September 14 Gospel Reading

John 19:6-11, 13-20, 25-35

6 Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.” 7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” 8 Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, 9 and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” 11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” 13 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15 But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!” 16 Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away. 17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, 18 where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. 19 Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20 Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. 25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. 28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. 31 Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.

St. John of Chrysostom from his Homilies LXXXIV and LXXXV…

Longsuffering is a marvellous thing. It places the soul as in a quiet harbor, freeing it from tossings, and evil spirits. And this everywhere Christ has taught us, but especially now, when He is judged and dragged, and led about…But why was it that Pilate did not make the inquiry in their presence, but apart, having gone into the judgment hall? He suspected something great respecting Him…Concerning that of which Pilate must have desired to hear, namely, His Kingdom, He answered, saying, ‘My Kingdom is not of this world,’ That is, ‘I am indeed a King, yet not such a one as you suspect, but far more glorious’…But they cried out, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ Of their own will they subjected themselves to punishment. Therefore also God gave them up, because they were the first to cast themselves out from His providence and superintendence…And why did they strive to kill Him in this manner? It was a shameful death. Fearing therefore lest there should afterward be any remembrance of Him, they desired to bring Him to the accursed punishment, not knowing that truth is exalted by hindrances…

The crown of thorns, the robe, the reed, the blows, the smiting on the cheek, the spittings, the irony, these things, if continually meditated on, are sufficient to take down all anger; and if we are mocked at, if we suffer injustice, let us still say, ‘The servant is not greater than his Lord’ (c.13:16)… For one account He bore all these things, in order that we might walk in His footsteps, and endure those mockings which disturb more than any other kind of reproach… This let us also imitate; for nothing so much makes God propitious as loving enemies, and doing good to those who despitefully use us. When a man insults you, look not to him, but to the devil who moves him, and against him empty all your wrath, but pity the man who is moved by him. For if lying is from the devil, to be angry without a cause is much more so…

He went forth bearing the Cross as a trophy over the tyranny of death: and as conquerors do, so He bore upon His shoulders the symbol of victory… They crucified Him with thieves, in this also unintentionally fulfilling prophecy, since the Prophet had foretold of old, that ‘He was numbered with the transgressors.’ The devil therefore wished to cast a veil over what was done, but was unable; for the three were crucified, but Jesus alone was glorious…His power effected all.

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity discussed why Jesus had to die…

We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself.  That is the formula.  That is Christianity.  That is what has to be believed.  Any theories we build up as to how Christ’s death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, even if they do help us, not to be confused with the thing itself.  All the same, some of these theories are worth looking at.

The one most people have heard is the one about our being let off because Christ volunteered to bear a punishment instead of us.  Now on the face of it that is a very silly theory.  If God was prepared to let us off, why on earth did He not do so?  And what possible point could there be in punishing an innocent person instead?  None at all that I can see, if you are thinking of punishment in the police-court sense.  On the other hand, if you think of a debt, there is plenty of point in a person who has some assets paying it on behalf of someone who has not.  Or if you take “paying the penalty,” not in the sense of being punished, but in the more general sense of “footing the bill,” then, of course, it is a matter of common experience that, when one person has got himself into a hole, the trouble of getting him out usually falls on a kind friend.

Now what was the sort of “hole” man had gotten himself into?  He had tried to set up on his own, to behave as if he belonged to himself.  In other words, fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.  Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor – that is the only way out of a “hole.”  This process of surrender – this movement full speed astern – is what Christians call repentance.  Now repentance is no fun at all.  It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie.  It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years.  It means undergoing a kind of death.  In fact, it needs a good man to repent.  And here’s the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly.  The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it.  The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person – and he would not need it.

Remember, this repentance, this willing submission to humiliation and a kind of death, is not something God demands of you before He will take you back and which He could let you off of if He chose: it is simply a description of what going back to Him is like.  If you ask God to take you back without it, you are really asking Him to let you go back without going back.  It cannot happen.  Very well, then, we must go through with it.  But the same badness which makes us need it, makes us unable to do it.  Can we do it if God helps us?  Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us?  We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak.  He lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another.  When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them.  We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it.  Now if we had not fallen, that would all be plain sailing.  But unfortunately we now need God’s help in order to do something which God, in His own nature, never does at all – to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die.  Nothing in God’s nature corresponds to this process at all.  So that the one road for which we now need God’s leadership most of all is a road God, in His own nature, has never walked.  God can share only what He has: this thing, in His own nature, He has not.

But supposing God became a man – suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God’s nature in one person – then that person could help us.  He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God.  You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man.  Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God’s dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God’s dying unless God dies; and he cannot die except by being a man.  That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.

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