Gospel of the Passion: John 18-19:30
Text: John 13:1; 19: 25-27, 30
Hear John’s Gospel words echoing from Holy Thursday night’s table fellowship with His closest friends on into the horrid scene on Good Friday:
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
“Having loved his own, he loved them to the end.” -
He, though bearing the excruciating pain from the weight of
His body pulling down on His nail-pierced hands,
and the tension on His feet, made immovable by that third nail, causing Him to gasp for breath, that strained every muscle in His body, looked down at the only ones who let themselves be seen as His followers:
his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene…and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, Singling out two, His mother and the disciple we name John, He said,
‘Woman, here is your son.’ ‘Here is your mother.’
His ministry of loving “to the end.” And in that act of love, according to John’s Gospel,
Jesus worked to create an earthly community of His caring and compassion followers, beginning with His mother, Mary, and John.
But John’s account leaves them the nameless recipients of His charge.
Just “Woman” and “the disciple whom he loved.”
Nameless, so new names may be inserted every time the charge is read and heard, as we do on this Good Friday, 2018.
“Woman,” grieving the recent death of a loved one,
perhaps leaving her without financial as well as
“woman” grieving the loss of a child dying in her arms from disease or starvation, or a teen torn from her life by drugs or bullets, or bullying or false arrest and sentencing.
And, “loving disciple,” baptized, confirmed – to care for another, as one liturgy issues the charge: to “witness to the work and word of Jesus, as best you are able.” (UCC Book of Worship, 1986, p.161)
New disciple, as new as last Palm Sunday’s rite of Confirmation or soon-to-be confirmed at Pentecost.
New names that carry the scene at the foot of the cross where Jesus’ last earthly act of love was to provide for His mother, into a new-found ministry to others, beginning with those closest to them.
“This,” as Fr. Thomas Rosica (a Canadian Roman Catholic priest and a Basilian Father, Chief Executive Officer of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation) preached on Good Friday in 2016:
“…is the story of human communities welcoming the Lord and Savior into their midst; a story of human warmth, comfort and consolation in the midst of death, watching and waiting, hoping and praying, dying and rising, mercy and tenderness.”
But then he knew he had to say,
“We forget that the very origin of the Church was Calvary, a true conception and birth in interpersonal communion, mutual acceptance, compassion and consolation which hold the community together.”
Jesus’ ministry of loving to the end…giving His body, the Church, a beyond Good Friday ministry when hearing:
‘ Woman, here is your son.’ ‘Here is your mother.’
“Having loved his own, he loved them to the end.” – to the very end!
To His last gasp used to release the words to be heard resounding through all the earth and to the highest heavens:
“It is finished.”
Loving to the end, the end that ends with “It is finished!” spoken as one word: Tetelestai! as it was heard in the time of Good Friday:
when an artist stood back to look at his finished painting,
when a servant said an assignment was completed,
when a judge issued a ruling,
when a merchant stamped a bill that was paid,
when a Temple priest announced an unblemished prescribed animal had been sacrificed according to Hebrew law. (Adapted from “It is Finished!” Jesus does not need your help by Tony Miano 9/24/12, https://carm.org/devotion-it-is- finished)
The last word of Jesus, the Artist, servant, judge, merchant, priest
having finished crafting our humanity into His likeness,
having finished serving us to the depths of our brokenness,
having finished pardoning us with His sentence of grace,
having finished sacrificing Himself as the ultimate evidence of His loving to the end!
Pray that we are today’s unnamed woman, unnamed disciple,
turned by His love to ministries of love,
and hearing His “It is finished!” sing with the pastor- poet, George Matheson, who though blind could see what Jesus finished on Calvary’s cross:
O cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
and from the ground there blossoms red
life that shall endless be. -
“Having loved his own to the end,” and loving US to the end
Thanks be to God for this unspeakable Gift! AMEN!