#1: St. John 19. 6, 7, 12, 16—Here we see exactly who Jesus is. First, we have Pilate’s words/ verdict: I find no guilt in Him. Before man, Jesus is guilty of no sin. Earlier, at His Baptism and at His Transfiguration, God the Father says of Jesus [St. Mt. 3.17; 17.5]: This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And then we have the charge the Jews made against Jesus: He has made Himself the Son of God. Where the Jews were wrong is that Jesus did not “make Himself” the Son of God; instead, He truly is the Son of God. He came to this earth true God who became also true man taking on human flesh and blood in the Virgin’s womb. So really, what we have before us is that sinful people—both Pilate and the Jews—are agreeing with God’s verdict on Jesus: This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. The Jews agreed with God: This is My beloved Son –how? He has made Himself the Son of God. And Pilate agreed with God: in whom I am well pleased –how? I find no guilt in Him. So what we see here is that Jesus is being condemned to death on the true fact, on the actual reality that He is the holy, sinless Son of God.
#2: St. Matthew 27.27-31; St. John 19.17—Even though it is in mockery and scorn that the soldiers hail Jesus as king and put a crown of thorns on Him and give Him a reed, it is also prophetic of Jesus’ work. His kingship would come by great suffering; the crown that He would gain would come at the price of His blood and life; His scepter by which He rules His kingdom is His holy word which is seemingly weak and ineffective. That scarlet robe the soldiers placed on Jesus—probably an old soldier’s cape—was not only a royal color, which was the soldier’s mocking intent, but it is also a reminder of the blood red of sin [Is 1.18]: Your sins are like scarlet…they are red like crimson. The soldiers’ kneeling and mocking Jesus in His lowliness, humility and suffering, prophesy what all who reject and mock Him will be forced to recognize and confess on the Last Day when Jesus comes in glory as King, but which will be too late to save them [Ph. 2.10,11]: at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
#3: Isaiah 53.4-6—Here as we reflect on Jesus’ struggling to carry His cross and the fact that He certainly must have stumbled under its weight, we see a great truth being proclaimed. It was not His own sins for which Jesus was suffering, but ours. God would be some sort of tyrant if He punished the holy, innocent Jesus. But what had happened? Jesus was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities…the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Those were our sins! What Jesus endured, is what all of us have earned/ deserved for our sin. Here is the great mystery of the holy Christian faith: Jesus took our place and became our Substitute. Jesus was not condemned, stricken, smitten and afflicted for His sins but for ours. The Lord cast on Him the sin of all of us.
#4: St. Luke 2.34-35—Here we have an account that is not recorded in Scripture but one which is not out of the realm of possibility since St. Mary was at the foot of the cross. The reading comes from the time Jesus was presented to the Lord in the Temple when He was 40 days old. These words are spoken by St. Simeon and speak of the centrality of Jesus. A person cannot avoid Jesus. One is either for or against Jesus. There is no middle ground. We hear a reflection of Jesus’ words [Mt. 16.15]: But who do you say I am? A person either rejects Jesus and falls; or a person, in despair over sin and crushed to the ground by their sin are raised by the forgiveness of sin and peace Jesus, their Savior, offers and gives. St. Simeon’s words also point us the great agonies St. Mary suffered with Jesus’ crucifixion. Even though St. Mary was most highly honored to be the Mother of God, her lot would be like that of all Christians—one of suffering and sorrow.
#5: St. Luke 23.26—When Jesus was condemned, the cross was laid on Him; but on the way to Golgotha, the cross was placed on Simon. Since Jesus had been so weakened by loss of sleep, beatings, and scourgings, perhaps He couldn’t carry it any more, collapsing under its weight, or at least slow down the procession. Although certainly not considered an enviable job—in fact, down right disgraceful —what a blessing it must have turned out to be for Simon. Here we see pictured Jesus’ words [Lk. 9.23, 14.27]: we, as Christians, are called upon to take up our cross and to follow Jesus. We follow Jesus carrying the cross as we crucify our old sinful self by daily sorrow over sin and repentance; we take up our cross as we gladly and willingly endure sufferings on account of our faith in Jesus; we take up our cross as we desire to carry whatever disciplines and sufferings the Lord places on us, knowing it will lead to a blessed end for us.
#6: St. Matthew 25. 37-40—Here we again come to an account not recorded in Scripture, but one that is certainly not out of the realm of possibility—Veronica wiping the face of Jesus. Here we see a picture of the love that the Father still had for His dear Son, Jesus. Even though He was weighed down with the sins of the world, the Father had not yet forsaken Him. That would come later on the cross.
Our reading points out to us to see Jesus in others. Our neighbor—the one in need of our help that the Lord has placed in our way—is a person for whom Jesus died, a person Jesus loves. And, on top of that, if that person is a Christian, Jesus is in that person, that person is connected to Jesus through Baptism; and if we show that person a mercy and kindness, we are showing it to Jesus. This sheds a whole new light and gives us a whole new motivation to live lives of mercy.
#7: Psalm 41. 5-9—We again have an account not recorded in Scripture, but one that surely happened. Our text is from the psalm that prophesies Jesus’ ministry, betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus quotes the psalm as being fulfilled in Judas’ betrayal: Even My close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against Me. Lifting the heel—an image of kicking a person when he is down. It was not just Judas who betrayed our Lord—each of us with our sins sell out/ betray Jesus. Even with all the graces and mercies we enjoy from Jesus, we, by our sin, lift our heel against Him, and place our will and our sinful desires first. We also catch glimpses in this psalm of all who hate Jesus with that fierce, devilish hatred. Jesus’ enemies spoke evil against Him and sought out His death, scheming and plotting until finally they put Him on a cross. May we today also recognize our guilt by our sin in bringing Jesus to the cross and may we repent of them.
