Scripture: Lectionary # 41, April 6, Good Friday. Isaiah 52:13”12. Psalm 31:2.6.12-13.15-16.17.25. Hebrews 4:14-16.5:7-9. John 18:1-19:42
Good Friday is the most solemn day of the year for us Christians. We usually have the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified around three o’clock. It is more a Scriptural and dramatic worship service without the Eucharistic Prayers and the words of the institution. Communion is taken from the tabernacle in the Catholic celebration of the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified, a name given to it, to distinguish it from the Eucharistic celebrations throughout the year, which are the mass proper. This brings to our minds and hearts the fact that Jesus has died and is not yet risen. The ceremony is powerful in the reading of the Passion—always from St. John.
We are prepared for this reading by the Fourth Suffering Servant Song of Isaiah, from Psalm 31, and from two selections joined together from the Epistle to the Hebrews. With the spirit and context of these readings the Passion Narrative is enhanced. John, the Theologian Evangelist,is read every Good Friday. It involves distinct persons in its unfolding: Judas, Peter, Caiphas, Annas, Pilate, the four women named Mary, the Beloved Disciple, and then Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. John weaves a complete fabric of persons who are part of the Gospel; some even from the beginning chapters. It makes me think of the seamless robe of Jesus that the soldiers did not tear apart but threw dice for.
We see that Jesus is powerfully central to this Passion Narrative and is throughout the Master of the situations that follow in the sequence of what happened on Good Friday. Jesus has the power to call upon legions but does not. He has the power to not only outwit Pilate but also to tell Pilate that he is a king not of the worldly realm but of a transcendent one where there is no need for weapons or men dedicated to fighting. The versicle taken from Philippians 2:8-9 gives us a good summary statement of the Passion Narrative and is used as the versicle before the Narrative is read: “Christ became obedient for us even to death, death on a cross. Therefore, God raised him on high and gave him the name above all other names.”
By following the persons and the drama of this day on which Christ died made me think of the seamless robe again. Each person has his or her part in the Passion Narrative for good or for bad, but they all form a part of what is happening to Jesus and all are necessary to the scenes that are knit together in seven sequences. Almost all scholars have noted these seven and matched them with a chiastic pattern. The seamless garment is thus signified also by the seven signs in John’s Gospel as well as these seven segments that match each other in a literary pattern. Even the goings in and goings out of the praetorium by Pilate are part of this intricate seamless narrative.
The roles of each person are the putting together into one piece the garment of Jesus. Even the beginning of the Book of Glory and Love (Agape) in chapters 13-21 are able to be seen in the robe. In chapter 13 the first verse shows us Jesus’ ever enduring and total love for all of us. His washing of the feet demands that he divest himself of his robe and his inward garments before he is totally the servant of his beloved disciples including Judas. No one is excluded from this Gospel; neither Jew nor Gentile; neither soldiers nor women who are faitful amidst the terrible drama of the Crucifixion. We can admire the statement of Jesus and apply it to the seamless robe: It is finished (Consummatum est). Amen.