John 18:1–19:42 (NRSV)
Chapter 18After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Verse 2Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. Verse 3So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Verse 4Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, "Whom are you looking for?" Verse 5They answered, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus replied, "I am he." Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. Verse 6When Jesus said to them, "I am he," they stepped back and fell to the ground. Verse 7Again he asked them, "Whom are you looking for?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." Verse 8Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go." Verse 9This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, "I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me." Verse 10Then 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. Verse 11Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?" Verse 12So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him.
Verse 13First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Verse 14Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people. Verse 15Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, Verse 16but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. Verse 17The woman said to Peter, "You are not also one of this man's disciples, are you?" He said, "I am not." Verse 18Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself. Verse 19Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Verse 20Jesus answered, "I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Verse 21Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said." Verse 22When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, "Is that how you answer the high priest?" Verse 23Jesus answered, "If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?" Verse 24Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. Verse 25Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, "You are not also one of his disciples, are you?" He denied it and said, "I am not." Verse 26One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, "Did I not see you in the garden with him?" Verse 27Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
Verse 28Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate's headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. Verse 29So Pilate went out to them and said, "What accusation do you bring against this man?" Verse 30They answered, "If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you." Verse 31Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law." The Jews replied, "We are not permitted to put anyone to death." Verse 32(This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.) Verse 33Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Verse 34Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" Verse 35Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" Verse 36Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." Verse 37Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that 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." Verse 38Pilate asked him, "What is truth?" After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, "I find no case against him. Verse 39But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?" Verse 40They shouted in reply, "Not this man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a bandit.
Chapter 19Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. Verse 2And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. Verse 3They kept coming up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and striking him on the face. Verse 4Pilate went out again and said to them, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him." Verse 5So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" Verse 6When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him." Verse 7The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God." Verse 8Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. Verse 9He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, "Where are you from?" But Jesus gave him no answer. Verse 10Pilate therefore said to him, "Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" Verse 11Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." Verse 12From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, "If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor." Verse 13When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge's bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Verse 14Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, "Here is your King!" Verse 15They cried out, "Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!" Pilate asked them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but the emperor."
Verse 16Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; Verse 17and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. Verse 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.
Verse 19Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Verse 20Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Verse 21Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" Verse 22Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written." Verse 23When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. Verse 24So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it." This was to fulfill what the scripture says, "They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots." Verse 25And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Verse 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Verse 27Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. Verse 28After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), "I am thirsty." Verse 29A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. Verse 30When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Verse 31Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Verse 32Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. Verse 33But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Verse 34Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. Verse 35(He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) Verse 36These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, "None of his bones shall be broken." Verse 37And again another passage of scripture says, "They will look on the one whom they have pierced."
Verse 38After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Verse 39Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. Verse 40They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Verse 41Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. Verse 42And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
What is the very worst thing that we could imagine as God’s people? That answer seems pretty simple: the death of God. And that happened on a Friday. And we call it good! Why? How? When the stock market crashed on a Thursday in 1929, the people called it “Black Thursday.” When soldiers shot dozens of unarmed people in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, in 1972 on a Sunday, it was called “Bloody Sunday.” Why would we call the day on which we mark the death of God “Good Friday”? Linger with that question for a while. Like, all day. Don’t race to the Sunday school answer, or the catechism answer, or even the seminary answer. Just stay with the question. Even knowing the resurrection is coming, why would we call the day of the suffering and death of God “good”? Strip away the roses and gold from your image of the cross, and just linger on the question.
Near the cross! O Lamb of God, bring its scenes before me; help me walk from day to day with its shadow o’er me. Amen.