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Bible passage: Luke 22:39-23:56
Background: Looking back from the 21st Century, we read the story of Jesus’ death with the knowledge that Easter Sunday is coming. However, the characters in the story don’t have this perspective. Indeed, there might be young people in our groups who aren’t familiar with the story and therefore don’t know about the good news that is to come. Try to approach this passage with fresh eyes as you reflect on the events of the story.
Welcome the group to the session, asking them about their Easter holidays and how they are doing. Let this welcome blend into your opening activity of sharing hot cross buns…
You will need: toasters; hot cross buns; butter and various spreads (such as jam, Nutella or lemon curd); crockery and cutlery
For your introduction activity, throw a Good Friday themed feast! Toast the hot cross buns and let the group choose what they want to top them with. Be aware of and cater for any dietary requirements (for example with gluten-free hot cross buns, dairy-free spread).
Enjoy this time together and the extravagance of it. You could pique the group’s interest by telling them that hot cross buns are rumoured to have originated from as early as 1361, when a monk baked buns and marked them with a cross on Good Friday before distributing them to the poor.
While you’re eating you might want to discuss why we celebrate Good Friday, despite it being the day that we remember Jesus’ crucifixion. You might want to explore the oxymoron of our greatest celebration as Christians also being the day of greatest tragedy.
You will need: printouts of Luke 22:39- 23:56; highlighter pens
For the Bible reading, try a version of Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina is a practice that helps us read the Bible reflectively. You read through the passage slowly and carefully, with a prayerful attitude, meditating on specific parts of the passage that stand out as significant to you.
Ask them to join in a type of Lectio Divina with you. Give a printout of the passage and a highlighter to each group member. Explain that you’re going to read the passage out to them slowly, and ask them to follow it themselves with an attitude of prayerful meditation.
Before you begin reading (or you could ask someone in your church community who is very good at reading to prepare in advance to read it out), say a prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal significant meanings within the passage. You may want to play some gentle background music (without lyrics) to help this atmosphere of contemplation, or to light a candle to demonstrate this.
Ask the group to highlight parts of the passage that feel particularly poignant. After you’ve finished reading the passage, encourage the group to contemplate the passage silently. Then ask them to volunteer which parts of the passage stood out as significant to them.
Moving on from chatting about revelations in relation to the passage, continue to prompt discussion with the following questions, (although stay with the discussion from the Lectio Divina activity for as long as it needs):
- Why do you think we remember this day as ‘Good Friday’?
- What do Jesus’ responses to his various trials tell us about him?
- Why do you think people wanted Jesus to be crucified? If he was innocent, what was it about him that made people want to punish and get rid of him?
- How do you think Jesus’ followers felt over the course of the events in this passage?
- Why do you think Jesus didn’t try to avoid his death on the cross?
- Why is this day so significant to Christians?
You will need: printouts from ‘Bible exploration’; pens
As we explore the passage it may ring true in new ways. This is the cycle of faith: we don’t just understand something once and for all, we revisit and reassess. Revelation continues long after we first believe. This is an important part of living faith.
On the other side of their printouts, invite the group to write a response to Jesus in light of having revisited the passage about his death. You could encourage them to write a letter or poem in private, just between them and Jesus. Give each member a pen to do this and play some music again to give them the space and privacy to do so. A good song for this moment might be ‘The wonder of the cross’ by Vicky Beeching.
Sometimes when we remember people who have died we observe a moment of silence. At the end of this passage we read the final sentence: “On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” We leave the disciples at the moment when their leader and friend has died, without hindsight about the resurrection of Easter Sunday. At this moment they would have felt that all hope was lost, and that they were left alone with their complex grief.
As Christians, we have the celebration of Easter Sunday – the resurrection of Jesus and the hope that this gives us – but we are missing something if we don’t stop and recognise the truth that Jesus died before he rose again.
Explain this to the group, and invite them to share in a minute of silence so you can all remember the significance of Jesus’ death given everything you have explored today. Invite them to share in the guilt, confusion and grief of the disciples, aware that we believe in a God who rose again but who is able to share in our moments of helplessness and hopelessness. Explain that grief is sometimes appropriate, but also that in our moments of grief there is an unseen work of resurrection waiting to occur.
If it feels appropriate, you could invite the group to stand together during the minute’s silence. Say a prayer of thanksgiving to close this time.
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