The hall at Milton Church was pretty well full as the MOthers Union and friends gathered for a Lent lunch (nice soup Jacqueline!) and the latest in their series of Lent talks – by me on being With St John at the foot of the Cross.
I enjoyed going back to look more closely at St John’s account of the Crucifixion and how it fitted with what else we know of him – and I thought the notes from the talk might be useful for those still wondering what to hold forth about on Good Friday. So if you’re interested: look below.
First a few words about John the Evangelist
- Assume = beloved/other disciple as per 21.24
- And = son of Zebedee in Synoptics
- And = co-leader with Peter in Acts as in J’s Gospel;
- When church dispersed (Acts 8.1) > Ephesus; aged.
- Some sort of link with letters (Jn1/1Jn1)
- But Revelation may be from a different hand
J enters his own gospel at 13.23, reclining next to Jesus, as “the disciple whom he loved”
In many ways = the apostle of love; shame current discourse makes that awkward
For J it is deeply theological as well as personal: God so loved…; love one another as …
Part of discourse nexus love – life – faith/trust – abiding – spirit: call to abide in his love
Turn to first section, vv16-22 The King is on the Cross
- John had accompanied Jesus into High Priest’ courtyard (known to HP…) 18.15
- Gives extra ?eyewitness detail of all Pilate trial and crucifixion dialogue too, and talk is of kingship see 18.33ff “Are you the king of the Jews?” “My kingdom is not of this world.” “ I am a king.”
- Kingship theme continues here: vv 19-22 are unique to John. Pilate is being used prophetically like Caiaphas earlier in Jn (11.50 “It is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole people perish”). He proclaims a king & a redemption that are
- For all: in 3 languages
- For fact: not “he claimed”
- For keeps: what I have written…
- The lifting up and glorifying that Jesus looks forward to at 17.1 is being fulfilled
- But NB this is a true Israelite shepherd King cf Micah 5.4 “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord” Zechariah 9.9 “See your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey.”
- o World full of advances but of anxiety too
- o When you are worried about yourself or others or the world, and you see the world caught up in power games and selfishness: can you dare to put your trust in God’s power of love?
vv 23-27 – The new covenant of love is confirmed
- Our gaze turns now from Christ himself to the other people gathered round the Cross
- First, the soldiers
- NB how Jesus’ outer garment is divided, but his inner seamless tunic remains whole
- symbolising the death of the body but the undying nature of Christ which will see the body reclothed in resurrection life
- echoing (“top to bottom” v.23) the temple veil, torn apart but so that God and humanity could be rejoined. NB Josephus describes high priest’s robe as seamless too: Jesus is new HP and new temple
- fulfilling scripture: this is God’s plan at work
- Second, the disciples: John and the 3 Maries
- They are standing there: even in their desolation they are remaining, abiding. There is nothing they can do: what will God do?
- Jesus acts to stop the group being torn apart, to birth the church in an act of love: John and Mary form heart of a new family of God: words echo those of adoption.
- Not just “Here is your son” but “Behold your son”, with its echoes of “Behold the Lamb”, “Behold the Man.” Something of eternal breaking through.
- How can we not always be “under the circumstances”?
- Are you faithfully watching, waiting, abiding, ready to glimpse the new thing God will do?
vv. 28-30 – The price is paid
- v.28 how much agony hidden in little word “later”?
- but so that Scripture can be fulfilled: not just completing an equation but “thy will be done”: Gethsemane in a word – Jesus will be faithful to the end and finish his work
- “Thirst” a part of this fulfilment (Ps 63) – ? echoes of thirsting after righteousness [bellringers…]: really desiring it, making it a matter of life and death
- V.29 the stalk of hyssop – is odd: hyssop a small plant good for sprinkling. Jn making a point about the Passover where hyssop plays a key part. This is the new Exodus, into the new promise of God for his people
- it is finished – repeated and brackets this section
- can be read as a financial metaphor – paid off, settled. 3.16 “gave his only beloved son”
- redemption, and it is Christ who is paying it
- v.30 paying it: but willingly and without losing control – Jesus actively gives up his spirit
- and is there a foretaste of giving of Spirit later, as the church is in a way founded?
- John 7: 37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
- Dad, me and the stubborn pride of human nature
- How willing are we to swallow our pride and let Christ pay the price for us?
vv.31-37 – The testimony is true
- A lot of special Jn material
- John has two big points to make and account is arranged to bring them out and put them before us
- that J really is dead (v. 33-4)
- that scripture is being fulfilled (explicit v.36-7)
- v.35 placed between them makes eyewitness claim: This is true
- So comes down to a question of truth and a question of faith
- Do you accept that Christ died as he did?
- Do you believe that he died as he did, for you?
- The empty tomb is coming next
- A real death is followed by a real resurrection
- John is the first to believe
- John passes on Jesus’ commandment to us, to abide in his (2-way) love. To trust and believe.
It’s personal … We cannot dispassionately survey the scene: it strikes to our heart
1 When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
2 Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.
3 See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?
4 Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.