Preached March 30, 2018; St. Peter Catholic Church, The Dalles, Oregon
In recounting Jesus’ death on the Cross, the Evangelist John makes a special note of the fulfillment of two passages of Scripture, the first of which is: Not a bone of it will be broken. That seems nice, we might think, God foretold even the little details of Jesus’ suffering and death.
If, however, we look up the actual Scripture that is fulfilled we will discover something more. (cf. Ex 12:46) The Scripture passage does not appear to be a prophecy at all, at least it does not come from any of the prophets, rather it is one of the regulations regarding the celebration of the Passover; it refers to the Passover Lamb.
In other words, by observing that little detail of Jesus’ death and connecting it with the Passover regulations, John tells us that the Passover was not just a commemoration, but was a prophetic celebration that was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the true Passover lamb.
Indeed, John the Baptist already proclaimed that truth when he pointed out Jesus saying, Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (Jn 1:29)
St. John Chrysostom once wrote, “If we were to ask [Moses] what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast [the Passover lamb] could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood.” (Liturgy of Hours, Good Friday, Office of Readings)
On the Cross we behold Jesus as the true lamb of sacrifice; the sacrifice that brings salvation to the whole world.
The prophet Isaiah announced the sacrificial meaning of Jesus death on the Cross beforehand. This is what we heard in today’s 1st reading.
We see the divine initiative to save us: We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; but the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.
Then we see Jesus likened in his suffering to the lamb of sacrifice: Like a lamb led to the slaughter … he was silent and opened not his mouth.
Then we see that Jesus is indeed the new priest who freely offers himself as a sacrifice: If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life.
Descendants? Jesus never married, how does he have descendants? Even more, how does one gain descendants by dying?
In truth, Jesus’ sacrificial death on the Cross not only obtains for us the forgiveness of sins, but life in God, eternal life. Jesus’ Bride is the Church, whom he betrothed on the Cross and we are his descendants, born of the Church through faith and baptism. Indeed, as Eve was fashioned from the side of Adam, the Church was fashioned from the wounded side of Jesus upon the Cross.
Through his sacrificial death on the Cross, Jesus gave us life. The Cross is the true Tree of Life. That is why we venerate the Cross with tenderness, gratitude, and love.