“Come and See”

I can’t do better today, Good Friday, than to simply bear witness. “Come and See” (John 1:39).

GOSPEL | JOHN 18:1-19:42

1After 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. 2Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. 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. 4Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” 5They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.6When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. 7Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” 9This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” 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. 11Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

12So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. 13First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

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, 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. 17The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”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.

19Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 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. 21Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” 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?” 23Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” 24Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

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.” 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?” 27Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

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. 29So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” 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.” 32(This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

33Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 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?”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.” 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.” 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. 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?” 40They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.

1Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. 3They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. 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.” 5So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” 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.” 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.”

8Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. 9He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 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?” 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.” 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.”

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. 14Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” 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.”16Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus; 17and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 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. 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.'” 22Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” 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. 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.” 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. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.”27Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

28After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 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. 30When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

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. 32Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.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.) 36These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.”37And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”

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. 39Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 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. 42And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

The Gospel of our Lord:

Praise be to you, O Christ.

“Seen”

GOSPEL | JOHN 9:35-41

35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.”  37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.”  38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.  39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”  40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?”  41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

“You have seen him” (v.37)

What a profound statement — considering that this man has never seen anything before — “You have seen him” (v.37). I’m reminded of a youth conference I went to when I was in high school, where I hear Louis Giglio talking about waking up. He read from Genesis 2, and talked about the moment when Adam woke up to God. One minute: sleep, darkness, blindness; the next: daylight, color, sight.

It’s no accident. It’s no accident that Jesus spit and made mud to restore this man (John 9:6). It’s no accident that Jesus returns to him after his being interrogated by the Pharisees, and asks, “Do you believe?” (v.35). It’s no accident. John symbolically interprets this man’s life through the mythic events of the first man’s life. He is a new creation, a brand new thing, because of his encounter with Jesus.

Lent starts with Jesus asking us the same thing: “Come and see” (John 1:39). It feels strange to see Lent as the beginning of a new life, when we usually say Easter is when we are made new. But that’s what it’s been for me: a fresh start, a new beginning, gaining sight. The Lenten call to follow Jesus has been a call to wake up, to open my eyes, and see. Thanks be to God for this season of illumination and growth!

“Show”

GOSPEL | JOHN 5:19-24

19 Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.  20 The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.  21 Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomsoever he wishes.  22 The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son,  23 so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.  24 Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.

“The Father . . . shows [the Son] all that he himself is doing…” (v.20)

I am a student by vocation: I love learning, and I excel in the classroom – it’s my natural habitat. Jesus begins here saying, “Very truly, I tell you;” but telling isn’t enough. We also need to be shown. What strikes me is that Jesus himself needs to be shown by the Father. Jesus is willing himself to submit to being led by his Father! Just as Jesus sees what his Father is doing, Lent is about our following Christ to the cross, where we see the love of God shown, rather than hear it told.

“…and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.” (v.20)

The gospel text today does not tell me that it’s my job to show! (I think my job is partly to show, but certainly not to the same degree that Jesus did.) Jesus is the one who first sees, and then shows us, God’s love. We are invited, I will repeat it, to “Come and see” (John 1:29). It’s not about my words, sadly. In Lent, I have to give up all my aptitude for telling, and first open my eyes to see, and put my body where my words would be, following after Christ, knowing that the cross is where we’re headed.

“Believe”

GOSPEL | JOHN 4:43-54

46 Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum.  47 When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.  48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”  49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.”  50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way.  51 As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive.  52 So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.”  53 The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he himself believed, along with his whole household.  54 Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.

I wonder after reading this whether belief is enough. The word “believe” has been an echo throughout the whole book of John so far, and this is no exception. It would seem, then, that belief is Jesus’ ultimate goal. And then we read Jesus tell this official, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (v.48).

I don’t know how to read the emotion of Jesus’ voice here. Is this a kind of exasperated sigh: “You guys just don’t get it”? Is this a reproach: “Haven’t you been paying attention?!”? Or is he conceding to the frailty of human understanding, giving the official an invitation to see and to believe?

But Jesus doesn’t tell the official, “Come and see” (John 1:39); instead, Jesus says, “Go” (v.50). I don’t understand what it is that I am being called to. If Jesus is asking me to simply believe, then I am free to go on with my business as usual; but if he is calling me to be a disciple, then I have to give up something (no, everything. Contrast this call to discipleship with our usual Lenten practice of “giving something up” – hmm).

Which brings me back to how we read Jesus saying, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (v.48). Is he disparaging our need to see to believe? Or our desire to merely believe, rather than to commit ourselves entirely? Belief is undoubtedly important: after Jesus changed the water to wine (note: that was the first sign, done in the same place), “his disciples believed in him” (John 2:11). However, they also followed him. During Lent, the church does not settle for “mere” belief; we are called to follow, to “come and see,” to be disciples. May the Spirit quicken us, after we believe, to rise up and follow as well.