Tag Archives: Good Friday

Commentary on Good Friday: Celebration of the Lord’s Passion

2nd Half of Gospel for Good Friday – John 19: 1-42

Commentary from William Barclay’s The Daily Study Bible Series:

Jesus and Pilate

The Romans had allowed a good deal of self-government, but they did not have the right of the sword (death penalty).  “The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hands of all the people,” (Deuteronomy 17:7) is the word of Jesus that is fulfilled.  Jesus had to die a Roman death, because he had to be lifted up.  If the Jews had been able to kill him themselves, it would have been a stoning (Leviticus 24:16).

It is clear why Pilate acted as he did.  The Jews blackmailed him into crucifying Jesus.  He had screwed up once before and been reported to Caesar.  The Jews threatened to tell Caesar that he wouldn’t help them.  If he gets reported again, he may lose his job and power.  He is looking out for himself.  He crucified Jesus in order to keep his job.  But let’s look at his decision-making more closely:

  1. He tries to put the responsibility on the Jews: No one can deal with Jesus for us; we must deal with him ourselves.
  2. He tries to escape being involved by releasing a prisoner: There is no escape from a personal decision in regard to Jesus; we must ourselves decide if we accept or reject him…
  3. Pilate tries to compromise by ordering Jesus to be scourged. But we are either for Jesus or against Jesus.  There is no compromise.
  1. He attempts to appeal. Maybe pity or emotion will change things.  “Shall I crucify your king?”  But this is Pilate’s personal decision that he cannot evade.  He admits defeat.  Pilate has not the courage to do the right thing.

Pilate asks, “What is truth?”  Is it wistful?    Maybe he finally saw what he missed out on.    But to turn from his ways was too much work and he didn’t want to use the strength to change.    Perhaps there have been times in our life when we felt the same.

In order to compass the death of Jesus, the Jews denied every principle they had.  The ultimate was, “We have no king but Caesar.”  These are the people who said God alone was their king (I Samuel 12:12, Judges 8:23).  The Jews were prepared to abandon every principle they had in order to eliminate Jesus.  Notice how easily they turn their ways to hate vs. how hard it is for Pilate to turn to good.  Oftentimes it is easier to do wrong than right, isn’t it?

The Way to the Cross

Once a verdict of crucifixion was made, it was carried out immediately.  The cross was placed upon his shoulders and he would normally be walked down as many streets as possible.  An officer would walk in front with a placard that said the crime he committed.  Walking down the street would call attention to what would happen to the onlookers if they did the same.  It would also be an opportunity for anyone to come forward and bear witness in favor of the convicted.  If that happened, the procession would stop and he would be retried.

Every Jew wore 5 articles of apparel:  his shoes, his turban, his girdle, his tunic, and his outer robe.  Since there were 4 soldiers, they each got 1 and the tunic was left.  So they threw dice for it and gambled to see who would get it.  Jesus is a gambler too.  He took his own life and threw it for the world.  He won.  You wonder who made that tunic…was it Mary herself?

The Women

There were 4 women (perhaps balancing out the 4 soldiers?):  Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Jesus’ mother, Jesus’ aunt and Mary of Magdala.  We know nothing of the wife of Clopas.  Mother Mary shows the ultimate love here.  John does not name Jesus’ aunt, but Mark and Matthew name her Salome (James’ and John’s mother).  This is the woman who asked Jesus to give James and John a special place in his kingdom and Jesus rebukes her (Matthew 20:20).  Yet here she is in her humility.  And Mary of Magdala had had 7 devils cast out of her (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2).  That’s all we know of her.  And that she is devoted.

There is something infinitely moving in the fact that Jesus in the agony of the Cross, when the salvation of the world hung in the balance, thought of the loneliness of his mother in the days ahead.  Jesus thought more of the sorrows of others than of his own.

The Triumphant Ending

“I thirst.”  It was important for John’s audience to know that Jesus is human.  Gnosticism was rising.  Gnostics separated spirit (good) and body (bad).  So they taught that Jesus never had a real body.  They said that when Jesus walked, he didn’t leave footprints.  It was like he had a phantom body.  They went so far to assume that Jesus never really suffered.  This romanticizes God and makes God untouchable.  God is with us.    He had to become what we are in order to make us what he is.    He experienced thirst.

Why does John use hyssop for what holds the sponge for Jesus to drink?  Hyssop is a stalk of strong grass, only 2 feet long.  It is unlikely that it would do a good job of holding.  Hyssop is symbolic.  In Egypt, when the angel of death killed all the first born sons, a smear of lamb blood using a bunch of hyssop on the doorpost would cause the angel to pass over the Israelites’ homes.  Jesus is the great Passover lamb, saving the world.