#8: St. Luke 23. 27-29, 31—True participation in Jesus’ Passion is not mere human sentimentality but that we truly repent and each of us say: “Lord, I caused Your suffering and death by my sin.” Since Jesus is not burdened by the cross Simon of Cyrene is now carrying, He can speak. Here, even in the midst of His sufferings, He is full of and speaks with great concern for Jerusalem, the city whose inhabitants had just yelled “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! His blood be on us and on our children!” In love, He calls them to repent. In love and in warning, He calls them to flee the city that would be destroyed in a mere 40 years. Jesus is that green wood and the sinful city of Jerusalem is that dry wood. The point? If Jesus, the innocent one has to suffer so severely, what will happen to the guilty? Let us take heed to our Lord’s gracious warning and repent of our sin.
#9: 2 Corinthians 5. 19-21—We are again pointed to the great physical sufferings Jesus endured. But as great and horrible as the physical sufferings are, how much greater the spiritual suffering He was enduring—and it would only intensify on the cross as He is forsaken by God, suffering the very pangs of hell. Jesus’ spiritual suffering was so great because He became the world’s sinner. All the sins of all people were placed on Jesus. The Father’s wrath over those sins was directed/ focus on Jesus. Jesus was not turned into sin. But He is called sin because He took on our sins and their curse. St. John Chrysostom writes: “God allowed His Son to suffer as if a condemned sinner, so that we might be delivered from the penalty of our sins. This is God’s righteousness, that we are not justified by works (for then they would have to be perfect, which is impossible), but by grace, in which case all our sin is removed.”
#10: St. John 19. 23-24—Here we see that all things were still in God’s control as even the details of the crucifixion had been prophesied in the OT centuries before. Here it is confirmed that Jesus is the true Messiah, the only Savior and Redeemer of sinful humanity. Here we see that there were four soldiers assigned to the crucifixion. Although it is only speculation, there is a beautiful symbolism with the clothes, in particular, with Jesus’ seamless tunic woven in one piece. Let us see here the seamless woven garment symbolizing the unity of God and man in Jesus—woven in one piece from top to bottom. Jesus never stops being the God-man. As the God-man He goes to the cross to carry out the work of our salvation and that’s why we can be certain of Jesus’ work for our salvation is perfect and complete.
#11: St. Mark 15. 25-27—Here crucified between two robbers—probably rebels like Barabbas--Jesus is counted as among the worst of the worst, just as the Lord had spoken through St. Isaiah [53.12]: He was numbered with the transgressors. As the Holy Spirit tells us later in another Gospel, one of the robbers repented and trusted in Jesus. And so here before us, with Jesus in the middle, one robber on the right and the other on the left, is a foreshadow of the final judgment—those who trust in Jesus on the one side and those who reject Him on the other. The huge difference is that then Jesus will be in glory as King! Here He is in lowliness and suffering. The very one who suffers is the same one who is the almighty God and king.
#12: St. John 19.28-30—In complete fulfillment of the prophecies, showing that nothing was left undone—even a seemingly insignificant thing, Jesus said, I thirst. If all the small things had been done, then certainly the main things were as well!
Here Jesus’ work of atonement was done. It is complete. Everything necessary to reconcile us sinners with the holy God had been accomplished. Jesus had kept the holy Law of God for us perfectly, never once sinning; He had taken our sins on Himself and the Father had poured out on Jesus vial after vial of His wrath over our sin. Now all of His anger over sin has been stilled.
And also notice as well: Jesus first bows His head and then He gives up His Spirit/ dies. That means that Jesus laid down His life, willingly; that His life was not taken from Him. Jesus was still Lord over death, it was in His power!
#13: St. Mark 15.42-45—St. John Chrysostom writes of the boldness of St. Joseph of Arimathea: “This was Joseph, who had been concealing his discipleship. Now he became very bold, after the death of Jesus. For neither was he an obscure person nor unnoticed. He was of the council, and highly distinguished, and as wee, courageous. For he exposed himself to death, taking upon himself the enmity of all by his affection to Jesus. He begged for the body and did not desist until he obtained it. Not only that, but by laying it in his own new tomb, he actively demonstrated his love and courage.”
#14: St. John 19.39-42—We confess in the Creed that Jesus was crucified, died and was buried. Jesus’ burial is the deepest depth of His humiliation—that is, as man not using His divine power and majesty. Here with Jesus being placed in St. Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb, there can be no doubt—He is truly dead. It wasn’t as if Jesus was just dumped in the grave, but rather He was as quickly as time allowed wrapped in burial cloths with 75 pounds of spices; the women would try to finish the job on Sunday morning. With the work of salvation done, with Jesus’ soul with His Father, His body now rests in the tomb awaiting the resurrection. As we pray in the committal prayer at the grave: Almighty God, by the death of Your Son Jesus Christ You destroyed death, by His rest in the tomb You sanctified the graves of Your saints… Now, because of Jesus and His rest in the tomb, our graves are places where our bodies rest until called forth on the Last Day glorified to be reunited with our souls that have been in heaven since death, to spend eternity in heaven with all the saints, the holy angels and our gracious, holy God.