Verbal Feast: The Passion According to St. John

Verbal Feast: The Passion According to St. John

by various authors

The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus John 18:1–11

1When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

“When Jesus had spoken these words he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he had and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often went there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.” – John 18:1-3

Why did Jesus choose Judas to be among the twelve? We know that Jesus personally called Judas in the same way that he called Simon Peter and James and John and the rest of the twelve. Why did Jesus choose Judas and not another to stand by his side when he knew in advance that Judas would betray him? And he did know. Early in his ministry Jesus made the offhand remark, “Did I not choose you the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil” (John 6:70). Perhaps Jesus chose Judas to be among his inner circle to demonstrate the scandal of grace. Jesus did not just come to live and die and rise again for only a select few known only to himself. His was not a limited atonement. Jesus came for everyone. Jesus suffered the cross even for those who would reject him with their dying breath. In choosing Judas, knowing in advance that he would be the one to betray him, Jesus is demonstrating the sacrificial love of God. Or as the Apostle Paul would later put it, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Praise God for this scandalous grace that calls us from our sin each day to the arms of our savior.  

Rev. James Uglum
St. Peters, Missouri

Jesus Before the High Priest and the Denial of Peter John 18:12–27

12So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. 13First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.

15Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, 16but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. 17The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.

19The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” 24Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

25Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.

“Did I not see you in the Garden with Him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed. – John 18:26-27

Adam and Peter have something in common don’t they? Adam was in the Garden with God, but denied God his presence. When God came and asked, “Adam, where are you?” Adam was hiding from God. He was not playing any game. Adam was naked after all, and filled with shame. Peter also was in the Garden with God – a different Garden, at a different time in History but with the same God nonetheless. And when people came and asked Peter if it was he who was with Jesus in the Garden, Peter denied it. The rooster crowed and Peter was filled with shame. We too deny God our presence. We too deny Jesus – that we were buried with Him in the waters of baptism, that we know Him and confess Him, that we are followers of Him. The Good News is that Jesus never denies us. The rooster may crow condemnation, but Jesus declares, “Forgiven” to you, who by His Grace, through faith believe His Words. And so, one day, we will walk with Adam and Peter – and God … in a most perfect Garden.

Rev. Dr. Mark Hoehner
St. Peters, Missouri

Jesus Before Pilate
John 18:28–40

28Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. 29So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

33So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. 39But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 40They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

The guards of the high priest lead Jesus to the palace of Pilate and don’t enter, because they don’t want to be rendered unclean, which would disqualify them from taking part in their festival. As a parallel, it wasn’t lawful for them to put anyone to death in their submission to the Roman Empire, but they were very willing to come to the occupying Roman force and ask Pilate to do their dirty work. 

Jesus, on trial, is being charged as a rival king, a rival to Roman authority. Pilate asks Jesus if he is King of the Jews, and, with a question, Jesus implies that this title is not his own invention but has been conferred onto him by others. He doesn’t answer Pilate in the affirmative on this point. Though he does affirm that he is a king. Jesus simply tells Pilate that his Kingdom “is not from this world”— ουκ εστιν εκ του κοσμου τουτου. Jesus doesn’t allow himself—his words, his ministry, his actions, his purpose, his fidelity to God—to be reduced to the game of worldly empire. Rather, his kingdom is from somewhere else. 

Jesus tells Pilate that he came to bear witness to the truth. That’s because the truth is also otherworldly. The truth belongs to another kingdom, alien to the kingdoms of this world. Whereas the high priests are lying, Pilate admits that he doesn’t even know what the truth is. The truth comes from somewhere else no matter what the occupying forces of this world and their subjects say. In fact, they seek the death of the truth. Everyone who is from the truth—εκ της αληθειας—hears the voice of their King. Even in the midst of trial and tribulation, let us listen to his voice above all others. He is the physical embodiment of the truth. Earlier in the Gospel, Jesus tells those who believe in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31b-32).

Rev. Alec Fisher
Odenton, Maryland

Jesus Prepared for Crucifixion John 19:1–16

1Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. 4Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

12From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus, 

The irony isn’t usually lost on us when John tells us about Jesus being clothed in a purple robe and crowned with thorns. Jesus is the king of the Jews, at least that is the charge. He is taken to the guards who crown him and vest him as a mock king. This is the king of the universe, the creator of us all, yes he is a king, and yes it is ironic they mock him as if he were not. Yet for the Romans the crown of thorns and the robe have an extra significance. They dress Jesus as not just a king, but moreso as a conquering hero. Jesus is portrayed like Julius Caesar entering Rome triumphantly. The hero would wear a purple robe and have a laurel wreath as a crown as he was brought in to the city on a chariot. The soldiers must have found it rather amusing that this man who seemed very much defeated was now dressed as the great generals of Rome returning from their conquest. However, the irony is greater still. Jesus is on his way to conquer; he is the very hero those soldiers and we need. Jesus was vested to go and destroy the final enemy that he faced on the cross, and showed the world what a true hero looks like. While the crowds cried out that the false hero Caesar was the only king they had, the true king went to his death for a world that did not recognize him, but was the world he came to save. May our Lord protect us from seeking the fame and glory of this world and to help us bear our shame with joy as we follow him.

