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Why Have You Forsaken Me? - Matthew 27

A service plan for Good Friday planned around Matthew 27:46. This service is part of "Questions of the Last Week," a series of Lent service plans.

Worship Service
Also in this Series

Questions of the Last Week

This Lent series is titled "Questions of the Last Week." Each of the questions comes from the narratives of the week before Christ's resurrection. It is our hope and prayer that these series will provide you with variety, thoughtful content, and an excellent opportunity to enrich the spiritual journey of worshipers of all ages.

Theme of the Service

Some churches prefer to have Holy Week worship on Maundy Thursday, some on Good Friday. This service is planned for a Good Friday observance and will focus on the intensity of Christ's suffering on the cross during the three hours of darkness during which he cried out the words of Psalm 22. This service is intended to be a tenebrae service, which involves the increasing darkening of the worship space over the course of a variety of readings from the passion story. (If you plan for Maundy Thursday service instead of Good Friday, you will find other sample services for Maundy Thursday on the CICW website.)

* * * * *

Enter humbly,
worship deeply,
stand by the cross to watch your Savior,
then leave with a deep sense of peace at his gift for you!

Please follow the worship sheet carefully; the service will flow unannounced. Before we come to the Lord's Table, the bell will toll seven times to represent the fullness of Christ's sacrifice for us.


Prelude: "O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High" [see <href="#music" >music notes]
"Passacaglia in C Minor," J.S. Bach
or: "Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended"

The Call to Worship [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

A Reading of Matthew 27:27-36 [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

*Song of Adoration: "Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended" PH 93:1-4, PsH 386:1-4, RL 285:1, 2, 4, 5, RN 183:1-4, TH 248:1, 2, 4, 5, TWC 231:1-4, UMH 289:1, 2, 4, 5 [see <href="#music" >music notes]

*God's Greeting and Congregational Amen!

Offertory: "Agnus Dei," Halley [see <href="#music" >music notes]
"Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world,
Have mercy on us.grant us your peace."

*Song of Adoration: "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" PH 98:1-3, PsH 383:1-3, RL 300:1-3, RN 235:1-3, TH 247:1-3, TWC 221:1-3, UMH 286:1-3 [see <href="#music" >music notes]


Anthem: "Lenten Song," Hayes [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Reading of Scripture: Psalm 22:1-21 and Matthew 27:45-50 [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]
The Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: Why Have You Forsaken Me?
Questions of the Last Week 7
Matthew 27:46

The Prayer of Application

WE STAND AT THE CROSS - TO WATCH AND LISTEN [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

*Song of Faith: "Beneath the Cross of Jesus"

The First Word: Luke 23:32-34
Response: "Lamb of God" SNC 253, SWM 124, PsH 257

The Second Word: Luke 23:39-43
Response: "Jesus, Remember Me" PH 599, PsH 217, RN 227, SFL 168, SNC 143, TWC 822, WOV 740, UMH 488

The Third Word: John 19:25-27
Response: "Lamb of God" SNC 253, SWM 124, PsH 257

The Fourth Word: Mark 15:33-36
Response: "Lamb of God" SNC 253, SWM 124, PsH 257

The Fifth Word: John 19:28,29
Response: "Jesus, Remember Me" PH 599, PsH 217, RN 227, SFL 168, SNC 143, TWC 822, WOV 740, UMH 488

The Sixth Word: John 19:30
Response: "Lamb of God" SNC 253, SWM 124, PsH 257

The Last Word: Luke 23:46-49
The tolling of the bell [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]
(The Bell will toll seven times to remind us of the fullness of Christ's suffering for us.)

