Perspectives, Purposes and Meanings
Begin by reading through the four major scenes. Make note of things that you did not notice before or remember. John notices different things than the other Gospel writers, so it is likely to have questions. (For further study: Mt 26 & 27 | Mk 14 & 15 | Lk 22 & 23)
Four Major Scenes:
1- Arrest in the Garden (John skips the agony prayer) [18:1-11]
2-Interrogation by the offended parties (former and current High Priest?!) [18:12-27]
3- Trial of will and wits Between Pilate and Jesus [18:28-19:16]
4-Golgotha Glorified [19:17-42]
Death and triumph – through all of the Passion Story, there is the shadow of death, betrayal, corruption, greed, and lust for power which is in turn overshadowed by the glorification of the Son, authentic friendship and family, forgiveness, clarity of authority and supremely demonstrated love. The hour of glory has come, yet it does not look like shiny brass and diamonds.
- Can you think of a time when a loved one died and the family was glad that their family member was spared further pain?
- How does Jesus make death more than just bearable, but a triumph?
- Other religious rebels were killed in the same way, so that any hint of a rebellion was squelched. Was there any way to actually stop Jesus?
- There is a sense to triumph in death within created order as Jesus predicts in his cryptic response to Philip [12:24] after his Palm Sunday that in order for a grain of wheat to bear fruit, it must fall to the earth and die. Does this make “natural” sense to you? Or is death always ugly?
- Is death really necessary? What else could God have done to ensure the permanent glorification? Is it possible to have an Easter without a Good Friday?
Love’s application that does not look like love–“The crucifixion both fractures and reconstitutes the familiar patterns of fatherly love. At one level the crucifixion is utterly inexplicable on the basis of love. Ordinarily, a father who loved his son would do everything possible to protect the child from harm. No loving father would allow his son to be treated this way. Yet God is no ordinary Father and Jesus is no ordinary Son. John finds that in the end, the only thing that explains the inexplicable is love. If God truly loves the world as well as the son, then the only way to bring the world back to relationship is by communicating love to it. And God does this in the crucifixion. The Son is able to bring love into the world because he receives love from his Father(3:35; 10:17). The Son is also willing to bring love into the world because he himself loves the Father(14:31; 15:9-10). Love is what the Father and Son share, and this love is what is given to human beings—through the life and death of Jesus. The reason is that the love that comes from God makes it possible for people to relate to both Father and Son and to become part of a community that is shaped by their love (17:23-26).” -The Word of Life: A Theology of John’s Gospel by Craig R. Koester (2008, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)
- What is the most painful part of the crucifixion, in your opinion, for Jesus to lovingly endure? The nailing? The slow suffocation? The naked humiliation? The giving up of his family to another? The dehydration? Remember, Jesus chose this 18.4.
- Those who claim to follow and love Jesus—do they show it? Do we only love others when things are good?
- Notice also how Judas is contrasted as acting outside of love. Judas is described in the arrest scene as “standing with them.” How do you feel when you are singled out for doing something loving versus doing something that smacks of betrayal?
- When the side of Jesus is pierced, so that the soldiers can be sure he is really dead, blood and water come out. Do you see this also as a connection to the sacraments of love—Baptism and Communion?
Light and darkness–In the midst of darkness, the story takes shape with the arrest. Jesus and his disciples are outside the city’s lights (as primitive as they were) and on the other side of the city’s wall in an olive tree filled garden and hillside. This is the “dark side of town,” a quieter place that Jesus and his disciples frequented. They come to arrest him with lanterns and torches. It is not too hard to imagine the faces of the leaders confronting the rag-tag band of Jesus followers with torchlight flickers illuminating small patches of their faces. A detachment of Roman soldiers (around 600) and police of the High priest’s office are all there, literally crowding around him. Is it overkill, or were they concerned about the rumors of his previous “slips through the crowd.” That many people, even in light battle gear, makes a dark muffled sound to the already present darkness. Yet, as John records Jesus saying, he is “the Light of the World.” Before each authority, Jesus behaves with dignity, compassion, and composure. Even in the well-lit shiny walls of Pilate’s praetorium, Jesus seems like the only brightness of innocence.
- What do you make of Pilate—historically known as an exceptionally nasty person, now almost speechless in the presence of Jesus? Can such great, arrogant, and powerful people be unnerved?
- Jesus proclaims within Pilate’s headquarters, “My kingdom is not from this world.” Imagine the bright shining golden streets by comparison with where Jesus is now. Would you ever chose to leave the beauty of heaven to be in the midst of darkness like he was then?
- The last thing that Pilate says to Jesus is “What is truth?” I have always imagined him saying this sarcastically. What if it had a ring of truth (pardon the pun) to the question? What if Pilate was really trying to figure out truth amidst so many false shreds of authority, power, politics, and information? Certainly it is a challenge for leaders to “keep the peace” sometimes hiding the small truths to keep the greater truths of society safe. What about, though, when even the larger truths are lost in the mess and shuffle?
- How is Pilate’s inscription “King of the Jews” a mixed sign of light and darkness, glory and contempt? Why does he seem to defend it [19:19-22]? What would you have the sign read?
Where would you be standing in relation to the cross? In 19.25 and following, John describes who was still there near the cross. Who was not there? What sorts of things bring you closer to the cross?
What do you think about the statement, “If Jesus forgives you, what does it matter?” Does the pain and agony of the cross as an extreme gift of love mean that our responses should be similar? What if our following of Jesus is less than spectacular? What does the radical love of Jesus demand?