A Good Friday Service of Remembrance and Love

This service is structured like a funeral to help us feel the reality of Jesus’ death. Through Scripture, readings, and songs, we reflect on the scope of Jesus’ life on earth, from the promise of his coming through his ministry to his death. The tone is tender and reverent, a mingling of sorrow and love.

Much of the funeral liturgy is directly quoted or adapted from In Life and in Death, by Leonard Vander Zee (Faith Alive Christian Resources, 1992). The service intentionally blends modern Western funeral elements with descriptions of the people and events of Good Friday.

The visual and musical elements helped make this an immersive experience. As worshipers entered the church, ushers dressed in black distributed funeral programs with the liturgy printed inside. Simple flower arrangements were placed in the narthex and sanctuary. In lieu of the photographs or slide shows we often see in modern funerals, we set a table outside the sanctuary with various objects (detailed below) to remind us of the scope of Jesus’ life and ministry. Worshipers entered the sanctuary to quiet piano music.

The minister processed in carrying a black cloth symbolizing the body of Jesus.

Four readers played the roles of Mary (mother of Jesus), Simon Peter, Martha of Bethany, and John the Beloved. They processed in behind the pastor. During the Remembrance portion of the service, each reader held an object symbolizing an aspect of Jesus’ life. Mary held a baby blanket, Peter a net, Martha a coffee mug, and John a basin and towel.

Two other congregants read the Old Testament readings. The minister led the rest of the service.

After the service, the pastor processed out. The readers followed and placed the objects they had held on the back table. Ushers dismissed congregants row by row, allowing people time for reflection as they filed past the table.

For the congregation to understand the context of this service, you may want to include an explanatory note in the bulletin or have it projected during the prelude (see service note below).

Service Note

Have You Ever Wondered?

Have you ever wondered what it would have been like for those close to Jesus in those days between Good Friday and Easter? What did they talk about? What stories did they tell? What questions were they asking?

This service gives us permission to dwell there in the sorrow of Christ’s death—in the grief, the fear, the confusion. It’s OK to pause there. In fact, we need to pause there because it is part of the story. We need to pause there because it is our story.



[The minister enters the sanctuary carrying a folded black cloth to symbolize a casket with the body of Jesus. Behind the minister, Jesus’ family and friends (our readers) process into the front row.]

The Placing of the Pall

[The minister reverently unfolds the cloth and drapes it across the corner of the communion table, saying:]

Lord Almighty,

blessed is the one who trusts in you.

—Psalm 84:12

Opening Sentences

God is our refuge and strength,

an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

—Psalm 46:1–2

The Lord says, . . .

As a mother comforts her child,

so will I comfort you.

—Isaiah 66:13

Song Suggestions

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (st. 1, 4, 6) Helmore, LUYH 61, GtG 88, SSS 73

[accompanied by handbell drone]

“Were You There” Spiritual, LUYH 166, GtG 228, SSS 176

Call to Prayer

Dear friends,

we are gathered here in sorrow and in hope

at the death of our teacher, son, brother, and friend:

Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Mary, Son of God.

Let us now turn our hearts to God in prayer

that he may strengthen our faith

and grant us his comfort.

—adapted from Leonard VanderZee, In Life and in Death ©1992 Faith Alive Christian Resources, p. 107. Reprinted with permission.


O God of all comfort,

tonight we remember our dear brother Jesus.

Thank you for giving him to us

to know and to love.

In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn,

and show us your grace.

We feel the fleeting passage of life,

and we know how fragile is our existence.

We confess with the prophet:

“All flesh is grass,

and all its glory is like the flowers of the field.

The grass withers and the flowers fall.”

Yet we also confess:

“The word of the Lord stands forever.”

We look to you as children look to their mother,

for you alone can comfort us.

Have mercy on us, O God.

See our tears and hear our cries,

and lead us all as pilgrims

through this valley of death’s shadow

into the light of your kingdom.


