"You Have Heard It Said . . ."

A Good Friday Service

While reading Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods and contemplating a series of messages on idolatry during the Lent season, I realized that perhaps each violation after the first two of the ten commandments (you shall have no other gods; you shall not make idols) points to some expression of idolatry. And then I read Keller’s reference to what Martin Luther wrote in his Larger Catechism: “The fundamental motivation behind law breaking is idolatry.”

From that idea came a series of messages during Lent on how each command (keeping Sabbath; honoring God’s name; honoring our parents . . . ) points to unique idolatries. Could the story of Christ’s death on Good Friday (and his teaching on the commandments), then, have echoes of Old Testament idol-crushing revival kings?

Opening words and prayer

Lighting of the Christ Candle

Opening Song: “O Jesus, We Adore You” PsH 472, TH 255

First Scripture Reading

Matthew 26:1-2

[Remove candle and plate from top of the candleholder and place them nearby (keep candle lit); remove the cloth bag from the candleholder.]

Matthew 26:3-5

[Display first slide: “You have heard it said . . . you shall not murder.”]

[Remove the first length of ribbon from inside the candleholder to reveal the word “hate.”]

Song: “Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended” st. 1, 2, 4 PH 93, PsH 386, TH 248, WR 262

Second Scripture Reading

Matthew 26:6-13

[Display second slide: “You have heard it said . . . you shall not commit adultery.”]

[Remove from the candleholder the second length of ribbon to reveal the word “ugliness.”]

Song: “Oh How He Loves You and Me” SFL 163, SWM 123

Third Scripture Reading

Matthew 26:8-9, 14-16

[Display third slide: “You have heard it said . . . you shall not steal.”]

[Remove from the candleholder the third length of ribbon to reveal the words “stuff over people.”]


Fourth Scripture Reading

Matthew 26:19-25, 30

[Display fourth slide: “You have heard it said . . . you shall not bear false testimony.”]

[Remove from candleholder the fourth length of ribbon to reveal the word “lies.”]

Song: “Go to Dark Gethsemane” PH 97, PsH 381, WR 272

Fifth Scripture Reading

Matthew 26:31-46

[Display fifth slide: “You have heard it said . . . you shall not covet.”]

[Remove from the candleholder the fifth length to reveal the words “my will.”]

Song: “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed” CH 306, PH 78, PsH 385, TH 254, WR 263

Sixth Scripture Reading

Matthew 26:47-50, 56b-57, 59-66

[Display sixth slide: “You have heard it said . . . you shall have no other gods before me.”]

[Reveal the final word on the ribbon: “Me.”]

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

Seventh Scripture Reading

Matthew 26:67-68, 73-75; 27:1-8

[Display seventh slide: “Too much to bear.”]

[Place the ribbons back inside the candleholder, and put the candleholder in the cloth bag to represent grave clothes. Replace the plate and candle on the top of the candleholder.]

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

Eighth Scripture Reading

Matthew 27:11-23, 26-31, 35-36

[Display eighth slide: “You have heard it said . . . do not make for yourself an idol.”]

[Place the candleholder, still in the cloth bag and with candle lit, at the foot of the cross.]

Song: “Oh, to See the Dawn (The Power of the Cross)” st. 1, 2, 4 SNT 105

Ninth Scripture Reading

Matthew 27:37-46, 50

[Extinguish candle; silence]

Matthew 27:51-54

[Remove candle and plate. Cover the candleholder completely with the cloth bag and smash it with a wooden mallet.]

Song: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” CH 321/324, PH 100/101, PsH 384, SFL 166, TH 252, WR 261


Visual Elements

For this service, a candleholder serves as the central visual element. You will need:

  • an expendible glass vase with a mouth wide enough to allow you to place your hand inside it.
  • a small glass plate that fits securely over the top of the vase.
  • a pillar candle and matches or lighter.
  • Six 12 x 3-inch “ribbons” of coarse cloth on which are written in large, bold letters one of the following words or phrases that reveal aspects of commandment-breaking idolatry: hate; ugliness; stuff over people; lies; my will; me.
  • A white fabric bag (storebought or handmade) large enough to cover the vase completely. This bag, which represents grave cloths, will both hide the cloth ribbons from view at the beginning of the service and contain the glass shards when the candleholder is smashed at the end of the service.
  • A wooden mallet or hammer with which to smash the candleholder.

Nine Scripture readings (some divided into sections) are each followed by the projection of a slide with one of the commandments; the slides are accompanied by the revealing of the corresponding words on the cloth ribbons inside the candleholder (see service outline for wording for slides). Consider asking a teen who’s experienced in drama or a liturgical dancer to reveal the words at the appropriate times. Make sure he or she is aware of the order in which the words should be revealed.

John H. Bouwers is a new church planter in Milton, Ontario after spending the previous ten years as pastor of Meadowlands Fellowship Church in Ancaster, Ontario.

Reformed Worship 102 © December 2011, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.