Meditations for Good Friday on the Nails of the Cross *

These readings and meditations form a part of a Good Friday Service.
You may find this helpful in your own personal meditation on the cross.

INTRODUCTION

The service today will retell the events of Christ’s passion and in the telling of this we realise again that it was our sin that nailed Jesus to the cross.

As we listen to the passion story and the meditations and prayers let’s use this time to reflect on the great suffering that this love for us brought to our Saviour. 
As we hear the Passion Story we will see how the nails of our sin caused Jesus so much pain.  It is as if we are the ones who held the hammer that drove in the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet that pinned him to the cross.

After each reading and meditation and prayer we will sing the words of the one of the men crucified next to Jesus.  This man knew that he was guilty and deserved to be punished.  He acknowledged his sin and appealed to the grace and mercy of Jesus and asked, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom”. 

As we reflect on the cross and the reason for it we do the same.
Without any excuse and without any pretence of somehow being better than we are, and acknowledging our own weakness and vulnerability to fail God and those around us again and again, we also appeal to God's mercy and grace and ask, “Jesus remember me”, “Jesus, do not hold my sin against me”, “Jesus, do not forget me”, “Jesus, have mercy on me”.

Later in the service we will hear the words of assurance that Christ has paid for all our sins, that the words he spoke from the cross, “Father, forgive them” also include us.  When we come forward for Communion and receive the body and blood of Jesus we are renewed and reassured of God’s love & forgiveness.
It was our sin that nailed Jesus to the cross, but it is also our loving Saviour who remembers us, loves us and forgives us.

 

NAIL OF BETRAYAL     Matthew 26:14-16, 36, 45-50

One of the twelve disciples—the one named Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, "What will you give me if I betray Jesus to you?" They counted out thirty silver coins and gave them to him. From then on Judas was looking for a good chance to hand Jesus over to them.
Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray."  …. He returned to the disciples and said, “Look! The hour has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to the power of sinners. Get up, let us go. Look, here is the man who is betraying me!”
Jesus was still speaking when Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs and sent by the chief priests and the elders. The traitor had given the crowd a signal: "The man I kiss is the one you want. Arrest him!" Judas went straight to Jesus and said, "Peace be with you, Teacher," and kissed him.

Jesus answered, “Be quick about it, friend”.  Then they came up, arrested Jesus and held him tight.

Meditation
        Is it possible that I am one of those who betrayed the Lord?
Have I turned my back on the one who has only had love for me and treated me with kindness and mercy?
Can it be that I have abandoned Jesus, 
let him down by making choices that betray that I have ever been closely connected with him?  
Have I let evil control me and not only have I abandoned Jesus 
but also those around me who rely on me in their time of need?
I was there that night in the Garden of Gethsemane.  
It is my sin that betrayed him and nailed him to a cross.

Prayer (beginning with silence)
O God, help us consider how we betray you, 
how we have been false friends to others and abandoned them in their time of need. 
O God, we freely admit 
that our acts of betrayal hurt us and others.
We know too that our betrayal hurts you.
 
Sung Response while a candle is extinguished
Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.
Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.
© Ateliers et Presses de Taizé, 71250 Talzé.Communauté, France.



 

NAIL OF REVENGE    Matthew 26:50b-56

They arrested Jesus.  One of those who were with Jesus drew his sword and struck at the High Priest's slave, cutting off his ear. "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him. "All who take the sword will die by the sword. Don't you know that I could call on my Father for help, and at once he would send me more than twelve armies of angels? But in that case, how could the Scriptures come true which say that this is what must happen?"
Then Jesus spoke to the crowd, "Did you have to come with swords and clubs to capture me, as though I were an outlaw? Every day I sat down and taught in the Temple, and you did not arrest me. But all this has happened in order to make come true what the prophets wrote in the Scriptures."
Then all the disciples left him and ran away.

Meditation

Has my need for revenge and getting even with those who hurt me taken control of me?
Have I let my unwillingness to understand the other person created tensions and barriers and hurts that could easily be avoided through a willingness to listen and forgive?
I was there that night in the Garden of Gethsemane.  It is my vengeful spirit and the grudges I hold that nailed Jesus to the cross.

Prayer (beginning with silence)

O God, help us consider how often we want to get back at those who have hurt us,   
we hold grudges and find it hard to forgive those who hurt us.
O God, we freely admit that our need for revenge creates walls between us and others.
We know too that our vengeful spirit hurts you.

Sung Response while a candle is extinguished

Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.
Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.

 

 NAIL OF UNBELIEF    Matthew 26:57, 59-66

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to the house of Caiaphas, the High Priest, where the teachers of the Law and the elders had gathered together.
The chief priests and the whole Council tried to find some false evidence against Jesus to put him to death; but they could not find any, even though many people came forward and told lies about him. Finally two men stepped up and said, "This man said, "I am able to tear down God's Temple and three days later build it back up.' " 
The High Priest stood up and said to Jesus, "Have you no answer to give to this accusation against you?" But Jesus kept quiet. Again the High Priest spoke to him, "In the name of the living God I now put you under oath: tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God."
Jesus answered him, "So you say. But I tell all of you: from this time on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right side of the Almighty and coming on the clouds of heaven!" 

