St John 19: 16b – 30
So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many 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. Then 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.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” When 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. So 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.”
And 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. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A 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. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
The death of Jesus unites God to every human death and every death throughout the universe. The cross reveals that God experiences death from the inside; not only the isolation, injustice and humiliation but also the excruciating pain of torture. The Mystery of Life, the Life-Giver of the Universe, the One we call God, is intimately present in all death. God’s presence does not negate the suffering nor circumvent the power of humanity to inflict pain and commit murder. Yet the message of Christianity, a paradox, is that the God who is seemingly absent, absolutely absent, is present and brings peace, shalom, and new life out of death.
The sixteenth century mystic, St John of the Cross, was tortured by Carmelite monks who resisted his religious reforms. Confined to the tiniest of cells and existing on the most meagre rations, John was regularly beaten and whipped. In his reflections, he said that he found God weeping with him. In a poem entitled, ‘I Cobbled their Boots’, St John wrote:
How could I love my fellow men who tortured me?
One night I was dragged into a room
and beaten near death with
striking me hundreds of times
in the face, scarring me forever.
I cried out for God to help, until I fainted.
That night in a dream, in a dream more real than this world,
a strap from the Christ’s sandal
fell from my bleeding
and I looked at Him and He
was weeping, and
‘I cobbled their boots;
how sorry I am’…..
Let us pray.
We lay before You, O God,
the pain, suffering, injustice and death,
the endless aching and agony
of our world.
This is holy ground.
There are no words for moments such as these.
May we be still,
be open to Your transforming Presence,
and let Your Spirit lift us
as surely as You raised Jesus
from the dead,
as surely as You birth new stars and new life
from death in the universe.