—adapted from Leonard VanderZee, In Life and in Death ©1992 Faith Alive Christian Resources, p. 90–91. Reprinted with permission.

We will now have time to hear some remembrances from those who knew and loved Jesus best.


Mary, Mother of Jesus

[Mary holds a baby blanket.]

I just keep thinking about the first time I held him. He had this tuft of dark hair, and he was born screaming! I loved him right away. I had no idea it was possible to love someone like that.

You know, an angel had told me Jesus would be born to me. I was told that he would be great, and called the Son of the Most High—the Son of God. It was hard to imagine that when he was so small. But the night Jesus was born, some shepherds came to see him. They said angels appeared to them with good news of great joy because my baby had been born. They called him the Savior.

I remember when Jesus was just a toddler, and Joseph and I had to flee the country with him. We had to protect him from people who wanted to kill him. He was only a baby, and they wanted to kill him! Can you believe it?

Jesus was always a good boy. He loved playing with his brothers, but he was different from them. He never, ever acted like he was better than them, but it must have been hard having a brother so perfect. Thankfully he had a good sense of humor. He was joyful.

There was one thing someone said to me once—the other thing I can’t stop thinking about. Jesus was eight days old. Joseph and I had brought him to the temple, and an old man and woman came right up to us, prophesying about Jesus and telling people around us about him. Then the old man looked right at me and said, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” I feel that now.

But I don’t understand how this could be part of God’s plan when all Jesus brought to the world was goodness.

Simon Peter

[Simon Peter holds a fishing net.]

You know how there are some people for whom you remember the first time you ever met? Yeah, I remember when I met Jesus.

Me, my brother, and our buddies were out washing our fishing nets. We’d spent a whole night catching nothing. I was beat, and all I wanted was to eat and to go to bed. And here comes this guy, eyeing my boat and asking if he could borrow it so he could do some teaching. He said his voice would carry better from the water—can you believe it? Well, like I said, I didn’t want to do nothin’ but sleep. So I was as surprised as anyone that I actually said yes. I guess I felt curious about him. But I never trusted my boat with anyone else, so I went out with him.

When he was done talking to the crowd on shore, I thought that was that. But then Jesus told me to go out into deeper water and put down my nets for a catch. I thought, “This guy’s a pretty smart teacher, but he don’t know nothin’ about fishing.” I tried to explain to him that we were out all night—the time when fish are actually out—and we hadn’t caught a thing. But he kept looking at me like he was expecting more. And again, what do you know—I actually said yes.

Now, I’d never seen a miracle before. So when a huge group of fish came swimming toward the net like they wanted to be there . . . well, it freaked me out. And when I had to signal my buddies to help with all the fish because my net was breaking . . . well, I got downright scared. I’m kind of a rough guy, you know? And here was this holy guy doing a miracle in my boat! I fell to my knees and told Jesus, “Get away from me; I’m a sinful man!”

I’ll never forget the look on Jesus’ face. He smiled at me. He looked at me like he actually liked me. And then he got this playful look, and he said, “Hey, Peter—don’t be afraid. From now on, instead of catching fish, you’re going to catch people.”

I had no idea what that meant, but I wanted to find out.

I’ve seen a lot of miracles since then. I’ve even been part of some! But mostly I remember the way Jesus saw me, trusted me, and challenged me.

Before he died, I told Jesus I would be there for him no matter what. But I wasn’t. Not when he needed me most. I told him I would die with him—but I was so scared I ended up saying I didn’t even know him. I wish I could just tell him that I really do love him.

Martha of Bethany

[Martha holds a coffee mug.]

Jesus is—was—a friend of our family.

Whenever he’d pass through Bethany on his way to or from Jerusalem, he’d stop and stay with us. Aside from the really big thing he did for our brother, the thing I remember most about Jesus is how comfortable it felt to be with him. It didn’t matter how big a crowd he’d taught or what amazing things he’d done; he’d come to our house, take off his sandals, and just seem so relaxed. He never acted like he was a big deal. Mostly he liked to listen and laugh and eat.

