A Good Friday Liturgy of Bible readings and prayers (John 17–19)
Watch the video and/or follow the transcript below. Note that the video refers to music videos that are included only in the transcript, so if you are choosing to watch the video you may wish to pause it at certain points in order to play the music videos.
Welcome to you all.
Today we’re going to keep a Good Friday Vigil by following the passion narrative from St John’s gospel, listening to the readings, contemplating the paintings which are taken from Michael O’Brien’s illustration of the Way of the Cross and listening, if you wish to the hymns and music. The links are included in the text. Although usually this vigil is kept between 2.00 and 3.00pm, the last hour before Jesus died, please enter into this reflection in a way and at a time which suits you.
In the cross of Jesus
we see the cost of our sin
and the depth of you love:
in humble hope and fear
may we place at his feet
all that we have and all that we are,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Call to worship: John 17:1, 4–5
4 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.
I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
Song: The Royal banners forward go
Prayer of approach:
God of community, we gather in your presence in this safe place. We are your straying sheep and your loved children. We gather to hear the story of that love embodied in Jesus and expressed through his death, on a cross outside a city wall. We gather to reflect, to remember and to sing of that love. May we know your presence in this time of sharing, in the story, in our silence, in our song …
Song: ‘There is a green hill far away’,
Reading 2: John 18:1–11
1 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. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 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. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ 5 They answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus replied, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he’, they stepped back and fell to the ground. 7 Again he asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth. 8 Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.’ 9 This was to fulfil the word that he had spoken, ‘I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.’ 10 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. 11 Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?’
Forgive us, patient God, we are so quick to strike out; like Peter, ready to take offence, trigger-happy. We may think we’re in the right, but to defend ourselves – or simply to make our point – we hurt others. Often, it’s sharp words, not swords. But that’s never your way, not as Jesus lived it. Peter thought he should defend his friend. But Jesus told him: ‘Put away your sword. This is the cup God has given me. Shall I not drink it?’ On that night, in dark Gethsemane, Jesus took the cup of obedience to God’s will, of non-violence, of suffering, for our sakes. Amen
Reading 3: John 18:12–14, 19–24
12 So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. 13 First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.
19 Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 20 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. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.’ 22 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?’ 23 Jesus answered, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’ 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Jesus, you didn’t go behind people’s backs; you didn’t gossip, you didn’t mutter in corners. You spoke out for all to hear. You taught what you believed – and you lived it: God’s inclusive love, that saves sinners, learns from children and turns the world upside down. The people in power found that too dangerous. They arrested you and hit you in the face. They were face to face with God’s love – and they didn’t recognise it. Help us to hear your voice and see your face in those around us. Amen
Reading 4: John 18:15–18, 25–27
15 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, 16 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. 17 The woman said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ 18 Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing round it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.
25 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.’ 26 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?’ 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
Forgive us, God – we call ourselves your friends but we keep on letting you down. Sometimes we’re afraid of what people think, even ashamed to be called Christians. Peter denied you – and the cock crowed three times. We imagine his shock and his shame when he came to his senses. And we pray that even when we are afraid, we will keep faith. Amen
Reading 5: John 18:28–40
28 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. 29 So Pilate went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ 30 They answered, ‘If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.’ 31 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.’ 32 (This was to fulfil what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)
33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ 34 Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ 35 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?’ 36 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.’ 37 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.’ 38 Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’
Jesus Sentenced to Death
After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, ‘I find no case against him. 39 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?’ 40 They shouted in reply, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a bandit.
What is truth? Jesus came to witness to the truth. What is truth? The truth was in Jesus, and for some that truth was hard to take. What is truth? God, help us to keep asking, to keep open minds so that the truth of your love for each one of us can enter in. Amen
Reading 6: John 19:1–16a
1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. 3 They kept coming up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and striking him on the face. 4 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.’ 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ 6 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.’ 7 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.’
8 Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. 9 He entered his headquarters[a] again and asked Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 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?’ 11 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.’ 12 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.’
