By Stony Paths: Good Friday

Good Friday, Meditation 1 Script

Welcome to ‘By Stony Paths, following the way of the Cross. Using scripture, symbols and time for reflection as we journey with Jesus through Holy Week. Full details of this series, with the scripts and other resources are available on my website soulspark.online.

Today is Good Friday. There are three meditations that can be used in different ways.

  • If you plan on holding the three hours of the cross from midday to three pm, you could listen to one at the beginning of each hour. Using the space between for your own reflection. You might find it helpful to note down any significant experiences, thoughts, prayers and other responses.
  • Alternatively, you could listen to them all in closer succession – perhaps taking a little time between them to physically move for a few minutes before continuing.
  • You could spread them out over the day in a shape that suits you.

The three readings take us from Jesus before Pilate, through his crucifixion, his response to his mother Mary and the others watching, to his death and burial.

This is an emotional journey and so I would suggest giving yourself some extra space afterwards to enable you to gently process the impact it has on you.

The reading is John 19.1-19 – Jesus is brought before Pilate who is under pressure from the crowd to have him crucified, and so Jesus is crucified.

The symbols you are invited to use with today’s meditation are the stone and a cross you can hold in your hand.

If you don’t already have them with you, I suggest you pause this and find them for yourself.

I invite you now to settle down, sit comfortably in a space where you can relax and be attentive to this time of prayerful meditation.

Take time to become more still – and to become aware of God’s welcoming you to be present as you come to be with Christ on this most challenging day.

As you settle, notice how you are feeling about coming to this time. What is drawing you to be here? Have you aprehensions? Quietly acknowledge them, and then focus on your desire to be with Jesus.

Ask for God’s grace to help you in this time, particularly, that you can be with Jesus in as he endures judgment and crucifixion.

Pick up your stone and hold it – remembering the journey you have had with it this week.

Reading: John 19.19

Jesus is subject to the power and legal authority of Pilate. For all his power and authority, Pilate is very unsure of himself it seems as he vacillates between his interactions with Jesus inside and his interactions with the pressure of the mob and those stirring them outside.

I’m going to read the passage again, more slowly with spaces for reflection, and invite you to be attentive to Jesus – ponder his experiences, how he responds and doesn’t respond, and see if you notice any sense of what is motivating him in choosing to behave as he does.

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.

 

Take up your cross now and hold it

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.’

 

Be aware of how you are affected. What is the mix of emotion aroused in you by the events of this passage

Have you been struck by any resonances between the abuse, mockery, injustice, mob rule, and execution of Jesus and your own experience or knowledge in your own life.

Take time to have a conversation with Jesus on the cross

Notice his response

 

O Lord hear my prayer, and let my cry come unto thee.

Lord’s Prayer

Next meditation

For our next meditation the reading is John 19.25b-30 Jesus responds to his mother and the others standing on the cross. He is given a drink, and dies.

The symbols remain your stone and the cross.

Reflections on Jesus before Pilate and the Crucifixion

It is very true for me that every time I read a gospel passage, something different pops out of the text. I trust the Spirit is showing me something. This time as I pondered the interaction between Jesus and Pilate. What popped out was the contrast between the inner and the outer. The inner has Pilate and Jesus one to one, with Pilate puzzled fearful yet showing signs of wanting to get Jesus off the hook. Jesus doesn’t help him. It seems to me he’s playing a careful and straight bat to Pilate – and in so doing is revealing Pilate’s insecurity, indecision and unwillingness to face up to his responsibility. Outside, before the crowd, Pilate is still insecure, indecisive and unwilling, but he leans towards pleasing the crowd. This tension is a common inner dialogue of mine, between my inner convictions and the outer, where I instinctively can find myself wanting to please the audience. Seeing it played out in this passage challenges me about where, at the point of decision, I end up leaning. There seems a clear challenge / invitation here in the way the writer portrays it for us to ask ourselves: Will I be more attached to Jesus, than the roar of the crowd.

John doesn’t dwell on the whole journey from trial to Golgotha, giving us the bare bones of the details. But there is enough for us to open the imagination of our hearts to witness the horror of this process of torture and execution. I’m very conscious of our human tendency to avoid the nasty stuff, and using this gospel, I have chosen to hold the space where this is neither shied away from nor smothered in it. But slowly being with the narrative as it plays out I trust the Holy Spirit will face each of us as we stay with it with what it is we need to notice and be affected by. 

I have in the past found myself before a life size cross in a chapel on Good Friday and having a powerful sense of Jesus hanging on it. Sitting barely able to look, barely able to look away. Sitting on that same pivot point that Peter was at when Jesus watched his feet, my experience has taught me this is challenging, stretching and growing of my capacity to be present to pain and suffering with a compassionate heart. 