Jesus enjoyed eating so much that I’d prepare the best food for him that I could. At one point I really stressed myself out over it. I didn’t have everything ready in time, and I was really pushing myself to do this big thing for him. And I’ll never forget when Jesus just said, “Martha, Martha. It’s OK. I don’t need anything fancy. I just want to spend time with you.” I’ve thought about that a lot since then.

And now that’s all I really want: just to spend more time with him.

I remember when my brother Lazarus got sick. Jesus didn’t come right away, and Lazarus died. I didn’t know why Jesus didn’t come sooner. But when he did come, I remember how he cried. [Pause] But then Jesus called my brother back to life again! He gave our brother back to us.

That’s why it’s so hard to understand how he could just be . . . gone. He told me that he was “the resurrection and the life.” And I believed it. Now I’m trying to figure out how that makes sense with [gesturing to black cloth] this.


[John holds a basin and towel.]

What stands out to me now is dinner a night or so ago—so much has happened that it’s hard to keep track of time. We found this upper room so we’d have a place to share the Passover meal.

While the food was being served, Jesus got up, took off his robe, and wrapped an apron around his waist. He poured water into a basin, and washed each of our feet—even Judas’s feet.

When Jesus finished, he put on his regular clothes and asked us, “Do you understand what I’ve done for you?” He said, “You’re right to call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ because that’s what I am. And now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet.”

And then Jesus shared the meal with us. He passed the bread and cup, even to the one who was about to betray him.

Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and broke it. He gave it to us and said, “Take it; this is my body.”

Then he took the cup, gave thanks, and offered it to us. He said, “This is my blood—God’s new covenant—poured out for many.”

Jesus told us, “Do this to remember me.”


Declaration of God’s Invitation and Promises

Words of Institution


on the night he was betrayed,

Jesus said to his disciples,

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.

For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment

in the kingdom of God.”

And he took bread, gave thanks, and broke it,

and gave it to them, saying,

“This is my body given for you;

do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying,

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood,

which is poured out for you.

Do this in remembrance of me.”

—Reprinted by permission from The Worship Sourcebook, second edition © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources (TWS, based on Luke 22:15–20.


Jesus said,

“I am the bread of life.

Whoever comes to me will never be hungry,

and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

—John 6:35, NRSV

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Loving Father, to whom your crucified Son prayed, we praise you,

for you created heaven and earth,

made us in your image,

and kept covenant with us—

even when we fell into sin.

—adapted from the Lord’s Supper liturgy (1994), Christian Reformed Church in North America, tinyurl.com/y7wz99mc.

Thank you for your Son, Jesus.

When he stood on trial under false accusations,

he gave no reply, not even to a single charge.

When the crowd shouted, “Crucify him!” louder and louder,

he remained silent.

Look, the Lamb of God!

When they struck him,

he did not retaliate—

though they stripped him,

pushed a crown of thorns into his head,

knelt in front of him, and mocked him.

Look, the Lamb of God!

When they led him away to be executed

and drove nails into his hands and feet;

while the people stood watching as they lifted him up

and the rulers sneered at him, your Son prayed:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Look, the Lamb of God!

Though he was crucified among criminals,

though one of them hurled insults at him,

he heard the voice of the one who cried,

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

And your Son assured him,

“Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Look, the Lamb of God!

When darkness overtook the afternoon light,

when the sun stopped shining

and the temple of the curtain was torn in two,

your Son called out in a loud voice,

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”

and breathed his last.

Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!

Now in your love and mercy, Holy Father,

give us your Spirit,

so that through these gifts of bread and juice,

we may be united more fully with Jesus and with one another.

Lift our hearts so that

in all the sorrows and troubles of this life

we may continue in hope for the new life

in your everlasting kingdom. Amen.

Passing of the Peace

Before he died, Jesus told his friends,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you,

I do not give as the world gives.

