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
1 After he had said all this, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron valley where there was a garden into which he went with his disciples. 2 Judas the traitor knew the place also, since Jesus had often met his disciples there, 3 so Judas brought the cohort to this place together with guards sent by the chief priests and the Pharisees, all with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Knowing everything that was to happen to him, Jesus came forward and said, 'Who are you looking for?' 5 They answered, 'Jesus the Nazarene.' He said, 'I am he.' Now Judas the traitor was standing among them. 6 When Jesus said to them, 'I am he,' they moved back and fell on the ground. 7 He asked them a second time, 'Who are you looking for?' They said, 'Jesus the Nazarene.' 8 Jesus replied, 'I have told you that I am he. If I am the one you are looking for, let these others go.' 9 This was to fulfil the words he had spoken, 'Not one of those you gave me have I lost.' 10 Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. 11 Jesus said to Peter, 'Put your sword back in its scabbard; am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?'
12 The cohort and its tribune and the Jewish guards seized Jesus and bound him. 13 They took him first to Annas, because Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 It was Caiaphas who had counselled the Jews, 'It is better for one man to die for the people.'
15 Simon Peter, with another disciple, followed Jesus. This disciple, who was known to the high priest, went with Jesus into the high priest's palace, 16 but Peter stayed outside the door. So the other disciple, the one known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the door-keeper and brought Peter in. 17 The girl on duty at the door said to Peter, 'Aren't you another of that man's disciples?' He answered, 'I am not.' 18 Now it was cold, and the servants and guards had lit a charcoal fire and were standing there warming themselves; so Peter stood there too, warming himself with the others.
19 The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 Jesus answered, 'I have spoken openly for all the world to hear; I have always taught in the synagogue and in the Temple where all the Jews meet together; I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why ask me? Ask my hearers what I taught; they know what I said.' 22 At these words, one of the guards standing by gave Jesus a slap in the face, saying, 'Is that the way you answer the high priest?' 23 Jesus replied, 'If there is some offence in what I said, point it out; but if not, why do you strike me?' 24 Then Annas sent him, bound, to Caiaphas the high priest.
25 As Simon Peter stood there warming himself, someone said to him, 'Aren't you another of his disciples?' He denied it saying, 'I am not.' 26 One of the high priest's servants, a relation of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said, 'Didn't I see you in the garden with him?' 27 Again Peter denied it; and at once a cock crowed.
28 They then led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the Praetorium. It was now morning. They did not go into the Praetorium themselves to avoid becoming defiled and unable to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came outside to them and said, 'What charge do you bring against this man?' They replied, 30 'If he were not a criminal, we should not have handed him over to you.' 31 Pilate said, 'Take him yourselves, and try him by your own Law.' The Jews answered, 'We are not allowed to put anyone to death.' 32 This was to fulfil the words Jesus had spoken indicating the way he was going to die.
33 So Pilate went back into the Praetorium and called Jesus to him and asked him, 'Are you the king of the Jews?' 34 Jesus replied, 'Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others said it to you about me?' 35 Pilate answered, 'Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?' 36 Jesus replied, 'Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. As it is, my kingdom does not belong here.' 37 Pilate said, 'So, then you are a king?' Jesus answered, 'It is you who say that I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this, to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.' 38 'Truth?' said Pilate. 'What is that?' And so saying he went out again to the Jews and said, 'I find no case against him. 39 But according to a custom of yours I should release one prisoner at the Passover; would you like me, then, to release for you the king of the Jews?' 40 At this they shouted, 'Not this man,' they said, 'but Barabbas.' Barabbas was a bandit.
19:1 Pilate then had Jesus taken away and scourged; 2 and after this, the soldiers twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on his head and dressed him in a purple robe. 3 They kept coming up to him and saying, 'Hail, king of the Jews!' and slapping him in the face. 4 Pilate came outside again and said to them, 'Look, I am going to bring him out to you to let you see that I find no case against him.' 5 Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said, 'Here is the man.' 6 When they saw him, the chief priests and the guards shouted, 'Crucify him! Crucify him!' Pilate said, 'Take him yourselves and crucify him: I find no case against him.' 7 The Jews replied, 'We have a Law, and according to that Law he ought to be put to death, because he has claimed to be Son of God.'