“It is finished.”    This is one word in Greek: tetelestai.  Perhaps he did shout it as it says in the other gospels.  The victory is won.

The Last Gifts to Jesus

Joseph of Arimathaea had a tomb for Jesus and Nicodemus had burial spices.  It is bittersweet.  Both of them were members of the Sanhedrin.  Were they absent the day they convicted Jesus?  Did they just remain silent?  How different things would have been if they had only spoken up.  But they were afraid.  They kept their discipleship secret.  What would it be like for us to keep our faith a secret?  But they are no longer keeping secret.  Jesus’ death strengthened them, made them bold.  The power of the Cross was already at work.

2nd Half of Gospel for Good Friday – John 19: 1-42

Commentary from William Barclay’s The Daily Study Bible Series

Why else did Pilate act as he did?  Last week, we talked about how he tried to put the responsibility on the Jews  and tried to escape being involved by releasing a prisoner.

  1. Pilate tries to compromise by ordering Jesus to be scourged. But we are either for Jesus or against  Jesus.  There is no compromise.
  1. He attempts to appeal. Maybe pity or emotion will change things.  “Shall I crucify your king?”  But this is Pilate’s personal decision that he cannot evade.  He admits defeat.  Pilate has not the courage to do the right thing.

Pilate asks , “What is truth?”.  Is it wistful?    Maybe he finally saw what he missed out on.    But to turn from his ways was too much work and he didn’t want to use the strength to change.    Perhaps there have been times in our life when we felt the same.

In order to compass the death of Jesus, the Jews denied every principle they had.  The ultimate was, “We have no king but Caesar.”  These are the people who said God alone was their king (I Samuel 12:12, Judges 8:23).  The Jews were prepared to abandon every principle they had in order to eliminate Jesus.  Notice how easily they turn their ways to hate vs. how hard it is for Pilate to turn to good.  Oftentimes it is easier to do wrong than right, isn’t it?

The Way to the Cross

Once a verdict of crucifixion was made, it was carried out immediately.  The cross was placed upon his shoulders and he would normally be walked down as many streets as possible.  An officer would walk in front with a placard that said the crime he committed.  Walking down the street would call attention to what would happen to the onlookers if they did the same.  It would also be an opportunity for anyone to come forward and bear witness in favor of the convicted.  If that happened, the procession would stop and he would be retried.

Every Jew wore 5 articles of apparel:  his shoes, his turban, his girdle, his tunic, and his outer robe.  Since there were 4 soldiers, they each got 1 and the tunic was left.  So they threw dice for it and gambled to see who would get it.  Jesus is a gambler too.  He took his own life and threw it for the world.  He won.  You wonder who made that tunic…was it Mary herself?

The Women

There were 4 women (perhaps balancing out the 4 soldiers?):  Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Jesus’ mother, Jesus’ aunt and Mary of Magdala.  We know nothing of the wife of Clopas.  Mother Mary shows the ultimate love here.  John does not name Jesus’ aunt, but Mark and Matthew name her Salome (James’ and John’s mother).  This is the woman who asked Jesus to give James and John a special place in his kingdom and Jesus rebukes her (Matthew 20:20).  Yet here she is in her humility.  And Mary of Magdala had had 7 devils cast out of her (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2).  That’s all we know of her.  And that she is devoted.

There is something infinitely moving in the fact that Jesus in the agony of the Cross, when the salvation of the world hung in the balance, thought of the loneliness of his mother in the days ahead.  Jesus thought more of the sorrows of others than of his own.

The Triumphant Ending

“I thirst.”  It was important for John’s audience to know that Jesus is human.  Gnosticism was rising.  Gnostics separated spirit (good) and body (bad).  So they taught that Jesus never had a real body.  They said that when Jesus walked, he didn’t leave footprints.  It was like he had a phantom body.  They went so far to assume that Jesus never really suffered.  This romanticizes  God and makes God untouchable.  God is with us.    He had to become what we are in order to make us what he is.    He experienced thirst.

Why does John use hyssop for what holds the sponge for Jesus to drink?  Hyssop is a stalk of strong grass, only 2 feet long.  It is unlikely that it would do a good job of holding.  Hyssop is symbolic.  In Egypt, when the angel of death killed all the first born sons, a smear of lamb blood using a bunch of hyssop on the doorpost would cause the angel to pass over the Israelites’ homes.  Jesus is the great Passover lamb, saving the world.

