The Climax of the Glorification Begins: Jesus' Passion and Death
As John begins to tell of the Passion of our Lord he continues to focus on the manifestation of the glory of God. At each point in the story thus far, the key to understanding all that Jesus does and says has been his identity as the Son of God. His suffering might call his identity into question, but instead his identity is revealed even more clearly, for as Jesus is crucified he conquers the enemy and is enthroned as King. Furthermore, the glory of this victory is matched by the glory of his obedience. Throughout his humiliation, pain and suffering we see Jesus confident in his Father and set upon fulfilling his will. As he does so his death reveals the very heart of God--God is love, and love is the laying down of one's life (1 Jn 4:8, 16; 3:16). In these chapters we see Jesus as the king of love who completes his mission of revealing the Father and providing eternal life.
John's Gospel is a literary masterpiece (cf. Culpepper 1983), and this is nowhere more evident than in his account of the Passion. But John is not giving us just a story--he is giving us history. Each of the four Gospels recounts the events of the Passion in the same order, but each leaves out some material and includes items not found in the other accounts (for a convenient list see Westcott 1908:2:262-63). John's Gospel is distinct from the Synoptics, offering important elements to the whole story. The reliability of John's historical account here, as elsewhere in this Gospel, has been called into question by many. Some of the important historical issues will be touched on as we go through this section, but more thorough discussion will be left to others, particularly the brief, insightful introduction by William Horbury (1972) as well as the major studies by John A. T. Robinson (1985:238-87) and Raymond E. Brown (1970:785-962; 1994). B. Corley (1992) provides a helpful survey of the four accounts of Jesus' trial.