Friday 10th April
Isaiah 52.13-end of 53
See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. Just as there were many who were astonished at him—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals— so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely, he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice, he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper. Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,
and are so far from my salvation,
from the words of my distress?
O my God, I cry in the daytime,
but you do not answer;
and by night also, but I find no rest.
Yet you are the Holy One,
enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
Our forebears trusted in you;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
They cried out to you and were delivered;
they put their trust in you and were not confounded.
But as for me, I am a worm and no man,
scorned by all and despised by the people.
All who see me laugh me to scorn;
they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,
‘He trusted in the Lord; let him deliver him;
let him deliver him, if he delights in him.’
But it is you that took me out of the womb
and laid me safe upon my mother’s breast.
On you was I cast ever since I was born;
you are my God even from my mother’s womb.
Be not far from me, for trouble is near at hand
and there is none to help.
Mighty oxen come around me;
fat bulls of Bashan close me in on every side.
They gape upon me with their mouths,
as it were a ramping and a roaring lion.
I am poured out like water;
all my bones are out of joint;
my heart has become like wax
melting in the depths of my body.
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd;
my tongue cleaves to my gums;
you have laid me in the dust of death.
For the hounds are all about me,
the pack of evildoers close in on me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
I can count all my bones;
they stand staring and looking upon me.
They divide my garments among them;
they cast lots for my clothing.
Be not far from me, O Lord;
you are my strength; hasten to help me.
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my poor life from the power of the dog.
Save me from the lion’s mouth,
from the horns of wild oxen.
You have answered me!
I will tell of your name to my people;
in the midst of the congregation will I praise you.
Praise the Lord, you that fear him;
O seed of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, O seed of Israel.
For he has not despised nor abhorred the suffering of the poor;
neither has he hidden his face from them;
but when they cried to him he heard them.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
I will perform my vows
in the presence of those that fear you.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord shall praise him;
their hearts shall live for ever.
All the ends of the earth
shall remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.
For the kingdom is the Lord’s
and he rules over the nations.
How can those who sleep in the earth
bow down in worship,
or those who go down to the dust kneel before him?
He has saved my life for himself;
my descendants shall serve him;
this shall be told of the Lord for generations to come.
They shall come and make known his salvation,
to a people yet unborn,
declaring that he, the Lord, has done it.
‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds’, he also adds, ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’ Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
John 18.1-end of 19
After 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. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So 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. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ They answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus replied, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he’, they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.’ This was to fulfil the word that he had spoken, ‘I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.’ Then 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. Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?’
So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First, they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.
Simon 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, but 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. The woman said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing round it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.
Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus 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. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.’ When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’ Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now 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.’ One 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?’ Again, Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
Then 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. So Pilate went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ They answered, ‘If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.’ Pilate 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.’ (This was to fulfil what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)
Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ Pilate 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?’ Jesus 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.’ Pilate 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.’ Pilate 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. But 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?’ They shouted in reply, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a bandit.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They 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.’
Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate 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?’ Jesus 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.’ From 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.’
When 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. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ They 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.’ Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
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 fulfil 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 fulfil 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.
Since 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. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘None of his bones shall be broken.’ And again, another passage of scripture says, ‘They will look on the one whom they have pierced.’
Reflection by Revd Nichola Winter
In the east window of Aldeburgh Church is a vivid depiction of the crucifixion.
Christ hangs on the cross. One of the soldiers pierces his side – making certain of his death. His family and closest friends weep at the foot of the cross. Assorted individuals pass by – curious? Indifferent? Morbid? At one side we see the soldiers, playing at dice. Casting lots for the clothes of the dying man. Look closely and you see the dice suspended in mid-air – the lot has yet to be decided. Those dice have been caught in their suspended animation for as long as the window has been in place. How symbolic of life itself – particularly at this time when life feels so fragile and tentative in the light of present afflictions. So many issues, so many questions, so many uncertainties. How will the dice fall? What will be the outcome?
The journey through the last weeks has been an emotional rollercoaster for so many. Each person reading this will have their own story to tell, their own experience. Holy Week takes on its own dynamic in the context of what is going on in the world. Acts of kindness, anger – and possible questioning of faith.
A small child said to me recently, ‘but we know it all turns out happily in the end.’ We may be so familiar with the events that tumble upon each other at this time that we lose sight of their gravity and significance. But not one of us can bypass the cross. It is something we all have to confront; to acknowledge our own weakness and sinfulness and then wonder that our Lord takes it upon himself to carry our shame and put an end to it for ever. In his own agony he takes the worst in each of us; his death erases it and enables us to find new life.
Consider those final words: ‘It is finished.’ One theologian has written that this is a cry of victory… the triumphant cry that what Jesus came to do has been done. All is accomplished, fulfilled work.
It is strange and puzzling. If the work of Christ is complete when we see him hanging, tortured and dying, on the cross, then what kind of a completion is that? What kind of victory? It may be tempting for us to dismiss it all. It happened a long time ago. We live in the post-modern age; we know a lot, we communicate fast. We think we’ve worked out how the universe works, and we don’t want to be confronted with images of an exhausted common-place itinerant teacher bleeding to death on a cross – it’s an image that is so not the 21st century.
But the reality is this. Christ will be resurrected – ‘but the resurrected One remains the One crucified.’ It was Pascal who said that ‘Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world.’ We live in the ‘in-between times.’ The world of today, the 10th April 2020 – the world in the grip of an unknown virus – is simply too imperfect to be the world that God really wants as his perfected creation. So where did Jesus on the cross get the idea that he could claim ‘It is finished’?
John’s gospel makes clear to us that the cross is not a symbol of defeat but of victory. Think back to the passage where Jesus asks that the Father’s name be glorified by his obedience and a voice comes from heaven saying, ‘I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.’ Jesus tells us that this voice comes for our sake – so that we might understand that ‘now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ Jesus has carried out his part; he has been lifted up on the cross. In full view of passers-by; in full view of those who love him and those who hate him. In full view of the authorities of the time, in full view of those passing in and out of the city, on their way with news, gossip and day to day busy-ness. Whose eye could not be drawn to such a horrific spectacle? Who could be indifferent to this vulnerable creature, helpless on the cross? The invitation has been issued; Jesus has been lifted up and we are drawn to him. It is our choice whether we respond or whether we turn away.
It is finished, but it is not over. Rowan Williams calls us not to become nostalgic for a supposedly less compromised past or take refuge in some imagined purified future, but to dwell in the tension-filled time between times, to remain awake to our inability “to stay in the almost unbearable moment where Jesus is.”
Jesus has played his part. It is finished. The victory is won. Our work really begins as we share the message in these difficult times. How do we now keep alive and dynamic the teaching of the One who became human so that we might become divine?