Today's Gospel is taken from St John's Gospel -- John 18:1-19:42. There are three themes running through his Passion Narrative
- Greater love than this no person hath than to lay down one's life for one's friends,
- Christ is master of his own destiny. He freely gives his own life in obedience to the will of His Father.
- Christ's royal status.
With these three themes in mind, I would like you to prayerfully read St. John's Passion Narrative taking note of the verses where the 3 themes occur,
(8). The Problem Of A Crucified Messiah
The problem of a Crucified Messiah was one of the biggest problems for the Early Church. The Book of Deuteronomy states: "God's curse rests on him who hangs on a tree". (Deut. 21:22-23). For the Jews, Jesus' crucifixion put him under this Scriptural curse. They asked: How could One, who died a type of death cursed by God, possibly be the Promised Messiah? The fact that Christ was executed as a criminal on a Cross, was a stumbling block, not only for Jews & Greeks who chose not to believe, but also for Jews & Greeks, who became followers of Christ. (1Cor. 1:23).
The people of Christ's time were expecting a Political Messiah – one who would free them from Roman tyranny. Even the Apostles were expecting a Political Messiah. Just before his Ascension, the Apostles asked Christ: “Are you, at this time, going to restore the Kingdom of Israel?” (Acts 1:6). So, a Crucified Messiah would be totally contrary to their expectations -- seemingly contrary to Scripture -- and so rather difficult to accept.
(2). The Cross As A Stumbling Block -- 1 Cor. 1:22-23.
In his Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul speaks of the Cross as a stumbling block. He realized that the Crucified Christ, whom he proclaimed, was a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. (1 Cor. 1:23). 1.22 -- to quote the words of St. Paul: "For the Jews demand signs & the Greeks look for wisdom but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles...". And yet, for St. Paul, the Crucified Christ is the source of eternal life for all who believe in Him.
(3). Christian Interpretation
The Early Christians interpreted Christ's death on the Cross in the light of the Paschal lamb and the Passover celebrations. By undergoing his passion & death, during the Passover celebrations, Christ intended to show that he is the New Paschal lamb, the shedding of whose blood, would redeem all mankind.
Passion & death, during the Passover
St. Paul declares that "Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed". (1Cor. 5:7). That Christ freely died on the Cross, in obedience to the will of the Father, is a theme that runs through the New Testament, especially the Gospel of St. John. & the writings of St. Paul Even though the Old Testament considered people, who were crucified as cursed, God willed that his Messiah should die such a death and then be raised to new life. God raised & exalted the Man so disgracefully killed to be Lord & Ruler of all mankind.
Letter to the Philippians. (Phil. 2:9-11).
We find a beautiful hymn to the Glorified Christ in St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians.
“Because of this, God greatly exalted Him & bestowed on Him the name that is above every other name that, at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend of those in Heaven & on earth & under that earth & every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father". So, what was the Father's response to Christ's obedience? What beautiful words in praise of the Lord Jesus!
For us, living at the present time, a Crucified Messiah is not a big issue. But, for the Jews of Christ's time, with their deep knowledge of the Old Testament, it was a real stumbling block.
What does St. Paul mean by the paradox of the Cross? Death is the source of eternal life, Life comes through death.
Christ's death on the Cross is the source of eternal life for all of those, who believe in Him.
We all have a wish list. Guess what my wish list is?? That we buy & promote Crosses that have the figure of the Crucified Christ on them. Maybe its because of the way I was brought up, but a cross without the figure of Christ on it, looks very empty & incomplete.