Anthem: "Saw Ye My Savior?" Harlan [see <href="#music" >music notes]


The Words of Invitation

The Institution of the Lord's Supper: Matthew 26:26-30

The Prayer of Consecration

Our Participation in the Bread
(Time for reflection and meditation)

Our Participation in the Cup
Songs: "Were You There" PH 102:1, 2, 4, PsH 377:1-3, TH 260:1, 2, 4, TWC 218:1-3, UMH 288:1-3 [see <href="#music" >music notes]
"When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" PH 100/101:1-4, PsH 384:1-4, RN 236:1-4, SFL 166:1-4, TH 252:1-4, TWC 213:1-4, UMH 298:1-4, RL 292/293: 1-3, 5 [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Prayer of Thanksgiving


Acclamation of Praise: Revelation 5:11-14

*Song: "What Wondrous Love" PH 85:1-3, PsH 379:1, 3, 4, RN 277:1-3, SFL 169:1-3, TH 261:1-3, TWC 212:1, 3, 4, UMH 292:1, 3, 4[see <href="#music" >music notes]

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "The Lord's Prayer," Malotte The Celebration Hymnal 631

Postlude: "Verset de Procession sur l'Adoro Te," Boellman [see <href="#music" >music notes]

* You are invited to stand.

(Please leave in quiet reflection at the conclusion of this service of worship,
reflect deeply on the sacrifice of Christ,
and return for joyful celebrations on Easter Sunday.)

* * * * *

Sermon Notes

Approaching this text reminds me of a vacation trip we took once. We were visiting an area that was known for its underground caves. The guide led us to opening of a great cave. The path led into the cave, and we were told that it went deep underground into the darkness. We peered in, eerily hesitant. Then we impulsively turned back, hesitant to explore any further. It was just too black, too forbidding. We may feel that way about approaching this cry of Jesus from the cross; there is something very disturbing about it.

The Bible contains many such cries. We can understand why some might cry out in this way (see Psalm 10:1, 13:1 and David's original cry of these words in Psalm 22). We can also understand how Jesus might have expressed these words about the Pharisees, or Judas, or even Peter and wonder why they have forsaken him, but it's much harder to comes to terms with the feeling of being forsaken by "My God"!

As you develop your sermon on this text, bear in mind several things:

  • Jesus is quoting Psalm 22:1, perhaps even the entire Psalm. Regardless of how much he quoted, the understanding of Scripture at the time would have brought the whole psalm to the minds of those present, not just the words uttered.
  • Jesus did not whisper these words to himself, he "cried out in a loud voice" (v.46).
  • It's not a normal question that seeks an answer, it is a "cry."
  • This is not a cry aimed at earth but at heaven, "My God.."
  • Others heard it, but misunderstood what he was saying (see vv.47-49).
  • Notice the timing of it, at the end of the three hours of darkness, "at the ninth hour."
  • This was the fourth word from the cross. The last three followed in quick succession, "I is finished.Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."
  • Immediately after this cry, Jesus voluntarily accepted death (see v. 50)
  • As soon as these cries were given, powerful reactions in creation took place (see Matthew 27:51-52)

Though none of us can fully comprehend this cry, its far-reaching benefit for us can be found by considering several things. First, Jesus is speaking here as the second person of the Trinity who had "emptied himself" and became completely incarnate in a human nature. He speaks as the divine/human Jesus. Second, these words reveal the vicarious atonement work that he was doing at that time, becoming the forsaken sinner for the lost. Third, we receive a glimpse here of what the Apostles' Creed refers to as "he descended into hell." Finally, those who are redeemed in Christ will never utter this cry, though the unbelieving will cry them forever. These words and their powerful message serve as a deeply meaningful bridge to the celebration of the Lord's Supper!

Music Notes:
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SWM Sing With Me (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Suggestions for prelude can be found in the following resources:

AGINCOURT HYMN/DEO GRACIAS ["O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High"]

Burkhardt, Michael. Partita on Deo Gracios. Morningstar MSM-10-844 [1992] (E-M)
Helman, Michael. Five for Autumn. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7671-8 [2004] (E-M)
Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations, set 9. Concordia 97-5556 [1980] (E-M)
Roberts, Myron J. Improvisation on the Agincourt Hymn. H. W. Grey GSTC 904 [1964] (D)
Willan, Healy. Ten Hymn Preludes, set 2. Peters 6012 [1957] (M)

The Passacaglia in C Minor by J. S. Bach can be found in Organ Works, vol. 4 published by Schirmer 870 (M-D). Sometimes it is good to play a piece of non-text based music for personal reflection. The spirit of this passacaglia conveys well the pathos of Good Friday worship.

