Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday: Celebration of the Lord’s Passion

(Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16.5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42)

As was mentioned yesterday, this year the Jewish Passover begins this evening. John’s gospel, unlike the other three, likewise records Jesus dying on the day immediate to Passover. In fact, John makes a point in saying that Jesus is handed over to be crucified at noon, the hour when the priests in the Temple sacrifice the lambs for the feast. Early in the gospel John the Baptist called Jesus “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The prophecy is being completed at this moment.

There are many divergences between the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke and that of John. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus asks his Father to remove the cup of suffering he is about to take; in John he dismisses the idea of such a request. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke Jesus is condemned in a hearing before the assembly of Jewish leaders after his arrest; in John only the high priest Annas interrogates Jesus, and no one condemns him (although a council of Jewish leaders has previously decided that Jesus must die). In the first three gospels Jesus says nothing to Pilate except that he is the king of the Jews; in the fourth gospel there is a lively dialogue between the two in which Pilate is given an opportunity to accept “the light of the world.” Finally (for now), in Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus’ disciples do not come near the cross; in John his beloved disciple stands by him along with Jesus’ mother and two other women.

People worry about which version of the gospel is most accurate and even if any can be believed. Such uneasiness, however, is unnecessary. Like the Blessed Trinity, the mystery of Jesus death and resurrection transcends our understanding. The different descriptions of what takes place suggest this incomprehensibility. But all four gospels do converge in telling us that Jesus’ death on the cross reconciles humanity with God. Further, all claim that by taking the Eucharistic bread and wine, we participate fully in Jesus meritorious death so that we might share his glorious resurrection.