EASTER READINGS – JOHN – SESSION 16

INTRO We are exploring the essence of the Good News we believe, we proclaim and which gives us life and hope! The death of Christ that is the death of death for all eternity! For John the Crucifixion is the ‘Hour of Glory’, His road to Victory. He is our Way, our Truth and our Life – so His Way is ours also. He, our Universal Brother, carrying all humanity, indeed all creation, within Himself has taken us in that crucified body into the victory of ‘life in all its fulness’ – a life that transcends death. So His ‘trial’ before Annas and Caiaphas convicts them of their unfaithfulness to the sovereignty of God which they are to uphold; the trial before Pilate convicts the Roman Governor of disregard for Truth, weakness before the crowd and ultimate powerlessness before the Power of self-sacrificing love – the authentic authority which Jesus has and Pilate does not. 

[1] The chief priests demand the death penalty as they accuse Jesus of blasphemy, because ‘he has claimed to be the Son of God’ (John 19: 40). This goes to the heart of the matter – Who is Jesus? John’s Gospel has stressed from the Prologue the issue of His identity – the pre-existent eternal Word of the Father made flesh in Jesus. John’s Gospel is littered with the ‘I am’ sayings, culminating in the ‘I am He’ at his arrest in the Garden. He utters the Holy Name of God, unspeakable by all except the High Priest  who alone can utter the sacred Name in the Holy of Holies on the single day of the year – ’Yom Kippur’ the Great Day of Atonement when the sacrifice is offered for the atonement of the sins of the whole People. Jesus claims oneness with His Father, speaking the Word he has received, carrying out the Will of the One who sent him, judging with the judgment of God. His faithful and sacrificial love on the Cross is the Victory – a love stronger than death that gives life to all creation. The awesome transcendent God is no longer beyond reach, no longer concealed in the Holy of Holies, but is now revealed as among us, walking with us, Infinite Love present in the every day, the ordinary, the human. Jesus ‘I am’ is shared with us! He empowers us by His Victory to embrace our identity as ‘Son’ or ‘Daughter’ of God. In 1 John 3: 2 we read the astounding words: ‘My dear people, we are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like Him because we shall see Him as He really is’. The Victory Jesus wins is our Victory for He shares his very identity with us, revealing that we carry the divine, we are ‘first-born sons’ (and daughters) or as Paul would say, ‘heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ’. And that is why Jesus can say with Divine audacity ‘Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect’! 

[2] And so the Crucifixion scene in John’s Gospel is a Victory procession! He carries his own Cross: there is no Simeon to help him; there are no consoling women who minister to Him. The ‘charge’ is written on the cross – what is ‘lifted up’ is the proclamation that this is ‘Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews’ – and written John tells us in three languages – Latin, Greek and Hebrew (John 19: 19-20), for all the world to read and understand. The so-called ‘blasphemy’ which in reality is the Truth of Divine Love and self-giving, is proclaimed by what the Roman Governor writes. Pilate affirms what the Jewish authorities were desperate to refute! The seamless garment that the soldiers throw dice in order to possess evokes the seamless garment the High Priest wears, for Jesus is the High Priest and the Sacrifice who enters the Holy of Holies and offers the only sacrifice – Himself. He takes us with him into that Holy of Holies (the meaning of the Ascension). Jesus is the sole mediator between God and Humanity, because He is the fulness of the covenant bond between God and all creation – for He is the Fulness of God’s gift to the world; and He is the fulness of Humanity’s gift to God – utterly divine, utterly human in the Victorious Crucified One. The seamless garment also evokes the disciple’s baptismal garment of new Life, for we ‘put on Christ’, and are anointed by the Holy Spirit flowing from the side of Christ upon the Cross ‘Priest, Prophet and King’. We are One Vine with Priest Christ and the Paschal Victim. We are Christ, the Prophet, Word made Flesh. We are Christ, the King of Kings serving the Kingdom of God upon the Earth. Jesus is totally identified with us and in baptism we are totally identified with Him.

[3] Gathered at the Foot of the Cross (John 19: 25-37) are not only the soldiers (there is no mocking of Jesus on the Cross as in the Synoptics) but also the the Mother and the other women disciples (near the Cross, not at a distance as in the Synoptics) and the mysterious ‘Beloved Disciple’ (John 19: 25-27). Mary the Mother of Jesus is only referred to twice in John’s Gospel – at the beginning of His Ministry (the Marriage Feast of Cana) and now at the end at the climax of Mission. John’s Gospel has Jesus refer to her as ‘Woman’, evocative of Eve for as the Fathers of the Early Church loved to describe her, Mary is the New Eve, now ‘Mother of all who alive in Christ’.  His dying care for his Mother (a widow losing her only son and therefore only support) is also an Annunciation – the invitation to embrace all humanity as her son, to become Mother not only of the Church (represented by ‘the disciple’) but of all humanity – to love the world as Jesus loves the world. Mary the First and greatest of the disciples is the exemplar, the model of the disciple – she loves with his Universal Heart of Divine Love – we, the Church are called to love with the same Universal Heart of Divine Love. She shows us what it means to be ‘re-born’ in the water and blood Jesus pours out from his pierced side and filled with the breath of the Spirit which He gives us in his Victorious dying breathe. Jesus thirsts – the rough wine (vinegar) – spices which were to relieve the pain of the dying man are not mentioned in the Johannine account. Instead, he has fulfilled the mission to drink the cup the Father has offered Him (John 18: 11). So ‘it is accomplished’ and the Perfection of Divine Loving is poured out as Jesus ‘hands over’ His Spirit to us and to the world. His Mission is re-born in us who gather around the Cross. The piercing of the side of Christ is recorded only in John’s Gospel but does appear to be an eye witness account. No bone of his body is broken, for in the Passover Meal the bones of the paschal lamb must not be broken. According to Johannine chronology and timing, Jesus’ death occurs at the very time that the priests are sacrificing the lambs to be used in the Passover Meal later that evening: Jesus death replaces all the Temple sacrifices for He is the Paschal Lamb – the way John the Baptist pointed to Jesus in the very first chapter of John’s Gospel. Indeed the Hour of Glory has come, the Hour of humanity’s liberation!

AFTERWORD Will we stand at the foot of the Cross which continues in today’s world – the Cross of war, conflict, poverty, injustice, slavery, abuse of creation? Will we  accept as Mary does the call to love with Jesus’ Universal Heart of Divine Love? Will we truly ‘put on Christ’ and allow His Mission to be reborn in us?

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