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Good Friday Reflections

An hour at the Cross, reflecting on
The Nail
based on the work of Archbishop Stephen Cotterell,
adapted by Rev’d Clare Coates

Roman Soldier

I was just doing my job
– I’m not to blame.
Just following orders.

Whenever there’s trouble, we’re called in.
And there was something in the air that week
– it started last Sunday. Do you remember?
Everyone was cheering, smiling,
throwing their cloaks and branches of palm trees
across the road as he came into Jerusalem
on a donkey.

We couldn’t understand what they were singing
but you could see the joy;
we were called out,
just in case.
And it wasn’t long till that joy turned sour.

We’d been watching him and his followers;
– we’d heard the rumours about Israel’s new King
come to stir up trouble
set his people free.
But it didn’t bother us, not at all;
It’s what we expect –
we’re the occupying force.

But when the crowds grew, endless faces
streaming into the city
gathering in the country

five thousand

enough to do some damage.
Enough to take us on.

He rampaged through their Temple, upending tables, scattering animals, birds, men,
coins , chaos, confusion
claims to be God’s son.

He had to be stopped.
Only Caesar can be known by this name.
And we crucified him.

But I am not to blame.
Even though I hammered in the nails
even though I pushed him, beat him, scourged him
forced a crown of thorns onto his head
and a purple cloak onto his bloodied back
laughed and spat at him
pulled him, pushed him
urged on by the baying crowd sensing blood.

Crucify him.

I hammered in the nails
– just following orders.
I hoisted him up
– and looked into his eyes
filled with sadness
watching me
as I worked
his body yielding
no words
until the end:

Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

And as the other gambled for his clothes
I saw his body
slipping away.

I am rooted
at the foot
the cross.
I see him.
He sees me.
King of the Jews.
The son of God.

Prayer: Lord, when we make excuses and hide behind the decisions made by others,use a uniform, badge or an office to disguise ourselves, speak to our hearts and help us trust your truth and grace, help us to act differently and fill our hearts anew with your hope. Amen.

Pontius Pilate

I am not to blame.
How can you think that?

Don’t point your fingers at me.


I tried. I really did.
There was no other choice.

I had to keep the peace.
It’s my duty.
My duty to Rome.

And things were getting out of hand; turning really ugly.

There were so many people gathered that Passover
come to see him
call out to him
be led by him
to save them.

But he couldn’t even save himself.

What could I have done?
I would have released him
if it had been my decision.

The crowd.
They were out of control
Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!

So, you see, my hands are clean, I’m not to blame.

I could see he was a good man
it was if he wanted to die.

I spoke plainly – I find no case against him.
I am not to blame.
The crowd decided.
You decided.

And so my hands
they are clean-
but how is it
that all I can see
are the stains of his blood?

Prayer: Lord, when we do wrong, when we turn away, when we wash our hands and absent ourselves from consequences, disturb us, rebuke us, show us clearly that we are in the wrong. Then open our hearts to your wisdom, justice and truth and cleanse us from the inside out. Amen.


I did my duty.
I protected my people;
sacrificed the one
for the well being of us all.

I am not to blame.
I didn’t hammer those nails
into his hands
and feet.

No. Blame our hated oppressors.
The Romans.

It had to be done
– how could he be allowed to live?
He claimed to be God!
Which of the prophets ever did this?
Even that wild man John
pointed to God,
not himself.

But Jesus?
How dare he?
in my presence
and say
‘I am’
as if being with him was being in the presence of God?

We all heard this blasphemy;
we all witnessed him flouting the law
and calling God, Father.

He would have destroyed us all
so I had to act:
to make sure we survive.
Better for one to die than us all.

Even his followers started to doubt him; desert him –
where are they now?

So you see,
I’m not to blame.

Why don’t you ask Judas?
After all, he was the one who handed him over to us.

Prayer: Lord have mercy on us and forgive us when we rely on our own confidence and strength. Forgive us when we stray from the path you have set us on. Teach us to follow in your ways and to trust in you alone. Only when we stop seeing ourselves at the centre of our own plans will we see you as you are and ourselves as you would have us be. Amen


It’s not what you think.
I should explain – you need to understand this

Jesus: I loved him.

I thought he was the one, the Messiah;
the one
who would set us free
break the chains of oppression
restore us to our rightful place as God’s chosen people.

I was with him as he cast out demons
healed the sick,
raised the dead,
even the winds and sea obeyed him;
he provided enough food from just a handful of loaves and fish
to feed five thousand.
A small army.

There was something about him
– he knew so much;
spoke as if God himself were speaking.
The people came,
wanted to make him King
but he withdrew,
just at the moment when power could be grasped.

He could have been so great,
so powerful,
have everyone at his feet;
he could have done so much good.

I don’t understand him.

Why speak of suffering, dying, loving to the end?
When your face is shoved in the dirt
turn the other cheek?
Love your enemy?
How does that bring peace?
No – this madness is just weakness
which they will exploit
as they laugh in our faces.

We needed a leader, not a servant.

He washed my feet too, you know.
Took off my sandals.
gently lifted my dirty feet
and washed them,
gentle hands,
soft towel

and he looked at me.
Looked at me with love;
and sadness
and knowing?

I ran
into the night
how could he know
what I was about to do?

It’s not my fault.
I’m not the betrayer.
It was him –
he betrayed our cause
he is not the Messiah I expected
or want.

Because you can’t change the world by loving your enemy
or by turning the other cheek.

Come with me into the Garden.
Here he is – is he waiting?
Steel clanks, clashes, boots stomping in a fast trot
I pull him into my arms
and kiss him.
His eyes meet mine
and my heart breaks into thousands of shards
and they laid their hands on him.

I flee.
Darkness swallows me.

I hear he was brave
as they hammered in the nails;
he didn’t say a word.
Just looked
and loved
to the end
as he died
on this cross.

And you blame me.
But where were you?
You cheered him and sang him Hosannas
waving your branches
and throwing flowers.

you screamed out
demanding his blood
wanted him dead.

You hammered in the nails,
Every one of them;
every one of you.

And yes.
I am to blame.
I see that.
I confess,
I acknowledge my part…
do you?

Prayer: Lord, when the darkness threatens to overwhelm, seek us out. Forgive us for turning our backs on you and for running away. Overtake us and catch us in your loving arms. Pull us close; never let us go. For you are our only hope. Amen.

The Nail

They have taken him down now.
His cross is

His blood remains
in these nails

the wood scarred by our excuses and betrayals.

It is stuck
in the earth

soaked in his blood

blood spilt
by us all.

In this nail
embrace forgiveness

accept his gift
astonishing love
of life giving water

as he looks
at us

though we have turned away.

Stay here
at the foot
of his

through the hammer blow
and this nail
he reaches out,
searches with
his loving eyes
sees right into us

Will you let Jesus forgive you?

All you need do is reach out
and call to him.