March 25, 2005 - Year A - Good Friday
John 18:1 - 19:42
18 1 When Jesus had finished speaking, he went with his disciples to the other side of the Kidron Valley. There was a garden there where Jesus entered with his disciples.
2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place since Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 He led soldiers of the Roman battalion and guards from the chief priests and Pharisees, who went there with lanterns, torches and weapons.
4 Jesus knew all that was going to happen to him; he stepped forward and asked, “Who are you looking for?” 5 They answered, “Jesus the Nazarene.” Jesus said, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, stood there with them.
6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they moved back and fell to the ground. 7 He then asked a second time, “Who are you looking for?” and they answered, “Jesus the Nazarene.” 8 Jesus replied, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, let these others go.” 9 So what Jesus had said came true: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”
10 Simon Peter had a sword; he drew it and struck Malchus, the High Priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. 11 But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?”
12 The guards and the soldiers, with their commander, seized Jesus and bound him; 13 and they took him first to Annas. Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was the High Priest that year; 14 and it was Caiaphas who had told the Jews: “It is better that one man should die for the people.”
15 Simon Peter with another disciple followed Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the High Priest, they let him enter the courtyard of the High Priest along with Jesus, 16 but Peter had to stay outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the High Priest went out and spoke to the maidservant at the gate and brought Peter in. 17 Then, this servant on duty at the door said to Peter, “So you also are one of his disciples?” But he answered, “I am not.”
18 Now the servants and the guards had made a charcoal fire and were standing and warming themselves, because it was cold. Peter was also with them warming himself.
19 The High Priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in places where the Jews meet together, either at the assemblies in synagogues or in the Temple. I did not teach secretly. 21 Why then do you ask me? Ask those who heard me, they know what I said.”
22 At this reply one of the guards standing by gave Jesus a blow on the face, saying, “Is that the way to answer the High Priest?” 23 Jesus said to him, “If I have spoken wrongly, point it out; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”
24 Then Annas sent him, bound, to Caiaphas, the High Priest.
25 Now Simon Peter stood there warming himself. They said to him, “Surely you also are one of his disciples.” He denied it and answered, “I am not.” 26 One of the High Priest’s servants, a kinsman of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you with him in the garden?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at once the cock crowed.
• 28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the court of the Roman governor. It was now morning. The Jews didn't enter lest they be made unclean (by coming into the house of a pagan) and be unable to eat the Passover meal. 29 So Pilate went out and asked, “What charge do you bring against this man?”
They answered, 30 “If he were not a criminal, we would not be handing him over to you.” 31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your own law.” But they replied, “We ourselves are not allowed to put anyone to death.”
32 It was clear from this what kind of death Jesus was to die, according to what Jesus himself had foretold.
33 Pilate then entered the court again, called Jesus and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus replied, “Does this word come from you, or did you hear it from others?”
35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingship does not come from this world. If I were king like those of this world, my guards would have fought to save me from being handed over to the Jews. But my kingship is not from here.”
37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” And Jesus answered, “Just as you say, I am a king. For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is on the side of truth hears my voice.” 38 Pilate said, “What is truth?”
Pilate then went out to the Jews again and said, “I find no crime in this man. 39 Now, according to a custom, I must release a prisoner of yours at the Passover. With your agreement I will release for you the King of the Jews.” 40 But they insisted and cried out, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.
19 1 Then Pilate had Jesus taken away and scourged. 2 The soldiers also twisted thorns into a crown and put it on his head. They threw a cloak of royal purple around his shoulders 3 and began coming up to him and saluting him, “Hail, king of the Jews,” and they struck him on the face.
4 Pilate went outside yet another time and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing him out and I want you to know that I find no crime in him.” 5 Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak and Pilate pointed to him saying, “Here is the man!”
6 On seeing him the chief priests and the guards cried out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate replied, “Take him yourselves and have him crucified, for I find no case against him.” 7 The Jews then said, “We have a Law, and according to the Law this man must die because he made himself Son of God.”
