Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

(Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42)

The Gospel according to John portrays Jesus as fond of personal encounters.  At the beginning of his ministry Jesus engages Nicodemus and then the Samaritan woman in one-on-ones.  These encounters lead to the salvation of both although it is not apparent in Nicodemus’ case until today’s gospel reading.  Jesus also encounters the crippled man at the pool of Bethesda, the man born blind in Jerusalem, and Martha and Mary individually in Bethany -- all with positive outcomes.  However, in today’s account of Jesus’ passion his face-off with Pontius Pilate ends regrettably.

Pilate meets Jesus with objectivity.  He seems interested in determining the veracity of the Jews’ claim that Jesus makes himself out to be a rival to the Roman emperor.  He asks him, “’Are you the King of the Jews?’”  Jesus answers him obliquely which precipitates a conversation on the nature of kingly power.  As the conversation continues, Pilate becomes satisfied that Jesus does not threaten Roman sovereignty.  Pilate quickly maneuvers to release Jesus by first claiming him as the beneficiary of the annual Passover pardon and then by having him scourged so that the normal person would say that he has suffered enough.  But the Jews are portrayed as implacable as they bully Pilate into betraying his judgment of the case.

Each of us should see Jesus as personally confronting her or him today.  He is asking, “Carmen, do you believe that I died on the cross to win your salvation?  Or is this service only a ritual to mark time, no more significant than Halloween?”  Hopefully, we can answer honestly, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Savior of the world.”  That said, we will want to give him homage.