do. He announced, for all to hear, “It is finished.”
What the disciples saw as a lost dream of a messiah, and the religious leaders of the time perceived as a victory for maintaining the status quo, God saw as a victory. When Jesus says, “It is finished” from the cross, he means death has lost its battle, sin no longer has power – humanity has forever been drawn into the Father’s loving arms.
In what ways have you seen God’s redemptive work in your life? Take a moment to thank Jesus for his life poured out for you.
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)
Right before his death, Jesus managed these last words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Words, despite all that had happened, that spoke of his unwavering trust that God the Father was still good and still trustworthy. It was a moment of complete surrender, even as Jesus entered into our fallen darkness, he chose to believe in love rather than doubt. Even with his limited strength, Jesus was able to cry out his witness to the goodness of God. A declaration so commanding that its power reached back through time to undo the actions of the original humans who chose to believe an evil lie that God was selfish and untrustworthy. Jesus’ words transformed “our” story by replacing humanity’s original “no” with an incredible and overwhelming “yes”.
Prayer: Lord, when life seems anything but fair, help us to believe that you really are that good and in return put our complete trust in your goodness.
God is love, and Jesus’ ministry showed what love is. He gave himself for us. He preached his last sermon most effectively, by both word and example. In his last seven statements, he affirmed God’s greatness and glory.