Interactive, Meaningful ways to commemorate Good, Holy, Atoning Friday
One might ask why is it important to commemorate Good Friday? The answer is simple: We are changed as we pause and reflect on the Savior’s greatest act of love (John 15:13). Jesus himself has asked us to remember His death, view His death and behold His wounds time after time. I believe He asks us to do this because He knows remembering his death will help us feel His love. The “Good” in Good Friday is derived from the word holy–Holy because it is the day Jesus died for us. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has called it “Atoning Friday.” I like to call it Good, Holy, Atoning Friday because I connect with all three.
Due to the complexity of this day, for a long time I felt unsure on how to go about commemorating this holy day with children and even for myself because it is filled with a mix of emotions. It is a solemn day as we ponder the painful process of crucifixion, a day of reflection as we deeply feel Jesus’ love in giving his life for us, and a victorious day as we reflect on the “triumph of the cross” in conquering Satan.
At Christmas time we celebrate the main event of Jesus’ birth and we also learn from events surrounding His birth. Similarly, on Good Friday, THE event is Jesus’s death on the cross, and great lessons can be found in what occurs before and after Jesus’ death. Like candy canes or paper angels remind us of people of the Christmas story, items like a judge gavel (for Pilate), gold crown (for Herod), crown of thorns (for Jesus), vinegar, large nail, a sword and similar objects can remind us of the people and events of Good Friday. Here is a list of Good Friday objects that connect us with the storyline and people. Not only will the items engage the interest of younger and older children, but also adults!
Similar to the the tangible objects we can handle, images can also connect us with the people and events of Good Friday. You can find images in the Powerpoint presentation link below or you can search online for a specific event. For example search: image of Pilate’s wife dream; or image of Jesus speaking to the group of women as He carries His cross; or image of Centurion at the foot of the cross.
Once we have familiarized ourselves with the events and the people, reflecting on the timeline can also be beneficial. For example: at dawn thinking about Peter denying Jesus for the third time before the cock crows, Jesus making eye contact with him, and Peter weeping. Before 9am thinking of Jesus on trial before Pilate, then before Herod, then back to Pilate. We can ponder Barabbas being let free even though he was guilty; think about Jesus carrying His cross, and then Simon of Cyrene carrying His cross and what that may have felt like for Simon. From 9am-3pm think about Jesus on the cross and think of each of the 7 last statements of Jesus on the cross, the women at the cross and all his acquaintance, the darkness, earthquake, graves open, veil torn, and the signs happening in the Americas. At 3pm we can think about His body removed from the cross, and think of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who gave of their wealth bringing 75 pounds of ointments for Jesus and burial clothes, and think of the women who behold the burial place, these people who are so devoted to Jesus and choose to remain with Him.
We can also engage with Good, Holy, Atoning Friday through the 7 final statements of Jesus on the Cross. These statements connect us with Jesus on the cross. This page on the 7 final statements has ideas to incorporate them into our Good Friday.
Just like it would be very limiting for us to fit all of our Christmas devotionals, activities, and celebrations to one day, it makes sense to not limit the discussions surrounding the people and events of Good Friday to just one day. We could choose to discuss people and events of Good Friday during the weeks leading up to Holy Week, during Holy Week itself, and on Good Friday. Like at the Christmas season, knowing what we are celebrating and talking about it in anticipation can bring meaning and a heart ready to learn.
Early in my life I associated Jesus’ death with sadness and I didn’t want to linger there. However, I have come to associate the Jesus Christ’s death with his love for me and all mankind, which brings hope. Now I find deep joy and meaning when I pause and sit with Good Friday. If we are so quick to get to the joyous Risen Lord of Easter Sunday we may miss the significance of the Loving Christ of Good Friday.
As we make time for Good Friday we will feel the reality of Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice. We can engage with Good Friday in multiple ways: the timeline, items, people, events, images, activities, movies, food, worship services, and simply pondering. However we decide to commemorate Good Friday, I hope we slow down and ponder on the goodness, love and power of Jesus Christ on Good Friday and throughout the whole Easter season.
Below are a few lists: People of Good Friday, Events of Good Friday, link to ideas for young children, timeline, food and a Powerpoint link. Scripture references for the events and people can be found on this page.
Devotional Lesson Plan and simple teaching ideas for Good Friday
This reflection can be done in a focused pondering marking specific events that happened to the Savior on that day. For example, at dawn we can remember the Savior coming before Pilate; soon after we can reflect on the trial, the scourging, and the crown of thorns.
At 9:00 a.m. we can remember Christ being placed on the cross. We can imagine the sky turning dark at noon and finally remember his death at 3:00 p.m. and his burial shortly thereafter.
Special foods on significant days can help make them even more memorable. Hot cross buns are a fun treat. see this post for recipes. Christians in many faith traditions fast on Good Friday.
ACTIVITIES FOR YOUNG CHILDREN
Eat a meal in darkness (Hales book); Carry a beam (Hales book); Make a crown of thorns with Playdough & toothpicks (Rosbourough book); Handle Objects to tell the story; Make sugar cookies or bread in shape of cross or heart or both; Dress up as people of Good Friday and do a readers theater. See list of people above; Coloring pages of the seven final statements; Coloring page of veil of the temple in purple and red and tear it in half
Here is a powerpoint presentation I have used to help teach about Good/Holy/Atoning Friday. You are welcome to use it! I hope these resources are helpful to you and in understanding and teaching the importance of Good Friday is a meaningful day!