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Good Friday - Reflections on the Gospel of John

At the heart of the story of Jesus the Christ is the mystery that out of death comes life, that despite suffering and pain hope and joy shall rise, and that despite hate and fear love shall reign. This year I share a series of short reflections on the Passion story as told by the gospel of John. Or you may wish to follow the links below to reflections on Good Friday shared in previous years.

John 18:1-12

With words of love and encouragement still ringing in their ears, the touch of the teacher and friend still on their skin, the little band of disciples follow Jesus to the garden they have often spent time in. And here the raggle taggle group of followers behind Jesus encounter the formal and formidable forces of the Empire and the Religious Law. Two very different ways of creating community and living faithfully. And into this tension steps Jesus to take his place, to take into himself the great divides in the human condition, the brokenness and betrayal, all that we despair of and despise in ourselves.

 

Jesus steps into this void with the words “I Am he, the one you look for.” Echoing the name of the great I Am – the God of the burning bush now surrendering to the temporary but fierce power of the Empire.

 

John 18:13-27

While Jesus is being questioned by the high priest and struck for his answers, Peter is in the courtyard being questioned and avoiding answers that will have him arrested or punished. Peter is staying as near to Jesus as he dare but seems filled with fear and is not willing to be known as companion or disciple. And before the cock crows Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times.

 

Betrayal, denial and abandonment. Jesus is already alone in his ordeal with only his heart connection to his Father to sustain him.

 

John 18:28-19:16

Even knowing the story so well it is hard to hear the escalating violent intent as the conflict is revealed between the truth of Jesus as Son of the living God and the powers of this world – religious and political. Jesus’ embodiment of God with us, of the kingdom among us, of love expressed in healing and shared meals, is being pitted against the organised power of the Empire and the Temple and it is always clear which one will “win”. In the short term.

 

And yet even now, John’s account reminds us that this is the day of preparation for the Passover and therefore the lambs will be being prepared for the Passover meal, the meal that sustained the people on their journey from oppression and slavery in Egypt to the promised land. Not all is lost. This death is not without meaning.

 

John 19:16-30.

And so the author of life dies, is killed, by violence, hatred, suspicion and fear. His only witnesses the soldiers fighting over his belongings, and whoever looked upon him with pity or fear. And the women, the three Mary’s and the disciple he loved. Knowing himself near to death Jesus gives his mother into his disciple’s keeping and he into hers. As we are given to one another to love and keep. And when his time of death came the author of life gave his life back to his Father, to God, as we must each do.

 

Even though we know this story will end in life and victory and love, at this moment we cannot look away from the suffering and sorrow.

 

John 19:31-42.

Now Jesus the teacher, the healer, the friend of the friendless, is just another broken human body needing a place of burial so his secret disciples take him away and bury him quickly. All seems over – his life, his cause, his teachings, his band of followers. Jesus so fully joined the human condition that he suffered the worst of what it is to be human.

 

And yet we keep hearing the refrain that it was the day of Preparation for Passover. The death of Jesus although so very real and painful and brutal is not the end. It is the preparation for our journey from oppression and slavery to liberation and life in its fullness. And our beloved Jesus is the one who will sustain us on this journey. His body and blood shall be our meat and drink. His teachings our guidelines, His presence our companion, His un-killable love for us the spirit that is given to us. He died as one of us, for us.

 

It is not over, it is just beginning. So we take courage and keep watch as we wait for new life to dawn on Sunday and in every part of life.

You may wish to read my earlier reflections on Good Friday.



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