thinking theology

“Who is the King?”

Good Friday Liturgy


(Liturgical leaders enter in silence.)

Presider: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for their loss. Her children’s faces cannot be seen nor their voices heard throughout the land. (Jeremiah 31)

Leader: He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he did not speak out. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. (Isaiah 53)

Presider: Merciful God, who weeps with those unjustly accused, who stands with the disadvantaged and the forsaken, forgive us our ease in ignoring the condition of our society.

All: Forgive us for harming your creation, for hurting each other through our blindness, our greed and our stubbornness. May our time in the wilderness bring us new understanding, longer vision, and more generous spirits. Amen.

Presider: Loving God, we thank you for the gift of Jesus who has empowered others to be courageous even to the point of death, who calls to us throughout the ages to liberate our selves from the wrong gods, the deathly treasures. Bless us all as we remember that we are the people of the cross, the people won by sacrificial love so that we might become a witness to the power of love. May all people feel your healing touch, the compassion of the Anointed One. Amen.


Music: suggestion “Go to Dark Gethsemane,” Common Praise #190

Four drama leaders move to their places. The Jesus figure, dressed all in black, carries cross and places it in front of altar and goes to lectern. Readers 1 to 3 are dressed in red and black and sit together off to the side. Jesus speaks to himself while the role of the others is to function like a Greek chorus, speaking amongst themselves.

Jesus: The strangeness of it all, this fog beyond the pain, beyond the grief. I have spent myself without holding anything back, and yet now I wonder if I imagined it all –the call, the journey, my companions, our dreams. The story seems distant and surreal –even to me- yet here I am caught between life and death, hanging in nothingness. And the Voice that called, that too, is silent, withdrawn as if it had never been, everything blown away like dust, like tears, a question never answered.

Reader 1: In the wilderness, they said he raved and raged and carried on like a maniac because he had seen God -or Satan- or his destiny.

Reader 2: No, I heard he became silent. They said he was praying but who really knows?

Reader 3: I know. He heard nothing except his own inner voice, the beating of his own heart, so big that he carried all of us in it.

Reader 1: But that was after his baptism, when we all heard a voice from heaven.

Reader 2: And what did it say?

Reader 3: Some say the voice said, “You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Others say that there was no voice at all.


Reader 1: So then, when he came back from the wilderness, he was a man on fire, full of the Spirit, teaching and preaching a new way of looking at things.

Reader 2: It’s really no wonder they didn’t try to have him killed before. Heads of state don’t like people to speak out, especially when anyone could see the truth if they would only look.

Reader 1: But I think it was more than that. It was a revolution of the heart. Nobody could ever get him on one side or the other of a political argument.

Reader 3: With him, it was always, “Ask the poor; ask the integrity of your soul.” I don’t think it’s so much what he did. He made us think about ourselves and about what we were doing.

Reader 1: And he seemed to be collecting quite an odd assortment of followers, fishermen, tax collectors, women, and every hard luck case and ne’er do well in each town he visited.

Reader 2: It was sometimes embarrassing. He would talk to beggars and foreigners as if they were important people. Each person thought he cared particularly about them.

Reader 1: Well, not every person. Some people thought he was insubordinate and a trouble- maker. They thought he was mocking powerful people. I remember he said, “Woe to you who are rich for you have received your consolation already.” Some people heard that as threatening.

Reader 3: Well not the poor. He made them feel worthy and lovable and important.

Reader 2: And what about the healing? That made a lot of people uncomfortable. Instead of quietly going to those who could afford a healer, he would walk around the marketplace, touching people, listening to their stories, not even charging them for it. It is as if he didn’t recognize the differences between one kind of person and another.

Reader 1: He treated everyone the same way, but he didn’t have much patience with his friends when they tried to keep the riffraff away. Instead he told them to go get enough food to feed a whole village! It wasn’t easy being one of his followers.

Reader 2: We all wanted to know what we had to do but he said there were no rules, only relationships. He said the rules would take care of themselves if we loved each other enough.

Reader 1: But how would we keep order? How would we know where we belonged and what was expected of us? How would we ever trust each other enough for that?

Reader 3: There is one very strange story that his followers tell about a time when he was praying. They looked at him and it was as if he had been changed. He seemed to be filled with light and so they thought they saw Moses and Elijah too. They heard that voice again, but this time it told them to listen to him because he was God’s chosen.

Reader 2: Right now, I think I am glad not to be God’s chosen. Who could face this?


Reader 3: Just a few nights ago, he was arrested after one of his times of prayer. They said an angel came to him because he was so afraid.

Reader 1: But I heard that the disciples all fell asleep because they were so scared and worried themselves.

Reader 2: I just think it’s too bad that even when they knew he was in trouble they seemed to only think about themselves. Even Peter, who told everyone how important he was. When it came down to the moment, he denied even knowing him. He was too afraid of being arrested himself I guess.

Reader 1: And it was not good what Judas Iscariot did either. He thought that he could force Jesus to reveal his powers maybe, or maybe it was for the money, or maybe he thought he was doing the best thing. But anyway, he told the authorities something that allowed them to arrest Jesus as a trouble-maker.

Reader 3: I heard that Judas let them know how to identify Jesus by giving him the kiss of peace. Do you think he was sorry? Did he expect Jesus to forgive him or even understand?

Reader 2: Never mind them. Jesus must have felt abandoned. He is so alone now. Do you think the Voice can reach him? Maybe he should have run for his life. Can he pray for his angels to come?


Reader 3: The trial was a farce but I am surprised they even bothered with one.

Reader 1: Even after he talked back to Pilate, who asked him: “Are you the king of the Jews?” And he said: “You say so, not me.” Pilate still didn’t want to condemn him. He was afraid of another riot I suspect.

Reader 2: So Pilate heard that he was from Galilee and shipped him off to Herod who was very interested in meeting him.

Reader 3: But he sent him back to Pilate and to mock him, put a king’s robe on him. Pilate and Herod were partners in crime after that, I can assure you.

Reader 1: It is really hard to understand what happened next. Did the temple authorities hate Jesus so much that they insisted on having him killed? Did the Roman officials just hand out their usual “injustice” because it set a good example of fear and terror? Did Pilate set Barrabbas free to make a point or did he hope the crowd would kill him as soon as he got out of prison?

Reader 2: Somehow or other, Jesus went from being mocked and beaten to being crucified. No one could believe it. One day, he was a great teacher, a friend to everyone and the next day, he became the king of the Jews and an enemy of the state. This is a disgraceful death and the end of a good cause, I say.

(turning back to face Jesus)

Reader 3: As they lead him away, they seize a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming from the country, and they lay the cross on him, and make him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people follow him, and among them, women wail for him.

Jesus: ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’

Reader 2: Two others also, criminals, are to be put to death with him. They come to the place that is called The Skull and they crucify Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

Jesus: ‘Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.’

Reader 1: They cast lots to divide his clothing. The people stand by, watching, helpless. The leaders laugh at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’

Reader 2: The soldiers also mock him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’

Reader 3: There is an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

Reader 1: One of the criminals hanging there derides him and says, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’

Reader 2: But the other scolds him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are dying too? And we deserve our fate, but this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

Jesus: “Today — with me — in Paradise.’

Reader 3: It is noon, so why is darkness coming over the whole land?

Jesus: ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’

(At the time of Jesus’ death, the whole community shall observe a period of silence.)

Reader 3: That centurion praises God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’

Reader 1: This spectacle is over so let us return home, albeit in sadness.

(All players leave.)

Solemn Intercessions for the World

Lord’s Prayer


OfferingCollection for world peace and development organizations.

Leader: But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.



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