Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord
(Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16.5:7-9; John 18:1-42)
There is a fantasy about two kidnappers who take a child from a rich family and demand a huge ransom. The child, however, is extremely mischievous and the parents make a counter-offer. They say that they will take the child back if the kidnappers give a ransom. The child proves to be so troublesome that the kidnappers concede to the parents' demand. In the Passion of Jesus according to John a similar turning of a situation on its head is seen.
John's gospel is the most theological of the four. It is also quite historical, but John describes events with more concern about their deeper significance than about literal accuracy. The trial of Jesus before Pilate is a good example of this method. Apparently Jesus is on trial. The Jewish leaders have brought him to Pilate with the demand that he be executed. It does not take Pilate long to discern that Jesus is innocent. The real question then becomes whether Pilate will incriminate himself by ceding to the Jewish demand. He is the one who is really on trial not Jesus.
Pilate attempts to escape judgment. He tries to release Jesus as a Passover gift to the Jews. They, of course, refuse the offer. Then he has Jesus beaten and presented to the Jews as one who has already suffered for any crime he might have committed. But the Jews, saying that Jesus made himself to be the Son of God, won't budge from their demand. Now Pilate becomes afraid which makes him susceptible to the Jewish threat that if he does not execute Jesus, he would not be a friend of Caesar. Out of fear then Pilate orders Jesus’ execution. He is guilty not just of the death of an innocent man but also of one whom he has come to know as having divine origins.
But Pilate is not the only one on trial in the Passion according to John. Jesus said earlier in the gospel that judgment will come to the world when he is lifted up on the cross. That moment has arrived. Because he shows himself as the true Lord when he dies on the cross, each of us must ask whether we will follow his authority. When we look at him raised up on the cross, do we pledge to love others as he loved? Or, much like Pilate, will we give in to the fears and wants of our hearts?