Beverley Methodist Circuit
Holy Week Meditations
Based on “Seven words from the Cross”
By Revd David Spriggs
Published by BRF as part of the Bible Study notes “Guidelines” April 2020
Holy week is the most special and sacred time in the Christian Calendar. These days marked the climax of Jesus’ earthly ministry as he entered the Holy City for the last time inviting the crowds to accept or reject his message. They chose to reject him and by Friday night, he was dead. Christians have come to believe this was the only way that sinful humanity could be reconciled to God, and the only way that the full extent of God’s love could be seen: that in Jesus God took upon himself the full consequence of the evil that humankind had unleashed and defeated it, at the price of his life.
In our churches we had planned a programme of quiet reflection each day but in the current time of crisis, meeting together is not possible. The purpose of these reflections is to enable us to be together in spirit even though separated physically. I invite you to take some time each day, perhaps at the beginning or the end of the day, find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed, perhaps play some quiet music, (I’ve suggested a YouTube link) maybe light a candle and use these prayers, bible readings and short reflections to remember and focus on the God who loves you so much that he was prepared to do all this for you.
Our thoughts are centred on four of the short sayings that Jesus spoke from the Cross as his life gradually slipped away.
Monday: “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”
Tuesday: “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”
Wednesday: “I am Thirsty…It is finished!”
Thursday: “Father into your hands I commend my spirit”
Wednesday 8th April 2020
I am thirsty…It is finished
Prayer of Approach
Jesus, you commanded the waves to be still and calmed a stormy sea. Quieten now our restless hearts that they may find rest in you.
We recognise the noise inside us and the noises around us. We acknowledge them, but seek here to know your presence in the midst of all that might distract us.
So now we surrender for these moments, our speech, knowing that beneath the silence is a deeper Word, and that even when we say nothing, you are still listening.
From the Iona Abbey Worship book © the Iona Community
Keep a time of Silence
Read John 19:28-37
28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Jesus’ Side Is Pierced
31 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. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35 (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) 36 These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘None of his bones shall be broken.’ 37 And again another passage of scripture says, ‘They will look on the one whom they have pierced.’
Keep a time of Silence or listen to some quiet music
It is finished
There is more than one way to hear these words. They could be heard with a sense of failure and disillusionment. “It’s over! It’s done! Is this how my life’s work is to come to an end, in rejection failure and death? Father, why did you not intervene in the way I expected you would?” Did Jesus really give up thinking that all his work had come to nothing and there was nothing more to do? I don’t think so.
There is another way to hear these words, a very different and positive way. It is complete! The Father’s plan has been carried out in full, nothing can now thwart or derail the victory of good over evil, love over hate.
The word Jesus uses for “finished is often used in the context of financial transactions to indicate that a bill has been paid in full. In that sense, these words indicate that the price has been paid for the sin of the world. Any debt has been settled in full and the “Lamb of God has taken away the sin of the world!” as foreseen by John the Baptist (John 1:29).
“I am thirsty!” can also be understood in more than one way. It can be taken at face value, and clearly that is how the bystanders at the cross took it as they tried to sort out a drink for him. At this level, the ink is with Psalm 69:21
They gave me poison for food
And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink
But by this time, Jesus would surely not just be concerned with physical thirst. In John’s Gospel, Jesus often talks of his forthcoming death as being his return to the Father. And he refers to the cross, the manner of his death as his glorification. It makes sense therefore to look for a deeper significance to this cry of thirst. John says that the words were spoken to fulfil Scripture. That Scripture could be Psalm 42
As the deer longs for flowing streams
so my soul longs for you O God.
My soul thirsts for God
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?
Psalm 42 is rather like Psalm 22 quoted in earlier words from the Cross. It begins with the despair of the Psalmist, crying out to find an elusive God but then it moves to end on a profound note of hope.
Why are you cast down, o my soul
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God: for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.
Psalm 42 also contains the words, which seem to foresee the Cross
As with a deadly wound in my body
my adversaries taunt me
while they say to me continually
“Where is your God?”
When Jesus cries “I Thirst!” if Psalm 42 is in his mind, then he cries out, not for water, but for God and in this case, “It is Finished!” becomes the answer to his prayer: The work is complete, the suffering is over, his thirst for God is about to be satisfied as he enters God’s presence to behold His face.
In a time of quiet, pray for those who struggle to know God’s presence with them through hardship, or pain or just the everyday stress of life.
Hot dry air burns his parched mouth and throat
with every laboured breath.
Cracked lips barely move,
scarcely enough breath
to make the words audible,
For an end to this.
Hot desert winds lift the dust of the cracked, parched earth.
The living Water is dry,
The living Water is dry,
and we struggle to watch, to stay.
We want to run from here, or raise our fists and fight
Give us the courage to still our feet,
to lower our fists, and stay with you,
where you already are,
in the places where you suffer still.
© Wild Goose Publications
Maundy Thursday 9th April
Father into your hands I commend my spirit
God within and beyond us all,
teach us the silence of humility,
the silence of wisdom,
the silence of faith,
the silence that enables reflection
and speaks without words.
Teach us God, to silence our own hearts and minds that we may listen for the movement of your Spirit within us and treasure your presence in the depths of our being. Amen
Keep a time of Silence
Read Luke 23:44-49
The Death of Jesus
44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land[l] until three in the afternoon, 45 while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. 47 When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ 48 And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49 But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Keep a time of Silence or listen to quiet music
For Luke, these are Jesus final words, and they bring us clear insight into the reality and the integrity of Jesus’ faith in his Father under the most extreme conditions of suffering. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus pleaded that the cup of suffering be removed from him, but he said, “Not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) The cup he spoke of was the death by crucifixion that he anticipated and measure of God’s anger and judgement against his sinful and disobedient people which Jesus had to drink to the dregs. As he felt the anger of God and bore the judgment, he felt abandoned, rejected and separated from the Father. Having gone through all that, Jesus is still able to entrust his spirit to his Father. Even against all the odds, he believes that vindication will come. That God will, indeed be there for him.
Jesus final words here recall a daily prayer of the Jews, used at the end of a day’s labour. It comes from Psalm 31. Underneath and behind these words lie a deep sense of tranquillity and trust. Jesus inserted the word “Father” before he quoted the Psalm. This was his unique signature to prayer and reflected the intimacy of his relationship with God and here it becomes an expression of courageous commitment.
Psalm 31 expresses confidence in God’s dependability, protection and, in particular, God acting to vindicate the wrongly accused. Psalm 31:22 has deep significance for one who felt abandoned by God:
I said in my alarm
‘I am cut off from your sight’
but you heard my supplications
when I cried out to you for help.
The Psalm ends with a message for the disciples and for us as we struggle with the thought of our Lord crucified
Be strong and let your heart take courage
All you who wait for the Lord
This echoes the charge given to Joshua by Moses as he handed over the leadership of God’s people just before they entered the Promised Land. AS we think on these words it strongly suggests that Jesus is somehow handing on his earthly work – to his disciples in the first place, but also to all who would follow on after them.
In one way the job that Jesus came to do is finished. Evil is defeated. Love has won! Jesus will shortly return to the Father and receive the glory due but the work of spreading the news is about to begin. As Jesus entrusted his Spirit to his loving Father, so he entrusted the work to his followers. We carry a message of hope for all the world.
Keep a time of silence
Father, into your hands I place my spirit
we are still:
we pause again:
we look around,
we move on –
and ready to begin again
to celebrate the miracle of life.
Your life in us.