GOOD FRIDAY READINGS

**Excerpts from The Jesus Storybook Bible


 

First reading • The Last Supper 

(from Mark 14 & John 13-14)

 

IT WAS PASSOVER, THE TIME WHEN GOD’S people remembered how God had rescued them from being slaves in Egypt. Every year they killed a lamb and ate it. “The lamb died instead of us!” they would say. 

But this Passover, God was getting ready for an even Greater Rescue. 

Jesus and his friends were having the Passover meal together in an upstairs room. But Jesus’ friends were arguing. What about? They were arguing about stinky feet. Stinky feet? Yes, that’s right. Stinky feet. 

(Now the thing about feet back then was that people didn’t wear shoes; they only wore sandals, which might not sound unusual, except that the streets in those days were dirty — and I don’t mean just dusty dirty — I mean really stinky dirty. With all those cows and horses everywhere, you can imagine the stuff on the street that ended up on their feet!) 

So anyway, someone had to wash away the dirt, but it was a dreadful job. Who on earth would ever dream of volunteering to do it? 

Only the lowliest servant. 

“I’m not the servant!” Peter said. 

“Nor am I!” said Matthew. 

Quietly, Jesus got up from the table, took off his robe, picked up a basin of water, knelt down, and started to wash his friends’ feet. 

“You can’t,” Peter said. He didn’t understand about Jesus being the Servant King. 

“If you don’t let me wash away the dirt, Peter,” Jesus said, “you can’t be close to me.” 

Jesus knew that what people needed most was to be clean on the inside. All the dirt on their feet was nothing compared to the sin inside their hearts. 

“Then wash me, Lord!” Peter said, tears filling his eyes. “All of me!” 

One by one, Jesus washed everyone’s feet. 

“I am doing this because I love you,” Jesus explained. “Do this for each other.”

Now, one of Jesus’ friends had made a bad plan. No one else knew what the bad plan was. But Jesus knew — and so did Judas. Judas was going to help the Leaders capture Jesus — for thirty pieces of silver. 

“Go on, Judas,” Jesus said. And Judas got up from the meal, left the room, and walked out into the night. 

Then Jesus picked up some bread and broke it. He gave it to his friends. He picked up a cup of wine and thanked God for it. He poured it out and shared it. 

“My body is like this bread. It will break,” Jesus told them. “This cup of wine is like my blood. It will pour out. 

“But this is how God will rescue the whole world. My life will break and God’s broken world will mend. My heart will tear apart — and your hearts will heal. Just as the passover lamb died, so now I will die instead of you. My blood will wash away all of your sins. And you’ll be clean on the inside — in your hearts. 

“So whenever you eat and drink, remember,” Jesus said, “I’ve rescued you!” 

Jesus knew it was nearly time for him to leave the world and to go back to God. 

“I won’t be with you long,” he said. “You are going to be very sad. But God’s Helper will come. And then you’ll be filled up with a Forever Happiness that won’t ever leave. So don’t be afraid. You are my friends and I love you.” 

Then they sang their favorite song. 

And walked up to their favorite place, an olive garden.


second reading • The garden 

(from Luke 22, Mark 14 & John 18)

 

THE WIND WAS PICKING UP NOW, BLOWING clouds across the moon, shrouding the garden in darkness. 

“Stay up with me?” Jesus asked his friends. They said yes and waited under the olive trees, but they were tired and soon they fell asleep. 

Jesus walked ahead alone, into the dark. He needed to talk to his heavenly Father. 

He knew it was time for him to die. They had planned it long ago, he and his Father. Jesus was going to take the punishment for all the wrong things anybody had ever done, or ever would do. 

“Papa! Father!” Jesus cried. And he fell to the ground. “Is there any other way to get your children back? To heal their hearts? To get rid of the poison?” 

But Jesus knew — there was no other way. All the poison of sin was going to have to go into his own heart. 

God was going to pour into Jesus’ heart all the sadness and brokenness in people’s hearts. He was going to pour into Jesus’ body all the sickness in people’s bodies. God was going to have to blame his son for everything that had gone wrong. It would crush Jesus. 

But there was something else, something even more horrible. When people ran away from God, they lost God — it was what happened when they ran away. Not being close to God was like a punishment. Jesus was going to take that punishment. 

Jesus knew what that meant. He was going to lose his Father — and that, Jesus knew, would break his heart in two. 

Violent sobs shook Jesus’ whole body.

