At the Scene on Calvary
When Jesus was arrested in the garden, John and Peter followed the crowd to the house of Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest. Since John was known to the people there he was allowed to enter the courtyard. In turn, he spoke to the gatekeeper who allowed Peter to come in.
He heard them questioning Jesus and listened to his response. As the night hours passed, the disciple saw no sign his friend would be released. Rather, as they led Jesus to Caiaphas and then in the morning to Pilate, John realized that the worst had happened: it was now likely Jesus would be sentenced to death.
Hurrying through the streets of the city which was crowded with pilgrims who had come up for the feast, John must have brought the tragic news to Mary, the mother of Jesus, who had come from Galilee with his mother Salome and the other women following Jesus. As news of the death sentence came from Pilate's palace that day, they quickly went to the place of execution outside the city gate - Calvary.
There they stood and saw him crucified.
They watched as the soldiers pushed Jesus along to the place, and they saw him stripped of his clothes and nailed to the cross. They drew as close to him as they could, as close as his executioners would permit, so as to hear any words he would say.
"When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, `Woman, behold, your son.' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother.' And from that hour he took her as his own." above, right: Dutch painter Roger van der Weyden imagines John with Mary after the death of Jesus
The Water and the Blood
He looked on as Jesus died. With his death every sign of hope seemed gone. Yet even as he watched the grim ritual of crucifixion, John saw something the soldiers did which he later recognized as a sign from God after all.
Since the Passover feast, a joyful day recalling God's deliverance of his people was about to begin, the Jewish leaders asked Pilate to make sure that Jesus and the thieves crucified with him were indeed dead and their bodies removed as quickly as possible so that the feastday would not disgraced by the sight of death.
So the soldiers did as Pilate ordered. One of them thrust his lance into Jesus' side, although he was already dead, and immediately blood and water flowed out. In this apparently insignificant incident, remembered later, John saw an ironic sign from God.
Indeed, Jesus' death was for the deliverance of his people. The Paschal lamb was just a sign of Jesus the Lamb of God, and the blood and water that flowed from his side, far from bringing disgrace, brought life to the land.
Only in time, however, did John understand these things. As he mourned Jesus' death, carried his body to the tomb for burial and attended to Mary, the mother of Jesus, he saw little meaning in it all.
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