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Lent in the Book of John

As we enter Holy Week, I wanted to share some interesting things I found in the bible when we talk about John. We have spent Lent in the book of John and when you put John next to Matthew, Mark, and Luke- you see just how different John is when it comes to the stories written. Although each gospel has some significant differences, John seems to have the most.

John’s timeline of events is very different from the other three gospels. One of those differences is when Jesus was flogged. In John’s account of the trial events, Jesus was flogged before there was even a verdict. This is substantial because according to Roman traditions, one was only flogged after a sentence of death was received.

Another difference in John is that Jesus was taken to a courtyard before brought out to the streets with the cross. In John, Jesus was brought to the courtyard to a place called “The Stone Pavement.” This was not mentioned in any of the other gospels.

I found it interesting that John, a narrator who writes with detail, made it important to note that while these events were occurring, it was Passover, at noon, that lambs were being slaughtered in the temple. We often speak of Jesus as the Lamb of God. You may also hear the term “Paschal Lamb” in reference to the crucifixion of Christ, which in Judaism is the name for the lamb that was sacrificed the night before the great exodus out of Egypt.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all make a mention of a man named Simon who carried the cross for Jesus. One states that he was a prisoner who carried the “crossbar” and the others just speak of the cross as a whole. The cross was two pieces- the crossbar and the long, wooden piece that went into the ground. In John’s account, Jesus carried this on his own. It makes no mention of just the crossbar, but the cross in whole. Like Matthew, the charge was put above Jesus’ head on the cross. However, John details that this was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek and also included where Jesus was from. It read Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, or Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum. This was the source of the acronym we often see: INRI.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all mention that the clothing that Jesus had on were distributed but not in as great of detail as John, who mentions that this importance in detail was to fulfil the scriptures. This would not be the only time in the crucifixion story that John explicitly mentions a detail “fulfilling” the scripture. The scripture to be fulfilled was “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22.18) In John’s narrative, there was emphasis on Jesus’ tunic, which was a single piece of cloth shaped like a “T” that was hemmed up the sides. They made the decision not to tear it and render it useless, so they cast lots for the tunic in whole.

The women who were present at the crucifixion are a huge emphasis in John. The women mentioned were Jesus’ mother, his mother’s sister, Mary Magdalene, and the wife of Clopas. The grammar gets murky about who she is, if that is Jesus’ mother’s sister or a different woman entirely. John does not name Jesus’ mother in the book of John.

John also gives Jesus thirst and Jesus does not refuse the wine in verse 28. In other gospels Jesus does not take it. In John, he takes it to, again, fulfil the gospel. (Psalm 69.21) But what is this bitter wine? It’s gall- a wine with vinegar which was a popular drink of the Roman soldiers. Theologians and scholars wrestle with why Jesus refused and many believe it was Jesus not wanting to dull his own pain. Essentially, it was alcohol. John’s focus in his narratives about Jesus fulfilling scripture makes it no surprise that Jesus’ last words fit the common theme: “It is finished.” It is thought by most scholars that John was the last gospel to be written. Therefore, there would be early Christian traditions entwined within the writings and narratives. John is the only gospel that mentions Jesus’ side being pierced with water and blood coming out. Many theologians and biblical scholars think that this is an intimate tie in to the eucharist and baptism.

As we enter Holy Week, keep these things in mind and if you have a chance to peruse the other gospels- see if you can find the differences too.

Have a blessed day! Sommer

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