Updated: Apr 11, 2020
FIRST SCENE: THE GARDEN John 18:1
The presentation of the first scene of the narrative of the passion takes place at a garden in chapter 18:1. The reading tells us that Jesus went out (from the last supper) with his disciples across the Kidron valley to where there was a garden where he and his disciples entered; They used to go there often.
The last scene of "the passion" will also take place in a second garden, only mentioned in chapter 19: 41. At that point, it will speak of the place where Jesus had been crucified; after his death, the reading describes "a garden, and in the garden, there is a tomb in which no one had yet been buried".
Beginning and end framed by a garden, we cannot but remember where sin entered the world. It is in the Garden of Eden where two characters, after lovingly created by God, and placed in such magnificent creation, then, they start to doubt their place in it. They somehow feel they don't have enough from the creator and want more; the narrative in Genesis will have a sad turn for the worst, and they had to leave the Garden for good. The gospel writer John seems to point to the passion as the key to open the gates of the Garden again with the new and definite human son of God, Jesus Christ (the new Adam).
It will be in the Garden also that Jesus will meet Mary Magdalene after the resurrection where he will tell her: "go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God".
We have been brought back into grace with God, thanks to Jesus Christ. Creation has been set straight with his sacrifice on the cross; the Garden of trust and unity with the father is back in function, we have been rescued, we have been made one, and the gospel writer John, beautifully sets the image to start and finish within the Garden.
SECOND SCENE: Whom are you looking for?
This question takes us back to the first time when Jesus spoke in the gospel of John (Jn. 1:36-39). The reading describes two people with John the Baptist (maybe his disciples); at that moment, John the Baptist signals to Jesus and says, "he is the lamb of God."
The two men followed Jesus, and at a certain point, Jesus turns around and asks them what are you looking for? They responded that they wanted to see where he lived, and he says: Come and see !
Whom are you looking for? will also be asked to Mary Magdalene when she meets the risen Christ in the Garden.
This question has to do with discipleship. A true disciple will know why he wants to follow Jesus, learn from him, and just as he is light, then the disciple would eventually become light himself. One of the twelve came to the Garden looking for Jesus, but not to learn from him but to make a profit out of selling him. Judas who is a disciple and knows the place very well, brings soldiers to apprehend Jesus (the opposite of being a disciple).
Jesus asks the soldiers: Whom are you looking for? And when they respond that they look for "Jesus the Nazorean," he will say: I AM. (the question will be asked a second time, and Jesus will answer with the same I AM). The "I AM" repeated so many times in the gospel of John: I am the light of the world, I am the bread of Life, I am the way, the truth, and the Life, etc.
Jesus is in command of the situation, at this point, it is clear what's going to happen. He is ready to be the "I AM" in this moment of upcoming suffering, but before this happens, he will request for his disciples to be spared, "Let these go"; we could not expect any less from the one who said: I Am The Good Shepherd.
Jesus will always care for us, but why do we follow him? For blessings, for favors, for fame and fortune, healing, fear? Is he our teacher? Our master? Do we follow what he tells us, or sometimes we want for him to do what we want?
THIRD SCENE: I'll save you !!
In the same chapter 18, verse 10, Peter decided this had gone too far. He had a sword with him, he got it out and struck the high's priest slave cutting his right ear, we even know his name, he was Malchus.
Maybe he thinks he is the hero for trying to save his master. Jesus stops him and says: "Put your sword back into the scabbard, shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?" (Jesus is faithful, this path of salvation needs his touch, he will not shy away)
Peter must be stunned; maybe he thought Jesus would congratulate him, but instead, Jesus has disapproved of his action in front of everyone (disciples, soldiers, and even Judas).
Peter felt strong enough to defend him; he had told him (in Matthew) I would lay down my life for you. He felt this was the moment and the way to show him his inner fire and worth, only to be scolded because Jesus didn't approve of this method.
FOURTH SCENE: I AM NOT !!
Peter goes with another disciple and gets into the High Priest's courtyard.
Peter stays outside. Meanwhile, Jesus is brought in to be questioned.
While Peter is out by the gate, he will have the chance to give witness of his love for Jesus, not with a sword but with his testimony. Now, he can prove he is a wholesome disciple ready to witness his love for the Master, maybe more, he can prove that he can lay down his life for Jesus.
A maid who was the gatekeeper asks Peter: "You are not one of this man's disciples, are you? Peter is safe; she has no political or religious power; she cannot be of any harm to him; after all, she is only the maid.
But he responds: I AM NOT.
