Many Christians observe Good Friday as part of the Holy Week. This significant event commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. Although deemed as a sorrowful day, it reminds us of God’s unconditional love. God gave us His one and only son for our salvation, enabling us to live eternally with Him. On Good Friday at three o’clock, Jesus, by his blood, fully paid for our sins on the cross. This is the sole reason churches have a high value and observe great importance in remembering this day. Traditionally, no regular church service is celebrated during this day. Good Friday service is very much different from other normal or festive services. Various churches around the world observe this solemnly and with high respect.
Learn more about what happens during a Good Friday service as we unveil the things you need to know.
The Church Set-Up for the Good Friday Service
As we observe Jesus’ crucifixion on the Good Friday, we can spare some time to attend a church service. Good Friday service is for Christians to commemorate the passion and death of Jesus Christ. It usually takes place any time of day and is not only limited between 12 noon and 3:00 PM; the hours when Jesus was on the cross. However, some churches, where Good Friday is not considered as a public holiday, observe the service in the evening.
Unlike regular services, a Good Friday service is more solemn and peaceful. Preferably, there are no paraments, banners, flowers, or decorations on this day, except for the representations of the way of the cross. Commonly, the pulpit and other furnishings are bare of cloth and candles. However, the cross remains visible, but it is partly concealed with a scarlet-colored veil. This veil symbolizes the blood Jesus shed on the cross for the salvation of the people.
Importance of Attending a Good Friday Service
Good Friday reminds us of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross for our sins. It gives us a powerful message and a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for all of us. While we are all sinners, Jesus Christ died for us. We only commemorate this momentous day once a year, Let’s take time to spend our Good Friday in a meaningful way.
Attending a Good Friday service helps us to remember this momentous day more solemnly with other believers. We can immerse ourselves more in recalling what happened on the first Good Friday. As we look back on Jesus’ journey of passion and love, it is a great time to admonish the foundation of our faith. No matter what we do, we can’t earn or gain eternal life. Instead, Jesus paid the price of our sins by shedding his blood on the cross. God has won the victory over sin and death. And he offers a gift of salvation and eternal life through Jesus.
Another important reason to attend a Good Friday service is we can remember this day with other believers. Sharing faith and prayers with others also enhances the growth of our faith. We commemorate this significant event with those who share the same faith. Additionally, it will also help us to strengthen and deepen our personal relationship with God.
The Good Friday Service
Since the Good Friday service commemorates the death of Jesus Christ on Calvary many Christians tend to celebrate the day with solitude and silence during the Good Friday service as well. They sing worship songs made specifically for the occasion, to remember what Jesus has done for us. A great example of a Good Friday song is “In Christ Alone” for it tells us how we have Christ in our hearts and He alone saves us. The service is usually composed of four primary elements. These parts are the opening and worship songs for Good Friday, the sermon, the Solemn Prayers, and the proclamation of the Cross.
For Roman Catholic Services, the opening litany sets the tone of the service. After the people and the ministers entered in silence, the presider said or sang a prayer to start the service. The verses selected for the Call to Worship during the Good Friday service are from Isaiah 53. Then, it proceeds with a closing prayer.
In Protestant denominations, however, at the beginning of Good Friday service, there is an introduction of the service, and then a time of worship. This includes the act of singing songs, to the Lord and praying. There are musical instruments with a band or musical instruments with a choir. They will sing praises; songs chosen by the music director to match the occasion.
The Sermon and the Lesson
The next part is the sermon or the focus on Jesus’ ministry and his death on the cross. Most of the time,Good Frida sermons start with the story of Jesus and his life, ministry, crucifixion, and death. Besides using one of the four Gospels to tell the life of Jesus, many pastors will also use the Old Testament and further New Testament examples. Some Old Testament verses include Isaiah 52 and 53, Psalm 22, and Psalm 31:9-16. New Testament verses then consist of Hebrews 10:16-25, and Hebrews 4- 5.
The Proclamation of the Passion of Christ
Each year, Good Friday service is the story about Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice. So, the sermon revolves around the four Gospels in which the ministry and life of Jesus is recorded. The Passion reading is the climax of the sermon and we can demonstrate this narrative in various ways:
- People can read a longer or shorter version of the passion story dramatically, as suggested for Passion or Palm Sunday. Preferably, a single reader can read the whole story. It is recommended to use the same version used in the Service of Tenebrae. It accurately translates the Greek text. In which, this avoids blaming all Jewish people for the suffering and death of Jesus, as some translations may imply.
- The choir can also sing the story of the Passion of Christ in a choral setting.
- Hymns are interspersed at appropriate intervals within the reading of John’s Passion story.
