Scripture: John 18:1-19:42
Harvey, Sandy, Katrina, Hugo, Carla, Ivan, Camille, Patricia. These are some of the most notable
hurricanes in recent memory.
These powerful and destructive tropical storms can have winds over 250 km/h, heavy rains, crashing
waves and storm surges.
As the hurricane arrives, the rain starts, the wind blows steady and strong. As we pass farther in, the
wind builds, the seas become more dangerous, the rain more lashing. Near the centre, in the Eye Wall, the
winds reach their peak speed, the accompanying rain and thunderstorms reach their most intense level of
violence. Roofs are ripped from houses, trees are uprooted, waves wash away all in their path.
Then, we pass into the Eye of the hurricane, at the very centre of the raging storm. And
paradoxically, all is calm. In a large hurricane, the eye can stretch 60 km across. There may be blue sky, light
winds, no rain. Such contrast to the mighty storm swirling all around us!
In the crucifixion story in John’s Gospel, Jesus is the eye of the storm. There is so much drama,
intensity, violence, emotion and anger. Yet, in the midst of it all, in the very centre, Jesus stands, calm, serene,
This should not surprise us. This is the same Jesus who sleeps in the boat as a storm tosses it about
so violently that professional fishermen begin to fear for their lives. The same Jesus who, when roused, then
speaks and all is still.
Consider with me the contrast between the tempest of the crucifixion story, in its many facets, and
the unshakable peace of Christ.
We begin with a cohort of armed men. They enter a garden one evening, to seek, out-number,
subdue and capture their prey. When they arrive, Jesus asks them, “whom do you seek?” And the gang is so
shaken that Jesus must repeat the question.
Next comes an armed assault. A close follower of Jesus seeks to defend him through power, meeting
force with force. Striking first, he draws first blood, cuts off an ear. Jesus calmly defuses the situation. He
rebukes his follower, gently. “The cup the Father has given me, shall I not drink it?”
Their mission complete, the gang hauls Jesus to the high priest, for a preliminary hearing. I love a
good legal drama; in fact, I am currently quite fond of the “Bull” TV series and all its courtroom scenes. Jury
selections. Opening statements. Careful lines of questioning. In our Gospel’s courtroom, there are accusations
and arguments, leading questions, even a physical strike when they dislike the calm but firm answers of
There is more tension and drama around Peter. Will he gain access to the proceedings? If so, will he
be recognized, maybe arrested himself? He who brandished the sword, not long before, now cowers in the
shadows, wrestling with inner turmoil and challenges to his faith, his commitment, all he thought he was.
Our storm blows over to the Praetorium, to meet Pilate. It seems he enjoys the verbal jousting of a
good argument, for he takes his debate back and forth, between Jesus, and the leaders of the people who
brought him. Back and forth, multiple times.
And as before, through all of this turmoil and drama, Jesus is at peace. We might expect him to be a
little more calm when being interrogated by Pilate, as he is no longer in the direct power of the mob that took
him from the garden that night. Yet this is not a reprieve, but a steady state for Jesus.
Our storm continues to build in strength and fury. Consider the internal conflict of the leaders of the
people. On the one hand, they are so concerned about what they consider proper. They will not even get too close to Pilate and his court, lest they despoil themselves before their high religious feast. For these are foreign, unclean invaders.
Yet, out of the other side of their mouth, they profess to be the most loyal citizens in the whole
occupied land. They describe Jesus as an insurrectionist, who threatens the legitimate governance structures
that have been imposed upon them. They swear, “we have no king but Caesar.” Shocking words! Like their
ancestors who pleaded with Moses to take them back to Egypt when their freedom looked too hard. Or their
ancestors who preferred to stay with their captors in Babylon than to return and rebuild their land and their
people when God led them out of their exile. They have made their peace with the status quo, and express
their embrace of Caesar by angrily demanding the death of Jesus.
Which leads, inexorably, to the climax of the reading, of the whole Gospel, of God’s great plan of
reconciliation. Our storm blows over to Golgotha, and leads to the violence and death of the crucifixion. It is
only very lightly described in these verses, leaving out the most horrific details.
Even around the cross, the storms of conflict and drama swirl. We see Pilate argue about the
inscription he provides. We see a competition among the soldiers for the spoils of an executed man’s clothes.
And through it all, through all of the conflict and drama, the tension, the arguments, the violence, is
Jesus. First he stands, serene and calm, in the face of whatever they throw at him. Ultimately, he hangs from
the cross, and even here he the calm eye of this storm. Even here, in his final hours, his final minutes, he
embodies the peace and reconciliation and love and care of God.
How is this possible? How, in the midst of all this anger and emotion and conflict, of which he
himself is the focus and the target, how is Jesus this presence of peace?
This peace does not come from detachment, or from letting himself be carried along like a leaf
blown by the wind. No, Jesus actively engages Pilate; he debates before the high priest; he intervenes in the
garden. This is an active peace.
The peace of Jesus Christ comes from his complete acceptance of God’s good favour and plan,
God’s Will, if you like. The peace of Jesus Christ comes from his whole-hearted embrace of God’s vision,
from his commitment to playing his God-given part.
“The cup the Father has given me, shall I not drink it?”
Jesus knows with complete confidence that this is the right thing to do. This is what he was born to
do and to be. In this act of peaceful acceptance of all that is to come, of all that the world can throw at him,
Christ not only is at peace, but Christ begins to spread that peace.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you,” he said in John 14:27. And here is where it begins
to spread out. The reconciliation of that which was broken, the redemption of all that was owed, the salvation
of all in danger, and “all other benefits of his Passion” – they are all about Peace. Peace with God. Peace with
others. Peace with ourselves. Peace with all of creation.
The eye of this storm is Jesus, he is this place of peace, this source of peace. And it is intended to
spread, to not stay surrounded by thunder and rain and destructive winds, but to spread across this land. To
me, to you. With the death of Jesus on the cross, the mighty hurricane has blown itself out, and the calm eye
of the storm is now spreading everywhere.
May the Peace of Christ be with you this day, as you meditate on his sacrifice, his suffering and
death. May the Peace of Christ go with you as you leave this place. May it spread from you to those you love,
to all those you meet. That all may know and experience the Peace of Christ, and the Christ of Peace.