The Fifty-Fifth in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
Jesus has done absolutely nothing wrong. He has spoken only those words which YHWH has given him to speak. He has broken not a single one of God’s commandments in his thinking, in his doing, or in his speech. He has loved God with his whole heart and his neighbor as himself. But the religious leadership of Israel absolutely detests Jesus–this includes the Sanhedrin (the Jewish senate), both main political parties and religious factions (the Saduccess and the Pharisees), the smaller factions (the Herodians and the zealots), as well as many of the chief priests, elders, and biblical scholars (the scribes and teachers of the law). In their minds, Jesus is a blasphemer and a heretic. Although his miracles attest that he is from God, instead, many of the Jewish religious leaders see this as proof that he is in league with the devil. Jesus has spoken of himself as equal with YHWH, he has called himself the true temple as well as the true Israel. He identifies himself as the “Son of Man,” a prophet, and that one foretold throughout the Old Testament. Because people love darkness rather than light (even “religious people”), the Jewish leadership seeks to put an end to Jesus’ messianic mission, even as he seeks to be alone with his disciples to pray. It is hard to imagine, but the sinless Son of God is about to be arrested by an armed mob on the charge of blasphemy, even as one of his own disciples betrays him by revealing where Jesus is to be found. And all the while the citizens of Jerusalem and pilgrims in the city to celebrate the Passover, remain sound asleep only to be rudely awakened as the news of Jesus’s arrest begins to spread.
We continue our series on the Gospel of John, and we enter into the final section of this gospel, the so-called “Passion Narrative.” In the “Passion” section of his gospel, John recounts those events associated with Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion (chapters 18-19), followed by the account of our Lord’s triumphal resurrection from the dead (John 20-21). The first seventeen chapters of John’s gospel have been pointing to those events found in the closing chapters. Jesus’ long-dreaded hour is at hand. The time has come for Jesus to suffer and die, and in doing so, secure eternal life and faith for all those given him by the Father. In his death and resurrection, Jesus will bring glory to both the Father and to himself–the very thing which Jesus sought in the opening portion of his High Priestly Prayer.
One of the things which makes the gospels unique as a literary genre, and which separate them from ordinary biographies, is the presence of a so-called “Passion narrative.” Each of the gospels includes an account of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and brutal death by crucifixion, followed by the account of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Although each of the gospels emphasizes different aspects of Jesus’ passion, when taken together we get a very full eyewitness account of why Jesus was crucified, how his death fulfilled Old Testament prophecy, what this death means (in terms of our salvation), and how his death was not the end of his messianic mission. It is in Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead that many of the hard sayings and unexpected turn of events revealed throughout John’s gospel find their resolution–something which the disciples have been led to expect but were struggling to understand.
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