Tag Archives: Passion

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.

Palm Sunday, cycle A

Palm Sunday

The Gospel: Matthew 26: 14 – 27: 66

Thoughts on the Gospel at the Procession:

In Jesus’ day the Jewish people had hoped that the Messiah would come with military power and might – and that with that power he would free them. But Jesus came and opened a new way. Just as he rode to Jerusalem on a donkey, an ass, a pack animal, rather than arriving with armies and angels, so he opened a new path for the reign of God, the Kingdom of God. He preached about God who cared for the least, who sought the lost and the poor and counted the hairs of one’s head. This God reached out to the Gentiles, the enemies of the Jews and spoke of loving one’s enemies as if it were possible. His idea of the reign of God and how a Messiah might act was incomprehensible to many of the people. This was not the way a messiah ought to act. This could not be God or God’s servant.  (Celebration, April 13, 2002)

What does the word Passion mean for you?

A dictionary says that it means strong emotion and agitation, such as ardent love, eager desire, even rage. It also means intense suffering.  Jesus is the face of God:  “He is the image of the invisible God.” (Colossians 1:15)  What do we learn of God in his passion?

Jesus does not want followers who seek after suffering; he does, however, want followers who seek after truth and love and are willing to suffer in order to live this truth and love in their real lives.

Thoughts from Prof. Dr. Joseph Ratzinger’s  (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) Theology of the Cross from his book: Einfuhrung in das Christentum (Introduction to Christianity):

In many devotional books we encounter the idea that Christian faith in the cross is belief in a God whose unforgiving justice demands a human sacrifice – the sacrifice of his own son. This somber and angry God contradicts the Good News of God’s love and makes it unbelievable. Many people picture things this way, but it is false. In the Bible, the cross is not part of a picture of violated rights; the cross is far more the expression of a life which is a ‘being for others.’

This is an appalling picture of God, as one who demanded the slaughter of his own son in order to assuage his anger. Such a concept of God has nothing to do with the New Testament. The New Testament does not say that human beings reconcile God; it says that God reconciles us.

The fact that we are saved ‘through his blood’ (Hebrew 9:12) does not mean that his death is an objective sacrifice . . . In world religions, the notion which dominates is that of the human being making restitution to God in order to win God‘s favor. But in the New Testament the picture is the exact opposite. It is not the human being who goes to God, to bring him a compensatory gift or sacrifice; rather, it is God who comes to human beings with a gift to give us. The cross is not the act of offering satisfaction to an angry God. Rather, it is the expression of the boundless love of God, who undergoes humiliation in order to save us.

Christian worship is not the act of giving something to God; rather, it is the act of allowing ourselves to receive God’s gift, and to let God do this for us.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran theologian who died at the hands of the Nazis on April 8, 1945.   In his book The Cost of Discipleship, he talks about cheap grace and costly grace:

Cheap grace is when we look to ourselves for what we have in life.  The blessings we have are taken for granted.  We can do what we want without retribution.  Cheap grace places ourselves in the center.  It is easy.  There is no personal responsibility, unless it is to take credit for the good.  But it is empty.  No, grace was bought at a price in Christ Jesus (I Corinthians 6:19-20).  There is more to life than living in cheap grace.

Jesus died on the cross to save us.  He was without sin, yet he died for all of our sins so that we would know eternal life.  That is costly grace.  Living in that grace understands that.  It is looking to God for what we have in life, knowing it is all from God.  God is the center.  It is being a disciple, wanting to do what is right because that is what Jesus did.  It is wanting to please God, knowing God’s grace is a free gift but having the desire anyway.  It is a fulfilled life.  It is, “…water on parched ground, comfort in tribulation, freedom from the bondage of a self-chosen way, and forgiveness of all sins,” (Bonhoeffer, p. 52).  Costly grace is living with the knowledge of what Jesus had to do to allow us the freedom of eternal life, and being grateful for it.

“Happy are they who, knowing that grace, can live in the world without being of it, who, by following Jesus Christ, as so assured of their heavenly citizenship that they are truly free to live their lives in this world, “(Bonhoeffer, p. 60).  There is a freedom in knowing you are living the way you were meant to live.  That you are answering a call, or at least attempting to do so.

Jürgen Moltmann, another Geman theologian, witnessed the Allied fire-bombing of Hamburg and was held as a prisoner of war by the British.  It was there that he developed his theology of the cross.  From Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God  (p. 61):

While his Son is dying on the cross, God the Father suffers too, but not in the same way.  The Father suffers the loss of his Son, experiencing infinite grief.  There is total separation between them; they are lost to each other.  At the same time, however, they have never been so close.  They are united in a deep community of will, each willing to do this for love of the world.  As a result, the Hoy Spirit who is love, the Sprit of their mutual love, flows out into the broken, sinful world.  Their Spirit justifies the godless, rescues the abandoned, befriends the lonely, fills the forsaken with love, brings the dead alive, and guarantees that no one will ever again die godforsaken because Christ is already there in the depths of abandonment.

Here are at least two other lessons we can learn from the cross:

  1. The cross shows us just how cruel, and destructive evil actually is. Evil hates; evil killed the kindest, gentlest, most loving person who ever lived.  Evil tries to destroy all love, kindness, friendship, and truth.
  1. The cross also shows us the power of love, of good, of God.  No matter how powerful Evil can seem to be, it is false. God and his love are greater than ANY EVIL OR PAIN.  God can redeem (set free), save (bring to health).  God can recreate and give life if we trust him and live in relationship with him (faith).

(Thoughts taken from Jesus, The Carpenter’s Son, by Richard J. Reichert)

Caution concerning Matthew’s Gospel (and John’s also):

It is always important to understand that by the end of the 1st century  Christians were struggling to define themselves apart from their Jewish roots and to try to find their place in the larger Gentile world. In the process they began to realize they were not merely another Jewish sect. Antagonism grew on both sides.  In Matthew’s passion story we see an effort to blame ‘the Jews’ – really meaning the authorities for the most part – and to exonerate the Gentiles.  Be careful not to read into these statements more than what is thereAnti-Semitism is never right, nor is it what the inspired Word of God is trying to teach us. Power-hungry men, some Jewish and some Gentile, who wanted to play ‘god’ were responsible for Jesus’ suffering and death.  In a true sense, responsibility lies where it belongs, with evil and sin.   (Living Liturgy, Year A, 89 & Monika Hellwig, Jesus: The Compassion of God)