Lenten Devotions: The Passion According to John
Beginning tomorrow, Lent is once again upon us. As in year’s past, I’ll jump ahead to where we currently are in our devotional journey through John’s Gospel – the monumental John 3:16, no less! – to John’s story of the Passion of our Lord. (We’ll return to finish the rest of John after working through the passion story in Lent and resurrection accounts at Easter.)
I have long suspected that preachers should treat the Gospels the way parents regard their children – no favorites! But while I’ve managed that with ease with my kids, I confess I haven’t done as well with the Gospels. And, truth be told, John is probably my favorite. (Yes, Mark and Luke are a close tie for second.*) Why? Because while Mark has the brevity and focus of an expert journalist and Luke writes with such care, compassion, and narrative sensitivity, John is the true artist of the bunch. He has a sense of dramatic flair and existential angst that I find irresistible, and incredibly preach-able.
So as we go through this Lent together, pay attention with me to John’s sense of drama, his use of symbolism, and his passionate delight in inviting us to understand the cross not as tragedy or humiliation but rather as victory and glorification. It’s quite a feat to attempt, when you think about it, but John accomplishes it with masterful ease.
Notes: 1) Pastors, if you want to alert your congregation to these Lenten devotions I would only appreciate it.
2) Veit Stoss, Crucifixion (High Altar of St Mary), 1477-89. Wood, Church of St Mary, Cracow.
3) *Yes, I know I’m omitting Matthew. He’s got some good points too :), but his story seems so complicated – and at times almost compromised — by his own issues with his contemporary Jewish neighbors (and opponents) that while I love his theology of the kingdom I have difficulty with how he elevates his community at the expense of those around him. John, as we’ll see, at times struggles with this as well, and we’ll deal with that when we come to it, but John’s sheer artistry compensates at least a bit for his failings.