A Tenebrae Service for Holy Week: “Walking the Path that Jesus Walked”
This station-based worship experience will help worshipers try to imagine what Jesus was feeling before he died. Each station represents an event from his final hours.
A typical tenebrae service takes place in a dark room lit by a number of candles. A series of Scripture readings chronicles Jesus’ final week, ending with his burial. At the end of each reading a candle is snuffed out, until the final candle, the Christ candle, is carried out, leaving the room in darkness.
Have enough candles (they can be real or battery-powered) at each station for the number of participants. Instruct worshipers to snuff out (or turn off) one candle when they leave each station. There is a passage of Scripture for worshipers to read assigned to each station. You can either provide a few Bibles at each station and display the Scripture reference, or you can display the entire passage. The non-italicized passages are instructions for the worshipers. These instructions should be available at their respective stations.
The tenebrae service is a silent, solemn event. Encourage worshipers to go through the stations in complete silence.
Station 1: Jesus prays at Gethsemane
Surround this station with trees and plants, either real or fake, to create the feeling of a garden. Encourage people to kneel while they pray, but have a chair available for those who are unable to kneel.
Read Luke 22:39-46 and reflect. Ask yourself:
- Have I ever been in a position where God was calling me to do something that I did not want to do?
- Would I be willing to lay down my life for another?
Spend some time in prayer around these questions. Kneel if you are able.
Station 2: Jesus is arrested
This station requires a table and chairs. You’ll also need to provide paper and something to write with.
Read Luke 22:47-53. Reflect on a moment when you have betrayed Jesus or when you were betrayed by someone you love. Write a prayer to God that expresses your feelings of sadness and regret, and your desire for forgiveness.
Station 3: Peter disowns Jesus
This station requires a table and chairs. You’ll also need paper and painting supplies.
Read Luke 22:54-62. Use the tools provided to express a time when you gave in to peer pressure and disowned Jesus. Use your senses and freely paint what you are feeling.
Station 4: Jesus stands before Pilate and Herod
Luke 22:66-23:12 and Matthew 27:23-25
Have a large bowl filled with water at this station.
Read Luke 22:66–23:12 and Matthew 27:23-25. How would you feel if someone washed their hands of you? How would it feel to have no one on your side? Take a moment and place yourself in Jesus’ position. Imagine the heartache. Imagine the feeling of abandonment. Jesus had done nothing wrong, yet they still cried, “Crucify him!” And Pilate literally washed his hands of Jesus.
We are responsible for the blood that was spilled. We are responsible for crucifying Jesus.
Take some time for meditative prayer.
Station 5: Jesus is sentenced
Have a gavel (or something similar) sitting at this station, symbolizing the judgment that has been passed on Jesus.
Read Luke 23:23-25.
Station 6: Jesus is crucified
You’ll need a cross at this station. It can be made of pieces of lumber, or it can be a paper cutout attached to the wall. There should also be a pad of sticky notes and some pens. You’ll need a recording of the song “Who Am I?” by Casting Crowns and a way for worshipers to listen to the song with headphones as well.
We have all sinned. It was our sin that held Jesus to the cross. Because of our sin, Jesus gave his life as a willing sacrifice so that we may have forgiveness and eternal life. Read Luke 23:26-43 and use the headphones to listen to the song “Who Am I?” Then write your name on a sticky note and stick it to the cross.
Station 7: Jesus dies
Have a basket of large carpenter nails at this station.
Read Luke 23:44-46. Take a nail as a physical reminder of the sacrifice that Jesus made on your behalf.
Station 8: Jesus is buried
The candles at this station, unlike all the others, should be unlit. Have a lighter or two available (if the candles are real).
Read Luke 23:50-56. Remember that this is not the end of the story! As believers, we know that Jesus is risen. Light a candle in the hope of the resurrection and leave in quiet meditation.