Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion
(Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42)
During Holy Week we always hear the story of Jesus’ death twice. On Palm Sunday we listen to the passion according to Matthew, Mark or Luke depending on the year. Last Sunday, of course, we heard Mark’s account. Today, Good Friday, we always hear the passion according to John. If we listen carefully, we will realize that the passion accounts read on Palm Sunday and the one of Good Friday have very different tones. They have many of the same elements for sure, but they present Jesus’ suffering in very different perspectives. Let us take a close look at a few of the differences from Mark’s and John’s passion accounts to see what they say to us.
In Mark Jesus is anxious in the garden of Getsemaní. He actually prostrates himself on the ground begging deliverance from the coming punishment. In John, on the other hand, Roman soldiers fall to the ground as they face Jesus. They are powerless before the great “I AM” that Jesus uses to identify himself.
We all remember how Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross. In Mark’s gospel Jesus is so weary from the scourging that he can barely get himself to Calvary. John’s gospel, however, makes no mention of Simon. Rather, it states that Jesus carries the cross himself. He is demonstrating the power of which he spoke earlier: “I have the power to lay (my life) down, and power to take it up again” (10:18).
Mark and John also describe the crucifixion in very different ways. In John darkness does not cover the earth as in Mark. Jesus, after all, is the light of the world; where he is, lightness streams. Jesus’ last words in the two accounts differ significantly. In Mark he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In John Jesus calmly says at the end, “It is finished.” He has accomplished what his Father sent him to do and now returns to Him.
Sometimes we become unsettled when we hear of differences in the gospels like the ones we just noted. We ask, what really happened when Jesus died? This question, however, is not likely what the evangelists had first in mind when they wrote their passion accounts. Rather, weaving together the stories they heard of Jesus’ death a generation or two earlier, they composed their accounts to testify to the faith of their respective communities in Jesus. Their different perspectives help us at different moments in our lives. Sometimes we feel quite alone in our suffering and wonder where God is. Then we can turn to Jesus on the cross in Mark’s passion crying out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” and feel assured that he understands our anxiety. Sometimes, however, we can face the trials life confident that we will overcome them. Then, the solidity of our faith resembles that of Jesus hanging from the cross in John’s gospel. The different passion accounts show us that Jesus is always there for us no matter our need. We can always turn to him, the light of the world, to clear up any difficulty.