HERZLIEBSTER JESU ["Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended"]

Behnke, John A. Road to Calvary. Concordia 97-7072 [2004] (E-M)
Brahms, Johannes. Eleven Chorale Preludes. (ed. West) Schirmer 2091 (M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 5. AMSI SP-102 [1985] (E-M)
Clarke, Andrew. Chorale Prelude on Ah, Holy Jesus. Morningstar MSM-10-310 [1991] (E-M)
Held, Wilbur. A Suite of Passion Hymn Settings. Concordia 97-4843 [1967] (E-M)
Karg-Elert, Sigfrid. Karg-Elert Album for Organ. Marks M 152 [1944] (M)
Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 1. SMP KK234 [1978] (adaptable for piano; E)
Leupold, A. W. An Organ Book. Chantry Music Press [1960] (E-M)
Walcha, H. Chorale Preludes, bk. 1. Peters 4850 (E)
Young, Gordon. Hymn Preludes for the Church Service. Flammer 4188 [1964] (E-M)

Berns, Susan Ullom. Ah, Holy Jesus. Lorenz HB273-3 [1989] (3-4 octaves, E-M)

Alternative harmonizations and/or extended introductions for the hymns in this service can be found in:

HERZLIEBSTER JESU ["Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001]
Busarow, Donald. All Praise to You, Eternal God. Augsburg 11-9076 [1980]
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 2. Ludwig O-07 [1983]


Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001]
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000]

ST. CHRISTOPHER ["Beneath the Cross of Jesus"]

Organ Introduction:
Cherwien, David. Lamb of God. Morningstar MSM-10-302 [1989] (E-M)

WERE YOU THERE ["Were You There"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 3. Ludwig O-10 [1986]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Hassell, Michael. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

HAMBURG ["When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"]

Organ Introduction:
Burkhardt, Michael. Five Lenten Hymn Improvisations. Morningstar MSM-10-309 [1990] (E-M)

WONDROUS LOVE ["What Wondrous Love"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001]

The suggestion for offertory music, "Agnus Dei" by Paul Halley, can be played with organ and solo instrument or sung as a choral anthem. It is published by Pelagos [1996] and scored for SATB voices with organ, soprano sax or C-instrument; E-M.

The other anthems suggested for this service can be found as follows:
"Lenten Song by Mark Hayes published by Hinshaw HMC-835 [1986] for SATB voices
with keyboard and oboe; E-M
"Saw Ye My Savior?" by Benjamin Harlan, published by Hinshaw HMC 982 [1988] for
SATB voices with keyboard; E-M

The organ postlude suggestion can be found in:
Davis, Roger. The Organists' Manual. W.W. Norton [1985]

Liturgy Notes

1. The Call to Worship should be pointed, succinct, and a welcome to the journey of walking through the seven words of Christ and visiting the scene of the cross.

2. The opening reading from Matthew 27 will set the stage for the entire service by recreating the events leading up to the death of Jesus. We'd suggest that a lay person read this passage. These are dramatic words and are very important since they are the opening of the service. The reader should be selected carefully, and you may want to provide some coaching.

3. The Scripture reading before the sermon should include two passages. Since the text in Matthew 27 comes from Psalm 22, it would be helpful to read both, using a different voice for each.

4. The section of the liturgy entitled, "We Stand at the Cross," includes the reading of the seven words of Christ from the cross and sets the drama at Calvary before the worshipers, calling the worshipers to response. Several methods will make this very meaningful. Plan to gradually dim the light in the sanctuary or extinguish a candle with each reading. Include multiple lay readers for the Scripture readings so varied voices are heard. All songs should be sung unannounced so there is no interruption in the flow.

5. The tolling of the bell is usually done best with a handbell. The bell is rung seven times slowly to remind all worshipers of the fullness of Christ's suffering. After the seventh ring, a pause of silence for reflection is helpful before the anthem begins.