Christ’s Passion

The theme of ‘seeing’ in relation to believing, and ‘being seen’ as a way of knowing and being known moves throughout all of the readings for Good Friday. From the prophecies of a suffering servant who was spurned by those seeking to avoid the sight of infirmity in Isaiah 52, to the responsorial prayer begging God to look upon suffering when others flee to avoid having to witness the petitioner’s brokenness in Psalm 31, to the account of Christ, abandoned by his followers, beaten,

2024 Lent Reflections (43)condemned, and presented to the incensed rabble for ridicule with the mocking words “Behold, the Man” before being crucified in John’s Gospel.

Powerful and tragic, these texts present suffering in obedience to God as a means of providing eternal salvation for all who obey Him. But in this suffering and salvation, vision — looking and being looked upon— plays a pivotal role in fostering and expressing the sacred relationship between God and humanity.  

In the days and nights to come, we will hear much more about belief as a way to truly see and doubt as a kind of blindness: beginning with the faithful women who become the first witnesses of Christ’s resurrection to the risen Christ command to his most skeptical apostle Thomas to “Stop doubting and believe”— with the blessing and rebuke: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Jn 20.24-29)

As a child, my mother always insisted that my brothers and I sit quietly between the hours of 1:00-3:00 pm every Good Friday.   We were tasked with praying, reading the Bible, listening if we wished to appropriate music (we were given then the eclectic choice between Handel’s Messiah, a selection of Bach’s sacred cantatas, or the sound tracks to Godspell or Jesus Christ Superstar), and meditating on the belief that our salvation came through Christ’s suffering and sacrifice. As a devout preteen, I remember finding that understanding deeply poignant, but also essentially unfathomable.  

In reading the Passion story in the Gospel of John, one can almost imagine the author anticipating the hesitation of not just skeptics, but also of believing but still discerning readers such as myself — for the Beloved Disciple interrupts his quick-paced narration at its very climax, the moment of Jesus’s death, to attest to the veracity of his eyewitness account of his Passion and its metaphysical implications: “He who saw this has testified so that you may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth, so that you who discern may also continue to believe” (John 19:35).  

Through and beyond this abrupt interjection, the moral power of Christ’s Passion blazes from scripture like a flaming sword, beginning with Jesus’s courageous refusal to stray from the truth when falsely condemned, and his unwavering non-violence in responding to brutal savagery, to his selfless concern for others just moments before breathing his last agonized breath.

The vivid portrayal of our Savior’s last hours from the Gospel of John is read twice during Holy Week, first on Palm Sunday and again today on Good Friday.

For many, it may feel hard to be present twice over to the very real suffering of our Savior’s sacrifice in his excruciating humiliation, protracted torture, and agonizing execution.  For me, I derive the will to persevere through the emotional pain of this sacred narrative from my overwhelming gratitude for God’s guiding presence in my life.  I also find immense personal inspiration in the fearless faithfulness of the four women who remained at the foot of Christ’s cross, providing solidarity if not also solace, in accompanying Christ in his agony through their stalwartly attentive and courageous presence.  

In the Scriptures, we are told time and again that God looks down and watches over us, sees us, and knows us inside and out (e.g. Jer 23:24; Job 34:21; Prov 5:21; Ps 33:13, 18; Ps 121:8).

Christ’s healing touch and compassionate presence to others in His lifetime, and the women keeping vigil at the foot of his cross before His death remind us that it is now our turn to look — to be present as an accompanying witness to others who incarnate Christ’s suffering in our own day.  As Pope Francis exhorted the faithful on the feast of St Thomas in 2013:

“How can I find the wounds of Jesus today? I cannot see them as Thomas saw them. I find them in doing works of mercy, in giving to the body and to the soul, but I stress the body—of our injured brethren, for they are hungry, thirsty, naked, humiliated, slaves, in prison, in hospital. These are the wounds of Jesus in our day”* 

So on this Good Friday let us look and look again at Christ’s Passion to learn how to see, believe, and become true followers of Christ. 



Nora Heimann Ph.D, M.Div '26

Nora Heimann Ph.D, M.Div '26 is a student in the Divinity School.