8 When Pilate heard this he was more afraid. 9 And coming back into the court he asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Then Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you just as I have power to crucify you?” 11 Jesus replied, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is more guilty.”
12 From that moment Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who makes himself king is defying Caesar.”
13 When Pilate heard this, he had Jesus brought outside to the place called the Stone Floor in Hebrew Gabbatha - and there he had him seated in the tribune. 14 It was the Preparation Day for the Passover, about noon. So Pilate said to the Jews, “Here is your king.” 15 But they cried out, “Away! Take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate replied, “Shall I crucify your king?” And the chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”
16 Then Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified.
They took charge of him. 17 Bearing his own cross, Jesus went out of the city to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew: Golgotha. 18 There he was crucified and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus was in the middle.
19 Pilate had a notice written and fastened to the cross that read: Jesus the Nazorean, King of the Jews. 20 Many Jewish people saw this title, because the place where Jesus was crucified was very close to the city. It was, moreover, written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests said to Pilate, “Do not write: ‘The king of the Jews’; but: “This man claimed to be king of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered them, “What I have written, I have written.”
23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one part for each of them. But as the tunic was woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 they said, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots to decide who will get it.” This fulfilled the words of Scripture: They divided my clothing among them; they cast lots for my garment. This was what the soldiers did.
• 25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister Mary, who was the wife of Cleophas, and Mary of Magdala. 26 When Jesus saw the Mother, and the disciple whom he loved, he said to the Mother, “Woman, this is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “There is your mother.” And from that moment the disciple took her to his own home.
• 28 With that Jesus knew all was now finished and he said, I am thirsty, to fulfil what was written in Scripture. 29 A jar full of bitter wine stood there; so, putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a twig of hyssop, they raised it to his lips. 30 Jesus took the wine and said, “It is accomplished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up the spirit.
• 31 As it was Preparation Day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross during the Sabbath, for this Sabbath was a very solemn day. They asked Pilate to have the legs of the condemned men broken, so they might take away the bodies.
32 The soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who had been crucified with Jesus. 33 When they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead; so they did not break his legs. 34 One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a lance and immediately there came out blood and water.
35 The one who has seen here gives his witness so that you may believe: his witness is true and He knows that he speaks the truth. 36 All this happened to fulfill the words of Scripture, Not one of his bones shall be broken. 37 Another text says: They shall look on him whom they have pierced.
• 38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea approached Pilate, for he was a disciple of Jesus, though secretly, for fear of the Jews. And he asked Pilate to let him remove the body of Jesus. Pilate agreed, so he came and took away the body.
39 Nicodemus, the man who earlier had come to Jesus by night, also came and brought a jar of myrrh mixed with aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it in linen cloths with the spices, following the burial custom of the Jews.
41 There was a garden in the place where Jesus had been crucified, and, in the garden, a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 As the tomb was very near, they buried Jesus there because they had no time left before the Jewish Preparation Day.
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• 18.28 CHRIST THE KING
My Kingship does not come from this world. It is important to remember what was said regarding Luke 8:9. In the Gospel the same word means: The Kingdom, that is, the country that the king governs; the reign, that is the government of the king; the Kingship, that is, the dignity and power of the king.
In Jesus’ response to Pilate the meaning to be given to the word is not kingdom, but rather kingship, which is the power of the king.
In any case, it would be an error to understand Jesus’ words as follows: “My Kingdom is in another world, therefore, the social and political problems of this world do not concern me,” and think that Jesus came to give spiritual salvation, individually, to believing souls.
Likewise, it would be an error to understand the word: You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above as affirming that the authorities receive their power directly from God and that no one should take steps to replace them with others less corrupt, or less unjust, or more capable. See commentary on Romans 13:1.
