A Journey with the Cross

Here is a resource for Good Friday prepared by Alister. You can download it to print or just scroll down this page.

A Journey with the Cross

Good Friday – 2020

Lord Jesus Christ, as we gather at the foot of your cross, help us to see and know your love for us, so that we place at your feet all that we have and are. Hear this prayer for your love’s sake. Amen.

Last night, having been betrayed by Judas, Jesus was arrested and taken to Caiaphas the High Priest. Now it is morning, and the religious authorities meet and put the finishing touches on their plot to kill Jesus. Then they tie him up and parade him to Pilate, the Roman Governor, who questions him.

Reading:

Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus said, ‘You say so.’ But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. Then Pilate said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?’ But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

(Mt. 27:11-14)

Reflection:

It seems that Jesus impressed Pilate. He was certainly unwilling to condemn him. The dignified silence that Jesus maintained made Pilate feel that it was not Jesus, but he himself who was on trial. Pilate felt the power of Jesus – and was afraid to submit to it. We might ask ourselves: to what extent are we willing to submit to Jesus? 

Be still ……

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
because by your holy cross
you have redeemed the world.

Reading:

Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.’ Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said, ‘Barabbas.’ Pilate said to them, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ Then he asked, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’

So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’ Then the people as a whole answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

(Mt. 27:15-26)

Reflection:

Pilate sought to escape responsibility for condemning Jesus. It’s a tragic picture. Pilate was warned by his sense of justice – warned by his conscience – warned by the dream of his wife – but he couldn’t stand up to the mob. So, he washed his hands of Jesus.

How often do we wish to rid ourselves of responsibility by walking away from a situation of injustice, from a tough decision, from the call to do what we know to be right? The temptation is to wash our hands of the person, the situation, the responsibility. But can we do that if we choose to walk with Jesus?

Be still ……

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
because by your holy cross
you have redeemed the world.

Reading:

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

(Mt. 27:27-31)

Reflection:

The soldiers dress Jesus up as a king and mock him. We shudder at what they did, but did they know what they were doing? I suspect not. It was simply rough horseplay. Unlike Pilate and the religious leaders, they acted in ignorance. The irony was, Jesus is a king, but not a king as the soldiers imagined, nor the religious leaders or the politicians. But Jesus stands there and takes it – takes it on our behalf. Calvin suggested that the amazing love shown in Jesus’ willingness to accept such insults on our behalf should move us to ‘secret meditation, not fancy words.’ In the face of such insults and derision, what arises in your heart?

Be still ……

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
because by your holy cross
you have redeemed the world.

Reading:

As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him. Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.’

Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, “I am God’s Son.” ’ The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

(Mt. 27:32-44)

Reflection:

For those who choose to journey with Jesus, these events are shocking and tragic, and yet we know they are source of something that is so deeply moving and transforming that we struggle to put it into words. For here, on the cross ­– an instrument of cruel execution – is shown love at its deepest. Here we see the face of God turned to us in love. As we do so, we are summoned to walk with him and to somehow make that love real for others. As Isaac Watts put it, ‘love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.’

Be still ……

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
because by your holy cross
you have redeemed the world.

Reading:

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘This man is calling for Elijah.’ At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.’ Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.

(Mt. 27:45-50)

Be still ……

Reflection:

Here is the Son of God, the beloved One of God, the Word made flesh – here he is, reaching the uttermost depths of human experience, to the point where it seems that God has forgotten and deserted him. “Why God? Why?”Without ever answering the question ‘why’, the cross of Christ shows God as one who is passionately and painfully involved in our world. It reveals God sharing our dirt and sweat, our loneliness and weaknesses, our shame, our failure, and even our death. It shows that we can face nothing worse than what God was prepared to endure on this Friday.

There is no place that we can go that God in Jesus has not been. This is Emmanuel, God with us – with us in all that we experience. But as Matthew tells the events, it’s not the end. He hints at what is to come.

Reading:

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’

(Mt. 27:51-54)

Reflection:

The picture Matthew paints is dramatic – the curtain of the temple was torn in two – an earthquake – tombs opened and the acclamation: ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’ This is what makes today not black Friday but Good Friday. Here, on the cross, the total self-giving love that is God is revealed.  Jesus takes the world’s hatred on to himself, he defeats the powers of evil and blots out the sin s of the world. The love of God shines through the darkness. What was a scene of destruction is transformed into a scene of glory. This is not defeat. This is not an ending. This is a new beginning. This is Christ’s glory. Here on the cross love is revealed in all its power. As we journey with Christ – as we choose to carry his cross – we see the pain and suffering about us – we see the consequence of our own sin and selfishness, and that of our fellow humans. As we join with the centurion and declare, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’ we commit ourselves to continue a walk of faith, of hope, of forgiveness, and of love.

We pray.

Son of God, you died for us, with arms outstretched upon a cross. We pray for the world where you are crucified daily with the destitute, the oppressed and the dispossessed.

Jesus Christ, have mercy on us,
and hear our prayer.

Son of God, you died for us, mocked and sentenced to death. We pray for all who govern, those administer the law, and for all who are denied justice.

Jesus Christ, have mercy on us,
and hear our prayer.

Son of God, you died for us, deserted and rejected. We pray for all who know hurt and rejection, and the pain of abandonment.

Jesus Christ, have mercy on us,
and hear our prayer.

Son of God, you died for us, to rescue your people from the power of sin. We pray for the church that we may be a living sign of your forgiveness and reconciliation.

Jesus Christ, have mercy on us,
and hear our prayer.

Son of God, you died for us, to show your steadfast love. We pray for all who live or work in this community, our families, our friends, and all whose lives are linked with ours.

Jesus Christ, have mercy on us,
and hear our prayer.

Son of God, you died for us, to bring healing and new life. We pray for those in sickness, grief or pain.

Jesus Christ, have mercy on us,
and hear our prayer.

Son of God, you died for us, with arms outstretched upon a cross. We remember all who are facing death and who have died.

Jesus Christ, have mercy on us,
and hear our prayer.

We pray as Jesus taught us.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.

Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
because by your holy cross
you have redeemed the world. Amen.