The Passion and Death of Jesus

John 18:1—19:42
Isa 52:13—53:12 / Ps 31 / Heb 4:14-16,5:7-9

You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.
(John 18:37)

We can’t imagine the kind of pain
Christ endured in His crucifixion,
Let not His suffering then be in vain,
Let’s share His Good news of salvation.

After praying, Jesus and his disciples left and crossed the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, and they went into it. Judas, who betrayed Him, knew the place, as Jesus often met there with His disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Knowing all that was going to happen to Him, Jesus met them and asked, “Who is it you want?” They replied, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said, “I am he,” whereupon they drew back and fell to the ground. Again He asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they said. Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words He had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” Then Simon Peter drew his sword and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought Him first to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in. “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.” It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also stood with them, warming himself. Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about His disciples and His teaching. “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus said. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped Him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why strike me?” Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. Meanwhile, Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of His disciples too, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.” One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a cock began to crow. Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor, but they did not enter the palace, because they did not want to be unclean for the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” They replied, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said, “Take Him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die. Pilate then went back in the palace, called Jesus and asked Him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Is that your own idea, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “Am I a Jew? Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. It is your custom for me to release one prisoner at the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising. Then Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head. They clothed Him in a purple robe and went up to Him, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped Him in the face. Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews “Look, I am bringing Him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against Him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and their officials saw Him, they shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” But Pilate answered, “You take Him and crucify Him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against Him.” The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law He must die, because He claimed to be the Son of God.” Upon hearing this, Pilate was even more afraid, and went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me? Don’t you know I have power to free you or to have you crucified?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement. It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. Finally, Pilate handed Him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying His own cross, He was led out to the place of the Skull (called Golgotha). There they crucified Him, and with Him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. Pilate had a sign prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, king of the jews, written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took His clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did. Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother there, and the disciple He loved nearby, He said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When He had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the two men who had been crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and found that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. Instead, one of them pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, they wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 18:1—19:42)

Reflection

The passion and death of our Lord was an accurate description of Isaiah’s prophecy. This makes it difficult to understand why the Jewish scholars and priests who were familiar with Scriptures could not have seen the connection. The dying words of Jesus, “It is finished” confirmed His completion of that prophecy. Read these selected words of Isaiah in chapter 53, vs.3-13: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, familiar with pain… He took up our pain and bore our suffering… He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed (by the cross) for our iniquities… and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all… led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent… By oppression and judgment He was taken away… for the transgression of my people He was punished… though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer… His life an offering for sin… the will of the LORD will prosper in His hand… After He has suffered, He will see the light of life (Resurrection) and be satisfied; by His knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities… He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for sinners.

Nine times in this compressed prophecy of Isaiah above we read very clearly that Jesus gave up His life as a sacrifice to intercede for mankind’s sins. He was the Lamb that was slaughtered in the Passover for the freedom of man from sins, and He accomplished His mission through a most horrifying crucifixion according to the will of the Father. Our Lord does not expect us to imitate His passion and death even in a small way when He said we must take up our cross and follow Him. He had already “done the job” for us. All that he requires of us is to believe everything that He has taught us in the Bible, and to obey them. As it is written in today’s Second Reading: “Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him” (Heb 5:7-9). Obedience then is the key to our salvation just as He obeyed the will of His Father.

Praise be to You, LORD JESUS, for You have shown us the wonders of Your love on the cross, Your greatest sacrifice for our salvation. All the love in the world pale in comparison to your love, for which we are forever grateful. Help us, LORD, to be worthy of your great love. AMEN.

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