Jesus with hands bound, behaves like a king before the governor, Pilate, who is captive of his office and his own ambitions. Jesus is not a king like those of this world, because he does not exert the kind of power that people are used to obeying. Jesus, king of the Jews, did not come to revive the independent Jewish kingdom, but to establish the Kingdom of Truth, which God promised them for centuries.
Yet truth does not win with arms, but thanks to the testimony of those who live according to the truth. Witnesses of the truth are often persecuted, but they themselves do not persecute others.
My kingship does not come from this world. Jesus is unlike other authorities that have gained their positions through force or have won in an election. He has been sent and anointed by the Father.
Pilate, on the other hand, had been appointed by the Emperor of Rome and owed his career as much to his own ambition as to several protectors. How could such a man have power over the Son of God and have him crucified for fear of the people, if it were not to fulfill a decree from on High? Indeed, not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father allowing it.
God would not permit human creatures to destroy the destiny of his Son. He cares for each one of us in such a way that even the injustice committed against us serves his plans for our good. Because our fate depends at the same time on the Father and on human authorities, we should believe that he takes advantage of their decisions to carry out his own purposes, even when their power is of this world, that is to say, of a very questionable legitimacy.
Pilate condemned Jesus - unwillingly. Having oppressed and shamelessly exploited the Jews, he feared the denunciations that they might make to Caesar against him. The condemnation of Jesus, however, meant for him nothing more than the death of one more Jew: he did not bear the whole guilt, since that type of justice was the result of the Roman colonial system.
Caiaphas, instead, the anointed High Priest of God, could not condemn Jesus without knowingly slandering his deeds and his word. So he was more guilty (19:11).
We have no king but Caesar (19:15). Thus shouted the crowd impelled by the leaders, although they hated the Romans and their emperor. In fact, several years later the Jews would have no other king but Caesar, and this king would destroy them. Pilate wanted to save the life of his prisoner when he presented him in his disfigured condition. Instead he wounded the pride of the Jewish people: a Christ the King humiliated they could not accept this offense.
THE MOTHER OF THE BELIEVERS
• 19.25 At the moment of Man’s fall, Eve was with Adam. Now, at the moment of restoration, that is, the second creation, another woman is with the Son of Man (the Human One), the second Adam. Mary has neither spouse nor son who can receive her and, for the Jews, a woman who remains alone would be considered cursed. Jesus entrusts Mary to John and, also, John to Mary. John testifies having heard both phrases. Notice that he writes: Jesus said to the Mother, and not, to his mother. This is a new symbolic gesture of Jesus. Mary will be the Mother of believers.
Through this last deed of Jesus, the Church discovered something about the mystery of the Christian life. The believer is a member of a spiritual family. As a child needs a father and a mother to grow normally so, too, does the believer need Mary and the heavenly Father. This is an unchanging doctrine of the Church, which in no way attempts to make the creature equal with the Creator.
Not without reason has God given us a mother: if it is a misfortune for a child not to have known a mother, it is also a misfortune for a believer when his religion only expresses itself in masculine terms. The believer who welcomes Mary to his home as did John is neither a fanatic nor a quibbler regarding faith. There exists a form of humility, joy, interior peace and simple piety characteristic of those Catholics who have known how to open their doors to Mary without throwing out their Savior.
• 28. I am thirsty. Jesus is tortured by thirst. He also thirsts that the Kingdom of his Father be realized in the world. He thirsts for selfless love from those who may share his deepest thoughts and be willing to follow him until Calvary.
It is accomplished. Jesus drank the cup of sorrow and humiliation to the last drop. The Father had placed it in his hands as the means for becoming the Savior we need. The Work of the Son of God made flesh, which should be nothing less than a new creation of the world, is accomplished. The earthly existence of the Son of God comes to an end, and from the seed planted in the earth will come forth the New Creature.
The preparatory times of the Jewish religion, in which the Law occupied first place and the fear due to unforgiven sins was never lost, are finished. A stage of history has ended, in which the rest of humanity had been dragged by its fears and acceptance of its deadly fate, which was a form of its slavery to the Evil Spirit.
