( A commentary on John 19: 17-30)
“So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’. Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, The King of the Jews’, but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews’. Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written’. When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; so they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be’. this was to fulfill the scripture. “They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots”. So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), ‘I thirst’. A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished’; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:17-30)
There are few, if any, who could hear or read of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and not feel emotion. The incredible ending of the mortal life of a king who ransomed us with his life.
Allow the words of this Gospel to bring you to that scene.
As a passerby, you watch this man struggle to carry the weight of the cross that was pressed down upon him. Listen to the silence of his agony.
When he stumbles and falls, you see the open wounds on his back from the leaded whips used to beat him. As he gets up, watch the blood trickle down his face from the crown of thorns that is embedded around his head. Listen to the loneliness that he felt.
When he is nailed to the cross and the weight of his body causes the pain to become even more unimaginable, listen to his silence as he accepts his father’s will.
We will never know the darkness that surrounded that day. Yet, it is important to remember that our personal darkness is bound to him.
We see it from far off, we see it up close and personal. From the tragedy at the World Trade Towers, the tragedies of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we see it in friends and family members who suffer from ailments like cancer and Alzheimer’s, we see it in young men whose lives and minds are so broken they go on senseless shooting sprees in schools, movie theaters, churches and shopping malls.
There is darkness for those who have lost their jobs, for the child born of a mother addicted to crack cocaine, for the homeless, the hungry, for the immigrant crying for asylum from persecution, the destitute and those without jobs here and around the world. For those who have died from Covid. For those who live under oppressive military dictatorships, for those mothers, fathers, sisters or brothers who sit on death row, for those whose lives feel horribly betrayed by someone they once loved.
We know about darkness.
In each of those moments, and those unspoken, we know about darkness. And that is why we need to listen to his final words. ‘It is finished.’
If there is one moment to remember, it is that final moment, when Jesus bows his head and gives up his spirit – that moment when God’s Passion becomes our Passion. From his body flowed the gift of the Holy Spirit. In his hour of glory and triumph on the cross, the fullness of God’s total self-giving to mankind is shown.
The man who healed people, helped people, fed people, gave outsiders dignity, and welcomed all to sit at his table and share a meal, gives his spirit to us. The question that resides deep within the rituals of Good Friday, however, is, will we accept his spirit? Will we use his spirit as our strength?
Will we take God’s Spirit and make it our own? Will we set our sails to capture God’s divine wind, breath and spirit and allow it to direct us and take us to places we have never been to do things we have never done?
The world needs His Spirit. The world needs your spirit. You can accept His Spirit, which he gives away, which is given for the world, not just for Christians, not just for believers, but for the whole world, and you can do something beautiful with your life and bear much fruit.
The World needs you. All of us who follow his way need you. God needs you. We all need one another.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus Christ, by your death on the cross you have won pardon for us and freedom from the tyranny of sin and death. May I live in the joy and freedom of your victory over sin and death.”
Jesus was crucified for his claim to be King. The Jews had understood that the Messiah would come as their king to establish God’s reign for them. They wanted a king who would free them from tyranny and foreign domination. Little did they understand what kind of kingship Jesus claimed to have. Jesus came to conquer hearts and souls for an imperishable kingdom, rather than to conquer perishable lands and entitlements. Jesus came so that you and I would be freed from eternal darkness. Jesus came so that his gift of love, and hope, and eternal peace would be our gift to claim for our lives.