Good morning! Today in John’s gospel (chapters 18-19) we read the description of Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion and burial. Though the order of events here largely concurs with that of other gospels, John makes some unique tweaks to these episodes to underscore theological points about what happened in the crucifixion.
Astute readers will catch that John shifts the day Jesus is crucified. Mark and other gospels emphasize that the Last Supper was a seder meal at the start of Passover, which meant that Jesus was crucified after Passover had already begun. However, John says repeatedly that Jesus is put on trial before Pilate on the “Day of Preparation” before the Passover. Jesus is crucified around noon on the same day, just when lambs would have been killed at the temple so their blood could be used in Passover rituals that evening. This serves John’s theological symbolism that Jesus is the “Passover Lamb”, and it links the ancient story of liberation from slavery with the Jesus metaphor of liberation from sin.
Another major emphasis of John’s crucifixion narrative is how Jesus continues to be totally in control. Jesus initiates the conversation with the mob at the time of his arrest, and then repeats his question about their intent when the initial “I AM” of his reply pushes them to the ground. At the crucifixion, Jesus carries the cross without any help, chooses his words at the right time in order to fulfil scripture, and betrays no sign of agony before dying. He even takes time from the cross to arrange a new family arrangement, lining up “the disciple whom he loved” with his mother, so that they live as mother/son from that time on. Such created relationships give evidence that Jesus recognizes the importance of “chosen” family, revealed especially in times of great challenge. Lesbian, bisexual, transgender, gay and otherwise queer people may take comfort from this evidence, since our biological family members are not universally supportive in our lives.
Note in closing that Nicodemus emerges once more, this time with a conspicuous amount of burial spices. If at first he snuck in to see Jesus at night, now he goes out of his way with others to provide for Jesus’ body. We’ll see what happens with that body when we return to “the garden” tomorrow. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is John 20-21. Thanks for reading!