Plough My Account Sign Out
My Account
    View Cart

    Subtotal: $

    painting of Jesus Led from Herod to Pilate

    Walking through Christ’s Last Day

    Are we willing to suffer through Good Friday with Jesus?

    By John Donne

    April 7, 2023
    • Laura

      That was very hard, and fitting, and beautiful.

    • Henry Lewis

      John Donne. What to say. He calls us to walk with Jesus but so much more. He pleads with us to own the way of the cross and to love our Lord from the depth of our being, to not rest satisfied in some superficial stroll but to embrace the hardship and pain of divine love. Here I find sweet comfort - yes, even in the pain I find the love of God abounding free . And it is here - and only here - that I find true rest for the weary. Thank you for giving us John Donne. His words are sweet to me.

    John Donne preached his last sermon, “Death’s Duel,” the first Friday of Lent 1631 only one month before his death. Isaac Walton described the church scene this way, “Many that then saw his tears, and heard his faint and hollow voice, professing they thought the text prophetically chosen, and that Dr. Donne had preached his own funeral sermon.”

    Take in his whole day, from the hour that Christ ate the Passover upon Thursday, to the hour in which he died the next day. Make this present day, that day in thy devotion, and consider what he did, and remember what you have done. Before he instituted and celebrated the sacrament, (which was after the eating of the Passover) he proceeded to the act of humility, to wash his disciples’ feet; even Peter’s, who for a while resisted him. In thy preparation to the holy and blessed sacrament, has thou with a sincere humility sought a reconciliation with all the world, even with those who have been averse from it, and refused that reconciliation from thee? If so, (and not else) thou hast spent that first part, of this his last day, in a conformity with him. After the sacrament, he spent the time till night in prayer, in preaching, in psalms. Hast thou considered that a worthy receiving of the sacrament consists in a continuation of holiness after, as well as in a preparation before? If so, thou hast therein also conformed thyself to him: so Christ spent his time till night.

    At night he went into the garden to pray, and he prayed prolixius; he spent much time in prayer. How much? Because it is literally expressed that he prayed there three times, and that returning to his disciples after his first prayer, and finding them asleep, said, Could ye not watch with me one hour? It is collected that he spent three hours in prayer. I dare scarce ask thee whither thou wentest, or how thou disposedst of thyself, when it grew dark and after, last night. If that time were spent in a holy recommendation of thyself to God, and a submission of thy will to his; then it was spent in a conformity to him. In that time, and in those prayers were his agony and bloody sweat. I will hope that thou didst pray; but not every ordinary and customary prayer, but prayer actually accompanied with shedding of tears; and dispositively, in a readiness to shed blood for his glory in necessary cases, puts thee into a conformity with him.

    About midnight he was taken and bound with a kiss. Art thou not too conformable to him in that? Is not that too literally, too exactly thy case? At midnight to have been taken, and bound with a kiss? From thence he was carried back to Jerusalem; first to Annas, then to Caiaphas, and (as late as it was) there he was examined, and buffeted, and delivered over to the custody of those officers, from whom he received all those irrisions, and violences, the covering of his face, the spitting upon his face, the blasphemies of words, and the smartness of blows which that gospel mentions. In which compass fell that gallicinium, that crowing of the cock, which called up Peter to his repentance. How thou passedst all that time last night, thou knowest. If thou didst anything then that needed Peter’s tears, and hast not shed them … do it now; now thy Master (in the unworthiest of his servants) looks back upon thee, do it now.

    painting of Jesus Led from Herod to Pilate

    James Tissot, Jesus Led from Herod to Pilate (Jésus emmené de Hérode à Pilate), 1886–1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper.

    Betimes in the morning, as soon as it was day, the Jews held a council in the high priest’s house, and agreed upon their evidence against him, and then carried him to Pilate, who was to be his judge. Didst thou accuse thyself when thou wakedst this morning, and wast thou content to admit even false accusations, that, rather to suspect actions to have been sin which were not, than to smother and justify such as were truly sins? Then thou spentest that hour in conformity to him. Pilate found no evidence against him; and therefore to ease himself, and to pass a compliment upon Herod, tetrarch of Galilee, who was at that time at Jerusalem, (because Christ being a Galilean, was of Herod’s jurisdiction) Pilate sent him to Herod; and rather as a madman than a malefactor, Herod remanded him with scorns to Pilate to proceed against him; and this was about eight of the clock. Hast thou been content to come to this inquisition, this examination, this agitation, this cribration, this pursuit of thy conscience, to sift it, to follow it from the sins of thy youth to thy present sins, from the sins of thy bed to the sins of thy board, and from the substance to the circumstance of thy sins? That is time spent like thy Savior’s.

    Pilate would have saved Christ by using the privilege of the day in his behalf, because that day one prisoner was to be delivered; but they chose Barabbas. He would have saved him from death, by satisfying their fury, with inflicting other torments upon him, scourging, and crowning with thorns, and loading him with many scornful and ignominious contumelies; but this redeemed him not; they pressed a crucifying. Hast thou gone about to redeem thy sin, by fasting, by alms, by disciplines, and mortifications, in the way of satisfaction to the justice of God? That will not serve, that is not the right way. We press an utter crucifying of that sin that governs thee, and that conforms thee to Christ.

    Towards noon Pilate gave judgment; and they made such hast to execution, as that by noon he was upon the cross. There now hangs that sacred body upon the cross, re-baptized in his own tears and sweat, and embalmed in his own blood alive.… There those glorious eyes grew faint in their light, so as the sun, ashamed to survive them, departed with his light too. And there that Son of God, who was never from us, and yet had now come a new way unto us, in assuming our nature, delivers that soul which was never out of his Father’s hands, into his Father’s hands, by a new way, a voluntary emission thereof; for though to this God our Lord belong these issues of death, so that, considered in his own contract, he must necessarily die; yet at no breach, nor battery which they had made upon his sacred body, issues his soul, but emisit, he gave up the ghost: and as God breathed a soul into the first Adam, so this second Adam breathed his soul into God, into the hands of God.

    There we leave you, in that blessed dependency, to hang upon him, that hangs upon the cross. There bathe in his tears…and lie down in peace in his grave, till he vouchsafe you a resurrection, and an ascension into that kingdom which he hath purchased for you, with the inestimable price of his incorruptible blood. Amen.

    Source: From John Donne: Poetry and Prose of John Donne, selected by Walter Sydney Scott, published by J. Westhouse, 1946.

    Contributed By JohnDonne John Donne

    John Donne (c. 1572–1631) was educated at Oxford and Cambridge, sailed with Sr. Walter Raleigh to the Azores, and eventually converted to Anglicanism.

    Learn More
    You have ${x} free ${w} remaining. This is your last free article this month. We hope you've enjoyed your free articles. This article is reserved for subscribers.

      Already a subscriber? Sign in

    Try 3 months of unlimited access. Start your FREE TRIAL today. Cancel anytime.

    Start free trial now