“It is finished.”    This is one word in Greek: tetelestai.  Perhaps he did shout it as it says in the other gospels.  The victory is won.

The Last Gifts to Jesus

Joseph of Arimathaea  had a tomb for Jesus and Nicodemus had burial spices.  It is bittersweet.  Both of them were members of the Sanhedrin.  Were they absent the day they convicted Jesus?  Did they just remain silent?  How different things would have been if they had only spoken up.  But they were afraid.  They kept their discipleship secret.  What would it be like for us to keep our faith a secret?  But they are no longer keeping secret.  Jesus’ death strengthened them, made them bold.  The power of the Cross was already at work.

Deacon Tom’s Good Friday Homily

Good Friday, a dismal day, a day for reflection and often for sadness at the terrible price that Christ paid for us.  It is a day to find some time alone and to put aside the easy pleasures of the flesh.  A day to fast, abstain from meat and to use these things to help us focus on what has happened.

When we hear the gospel account, we may even feel that we are right there as it is happening and feel the same shame for turning away from Jesus, in our own selfish ways, just as his disciples ran away from him when he needed them most.  When we read the gospel account we can ask ourselves, “Have I ever betrayed a friend?  Have I laughed at one of my friends at school behind their back just to join in with the others?

Have I jumped on the gossip wagon at work and thrown in a juicy story that was handed to me in confidence just so that I could be part of the action?  Have I coldly refused to help someone who needed me because I judged that they did not live up to my expectations?

My friends, Jesus was supposed to be the Messiah, the one who would lead the Jews to freedom, but he was arrested like a common thief.  Have any of you ever been present when the police have arrived and arrested someone?  Put the handcuffs on and marched them away struggling?  Believe me, it is not like watching it on television.  There is a terrifying reality to it, a feeling of helplessness in the face of the power of the authorities that can leave you feeling disoriented and afraid, even when you know they are not there for you.

When the mob took Jesus, he certainly did not live up to the disciples’ expectations at that moment.  He was a failure as the kind of Messiah they expected, he was supposed to be the one in charge, and so suddenly in their shock and fear they decided he was not worth risking life and limb for, and they ran away.  But still, even as we remember the shame of the disciples, even as we remember our shame, we gather and pray together on this Good Friday.

When we look at the gospel account, we may see in the words the image of Christ’s suffering from the cruel scourging, the piercing thorns, and the terrible nails.  Then we may remember each sin of ours that made the lashing sting, made his blood flow, and made the suffering of his sacrifice for us increase.

When we come forward shortly to reverence the cross of Christ with a kiss or a touch, to reverence that cross which was the source of so much of his pain, we will surely feel the sorrow and the bitter tears of our own failures.  Then we will come face to face with our responsibility for all that happened to the one who sacrificed his life for us.

At the Last Supper Jesus reminds his disciples that they call him Lord and Teacher and he tells them that it is right that they should because that is what he is!

Today the reminder of Jesus’ crucifixion makes us suffer sadness and shame and he would tell us today that we are right to feel these things because that is where our remorse must begin.  Because just as at the Last Supper, where Jesus went on to say, don’t just call me Lord and Teacher,

learn from me and do as I do, sacrifice for others.  Today Jesus tells us don’t just feel sorry for the sins we have committed but do as he does.  Commit some good instead, lift our heads up from the sadness and accept the sacrifices we must make for the good of others, gladly, just as Christ has sacrificed himself for us.

Even while Jesus was dying he took the time to make sure that Mary, his mother, and John, his beloved disciple, would take care of each other.

This is the Jesus who looks out for others even in his own dire need.  This is the Jesus who is our Lord and Teacher and says, “Do as I do!”  This is the Jesus who says reach out to others, put others first so that your own sorrow and shame fades away in the joy of serving God’s people.

And, how can we find the strength to do this?  At the Last Supper Jesus gave us his body and blood to strengthen us, and even though today is the only day of the year on which we do not celebrate the Mass, we still have the most wonderful gift of Jesus, the chance to receive him in Holy Communion.  Come forward to receive him, not in gloomyness and sadness, but in the joy of knowing that with the Lord in your hearts you can face the challenges of sin and suffering and overcome them.  Come forward knowing that the sadness we feel is only something to learn from,

so that the joy that Christ wants us to feel may be so much greater.  Jesus said, “I came that you might have life, life in abundance.”

The price of that life we gained was high, but it is a life we know we will have for all eternity.

Our salvation and our eternal joy are guaranteed through the sacrifice of Jesus.  We have been saved because that price was paid today, a day we truly can call Good Friday.