 

Good Friday Meditation 2

This is the second meditation for Good Friday. The reading is John 19.25b-30 Jesus responds to his mother and the others standing on the cross. He is given a drink, and dies.

This meditation doesn’t finish in the normal way. It finishes with a silence, that you can stay with as long as you find appropriate.

As we settle into focussing on this passage, let yourself return in your memory to where the previous meditation on the trial and crucifixion left you, taking your stone in one hand and your cross in the other.

Notice your feelings. Those drawing you into this time? Those unsure, perhaps even drawing you away? Quietly acknowledge them, and then focus on your desire to be with Jesus.

Ask for God’s grace to help you in this time, particularly, that you can be with Jesus in his crucifixion and death.

Reading: John 25b-30

Jesus hangs on the cross – an instrument of torture and execution – he is suspended as a criminal, among criminals enduring the agony of nails piercing his hands and feet, carrying his weight.

There is no comfort here, no respite, no escape. And he chooses not to draw upon his Godly powers. No miracle, no dramatic action, no teaching about the kingdom of God.

And yet, he offers and extraordinary concern for those who watch him. As you listen to the words again, keep attentive to Jesus and his concern.

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.

Notice how you respond to his compassionate action.

‘I am thirsty.’ 

In your minds eye, watch as Jesus is offered wine, and drinks it from the sponge.

‘It is finished.’

Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Stay with the silence of death

 

Jesus attends to Mary and Dies

Jesus paying attention to his mother while he hangs on the cross is extraordinary. The normal experience of pain and suffering diminishes one’s attention and ability to pay attention to things beyond us. Our capacities are occupied with coping with what we are enduring. Yet Jesus has capacity to arrange ongoing support for his mother. 

From then on there is little to say – being with a person dying equally occupies our attention, and here this is absolutely appropriate – to just be there. If there is discomfort, it is our inability to cope with suffering, or with our inability to take it away, or a myriad of other motivations that have more to do with our needs than the person suffering. We thereby seriously undervalue the significance and value of just being there with someone in their suffering and dying. Perhaps the only way of learning this, is by being there. 

 

Good Friday Meditation 3

This is the third meditation for Good Friday. The reading is John 19.31-4 & 38-42 Jesus’ side is pierced, he is taken from the cross and buried.

As we settle into focussing on this passage, pick up your stone and cross, and let yourself return in your memory to where the death of Jesus has left you.

Notice how you are and how it feels to come back to focus on Jesus, dead. What is drawing you? What is drawing you away? Quietly acknowledge these, and then focus on your desire to be here.

Ask for God’s grace to help you as you are with Jesus in his death and burial.

Reading: John 19.31-34 & 38-42

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.

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.

Let yourself come back in your mind’s eye to this scene. Jesus, hanging, dead on the cross. Notice who is there around, how they are, how you are.

 

Watch as the soldiers come – as it becomes apparent that they want to hasten the deaths of the crucified.

As they come to Jesus – and see he is already dead.

One soldier takes his spear and pierces Jesus’ side

Watch the flow of blood and water

 

Then at last the time comes when some tenderness can be shown to Jesus. Joseph of Aramathea and Nicodemus arrive with all that is needed to give Jesus a good burial.

With Jesus’ agony over, put down your cross, and let yourself watch, perhaps even help, with the tending to Jesus body, the cleaning, the applying of the spices and oils, the wrapping of the cloth.

Stop and ponder his wrapped body, prepared for burial.

Then go with Nicodemus and the others as they place his body in the tomb and seal it with a stone.

Put your stone down next to the cross.

Take time sitting with empty hands, perhaps held palm upwards in prayer to God – sitting in this desolation with God and with all who are desolate…

 

Our Father…

Tomorrow

Tomorrow is Holy Saturday and our gospel reading will be John 2.18-21 where Jesus, having cleansed the temple, says ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days…’

The symbol to go alongside your stone is an empty glass or bowl

The psalms that can be read before listening to the podcast are Psalm 142

May God bless your Holy Week journey.

Jesus' side is pierced and he is buried

I’ve continued in this meditation to seek to maintain a sense of presence to Jesus. Its a process that builds our relationship with Jesus, drawing out our love for him and all he endured for the sake of us and all creation. It has been said ‘silence does the heavy lifting’. I have an intuitive belief that silent prayer is one of the most powerful ways for us to connect with grace. That when we stop, do absolutely nothing other than seek to be present, we are letting go of all the things that we do to try and justify our existence, accepting, at least for the time of prayer, that they are worth less, than simply being with God. Being present to Jesus’ passion keeps bringing us back to this reality. Ironically we can so easily make this become another work that we justify ourselves with, quietly saying to ourselves, ‘I’ve done my silent prayer, so I’m okay’ – the transactional logic is so hard to shake off. We are okay, because to God we are okay. That’s why Jesus dies. May we die to our need to justify ourselves – to make ourselves okay by our own actions and efforts!

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