Saturday in the Thirty-First Week of Ordinary Time

John 19:1-16

Our Sin Begins to Be Measured

It gets uglier.  We read John’s Gospel separately because it relates more of this part of the account than the other three.  In John, Pilate flogs Jesus before he is condemned; in the other three gospels, he is scourged after being condemned.  The notes in my ESV Study Bible tell me that Jesus could very well have been whipped twice, a “light” whipping before Jesus was condemned which Pilate hoped would satisfy the Jews, which was then followed by the horrific Roman scourging after condemnation was pronounced.  Anyone who has seen The Passion of the Christ knows how horrible scourging was, and many died from that before even reaching the cross.  (Embedded in the leather straps were pieces of bone and metal.)  But it may be significant that the gospels do not go into detail about it, but simply say that Jesus was scourged.  (Leon Morris writes that the gospel writers do not seek to play on our emotions, Commentary, NICNT, 790.)  This is all intertwined with the soldiers beating and mocking him with a crown of thorns and purple robe.  And again the irony of it all is that they mock and abuse the King of kings and Lord of lords, who still had twelve legions of angels at his beck and call.  (I like to picture them at the ready, full of indignation, and chomping at the bit for the call that never comes.)

And poor Pilate can’t seem to get this monkey off his back, no matter what he does.  When he hears the Jews say that Jesus made himself to be the Son of God, well then he’s really scared – but probably more from superstition than anything else; after all, he fears Caesar more when threatened by a snitch.  In desperation he interviews Jesus again and, when Jesus remains silent, which Pilate angrily interprets as disrespect, he reminds him that he can release him or crucify him.  Jesus actually means no disrespect.  He knows Pilate gets his authority from above (Romans 13:1-7).  I wrote yesterday of how ugly politics can be.  Just before Pilate condemns Jesus, he says to the chief priests mockingly, “Shall I crucify your king?”  And they answer, “We have no king but Caesar,” which is something that they never would have said under any other circumstances.

And still it gets uglier.  Why must this be?  God shows us in the passion of our Lord just how ugly WE are.  You see, the measure of my sin is the measure of my Lord’s suffering for my sin.  All the ugliness and darkness is there to show me all the ugliness and darkness inside of me.  His suffering was in payment for my sin, so that payment had to be equivalent to my sin.  The ugliness of our Lord’s suffering is the measure of the ugliness of our sin.

The Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

John 17:11-19

He Guards and He Keeps

For about three years now, Jesus has walked and talked, lived and prayed for these eleven men.  He has poured his heart into them, forgiven their sins, and lovingly corrected their flaws.  They so often misunderstood even his most basic sayings, and yet Jesus was patient and kind with them.  In short, Jesus kept them and guarded them as little children, as a mother nursing her young (1 Thessalonians 2:7).

And just like a mother who is sending her young one out into the world, Jesus is understandably concerned for their safety and well-being.  Jesus prays, “I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.  Holy Father, keep them in your name.”  Jesus has done what he was supposed to do.  He gave them the Father’s word, he lost none except the one who was lost, and he has given unto these men his own joy through the word he has spoken to them.  But he also knows that the world hates them and will always hate them, and that this is the very world into which he is sending them, and he won’t be there to guard and keep them any longer.  And so he says, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”  They cannot be taken out of the world, for these are the very foundation of the Church.  But he can pray for their continued protection by the very One who gave them to Jesus in the first place.

And so Jesus further asks the Father to “sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”  The best way to guard and keep these men now that Jesus will leave them is to set them apart, consecrate them, in the truth of God’s word, the very word Jesus had given them.  And please note, the Scripture does not say, “your word is true,” an adjective expressing the idea that God’s word must conform to some outward standard of truth in order to be judged true; no, “[God’s] word is truth,” a noun indicating that God’s word is the truth by which all other things (ideas, words, actions, in short, everything else) are judged to be true.  God’s word is truth itself, the standard by which all other things are judged.  It is this that sanctifies us as the Holy Spirit applies it to our lives.  And it is this word that we must share with others.  And so that this word should sanctify us, and so that we may go out into the world with the Spirit’s power, Jesus consecrated himself to the task of suffering which was before him and bore the cross.  It is the word that sanctifies us for ministry, that makes us fit to go out and bear the hostility of this unfriendly world.  His word is truth; may we make it our food and drink.