Do not let your hearts be troubled,

and do not let them be afraid.”

—John 14:27, NRSV

The peace of Christ be with you.

And also with you.

Preparing the Bread and Cup

[The minister speaks these words while breaking the bread:]

The bread that we break

is a sharing in the body of Christ.

We who are many are one body,

for we all share the same loaf.

[The minister speaks these words while pouring the cup:]

The cup for which we give thanks

is a sharing in the blood of Christ.

The cup that we drink is our participation

in the blood of Christ.

—Reprinted by permission from The Worship Sourcebook, second edition, © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources (TWS 8.2.6).

Come, for all is ready!

The gifts of God for the people of God.

Eat, drink, remember, and believe.


[The minister and congregation speak these words as the bread is shared:]

The body of Christ, given for you.

Thanks be to God.

[The minister and congregation speak these words as the cup is shared:]

The blood of Christ, shed for you.

Thanks be to God.

Song Suggestions

“Ah, Holy Jesus” Heerman and Bridges, LUYH 172, GtG 218

“Jesus Messiah” Tomlin et al.

Prayer of Praise and for Illumination

We praise you, O God,

for feeding us at your table,

for gifts of bread and cup

that sustain and strengthen us.

Now we ask for the gift of your Spirit’s presence

to nourish us in the preaching of your Word,

so that fed by table and Word

we may be prepared to be living testimonies

to the hope we have in you.


—Reformed Worship © 2023 Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercialShareAlike.

The Readings

Psalm: Psalm 22

Old Testament: Isaiah 53:1–6

Song Suggestions

“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” Arnulf and Alexander, LUYH 168, GtG 221, SSS 168

“How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” Townend

Gospel: Luke 23:44–49


“Staying at a Distance”

Prayer of Application

Lord, we so often stay at a distance,

unsure of what to do next, of what to say.

In these moments of confusion may we turn to you,

for you alone have the words of eternal life;

you alone are our source of hope.

And having met us in our despair,

fill us with courage so that we can be living testimonies

to all we have witnessed. Amen.

—Joyce Borger © 2023 Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercialShareAlike.

Sung Response

“Beneath the Cross” Getty, LUYH 825

“My Faith Looks Up to Thee” Palmer, LUYH 426, GtG 829

“O Praise the Name (Anástasis)” (st. 1–2) Hastings et al.


Loving God,

it isn’t hard for us to imagine what those close to Jesus

felt on that day we now call Good Friday.

Like you, we know loss, we know grief, we know pain.

But unlike those who mourned your Son’s death,

we know the rest of the story.

On this, the worst of days,

when we remember the pain and suffering that Christ endured for us,

when we allow ourselves to feel the oppression of that day,

when we acknowledge the despair,

we do so knowing it was also the day when goodness triumphed.

Help us, then, when in our lives we experience

days and seasons of grief, loneliness, pain, and despair,

when all seems lost and life seems futile,

to remember that even though we might not experience it yet,

we know the rest of the story.

So today we stand triumphant in the face of Christ’s death.

We stand triumphant against all the evil in this world.

We stand despite our own fear, grief, despair, and loneliness.

Despite all that is wrong, we stand and demand:

“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death is your sting?

Thanks be to God!

He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”


—Joyce Borger © 2023 Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercialShareAlike.

Song Suggestion

“What Wondrous Love” Anon., LUYH 164, GtG 215, SSS 177

Acclamation and Benediction

People of God,

may we join with the thousands of angels encircling God’s throne

in declaring,

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength

and honor and glory and praise!”

—Revelation 5:12

May Jesus Christ, the Lamb,

who was obedient to death,

even death on the cross,

guide, encourage, and protect you.



Erin Stout received her MDiv from Calvin Theological Seminary and attends Roots Moravian Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Rachel Kroll is recently retired after more than thirty years of service as a director of worship and is a member of Faith Christian Reformed Church in New Brighton, Minnesota.

Reformed Worship 150 © December 2023, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.