At this the High Priest tore his clothes and said, "Blasphemy! We don't need any more witnesses! You have just heard his blasphemy!  What do you think?"
They answered, "He is guilty and must die."
Then they spat in his face and beat him; and those who slapped him said, "Prophesy for us, Messiah! Guess who hit you!"

 Meditation

Have I let my faith and trust in Jesus be overwhelmed by doubt and the circumstances of my life?
When things are the darkest and there seems to be no light ahead,
I despair, can’t sleep at night, wonder why God isn’t doing something to change things.  I can’t see that he is right there with me.
I was there that night seated in the Jewish Council.  It is my doubt and lack of trust that nailed Jesus to the cross.

Prayer (beginning with silence)

     O God, help us consider 
how we have not trusted you and your love for us 
when we need your help the most, 
how we let doubt and unbelief take control, 
how we have not let your love change our lives and the way we treat others.
O God, we freely admit that our unbelief hurts us and creates walls between us and others.
We know too that our unbelief hurts you.

Sung Response while a candle is extinguished

Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.
Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.


NAIL OF DENIAL   Matthew 26:69-75

Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard when one of the High Priest's servant women came to him and said, "You, too, were with Jesus of Galilee." But he denied it in front of them all. "I don't know what you are talking about," he answered, and went on out to the entrance of the courtyard. Another servant woman saw him and said to the men there, "He was with Jesus of Nazareth." Again Peter denied it and answered, "I swear that I don't know that man!" After a little while the men standing there came to Peter. "Of course you are one of them," they said. "After all, the way you speak gives you away!" Then Peter said, "I swear that I am telling the truth! May God punish me if I am not! I do not know that man!"
Just then a rooster crowed, and Peter remembered what Jesus had told him: "Before the rooster crows, you will say three times that you do not know me." He went out and wept bitterly.

Meditation

Jesus has called me to be his disciple and yet when faced with an opportunity to talk about him I have remained silent.
Has my silence meant that a revealing moment has been lost for another person?
Has my fear to speak up or do something for someone
hidden from the sight of others the light that Christ has put in me?
I was there that night in the courtyard around that fire. 
I denied him and he was nailed to a cross.

 Prayer  (beginning with silence)

     O God, help us consider how we have failed to let others see our faith in Jesus, 
how we have remained silent when we should have spoken up, 
how we have missed opportunities to speak of your peace and love.
O God, we freely admit that our denial hurts us and others.
We know too that our denial hurts you.

Sung Response while a candle is extinguished

Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.
Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.

 

NAIL OF INDECISION    Luke 23:1-4,13-25

The whole group rose up and took Jesus before Pilate, where they began to accuse him: "We caught this man misleading our people, telling them not to pay taxes to the Emperor and claiming that he himself is the Messiah, a king." Pilate asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
"So you say," answered Jesus. Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, "I find no reason to condemn this man."
"You brought this man to me and said that he was misleading the people. Now, I have examined him here in your presence, and I have not found him guilty of any of the crimes you accuse him of. Nor did Herod find him guilty, for he sent him back to us. There is nothing this man has done to deserve death. So I will have him whipped and let him go."

The whole crowd cried out, "Kill him! Set Barabbas free for us! (Barabbas had been put in prison for a riot that had taken place in the city, and for murder.)
Pilate wanted to set Jesus free, so he appealed to the crowd again. But they shouted back, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"
Pilate said to them the third time, "But what crime has he committed? I cannot find anything he has done to deserve death! I will have him whipped and set him free."
But they kept on shouting at the top of their voices that Jesus should be crucified, and finally their shouting succeeded. So Pilate passed the sentence on Jesus that they were asking for. He set free the man they wanted, the one who had been put in prison for riot and murder, and he handed Jesus over for them to do as they wished.

Meditation
     Jesus is totally committed to me and yet have I shown that same commitment to him?
How often have I wavered and not stood firm by my conviction 
that just as Jesus has served me 
so I will give my life in serving him 
even if it means making some hard decisions at times?
It’s easier to go with the crowd rather than stand up for what I believe.
I was there that day when the crowd called for the death of Jesus and Pilate gave in.  I nailed Jesus to the cross.
 
Prayer (beginning with silence)
     O God, help us consider how we waver, 
how we fail to stand firm in our convictions, 
how we seek to avoid responsibility and to blame others for our actions.
O God, we freely admit that
our indecision hurts us and creates walls between us and others.
O God, we know too that our indecision hurts you.

Sung Response while a candle is extinguished

Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.
Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.