8 When Pilate heard them say this his fears increased. 9 Re-entering the Praetorium, he said to Jesus, 'Where do you come from?' But Jesus made no answer. 10 Pilate then said to him, 'Are you refusing to speak to me? Surely you know I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?' 11 Jesus replied, 'You would have no power over me at all if it had not been given you from above; that is why the man who handed me over to you has the greater guilt.'
12 From that moment Pilate was anxious to set him free, but the Jews shouted, 'If you set him free you are no friend of Caesar's; anyone who makes himself king is defying Caesar.' 13 Hearing these words, Pilate had Jesus brought out, and seated him on the chair of judgement at a place called the Pavement, in Hebrew Gabbatha. 14 It was the Day of Preparation, about the sixth hour. 'Here is your king,' said Pilate to the Jews. 15 But they shouted, 'Away with him, away with him, crucify him.' Pilate said, 'Shall I crucify your king?' The chief priests answered, 'We have no king except Caesar.' 16 So at that Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. They then took charge of Jesus,
17 and carrying his own cross he went out to the Place of the Skull or, as it is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, 18 where they crucified him with two others, one on either side, Jesus being in the middle. 19 Pilate wrote out a notice and had it fixed to the cross; it ran: 'Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews'. 20 This notice was read by many of the Jews, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the writing was in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. 21 So the Jewish chief priests said to Pilate, 'You should not write "King of the Jews", but that the man said, "I am King of the Jews". ' 22 Pilate answered, 'What I have written, I have written.'
23 When the soldiers had finished crucifying Jesus they took his clothing and divided it into four shares, one for each soldier. His undergarment was seamless, woven in one piece from neck to hem; 24 so they said to one another, 'Instead of tearing it, let's throw dice to decide who is to have it.' In this way the words of scripture were fulfilled: They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothes. That is what the soldiers did.
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. 26 Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, 'Woman, this is your son.' 27 Then to the disciple he said, 'This is your mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
28 After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed and, so that the scripture should be completely fulfilled, he said: I am thirsty. 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there; so, putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a hyssop stick, they held it up to his mouth. 30 After Jesus had taken the wine he said, 'It is fulfilled'; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit.
31 It was the Day of Preparation, and to avoid the bodies' remaining on the cross during the Sabbath -- since that Sabbath was a day of special solemnity -- the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away. 32 Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then of the other. 33 When they came to Jesus, they saw he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs 34 one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water.
35 This is the evidence of one who saw it -- true evidence, and he knows that what he says is true -- and he gives it so that you may believe as well. 36 Because all this happened to fulfil the words of scripture: Not one bone of his will be broken; 37 and again, in another place scripture says: They will look to the one whom they have pierced.
38 After this, Joseph of Arimathaea, who was a disciple of Jesus -- though a secret one because he was afraid of the Jews -- asked Pilate to let him remove the body of Jesus. Pilate gave permission, so they came and took it away. 39 Nicodemus came as well -- the same one who had first come to Jesus at night-time -- and he brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, following the Jewish burial custom. 41 At the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in this garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been buried. 42 Since it was the Jewish Day of Preparation and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
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 19: 25–27). 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 19, 6). Thus begins for Jesus 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 fulfil the words he had spoken, "Not one of those you gave me have I lost". (Jn 18: 4-9)
“Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe” (Jn 19: 5),
Jesus replied, “You would have no power over me at all, if it had not been given you from above.” (Jn 19: 11).
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 19: 31-33), but commits his spirit (Jn 19: 30). 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 19: 26-27). 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 19: 5). 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, his sister Mary of Cleophas and Mary Magdalene together with the beloved disciple (Jn 19: 25).
- Beloved and faithful disciples
The fourth Gospel specifies that these disciples “stood by the cross” (Jn 19: 25-26). 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 23: 49). 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 27: 55–56). Like Matthew, Mark gives us the names of those who followed the death of Jesus from afar (Mk 15: 40-41). 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 19: 30). The mother of Jesus is present at the hour that finally “has come”. That hour foretold at the wedding feast of Cana (Jn 2: 1ff). 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?
(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”