He didn't have the guts to admit he was a disciple of Jesus; even though he had a lot of violence when he had the sword, now, in front of the maid, he cannot find the strength to admit he is one of Jesus' disciples. Very sad!
Meanwhile, Jesus is inside being questioned by Annas, the High Priest (who doesn't like Jesus at all and has all the religious power to do something which could condemn him). He asks Jesus about his doctrine and Jesus directs him to ask better those who have heard him, they should know what he said; but outside …. they just asked one, they asked Peter, and he denied any involvement with Jesus.
Jesus is the "I am"; Peter now is the: "I am not"
Immediately after, a man who saw Peter in the Garden will say, didn't I see you in the Garden with him? Peter immediately will deny it again. The cock crows, it must've been hard to hear the sound of the rooster and realize what he just did.
It is strange, the denials of many of us concerning being a Christian and acting like one don't happen in a life-threatening situation, they arrive with simple events and things. We keep repeating ourselves that we are ready, and sometimes even convince ourselves to stop going to Church because we are way ahead now. Only to find we are as weak as poor Peter; hopefully, we will find the strength to come back to Jesus because we need him more than what we first realized.
FIFTH SCENE: We have no king but Caesar
The hate is mounting so much while Jesus is with Pilate who, even though he is fearful of the Jewish leaders, he seems to feel Jesus is innocent.
One moment is poignant when Pilate brings Jesus out (after humiliating and beating him thinking that could be enough and maybe they would let him go) and when Pilate brings him out, he tells the leaders: BEHOLD YOUR KING !
The hate immediately comes out, and they scream: crucify him, crucify him !
And then, they declare that their true king is Caesar, the Roman Emperor (Jn. 19:16); they just sold their souls to a pagan emperor, and now betraying the very foundation of the people of God in the law and the temple. They accused Jesus of misleading the people; they have done worse now, but cannot see it, they are entirely blind.
It might happen that in Church I may praise Jesus, but in my daily life, I compromise my Christian dignity by doing things that I know that are not good; my hate level might be off the charts. The way I treat and speak of others might look as if I have never known the Lord. It means I have to reevaluate who, in reality, is the Lord in my life; my peace and happiness might depend on it.
SIXTH SCENE: Silence…
Jesus then goes in silent mode, the procession until he reaches Golgotha is noisy, full of hate, and all those voices who sang Hosanna, now yell insults at him.
He takes it all, and he doesn’t return hate after hate.
He doesn’t return violence after receiving violence.
He loves the brokenhearted while he meets them; he is taking all the hate so that they don’t have any more hate to give; the circle of violence ends in Jesus.
They divide his belongings into four groups: the four cardinal points of the earth, his love and forgiveness will reach every soul, every sinner, every person who is thirsting for real life and love.
His tunic is left untouched: Tunic means his dignity, his power has not been diminished, he is not weaker, but his father is his actual support.
He is crucified and surrounded by criminals; well, that is what he did in his life. In this painful and horrible moment of the cross, they will feel the saving power of God; the most powerful moment for divine love is to embrace those who desperately need it.
SEVENTH SCENE: YOU ARE MY FAMILY !
He called the disciples friends, brothers, and now there will be a formal welcome for those who belong to the spiritual family of Jesus.
- First, he sees his mother and the disciple, immediately he instructs her: Woman, there is your son.
The mission of Mary goes further from the moment of the annunciation. There is more to do; now she has to raise the new children of the church, the brothers of Jesus, the spiritual Family.
Jesus had a lot of Mary in him, maybe his hair or his eyes resembled those of Mary, Saint John Eudes says that in the incarnation the heart of Mary was filled with the eternity of the heart of Jesus; they both shared physical and spiritual attributes. Now she will instill that rich spirituality to the grieving disciples.
- He then tells the disciple: There is your mother.
He is telling him: you are not orphaned (he had already told them so because his father was always with them), and now, they have a physical connection to Jesus, they share the same mother.
They are brothers with Jesus, and that is what he tells Mary Magdalene: my father and your father! They were related by the Spirit; and now they have the same mother.
That is why from Jesus’ heart after his death, blood, and water poured out; Blood is pointing at life, now he is saying: I am giving you life; therefore, even in the crucifixion, his life is more powerful. And water is Spirit, so it is complete, life and Spirit altogether; the physical and the spiritual makes the perfect life in him.
It is great to be part of the family of Jesus!
It is difficult to think about the passion and death of Jesus, because of its cruelty, but the gospel writer was able to see more.
And he shared it through the lines of his gospel, there is still much more and a myriad of topics and grace we could reflect upon, but it would take so long, but his grace would be very gratifying to us.
Walk the Via Crucis; give thanks, because his love is everlasting.