NAIL OF CRUELTY  Matthew 27:27-31

Then Pilate's soldiers took Jesus into the governor's palace, and the whole company gathered around him. They stripped off his clothes and put a scarlet robe on him. Then they made a crown out of thorny branches and placed it on his head, and put a stick in his right hand; then they knelt before him and made fun of him. "Long live the King of the Jews!" they said. They spat on him, and took the stick and hit him over the head. When they had finished making fun of him, they took the robe off and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

Meditation
     Stripped of his clothes, a crown of thorns pushed down on his head, mocked, spat on, beaten, whipped and crucified – 
how inhumane can people be toward their fellow human beings.
I can’t point the finger.  
How often have I hurt someone deeply, sometimes deliberately and sometimes it just happens as a result of my sinful nature – 
either way meanness is still meanness?
I may not beat someone with a whip but I have a far more dangerous weapon that has a real sting to it and that’s my tongue.  
How cruel can we be even to those to whom we are the closest?
I was there that day in Pilate’s palace.  The cruelty, unkindness and nastiness that so often dominate my life, nailed Jesus to the cross. 
 
Prayer (beginning with silence)
     O God, help us consider how we are cruel to others with our words and our actions, 
how we hurt others and insult them,
how we secretly and not so secretly delight in the bad that falls on certain people.
O God, we freely admit that
our cruelty hurts us and creates walls between us and others.
We know too that our cruelty hurts you.
 
Sung Response while a candle is extinguished
Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.
Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.

NAIL OF HATRED    Matthew 27:31-44

Then they led him out to crucify him. As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene named Simon, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus' cross.
They came to a place called Golgotha, which means, "The Place of the Skull." There they offered Jesus wine mixed with a bitter substance; but after tasting it, he would not drink it. 

They crucified him and then divided his clothes among them by throwing dice.  After that they sat there and watched him. Above his head they put the written notice of the accusation against him: "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." Then they crucified two bandits with Jesus, one on his right and the other on his left.

People passing by shook their heads and hurled insults at Jesus:  "You were going to tear down the Temple and build it back up in three days! Save yourself if you are God's Son! Come on down from the cross!" 
In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the Law and the elders made fun of him: "He saved others, but he cannot save himself! Isn't he the king of Israel? If he will come down off the cross now, we will believe in him! He trusts in God and claims to be God's Son. Well, then, let us see if God wants to save him now!"
Even the bandits who had been crucified with him insulted him in the same way.

Meditation
     I don’t like to think of hatred as being a controlling force in my life 
but can it be that when I dislike someone so intensely that I go out of my way to avoid that person 
and I refuse to talk to that person or offer any assistance, 
that I have created a wall of hatred between that person and me?
Is it possible that prejudice or racism or discrimination or mockery, or belittling others are words that imply hatred?
I was in the crowd that day on Calvary that mocked and insulted Jesus as if he was less than human.  
It is my sin that nailed him to the cross.
 
Prayer (beginning with silence)
     O God, help us consider how we show hate to others, 
how our dislike for another person blinds us to their pain,
how we prefer to talk about a person rather than speak to them words of hope and comfort.
O God, we freely admit that
our hatred hurts us and creates walls between us and others.
We know too that our hatred hurts you.

Sung Response while a candle is extinguished

Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.
Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.
 

Jesus DIES FOR OUR SIN   Matthew 27:45-50

At noon the whole country was covered with darkness, which lasted for three hours. At about three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud shout, ["Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?"] which means, "My God, my God, why did you abandon me?" 
Some of the people standing there heard him and said, "He is calling for Elijah!" One of them ran up at once, took a sponge, soaked it in cheap wine, put it on the end of a stick, and tried to make him drink it.  But the others said, "Wait, let us see if Elijah is coming to save him!"
Jesus again gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

Sung Response while a candle is extinguished
Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.
Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.

 Assurance of forgiveness

Yes, it is true. Our sin did nail Jesus to the cross.  Our sin caused him so much pain and grief to the point of death. It is as if we were there driving in the nails; as if the taunts of the bystanders were ours. Our reflection on the nails that caused Jesus so much suffering, lead us to turn in faith to the One who died on the cross to soothe our guilt and calm our fears and give us peace and forgiveness. He endured the pain so that we can be free.

Christ carried on to the cross with him every sin that we have ever done and every sin that we have thought so terrible that it could never be forgiven.  Yes we hammered in the nails but through his death on the cross, Christ has paid for all our sin.  When he cried out, “Father forgive them” we were there that day and he was speaking to us. 

Good Friday is a solemn day of refection but it is also a day of celebration. Jesus died for us.  Without his sacrifice there is no hope.
Be at peace.  Your sins are forgiven.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

* I have come across a number of Good Friday Liturgies following this same theme.  Richard Fairfield may have been the first to publish a service of this nature and I have drawn inspiration from his Good Friday Liturgy and others in creating the above.  This is my series of meditations on the "Nails of the Cross".  That there are 7 nails has no significance only that it gives opportunity to retell the Passion of Christ in 7 readings.  Five would be a good number to represent the wounds of Christ or 3 to symbolise the number of nails. In other words, this liturgy can be shortened to suit local needs.  There were 7 black candles on a bare altar.  These were extinguished one by one after each section during the sung response by the congregation. There are lots of things that can be done with nails as part of the service.  These meditations can also be used for private reflection on the cross of Christ.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
3rd April 2015
E-mail: gerhardy65@hotmail.com

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