The photo is of our Lord’s tomb in Jerusalem. Today I preached at the Good Friday Celebration of our Lord’s Passion:After the bittersweet Mass of Holy Thursday today we gather for the somber and penitential Good Friday. Today we gather to remember and truly to live the Passion and death of our savior, the true paschal lamb who pours out his life for us—blood and water—Baptism and the Eucharist —from the cross. He passes through the veil into the eternal sanctuary as the great high priest. Today we hear about our Lord’s trial before Pilate. Yet, Saint John is doing something very interesting. If we look at the Gospel passage carefully, we can see that Jesus is actually putting Pilate and the crowd on trial! He is the true King who has real dominion and power. His very person provokes strong reactions. Nobody is indifferent to Him! In the garden when our Lord announces “I AM!” The people fall to the ground. Saint Paul reminds us “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bend” (cf. Phil 2:10) and Psalm 29 says that “the voice of the Lord is power” (29:4). Here our Lord clearly shows who is really in charge and nothing is going to prevent Him from doing the Father’s will.
We can see how Pilate reacts to our Lord. He who declares to our Lord “do you not know that I have power to release you?” Certainly shows his lack of fortitude—he constantly returns to the crowd trying to please them. He is only given the power that God the Father allows him to have, but he gives in bit by bit to evil. Pilate demonstrates to us that if we want to remain with Jesus, we cannot give in to evil, even in one tiny bit. Once we do, then like him, we will eventually cave and become a slave.
Pilate acknowledges that Jesus is the King of the Jews: “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” The frenzied crowd shouts “Barrabas!” They chose the violent criminal over the savior. We can be easily complicit in the same thing when we choose sin over Christ.
Pilate then has our Lord crowned and robed as a king would be. He then reveals him to the people just as a King would be revealed to the people. Pilate sits our Lord in the judges bench. “Behold your king!” Without knowing it, Pilate and the crowd are the ones being judged. They have chosen another to be their king—worldly satisfaction and pleasing the crowds. Who or what is our king? Even on the cross Pilate acknowledges Christ as King when he has an inscription made, “Jesus the Nazorean, the king of the Jews” and it is written in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew—in other words so the whole world can understand this.
When the soldiers give our Lord the wine on the sprig of hyssop, this reminds us very clearly that the blood of the paschal lamb was spread over the doors with a sprig of hyssop. During the exodus, the Israelites were instructed to use hyssop to smear the blood of the Passover lamb on their doorframe to save them from the death of their first born (Ex 12:22). Hyssop was also used in the priestly rites to purge people of leprosy and impurities so that they could draw near God’s presence in the tabernacle. (Lev 14:4-7; 49-53). John presents our Lord as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (1:29) and it is His blood which saves us from spiritual death and purifies us to live in the father’s house (14:2).
This one, whose look was marred beyond appearance (Is 52:14) is the true judge, the true king, the true high priest, and the true paschal lamb. This one bore our sins on the cross not grudgingly but with the full force of his body, his will, his soul, his mind. He pours forth his body and his blood for us. When we read about ancient cultic religions and hear of sacrifice, so often it is the God that requires sacrifice. Or in the case of addictions, we have to die so that it may live.
Here the opposite is true! Our Lord gives His life so we may live. He gives himself freely and with his full power. When we feel as if we cannot go on, we must remember to turn to this true victor. The one who calls us away from sin, away from evil, away from addiction and vice, to face Him. In Him is true life. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:4).