2 April 2010

John 19:13-42

"After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), 'I am thirsty.' A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, 'It is finished.' Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." (v.28-30)


Good Friday may seem to be the least appropriately named day of the Christian calendar. In the events of Jesus' trial, death and burial it is hard to find good news and it is usual for Good Friday to be marked as a day of lament and mourning.

In a culture that struggles to face grief and loss and death even to the extent of turning funerals into thanksgivings at which the body of the deceased is not present, there is something important about not rushing prematurely towards Easter Day. It is important for us to stand with Jesus' mother, and Mary Magdalene, and Mary the wife of Clopas, and with the disciple whom Jesus loved, and feel the pain and desolation and finality of death. Death is not 'nothing at all'. The details of the crucifixion and the burial underline this. Death is real, even for Jesus. In fact, it is only because it is real for Jesus that good news can come from it.

John hints at this good news by reminding us three times that here Scripture is being fulfilled. For the Scriptures tell the story of the forsaken being desperate with thirst and having their clothes divided, yet experiencing God's deliverance (Psalm 22); and of God pouring out compassion on the inhabitants of Jerusalem so that when they look on the one they have pierced they shall mourn as over a firstborn (Zechariah 12:10). And three times John tells us that it was the Day of Preparation for the Passover (verses 14, 31, 42): that God was preparing here for a new Exodus; a new way out of oppression; a new dawn beyond the finality of the tomb.

The final hint is in the last three words of Jesus. "It is finished!" declares both an ending and an accomplishment of the purposes of God which as yet no-one had understood (John 20:9) but which for those, like the Gospel-writer, standing on the far side of the Resurrection, is enough to "call this Friday, good" (TS Eliot, The Four Quartets).

To Ponder

What helps you to face the reality of grief and loss and death?

Why do you think our society finds death so difficult to name and embrace?

In your view, what is good about Good Friday? Is it a good name?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Jane Leach

Jane writes on ministry, pastoral supervision and pilgrimage..