GOOD FRIDAY - A - 17 + ST. JOHN’S PASSION
There us a reason why the Church wishes for us to hear it again. It is all so familiar that we often fail to hear what is really going on. We don’t allow the words and actions to sink in. We fail to reflect on it’s deeper meaning; to try and understand what God is up to in His plan for the redemption of mankind; a plan that includes a cross.
Our simple reasoning tells us that if it had not been for Judas’ betrayal, perhaps Jesus would not have died. The idea that Judas was a necessary step in God’s plan to save the world is utterly false. Jesus was not crucified because Judas betrayed him.
He went to Jerusalem to expressly to suffer death, and he made no effort to escape it once he was convinced it was the Father’s will. Had Judas remained loyal, Jesus would still have died for the sins of the world.
The choice was between Jesus the robber and Jesus the redeemer. Then as now, right and wrong were balanced against each other; men were asked to choose between them, and the choice, once made, involved irrevocable results.
Regardless of Pilate’s efforts to release him, the death of Christ had its final ground and reason not in the will of men, but in the will of God.
Two thoughts dominate John’s Passion narrative: the royalty of Jesus and the fulfillment of prophecy. Jesus admits his kingship and declares its true character, a Kingdom of the Truth. He is crowned, if only in mockery, by the Jews.
He is declared king by Pilate, and proclaimed as such-a proclamation he refuses to withdraw-in the three well-known languages of the empire. He acts with royal majesty, as master of the situation throughout: going freely to his death, securing the safety of his followers, controlling Peter’s violence, reminding Pilate of the limits of his authority, bearing his cross for himself, and finally handing over his spirit freely to the Father.
He has avoided the attempt to make him an earthly king; now its real nature and its real subjects are declared. Its origin is not of this world; but it is a reality in the world. The whole purpose of his life is to witness to the Truth. He is doing it now before Pilate but he has done it from the very beginning.
Jesus witnessed to the truth in private and public places, before many gatherings and in the face of variously persuaded factions of people; as he washed the feet of his disciples, and identified himself with the bread and the wine they shared at the Passover meal.
He witnessed to the truth when he called his friend Lazarus back from the tomb, and restored the sight of the man born blind; when he fed the multitude of people with the few loaves and fish they had at hand in that remote gathering of anxious questioning folk.
He witnessed to the truth when he engaged the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob, and drew her out by detailing her past and present life, and then enlisted her help in stirring up her own people to come and out and listen to him.
He witnessed to the truth even when he upset the Temple commerce and insulted the pride of the tradition by calling for worship in sprit and truth. And he witnessed to the truth when he worked his first miracle among his own people, kinsfolk and neighbors at a wedding feast at Cana in Galilee.
The title: “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” was intended as an accusation and a mockery. Instead it became a triumphant symbol. Pilate’s act is prophetic; showing the Jews had risen against their own king, and that the cross was the means by which Christ established the kingdom.
As we hear the Passion for the second time this week what impact does the truth of Christ’s life and death have on us today? Do we understand any better what God was up to? Why Jesus had to die as part of God’s plan of salvation?
Truth is vulnerable. Truth is forgettable and even dispensable in the turbulence of power. For there is a sort of power in such showings of truth as Jesus demonstrated during his earthly life, even in his death on the cross; a power to set some people free.
Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” AMEN+