Listed on The Text This Week, www.textweek.com, Contemporary Commentary, Studies, and Exegesis for the Gospel reading.
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A personal aside to begin with ...
I have stopped using this text for Good Friday as the history of anti-Jew sentiment which generations of Christians have read into/from the text means that the only acceptable reflection on the text is the bitter irony that the story of "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" has been used by the Christian Church to legitimate the sin of the world - scapegoating, brutalizing and killing Jews.
Click here to read my comments on Mark's text for Good Friday, Mark 15:1-47
Malina and Rohrbaugh ("M&R" in notes below), Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel of John, provide the best background that I know of to understand this text as John meant it, and as his first readers would have understood it - within their social / cultural context. And, how we misread it from our own times. The following comments are totally based on their book. I highly recommend it.
A couple of key interpretive points to begin ...
Malina and Rohrbaugh fault modern translators for translating the Greek word for "Judeans" as "Jews." "Judeans" were the residents of the area of Judah in which the capital city Jerusalem was located. The Romans made no distinction between the different groups of Israelites - referring to everyone as "Judean" (which later was shortened to "Jew"). But Judeans, Galileans and Pereans were definitely aware of their differences - and particularly of their different social standing / honour status. Galileans were the hillbillies of their day, and were looked down upon by the big city Judeans who lived in the capital, the power centre, Jerusalem. So in this text, elite Judeans hand over a hillbilly Galilean to the Roman Pilate, who either deliberately - or most likely - unwittingly, insults them by constantly referring to the country bumpkin as their King, Jesus of Galilee, King of the Judeans! Outrageous!
So. Before using this text, get out your black indelible ink pens, and go through it and cross out every reference to "Jews," and write in "JUDEANS." Or even better - "JUDEAN AUTHORITIES."
However, the most crucial interpretative point is to know that John is NOT simply reporting the facts and nothing but the facts. In fact (pun fully intended), John wants only one thing for his intended readers:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
John 20:30-31 NRSV (Emphasis added.)
Note the author's direct, personal, address to the reader - "you." John wants YOU to believe. And as M&R emphasize, not just "believe," as in, "have an opinion about," But "believe into," become bonded with Jesus, become his disciple, become a loyal, trusting and trustworthy follower of Jesus. And not just that even. John wants YOU to have the life that is in Jesus. (John 15, "I am the vine, you are the branches," is a beautiful expression of what John wants for you.)
So in Chapters 18 and 19, John is speaking directly to YOU, urging you to bond with Jesus and thereby have the life that is being revealed through the brutal degradation, torture and execution of Jesus.
Let me repeat that:
John wants you to have the life that is revealed through the brutal degradation, torture and execution of Jesus.
Gee, thanks John.