Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

(Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:6-7; John 18.1-19:42)

It can be said that the passion of Jesus in the Gospel according to St. John is drama without suspense. Careful readers realize that Jesus is fully aware throughout this gospel that he is the pre-existent Son of God. He knows where he comes from and when he will return to his Father. He says in the middle of the gospel that no one takes his life from him, “I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again” (10:18). Since Jesus in John’s eyes has already conquered the world (16:33), worldly powers -- be they Roman procurators or Jewish high priests – only imagine that they are cutting short his life when they crucify him. He dies when he is ready as his last words testify, “It is finished.” In fact, nothing happens in this gospel that catches Jesus by surprise. As the omniscient Son of God, he knows when and how everything will take place.

Jesus’ dominance over his opponents is also apparent throughout the narrative. When Roman soldiers come to arrest Jesus, they fall to the ground as Jesus pronounces the divine “I AM.” When Pilate tries to interrogate Jesus, he finds himself outmaneuvered. He learns that, yes, Jesus is a king, but not of this world; and that his own authority is granted from above so that anything he does, God intends him to do in the first place. Most spectacularly, Jesus’ supremacy is seen at the cross. To the consternation of the Jews, Pilate posts a sign on it – in three languages, no less – that Jesus is “king of the Jews.” Jesus even holds court there with his mother, her companions and his beloved disciple in attendance. Jesus initiates his church from the cross by proclaiming his mother and the disciple his family and sending his Spirit upon them. And when Jesus dies, a new disciple rushes on the scene with enough burial spices to inter a pharaoh.

The Gospel of John’s omniscient, impassable, almighty Jesus assures us that he is truly God’s Son. We have only to put our faith in him, and nothing will defeat us either. This kind of faith has enabled an elderly religious sister to accept her terminal condition of liver cancer with serenity and peace. She was told five months ago that she had just three months to live. She continues day after day without hospice, with hardly any painkillers, and now without food. She only asks the other sisters to sit with her and to pray for her. Since she has long ago given herself over to her Lord, there is now no reason to deny, fear or dread death now. As Jesus says of himself, so she hears him say to her: he will take her when he is ready and he will give life back to her again.