13 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. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ 15 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.’ 16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
God help us: it’s so easy to go with the crowd, not to stand out, to say what everyone says: ‘We want Barabbas …’ ’We have no king but Caesar …’ ’Crucify!’ We blame those people in a crowd in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. But if we had been there – wouldn’t we have done the same?
Reading 7: John 19:16b–22
16 So, they took Jesus; 17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ 20 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. 21 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.”’ 22 Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’
Pilate was a powerful ruler – and yet he gave in to political arguments and a mob who shouted for blood. Pilate was a weak man – and yet he got one thing right: he wrote that Jesus was a king. A king with no power at all. A man discarded, on the town rubbish tip, dying like a criminal on a shameful cross. And yet here was a man filled with the power of God to change the world. Come, Jesus, change us. Come Jesus, reign in our hearts. Amen
Song: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,”
Reading 8: John 19:23–24
23 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. 24 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 fulfil what the scripture says,
‘They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.’
25 And that is what the soldiers did.
O God, your Gospel is full of signs. The seamless robe – work of human hands – which the soldiers couldn’t tear (so they gambled for it instead). Seamless, one piece, it reminds us of the way we belong together, with each other and with believers down the centuries. Each connection we make brings us nearer to you.
We know that Jesus was a carpenter who died on a wooden cross – the work of human hands – and so we pray:
Christ the Master Carpenter, who at the last, through wood and nails, shaped our whole salvation, wield well your tools in the workshop of your world, so that we who come rough-hewn to your bench may here be fashioned to a truer beauty of your hand. We ask it for your own name’s sake. Amen1
Reading 9: John 19: 25b-27
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ 27 Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
Music: ‘Christus Factus Est’ – Anton Bruchkner
became obedient for us unto death,
even to the death, death on the cross.
Therefore God exalted Him and gave Him a name
which is above all names.
Reading 10: John 19: 28–30
28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ 29 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. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Living Lord, living Word, living Water, we know that in many places in our world people are thirsty. They suffer from drought; they walk miles to collect water; what little water they have is polluted and makes them sick. Forgive us when we take plentiful clean water for granted. May we never waste it – and may we find ways to give practical help to those without. But also remind us, God, that in Jesus you shared our human lives – and our suffering. You knew what it was to be weary, in pain and overwhelmed with thirst. You understand our deepest need. Thank you, thank you for being there for us. Amen
Song: Man of sorrows, what a name
Reading 11: John 19: 31–37
31 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. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35 (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he know that he tells the truth.) 36 These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘None of his bones shall be broken.’ 37 And again another passage of scripture says, ‘They will look on the one whom they have pierced.’
Prayer of Intercession:
Compassionate God, as we remember Jesus, whose love for humanity brought him to the cross, we remember the world for which he died.
In the face of a world pandemic we bring to you the world and its people and pray for relief and an end to suffering and death.
In the face of climate change, we bring to you the damage done to wildlife and countryside, to lands and peoples. We pray for forgiveness and the will to work for change to live lives that are sustainable and not damaging
In the face of conflict, we pray for peace, stability and a chance to rebuild lives. We pray for the cooperation and good will of nations.
In the face of the disparities between people and their lives and opportunities, we pray for all refugees and those who are homeless.
We pray for children who are vulnerable or exploited, for all those who suffer from mental health problems, for those in debt, those who are hungry, those who are in prison.
And we remember those we know who are suffering now, under the impact of the coronavirus, those who are sick and those who are grieving. We pray for those who tend them.
We believe in a mystery: just as Jesus shared our mortality and pain as he died on the cross, so you are with those who suffer now, and your wounded hands stretch out with healing and hope. Thank you, God.
The Lord’s Prayer
Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Reading 12: John 19: 38–42
38 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. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.
40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41 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. 42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
Song: How deep the Father’s love for us
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.’
So now, as we stand by the cross, may God – who, in Jesus, shared human life and death – comfort and bless each one of us.
we know that whatever we have done, we are forgiven; whatever is happening in
our lives, God is with us; whoever we are, God loves us. Go, and live in the
hope of resurrection, now and always. Amen