The Passion of Jesus Christ According to John
I can’t say I’m a fan of shows about lawyers. It’s not that I have a thing against lawyers, but it often seems that there is some deal of manipulation that takes place in order to convince people of the truth, even if it’s not the truth, simply to make a case. Of course, it’s not even about television programs like Law & Order or anything like that. We even see it when we catch any news. There’s always a “legal expert” who’s going to try to convince you of something, that they know the truth and to cast doubt into the other’s case. We hear it from Russia probes to “porn stars” and everything in between. It creates this sense of chaos and confusion leaving us with the same question as Pilate in today’s passion, “What is truth?” It’s hard to tell sometimes.
That is what John seems to create in his account of the passion and death of Jesus that we hear every Good Friday. It’s hard to determine what really is the truth and there seems to be utter confusion and chaos. What only reinforces that is this enmeshing of politics and religion. When the two align against Jesus he doesn’t stand much chance of making it out alive. It comes down to at that point people’s power that they’re unwilling to surrender and over time, chipping away at any trust they may have of Jesus, invoking fear, confusion, and chaos on the scene. For John, though, that’s where it all begins. If you think back to the beginning of the bible as we know it, the creation accounts in Genesis, order is formed out of chaos. Now, for John, this chaos that ensues towards Jesus’ death, is once again going to create a new order. Not in the sense of control but in a new creation and new life that will flow from within.
When you think about it, even the charge brought against Jesus would not necessarily warrant death. The crowd says that he claims to be Son of God. However, again, from the very beginning, they too are sons and daughters of God but over time begin to sway from trusting that voice of the divine, giving into the fear, chaos, and confusion, and used by the people of power to bring down this guy Jesus. This new created order that John says community is to become is a community that is once again rooted in that ancient of beliefs, that they are sons and daughters of God but from the beginning are lost from due to sin, due to thinking that they’re more than that, that they are God. But when there is pressure from the authorities, who try to convince that they hold the truth and will manipulate into believing, it’s the voice of the divine that is crucified. It is the community that now stands trial as to what and who it is they are going to become in the midst of a hostile world. Will they follow the ruler of this world or of the Kingdom, as Jesus claims in the Passion account.
All leading to the climactic scene of Jesus on the cross, standing, as John tells us, literally in the middle of the tension and in the middle of all the hostility being cast upon him in these moments. But unlike ourselves often, Jesus takes it in. When vinegar and bitterness are placed upon his lips, unlike the other gospels, Jesus drinks. He consumes the bitterness. He consumes the anger. He consumes the fear. He consumes chaos and confusion. He consumes all that is thrown at him, appearing that the world has finally won. There is finally a verdict and the verdict stands with the status quo. It stands with what we so often choose as well, to destroy the one who is perceived as the problem in order to make ourselves feel better. It’s so much easier to spew hatred and bitterness upon the world, but Jesus consumes it. He consumes the bitter herbs that are cast upon him but not to show violence towards the world. Rather, to transform it.
Yet, it’s still not finished. When that bitterness is consumed by Christ, and rather than casting judgment upon them and the world, a lance is cast into his side and blood and water flow out. In that very moment of consumption of all that the world has thrown at Jesus, a new community is formed. Just as blood and water flow from the womb of the mother, now blood and water flows from the side of Jesus and a community of love is formed. All the bitterness, chaos, and confusion are transformed and recreated into new life and this community is birthed. It’s no longer based simply on doctrine. Even Jesus stands trial for that and nothing can be found against him. It’s not a community based on ideology or anything else. Rather, it’s a community of love that flows from the side of Jesus.
We come to this second prayer of Easter as we reflect upon the passion according to John. John isn’t about a community but shows the path towards a community that is rooted in love. From a God who humbles and comes down to the earth, to a God who humbles and gets on his knees and washes the feet of the disciples, including Judas, to now a God who points to yet a deeper love and an opportunity to participate in that deeper love by going into the depths of the earth, into the new tomb as John tells us in order to transform all that has died. Blood and water flow from the womb, blood and water flow from the side, blood and water will flow from the tomb and this new community of love will form. That’s what John believed to be true of any community that puts the Cross at its center.
As we come to venerate this Cross in a few moments, we come with grateful hearts. Sure we recognize the sacrifice that has been made for us, redeemed for our sins, but it’s much more than that. It’s not just about something being done for us. It’s also about something being done to us and in us John would say. We can’t stop short in being a community of love. We must take those final steps, when we find ourselves on trial ourselves and juror at times. Which voice is going to give us the eternal truth? Do we form our lives and community around popular opinion and what’s most acceptable or will we take the often more difficult path of trusting the divine. We too stand at the center of it all and are often left with choices ourselves. It’s very easy to become consumed by chaos and confusion and to spew the bitterness of our own lives onto others and the world. It’s easy. It’s going with the crowd today, so easily convinced. In that moment the divine is crucified again and again. Yet, we come with gratitude because God continues to invite us back to this very place and in this moment, calling to mind to our own truest identity, as sons and daughters of God. If it were only as easy to convince ourselves of that then blood and water would flow from us as well, co-creators in this world.
In the midst of hostility, bitterness, confusion, fear, and chaos, Jesus stands trial. It’s the alignment of the feast and the hour as we heard last night and that time has finally arrived. We pray for that grace, in these moments of our own lives, that we too will choose our own bitterness and hostility to be transformed by the divine in order that we may continue to become that community of love that John desired. It takes a great deal of sacrifice and pain along the way, letting go, and allowing ourselves to be transformed by Love in order to be love. On this Good Friday we pray for that grace for Love to touch our hearts in a deeper way, through our own chaos and hostility, touching the blood and water as they flow in order to make us a new creation, a community of love.