Lectio Divina: Good Friday
The Passion of Jesus according to John
John 18:1 – 19:42
1. Recollection in prayer – Statio
Come, You who refresh us,
the soul’s delightful guest,
come take away all that is mine,
and pour into me all that is yours.
Come, You who are the nourishment of every chaste thought,
source of all mercies, sum of all purity.
Come and burn away all that in me is cause
of my not being able to be consumed by You.
who are ever with the Father and the Bridegroom,
and rest over the brides of the Bridegroom.
(St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, O.Carm.,
in La Probatione ii, 193-194.)
2. A prayerful reading of the Word – Lectio
From the Gospel according to John
Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to where there was a garden, into which he and his disciples entered. Judas his betrayer also knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards from the chief priests and the Pharisees and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him, went out and said to them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.” He said to them, “I AM.” Judas his betrayer was also with them. When he said to them, “I AM, “they turned away and fell to the ground. So he again asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They said, “Jesus the Nazorean.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I AM. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill what he had said, “I have not lost any of those you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus, bound him, and brought him to Annas first. He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews that it was better that one man should die rather than the people. Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Now the other disciple was known to the high priest, and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus. But Peter stood at the gate outside. So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high priest, went out and spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter in. Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter, “You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire that they had made, because it was cold, and were warming themselves. Peter was also standing there keeping warm. The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his doctrine. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken publicly to the world. I have always taught in a synagogue or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, and in secret I have said nothing. Why ask me? Ask those who heard me what I said to them. They know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said, “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm. And they said to him, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it. And immediately the cock crowed. Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium. It was morning. And they themselves did not enter the praetorium, in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and said, “What charge do you bring against this man?” They answered and said to him, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” At this, Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.” The Jews answered him, “We do not have the right to execute anyone, “ in order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled that he said indicating the kind of death he would die. So Pilate went back into the praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” When he had said this, he again went out to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover. Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this one but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a revolutionary. Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck him repeatedly. Once more Pilate went out and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And he said to them, “Behold, the man!” When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” Now when Pilate heard this statement, he became even more afraid, and went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” Jesus did not answer him. So Pilate said to him, “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “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.” Consequently, Pilate tried to release him; but the Jews cried out, “If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out and seated him on the judge’s bench in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha. It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your king!” They cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier. They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top down. So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be, “in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says: They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots. This is what the soldiers did. Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit. Here all kneel and pause for a short time. Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and that they be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may come to believe. For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled: Not a bone of it will be broken. And again another passage says: They will look upon him whom they have pierced. After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body. Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom. Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.
3. Reflecting on the Word – Meditatio
3.1. A key to the reading:
- Jesus master of His fate
I would like to suggest that we meditate in the spirit of Mary, at the foot of the cross of Jesus. She, the strong woman who understood the full meaning of this event of the passion and death of the Lord, will help us cast a contemplative glance at the crucified (Jn 1:5–27). We are looking at chapter 19 of John’s Gospel, which begins with the scene of the scourging and the crowning with thorns. Pilate presents “Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews” to the chief priests and to the guards who call for His death on the cross (Jn 1:). Thus Jesus begins the way of the cross towards Golgotha, where He will be crucified. In the story of the Passion according to John, Jesus reveals himself as master of himself and in control of all that is happening to Him. John’s text is full of phrases that point to this theological fact, that Jesus offers His life. He actively, not passively, endures the events of the passion. Here are just some examples putting the stress on some phrases and words. The reader may find other examples:
Knowing everything that was to happen to Him, Jesus came forward and said: "Who are you looking for?" They answered, "Jesus the Nazarene". He said, "I am He!". Now Judas the traitor was standing among them. When Jesus said to them "I am He", they moved back and fell on the ground. He asked them a second time, "Who are you looking for?" They said, "Jesus the Nazarene". Jesus replied, "I have told you that I am He. If I am the one you are looking for, let these others go". This was to fulfill the words He had spoken, "Not one of those You gave me have I lost". (Jn 1:-9)
“Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe” (Jn 1:),
Jesus replied, “You would have no power over me at all, if it had not been given you from above.” (Jn 1:1).
On the cross too, Jesus takes an active part in His death, He does not allow himself to be killed like the thieves whose legs were broken (Jn 1:1-33), but commits His spirit (Jn 1:0). The details recalled by the Evangelist are very important: Seeing His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing near her, Jesus said to His mother, “Woman, this is your son.” Then to the disciple He said, “This is your mother.” (Jn 1:6-27). These simple words of Jesus bear the weight of revelation, words that reveal to us His will: “this is your son” (v. 26); “this is your mother” (v. 27). These words also recall those pronounced by Pilate on the Lithostrotos: “This is the man” (Jn 1:). With these words, Jesus on the cross, His throne, reveals His will and His love for us. He is the lamb of God, the shepherd who gives His life for His sheep. At that moment, by the cross, He gives birth to the Church, represented by Mary, her sister (or sister-in-law) Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene, together with the beloved disciple (Jn 1:5).
- Beloved and faithful disciples
The fourth Gospel specifies that these disciples “stood by the cross” (Jn 1:5-26). This detail has a deep meaning. Only the fourth Gospel tells us that these five persons stood by the cross. The other Evangelists do not say so. Luke, for instance, says that all those who knew Him followed the events from a distance (Lk 2:9). Matthew also says that many women followed these events from afar. These women had followed Jesus from Galilee and served Him. But now they followed Him from afar (Mt 2:5–56). Like Matthew, Mark gives us the names of those who followed the death of Jesus from afar (Mk 1:0-41). Thus only the fourth Gospel says that the mother of Jesus and the other women and the beloved disciple “stood by the cross”. They stood there like servants before their king. They are present courageously at a time when Jesus has already declared that “it is fulfilled” (Jn 1:0). The mother of Jesus is present at the hour that finally “has come”. That hour foretold at the wedding feast of Cana (Jn 2:1 ff). The fourth Gospel had remarked then that “the mother of Jesus was there” (Jn 2:1). Thus the person that remains faithful to the Lord in his destiny, he/she is a beloved disciple. The Evangelist keeps this disciple anonymous so that each one of us may see him/herself mirrored in the one who knew the mysteries of the Lord, who laid his head on Jesus’ chest at the last supper (Jn 13:25).
3.1.1. Questions and suggestions to direct our meditation and practice
● Read once more the passage of the Gospel and look in the Bible for the texts mentioned in the key to the reading. Look for other parallel texts that may help us penetrate deeper into the text presented for our meditation.
● In spirit, and with the help of the prayerful reading of John’s text, visit the places of the Passion, stop on Calvary to witness with Mary and the beloved disciple the events of the Passion.
● What struck you most?
● What feelings does this story of the Passion arouse in you?
● What does the fact that Jesus actively bears His passion mean for you?
O Eternal Wisdom, Infinite Goodness, Ineffable Truth, You who probe hearts, Eternal God, help us to understand that You can, know and want to! O Loving and Bleeding Lamb, crucified Christ, fulfill in us that which You said: “Anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12). O perfect light, from whom all lights proceed! O light for whom light was created, without whom all is darkness and with whom all is light. Light up, light up, do light up! Let Your whole will penetrate all the authors and collaborators You have chosen in this work of renewal. Jesus, Jesus love, Jesus, transform us and make us conform to You. Uncreated Wisdom, Eternal Word, sweet Truth, silent Love, Jesus, Jesus Love!
(St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, O.Carm.,
in The Renewal of the Church, 90-91.)
Repeat frequently and calmly these words of Jesus when He offered himself:
“Father into Your hands I commend my spirit”