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The Suffering Servant

A Good Friday Service on Isaiah 53

While Isaiah 53 was written with the captivity of Israel in mind, its verses contain a prophetic account of the sufferings of Christ, including the design of his sufferings. Jesus suffered for our sins, in our place. This atonement is the only way of salvation. By his sufferings Jesus purchased for us the Spirit and grace of God. We will endure if we love him who has first loved us.

This service was designed to include the following elements:

  • An introduction to Isaiah 53 by the pastor, in advance of the various readings, situates the passage and the readings that follow.
  • The service opens with a reading from John 1 and the lighting of six candles (an “echo” of Advent and Christmas), including the Christ candle, which stands in the middle. Purple candles would be appropriate, if available.
  • Each component of “suffering” highlighted in Isaiah 53 is reflected in a particular portion of Christ’s “passion” hours, leading to the cross. The readings highlight the ways Christ suffered: (1) rejection by his own people; (2) forsaken by God; (3) physical suffering; (4) death.
  • At the end of each of these readings, the reader extinguishes a candle as the congregation has a time of silent reflection. The Lord’s Supper is a meaningful addition to the liturgy.
  • The service ends with a hope-filled reading from Revelation that foreshadows Easter.
  • The last remaining candle is carried out of the sanctuary as the thirty-three bells toll; the congregation then leaves in silence.

We Remember the Shepherd Coming as a Lamb

Words of Welcome

Opening Reading: John 1:1-14

Reader lights six “suffering” candles, including the Christ candle

Responsive Reading
What’s happened? Why are you here?
We have come because they have crucified our Lord.
Who has crucified your Lord?
The Roman soldiers, at Pilate’s command, as requested by the Jewish leaders.
But I heard you yell “Crucify!” in the awful silence of your souls.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Opening Songs
“I See the Cross” (Brian Doerksen)
“Servant King” vv. 1-3 (Graham Kendrick, worshiptogether.com)

Opening prayer followed by silent prayer/reflection

Song: “Oh Christ, the Lamb of God” PsH 257, SFL 44, SWM 158

God’s Greeting

We Reflect on the Cost of the Shepherd Becoming the Lamb

Introduction to Isaiah 53

Readings: Despised and Rejected by His Sheep
Isaiah 53:2-3
Matthew 27:57-75

Song: “Man of Sorrows, What a Name” CH 311, PsH 482, TH 246, WR 301

Silent reflection, followed by extinguishing of Candle 1

Readings: Stricken and Forsaken by God the Shepherd
Isaiah 53:4, 6, 10
Mark 14:32-41

Song: “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” (Stuart Townend, worshiptogether.com)

Silent reflection, followed by extinguishing of Candle 2

Readings: Smitten, Afflicted, Pierced
Isaiah 53:5
Mark 15:1-20

Song: “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” CH 316, PH 98, PsH 383, TH 247, WR 284

Silent reflection, followed by extinguishing of Candle 3

Readings: Like a Lamb to the Slaughter
Isaiah 53:7
Luke 24:26-46
Solo: “Via Dolorosa” (Billy Sprague and Niles Borop, musicnotes.com)

Silent reflection, followed by extinguishing of Candle 4

Readings: Into a Nameless Grave
Isaiah 53:8-9
John 19:31-42

Song: “Beneath the Cross” CSW 26

Silent reflection, followed by extinguishing of Candle 5

Prayer

Suffering in the Presence of Enemies

Reading: Psalm 23

Message: “In the Presence of My Enemies”

Song of Response: “The Lord’s My Shepherd” (Stuart Townend, http://tws.uk.endis.com)

Gathering at the Table and Sharing in His Death

The Lord’s Supper

We Go Out in Confidence, Anticipating Sunday’s Renewal

Reading: Foreshadowing of Easter Sunday
Revelation 5:6-14

Benediction

Closing Song: “What Wondrous Love” CH 314, PH 85, PsH 379, SFL 169, TH 261, WR 257

Moment of silence, concluding with the tolling of the bells; Christ candle is carried from the sanctuary. The people depart in silence and darkness.