Friday 18 April 2014

Bible Book:

“It is finished.” (John 19:30)

John 18:1 – 19:42 Friday 18 April 2014


Confusion reigns! Judas, the betrayer, knowswhere Jesus and his disciples often meet, so he leads a group ofarmed officials there. We know that the chief priests and thePharisees have already been plotting (John11:47-53), but the translated by NRSV as "soldiers" in John18:3 normally refers to Roman troops. Are they already in on theplot? In any event, the people led by Judas have not only weaponsbut also various forms of lights, which means that they would havebeen visible coming. Yet Jesus and his followers stay still andwait for them. Jesus is still in control. He admits who he is withsuch authority that some fall to the ground as if he is indeeddivine (verse 6). In response, he almost demands that they arresthim, but also, loving his disciples to the end, arranges for themto go free (verses 8-9). Peter misunderstands and gets out hissword, but Jesus indicates that he will not resist arrest and willdrink the cup of suffering that lies before him (verses 10-11).

Jesus is taken to a former high priest,Annas, who is still the hidden 'power behind the throne'. Hequestions Jesus about his followers and his teaching. Jesus refusesto say anything that can be twisted to incriminate him. He tellsAnnas to ask people who heard him teach about what he taught, andthen to tell him what was wrong in it. He makes no threats aboutwhat trouble his followers might create. He had bargained for themto go free. Peter and another discipleshad managed to worm their way into the courtyard, but whenchallenged Peter denies that he is a disciple.

Annas presumably concludes that thedisciples will be no threat, and sends Jesus to the actual highpriest, Caiaphas, who immediately sends him on to the Romangovernor, Pilate. The dark forces in political institutions andsocial systems start to gain energy. Both the Jewish authoritiesand the Roman ones try to get each other to take responsibility forgetting rid of Jesus. Pilate has to start by guessing whataccusation Caiaphas and the others are making against Jesus (verses29-30). He assumes that Jesus has claimed to be in some way King ofthe Jews (verse 33). He tries to set Jesus free under an amnesty,then, when the crowd objects, has him humiliated to show that he isnot a King of the Jews. Pilate assumes that that will be the end ofthe matter. But the chief priests and the police demand that he becrucified and change their attack into a claim that Jesus has saidthat he is the Son of God.

Pilate is feeling trapped. He shares the aweand superstition in the ancient world of the holy person, someonewho is a divine agent. That is made worse when Jesus says thatPilate is under the power of God, and yet that other people arebecoming more powerful in this situation than he is (verse 11).Pilate keeps trying to release Jesus. But Roman emperors calledthemselves 'divine' or 'sons of gods', so a king who was a son ofgod could be seen as a direct threat to the emperor. The crowdsclaim that by trying to release Jesus, Pilate is being disloyal tothe emperor. Pilate gives in, and condemns Jesus tocrucifixion.

The actual crucifixion is described sparselyand starkly. It is made all the more horrific by concentrating atfirst not on Jesus, but the reactions of others (verses 18-25).Jesus' love for people to the end is shown by urging his mother andthe beloved disciple to take care of each other. He thirsts for theknowledge of God and is given sour, drugged wine. He hasaccomplished his task and glorified God to the end. He gives up hisspirit and dies.

John's Gospel thinks of Jesus as asacrifice. A sacrifice had to be unblemished, its limbs unbroken,and its blood drained out through being pierced. That is whathappens to Jesus (verses 31-37). His body is not broken.

To Ponder

  • When you survey 'the wondrous cross' how do you see God beingglorified? 
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