Then Jesus was quiet. Like a lamb. “I trust you, Papa,” he said. “Whatever you say, I will do.” 

Suddenly, through the trees, a glitter of starlight flashed off steel. Into the quiet garden came whispers, muffled voices, clanking metal — and the sound of boots marching. 

Jesus stood up. 

He woke his friends. “Now is the time,” he said gently. “Everything that was written about me — what God has been telling his people all through the long years — it’s all coming true.” 

And into the night, with burning torches and lanterns, with swords and clubs and armor, they came — an army of soldiers. Judas led them straight to Jesus so they could arrest him. 

Jesus was waiting for them. 

Peter leaped up, took a sword, and tried to defend Jesus. He sliced off a guard’s ear. Jesus immediately touched the guard and healed him.

“Peter,” he said, “this is not the way.” 

Peter didn’t realize that no army, no matter how big, could ever arrest Jesus. Not unless Jesus let them. 

Then Jesus, who had never done anything except love people, was arrested, as if he were a criminal. 

Jesus’ friends were afraid. So they ran away and hid in the dark shadows. The guards marched Jesus off and took him to the Leaders. 

The Leaders put Jesus on trial. “Are you the Son of God?” they asked. 

“I Am,” Jesus said. 

“Who do you think you are? To call yourself God? You must die for calling yourself the Son of God!” 

Only the Romans were allowed to kill prisoners, so the Leaders made a plan. “We’ll tell the Romans, ‘This man wants to be our king!” And then they will crucify him.”

But it would be all right. It was God’s Plan.

“It was for this reason that I was born into the world,” Jesus said.


THIRD reading • The crucifixion 

(from Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, & John 19)

 

“SO YOU’RE A KING, ARE YOU?” THE ROMAN soldiers jeered. “Then you’ll need a crown and a robe.” 

They gave Jesus a crown made out of thorns. And put a purple robe on him. And pretended to bow down to him. “Your Majesty!” they said. 

Then they whipped him. And spat on him. They didn’t understand that this was the Prince of Life, the King of heaven and earth, who had come to rescue them. 

The soldiers made him a sign — “Our King” and nailed it to a wooden cross. 

They walked up a hill outside the city. Jesus carried the cross on his back. Jesus had never done anything wrong. But they were going to kill him the way criminals were killed. 

They nailed Jesus to the cross. 

“Father, forgive them,” Jesus gasped. “They don’t understand what they’re doing.” 

“You say you’ve come to rescue us!” people shouted. “But you can’t even rescue yourself!” 

But they were wrong. Jesus could have rescued himself. A legion of angels would have flown to his side — if he’d called. 

“If you were really the Son of God, you could just climb down off that cross!” they said.

And of course they were right. Jesus could have just climbed down. Actually, he could have just said a word and made it all stop. Like when he healed that little girl. And still the storm. And fed 5,000.

But Jesus stayed.

You see, they didn’t understand. It wasn’t the nails that kept Jesus there. It was love. 

“Papa?” Jesus cried, frantically searching the sky. “Papa? Where are you? Don’t leave me!” 

And for the first time — and the last — when he spoke, nothing happened. Just a horrible, endless silence. God didn’t answer. He turned away from his Boy. 

Tears rolled down Jesus’ face. The face of the One who would wipe away every tear from every eye. 

Even though it was midday, a dreadful darkness covered the face of the world. The sun could not shine. The earth trembled and quaked. The great mountains shook. Rocks split in two. Until it seemed that the whole world would break. That creation itself would tear apart. 

The full force of the storm of God’s fierce anger at sin was coming down. On his own Son. Instead of his people. It was the only way God could destroy sin, and not destroy his children whose hearts were filled with sin. 

Then Jesus shouted out in a loud voice, “It is finished!” 

And it was. He had done it. Jesus had rescued the whole world. 

“Father!” Jesus cried. “I give you my life.” And with a great sigh he let himself die. 

Strange clouds and shadows filled the sky. Purple, orange, black. Like a bruise. 

Jesus’ friends gently carried Jesus. They laid Jesus in a new tomb carved out of rock. 

How could Jesus die? What had gone wrong? What did it mean? They didn’t know anything anymore. Except they did know their hearts were breaking. 

“That’s the end of Jesus,” the Leaders said. 

But, just to be sure, they sent strong soldiers to guard the tomb. They hauled a huge stone in front of the door to the tomb. 

So that no one could get in. 

Or out.