Good Friday: Celebration of the Lord’s Passion
Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25 (Luke 23:46)
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
April 2, 2021
I begin with two questions. First, who is responsible for the death of Jesus? Secondly, why was He put to death?
We have just heard the story of Jesus’ Passion, the suffering He endured. His Passion brings us salvation. That’s why we read it twice during Holy Week. On Sunday we heard the Passion as told in the Gospel of Mark and today we hear John’s telling.
There is another way in which we recall Jesus’ Passion, the Stations of the Cross. The fourteen stations remind us of what Jesus went through for us.
The First Station is “Jesus is condemned to death.” Here, I return to the two questions I began with. Who is responsible for Jesus’ death and why was He put to death?
Historically, the death of Jesus is attributed to Pilate. It is true that Pilate was the one who gave the order to crucify Jesus. However, while it is no excuse, he approved Jesus’ Crucifixion more to appease the crowd than anything else.
When they brought Jesus to him, Pilate asked, “What charge do you bring against this man?” to which they replied, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.”
In essence, they have no charge to offer.
Pilate will question Jesus himself. He still sees no charge. In fact, Pilate said three times, “I find no guilt in him.” Pilate even tries to release Jesus but the crowds will not let him.
Pilate is culpable in Jesus’ death because he consented to it but he is not the one who desired it.
Who was that brought Jesus to Pilate? It was the Jews who opposed Jesus (not all Jews were bad). They had no civil charge to offer. After Pilate said three times, “I find no guilt in him,” they say, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.”
If Jesus was not who He said He was, they would be right in their charge. However, what He says is true. He is an innocent man.
The Jews wanted Jesus dead for their own purposes. However, they did not have “the right to execute anyone.” That’s why they took him to Pilate. Pilate is the one who has the power to release Jesus or to crucify him.
However, Pilate does not realize the real source of his power in this matter. Jesus responds to Pilate, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”
Who handed Jesus over to the chief priests and the Pharisees? Judas Iscariot. Judas has his share of the blame to bear in this. Just like the Jews who brought Jesus to Pilate.
Ultimately, Jesus was crucified because it was the Father’s Will to bring about our salvation. In John’s Passion, Jesus freely identifies himself as the one they are looking for when Judas Iscariot brings them to him.
Jesus is in control.
It is Jesus who willingly “handed over the spirit.”
Why? Why was Jesus condemned to death?
We find the answer to this question in our first reading from Isaiah. This passage is the last of four Suffering Servant passages in Isaiah.
This one begins with speaking of the servant as one who “shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.” Jesus fulfills this passage but before He is raised up and exalted, He will suffer, “marred was his look beyond human semblance.” Seen on the Cross, He would have been held in “no esteem” by those saw the Crucifixion as his defeat.
In human terms, on the Cross Jesus would hardly be described as one who prospered. Yet, it exactly what God sent him to do.
He accepts the punishment for our sins.
“It was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured…he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins.”
We are the ones who went astray in sin, “each following his own way.” For this, “the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all.”
For us, Jesus “was harshly treated.” For us, for our salvation, He submitted to his Passion.
“Though he had done no wrong,” Jesus was condemned to death as He gave his life as an “offering for sin.” It is “through his suffering” that Jesus justified many, winning pardon for our offenses.
Jesus came to die for us so that we might be saved.
Thus, when we hear Jesus’ last words, “It is finished.”, it is not just his human life that He speaks of. He has completed, He has finished what his Father sent him to do.
Jesus died for us.
Thank you Jesus!