Now begins a new era in history, the era of the New Covenant of God with humanity. The Spirit will be communicated to the Church. John said: Jesus gave up the spirit; a word that also indicated that he was giving his Spirit to us.
• 31. THE SACRED HEART
In Jesus’ death as in his life, there are many details that enable us to understand his sacrifice better, if we see them in the light of the Old Testament.
In the piercing of Jesus’ heart the words of the prophet Zechariah: They shall look on him whom they pierced (Zec 12:10) were literally fulfilled. The wounds of Jesus are seen by people of any religion as the distinctive mark of Christian faith. Without needing words, they tell a way of self-sacrifice in which God made himself a model. God said through Zechariah that this is the moment in which sinners are converted.
John also records a prescription of the Law regarding the Passover Lamb: Not one of his bones shall be broken (Ex 12:46). This occurred at the death of Jesus, the true victim who took the place of the Passover Lamb.
Blood and water came out. The Jews believed that only through the blood of their victims could they obtain God’s pardon. Speaking poetically, first John, then later the Church, said that from the open breast of Christ came forth the sacrament of Baptism and the Eucharist, water and blood. From the cross, forgiveness and new life have sprung forth for us.
The open heart of Jesus invites us to discover the powerful, hidden and mysterious love that inspired his life. The disciples of Jesus, who had lived with him, would find that their memories and emotions would be diluted and disappear with time; they would discover, on the other hand, that there had been no word, or deed or even silence of Jesus that had not been an expression of his love for God. From his open heart on the cross originates our devotion to the Heart of Jesus. Let us not get distracted by intellectual ideas in an attempt to explain or interpret faith; rather, let us contemplate God’s love and allow it to transform us, making us like unto him.
• 38. Jesus has just died and it is two Pharisees who took care of giving him a decent burial. Joseph of Arimathea approached Pilate: because the disciples had no means of approaching the Roman governor. Joseph and Nicodemus were disciples in “secret.” Because Jesus identified himself with the common people, it was difficult for those in better social positions to integrate themselves into his group. Here we have an example of the inevitable consequences of a preferential option for the poor.
Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Lazarus and the women mentioned in Luke 8:2 were people of upper or middle class. This fact was enough for some scholars to hastily conclude that Jesus did not live among the poor: seemingly forgetting all the rest of the Gospel’s evidence. Let us remark that, even now, wherever an apostolic person lives as a poor person among the poor, there are always people, who are better off financially, who recognize him and give him support. By being truly committed to the poor, Jesus saved the rich and won the admiration and friendship of some of them.
There was a garden. The place for the executions was an abandoned quarry near the walls of Jerusalem. Tombs were dug along the sides while the bottom was filled and passed as gardens. A rock projected, about four meters high, from the middle of the area. This rock was called Calvary and on it were raised the crosses.
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1. Re-active - In the first part of this narrative folks are reactive, pushed/pulled in various directions. The scene is when those ordered to arrest Jesus (reacting to their superiors) actually confront him and he utters those words "I am" (he said to everyone there) they react by stumbling backward. Everyone seems trapped in their predetermined role only able to react as their program allows.
2. Non-active - In the middle we run into folks who supposedly have the power and the right to respond, to make a decision, to make a difference. The scene is Pilate washing his hands as though he had no power or right to decide. When we are not part of the solution we are by default part of the problem and non-action cannot hide this dynamic.
3. Pro-active - In the end we come to bestowing of life. Jesus brings together new families. All the usual boundaries are broken. The generalized command to love one another always needs specifics to come alive. In our day and time a key arena for this relates to all the issues of familes of same-gender partners/lovers/spouses/whatever. This is one practical area where a reactive church or a non-active church betrays the love commands of Jesus as recorded in John.
What action of joining folks together would represent your ministry, challenging enough to the status quo that keeps us from dreaming a better world that would lead you to be arrested by re-active folks, betrayed by non-active folk, and thanked by those brought together by your pro-active living?
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