Good Friday, April 18, 2014

 Near the Cross    
 

"So they took Jesus...and crucified him." (vv. 16a, 18a)

 

In 13 and a half verses John tells the heart of the heart of The Story. It's a stark telling. No nails, no Via Dolorosa, little blood. The writer seems focused on showing the Scripture being fulfilled and utterly unconcerned with giving Mel Gibson any fodder.

 

No, John did not give us lowering skies and cracking tombs. Instead he gave us the women. Mary, Mary and Mary standing at the foot of the cross. Standing, as the text says, "near the cross." Long after everybody else had wandered off perhaps, there they are. The three Marys.   Near the cross.

 

I remember a number of years ago seeing an analysis of the passion texts in chart form. The exegete had made columns for each of the gospels along the top of the page and columns for key details along the side. There were perhaps twenty boxes, nineteen of them filled with observations about place, time of day, characters, and actions. One box was blank. "John" it said at the top of the column. "Women's motivation," it said at the left. Stunned, I took my school teacher grading pen out of my drawer. Could it really be that this commentator did not know? Weeping I wrote in gloppy red ink across the empty box. The women were there because they were weeping. Because they loved him. Because they were faithful. Because they could not be anywhere else.

 

John paints a tender picture of human love and faithfulness -- and sets it at the heart of the heart of the gospel.   He casts three of the despised and unnoticed in key parts. When John sits down to tell the Story of our Salvation it is clear that the twin themes of fulfillment and faithfulness are big on his mind.   As, of course, they are on the mind of the God whose love rolled off the side of that hill in waves that afternoon - and echoed in three human hearts.

 

Prayer

Echo in me, O God. Echo in us. That as we are made whole by your tender nearness, we may bless others with your love.

 

Dean Jana Childers 

Dean of the Seminary and Vice-President of Academic Affairs
SFTS Professor of Homiletics and Speech Communicatioon