After the sermon, the congregation should remain silent and the minister then emphasizes the message of the sermon. This message is that God shows great love for us in that while we’re still sinners, Jesus Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). This can be a time for concerns and prayers. The offering can also take place during this time.
The Solemn Prayers
The prayers are always part of the sequence of a Good Friday service since the earliest times. The church holds up before God, all for whom Jesus died. There are sets of prayers for three different leaders. However, few or more voices can also cover these. And take note, silence is an important element of the Prayers.
This part takes place before the Proclamation of the Cross. During this time, the church brings the needs of the whole world at the foot of the cross. Depending on each Christian denomination, there are different parts to a prayer during a Good Friday service.
Proclamation of the Cross
The last part of the Good Friday service before the closing worship song is the Proclamation of the Cross. During this segment, the church can put a wooden cross at the front of the chapel. It is a symbol of Christ’s death and restriction on the cross. The minister may say a conclusion after, along with the Lord’s prayer and the final prayer. And to end the Good Friday service, the congregation can sing a hymn.
It is important to note that every Good Friday service times of peace is a significant part of the service. The church interposes a moment of silence long enough to create a mood of reflection and introspection at one point in time after the sermon. There should also be no part of the service that is rushed.
The Seven Last Words
Other Good Friday services focus on the seven last words of Jesus on the cross. Traditionally, it is developed to harmonize the Gospel passion narratives. Also known as the Devotion of the Three Hours, it is a service from noon to three o’clock. This service remembers Jesus Christ’s last hours on the cross.
During the eighteenth century, a Jesuit priest in Peru first conducted this type of service. He developed a service of meditations for Good Friday based on the last words of Jesus, according to the Gospels. It is composed of scripture readings with prayers and hymns interspersed. Over the years, this service became popular in many Protestant churches in England and North America. It later became a part of the church’s Lenten tradition though today most Protestant churches do not observe this tradition anymore.
For your curiosity, here are the historical last words used in the past hundreds of years ago for Good Friday.
Last Words and Bible Verses
This is the common order of readings presented:
- Father, forgive them (Luke 23:34)
- Today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43)
- Woman here is your son (John 19:26-27)
- My God, why have you forsaken me? Or ‘Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani?’ (Mark 15:34, Matthew 27:46)
- I am thirsty (John 19:28)
- It is finished (John 19:30a)
- Into your hands, I commend my spirit (Luke 23:46)
A change seen in place of this historical tradition today is that a Good Friday service can employ music, drama, or dances depending on the church’s discretion.
The Way of the Cross
Roman Catholic Churches differ from the Protestant ones in one large way during a Good Friday service. This difference is their tradition in commemorating Good Friday through the Way of the Cross also known as Stations of the Cross. This tradition became a common way of participating in the passion or suffering of Jesus Christ. It is part of the Good Friday service. This service may be conducted in the church or outdoors with stops or stations at different locations. Each station reminds the participants of different moments of Jesus’ passion journey. It also encourages reflection and contemplation. The inspiration for this came from the desire to imitate the journeys of early Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. The points for the stations are the places of Christ’s redemptive suffering.
The Roman Catholic church can present the stations either through visual, music, drama, or liturgical dance. After each reading, a prayer with kneeling and hymn may follow.
The Stations of the Cross
Here’s a version of the station of the cross with a Biblical basis:
- Jesus prayed alone (Luke 22:39-44)
- Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:47-56)
- Sanhedrin tried Jesus (Mark 14:61-64)
- Pilate tried Jesus (John 18:33-37)
- Pilate sentenced Jesus (Mark 15:6-15)
- Jesus wore a crown (John 19:5)
- Jesus carried his cross (John 10:17-18)
- Simon carried the cross (Luke 23:26)
- Jesus spoke to the women (Luke 23:27-31)
- Jesus was crucified (Luke 23:33-34)
- Criminals spoke to Jesus (Luke 23:39-43)
- Jesus spoke to Mary, John (John 19:25b-27)
- Jesus died on the cross (John 19:28-34)
- He was laid in a tomb (John 19:38-42)
A Meaningful Good Friday Service
Churches commemorate Good Friday in different ways. However, in the end, the goal of all churches are the same. It is to remember the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for our salvation. Attending a Good Friday service is one of the things you can do on Good Friday. This is a perfect time for us to reflect and contemplate the status of our relationship with God. It will help us align ourselves in our faith. Also, it can light the fire in our hearts to spread the good news to the world.
Good Friday gives us hope and reminds us of our freedom in Christ. If Jesus can sacrifice his life for us, then we can also give a small amount of time by attending a Good Friday service. Let’s observe this day in a solemn and meaningful way with our family and friends.