Rev. David Graves
Wartburg, Tennessee

The Crucifixion of Jesus
John 19:16–24

16So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus, 17and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

23When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24so 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 which says,

“They divided my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
So the soldiers did these things, 

But ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned death;
considering him a friend, they pined away,
and they made a covenant with him,
because they are fit to belong to his party.
- Wisdom 1:16

We considered death a friend and invited him into our lives.

Today death stands tall and looms large. And why wouldn’t he? We summoned him into our lives and invited him to dine with us at our tables. We, thinking we were the seducers, found ourselves seduced by death. “Did God really say?” this is not the question that distinguishes mere right and wrong; it is the question that distinguishes life and death. Today death stands tall and looms large because we chose death over life when the question was posed to us. 

We considered death a friend and invited him into our lives. 

The gap between death and life could not be bridged by someone merely being right instead of wrong. Too often the difference between right and wrong depends on situation and there is no undoing an invitation to death. And so he went out to the place called a skull and there they crucified him. 

We considered death a friend and invited him into our lives; Jesus considers us a friend and invited death into his life.

The gap between death and life could not be bridged by someone merely being right instead of wrong, the breach caused by death necessitated life itself. Since we made death a friend Jesus made death a friend. And as death betrayed our friendship, so Jesus would be betrayed. Jesus made a covenant with death so that we would be freed from our bond with this friend. As we see elsewhere, the crucifixion of Jesus alters our relationships, and so it is with out first relationship with death.

Today is Good Friday because Jesus is good. We brought death upon ourselves but we do not need to lament this day for what we brought upon Jesus. Jesus willingly brought death upon himself. John shows us that Jesus went to the place of a skull willingly, and that he did so for us.

We considered death a friend and invited him into our lives; Jesus considers us a friend and invited death into his life.

Rev. Matthew O. Staneck
Queens, New York

Jesus’ Mother and His Death
John 19:25–30

25but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

28After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Blessed Mary looked upon her beloved son, likely in anguish. When a parent truly loves their child, such a moment could have only been filled with agony, even as she trusted in the truth that had been revealed to her before He was conceived in her womb. The moment when she spoke, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word,” must have felt so very far away. Yet, that is exactly what was happening. Even this anguish and agony was what was to be according to the Word that hung on the cross before His mother and the disciple whom He loved.

Still, it was not only the anguish and agony that was to be for Blessed Mary. In that same moment, the Word gave her a beautiful gift, a purpose beyond the one to which her life had been dedicated, a purpose beyond the one that was seemingly coming to an end: “Woman, behold, your son!” Her life, her love as a mother was not to end, even as Jesus died there. Rather, it was to continue, to serve well one whom Jesus loved as a dear brother, that through his witness and through her loving service and continued witness, the Gospel would be known and proclaimed. And yes, it was a beautiful gift, for that is what Jesus does and that is who our Lord is for us – the giver of gifts, even in His seemingly final earthly moments. For when He offered this last earthly gift, He knew that all was now finished. Thus, offering the eternal gift of His life to all, Jesus breathed His last and gave up His spirit. Jesus, the child of Blessed Mary, the one of whom it was prophesied, “…the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”

Rev. Matthew Gonzalez
The Bronx, New York

Jesus’ Side is Pierced John 19:31–42

31Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

38After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. 40So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

It was not an unusual procedure. Roman centurions were trained to strike with precision. On the battlefield, a well-placed spear through an enemy’s armor straight into the chambers of the heart was sure to bring death swiftly. At the gallows, this same technique came into play for the purpose of declaring victims legally dead. When Jesus’ side was pierced, there is no doubt that his very heart was wounded. It is conclusive proof of the death of Christ. But there is more going on here than meets the eye. 

As Craig Koester points out, “Jesus’ crucifixion presents the paradox that divine power is revealed through a human death. Jesus previously invited those who were thirsty to come and drink from him (John 7:37), but at the cross he said, ‘I thirst,’ and put himself in the place of the thirsty. The ministry of King Jesus began with a lavish gift of wine at a banquet and it ended when an anonymous bystander served as courtier, offering the thorn-crowned monarch sour wine. The Jesus who thirsted was the fountain of living water. He gave life to others at the expense of his own. The spear that pierced Jesus’ side demonstrated that he was dead; yet the water that came forth revealed that in death he was the source of life” (Craig R. Koester, Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel, Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis, 2003, p.203). 

So what does all this mean for you and me? Living in this world, we all know the pain of a wounded heart. We’ve all experienced heartbreak. We’ve all caused heartbreak. Hearts break because of sin and its awful consequences. Hearts break because of death and decay. I know many of you reading this have experienced heartbreak this Lent in your own life, in the lives of those you love, and in your congregations.

And God knows it too. God knows why our hearts hurt. Our God knows firsthand what it is to have a wounded heart. Jesus' heart was broken by death: He wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus. His heart was broken by sin: He wept over the unbelief of Jerusalem. And finally his heart was literally wounded by the tip of the Roman spear. Blood and water. Truly a sign of death…but at the same time a sign of life from the dead, a sign of the Holy Spirit coming to believers by means of the water in Holy Baptism and the blood in Holy Communion. The death of Jesus is the life of believers. The wound in Jesus’ heart lets us know that in the Resurrection of all flesh, He will mend all broken hearts

Rev. Jonathan Crawford
Dubuque, Iowa

A Time To Heal

A Time To Heal

Cup of Judgment, Cup of Mercy: A Homiletical Reflection for Holy Thursday

Cup of Judgment, Cup of Mercy: A Homiletical Reflection for Holy Thursday