Thursday, April 5, 2012

John 18

     The "easier" elements of Holy Thursday are now past. In John 13-17, Jesus has demonstrated servant leadership, he has expressed his last "farewells" to his closest followers, he has transformed the Seder feast from remembering and reliving the Exodus from Egypt to remembering and reliving his own life and death (later to include the resurrection). He has prayed for his followers. Now comes the more difficult part of the story.
     Judas arrives with a band of soldiers to the Garden of Gethsemane. And Jesus is arrested. He is taken to Caiaphas home. Caiaphas was the High Priest. In the courtyard, Simon Peter denies his connection to Jesus not once, not twice, but three times in the night. The High Priest closely questions Jesus and finally sends him to the Roman Governor, Pontus Pilate.
     Pilate questions Jesus and desires to release him. John presents Pilate as a more cynical participant. We see this in the questions and dialogue between Jesus and the governor. Pilate: so you are a King? Jesus: I am but my kingdom is not of this world. I came to testify to the truth. Pilate: what is truth? (18:33-38). There is something coldly cynical and coldly calculating in Pilate's exchanges here. And what follows it he worse of all. He knows Jesus is not guilty of anything worthy of death and he knows that Jesus is there because the Priests and Pharisees are jealous of him. But he plays the political angle: he moves to make the crowd "happy". Do you want Jesus or do you want Barabbas? John tells us Barabbas was a "bandit". The Greek is closer to "Insurrectionist". His name, Barabbas, means "son of the father". Curious that Jesus, who claims to be the "Son of God" is in this situation with one who is called "Son of the Father." Pilate sentences Jesus to death (but that is tomorrow's story).
   One thing to note: most of this story happens over night (Thursday into Friday). Following the Seder (that begins as Sundown) is the long conversation. Jesus and the Disciples go into the garden after dinner. They are there and they pray and watch and wait. The soldiers come (what time is it now? Midnight? later?). Trip to Annas and to Caiaphas are in the darkness as well. It is in the early morning (Friday) that Jesus is taken to Pilate. . . . Today, tonight, tomorrow, are days to pause, reflect, read, remember.

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