29 March 2024

Three memorials
mark the sites of
the mediaeval Jewish
cemetery in Oxford

‘May their memory be blessed’ … three plaques remember the mediaeval Jewish cemetery in Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I recently walked along ‘Deadman’s Walk’, the footpath from Christ Church Meadows to the Rose Garden and the Botanic Gardens in Oxford. This pathway linked the mediaeval Jewry along what is now St Aldates in Oxford to the mediaeval Jewish cemetery by the banks of the Cherwell, and to this day it is known as Deadman’s Walk.

During those walks, I also visited three plaques erected in recent decades that mark the site of the mediaeval Jewish cemetery at the Rose Garden by the Botanic Garden and in Saint John’s Quad in Magdalen College.

Jews first arrived in England with the Norman Conquest in 1066, and 20 years later the Domesday Book in 1086 recorded a Jew living in Oxfordshire in 1086. What is now known as St Aldate’s then became known as Great Jewry Street, and a nearby street was called Little Jewry Lane. Many Jewish homes were in close proximity, indicating Oxford had a flourishing Jewish community.

The presence of this Jewish community is shown in the existence of a synagogue on Great Jewry Street, founded by Copin of Worcester in 1228. This is now the site of the Archdeacon’s house in Christ Church College.

The mediaeval Jewish cemetery in Oxford was first laid out on land bought by the Jewish community in the meadows by the Cherwell River after 1177. The site lay just outside the East Gate of the ancient city walls.

For many years, the Jews of England were prohibited from burying their dead outside London and they had to bring them to London to be buried in the Jewish cemetery outside Cripplegate, on Jewin Street, known then as ‘Jews’ Garden’.

This restriction continued until 1177, when Henry II allowed Jews to acquire burial sites outside London. However, it is not known when Jews began burying their dead in Oxford. When Gedaliyah ben Moses of Wallingford (‘Deus-eum-crescat’) died ca 1188, his body was taken to London for burial, which indicates the cemetery had not yet been laid out by 1188.

The site of the medieval Jewish cemetery was later acquired by Magdalen College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

At some time between 1188 and 1231, the members of the Jewish community in Oxford began burying their dead members on land between the East Gate and the Cherwell River. This site, representing the part of High Street that runs between Longwall Street and Magdalen Bridge, was acquired with royal approval.

The site of the Jewish cemetery in Oxford was reduced in 1231, when Henry III granted the part of the burial site on the north side of the High Street to Hospital of Saint John the Baptist. The hospital appears in the records in 1181, and it was granted the land of the ‘Garden of the Jews’ to build a hospital in 1231, on condition that a piece of land measuring 300 ft by 90 ft on the south side of High Street was retained for Jewish burials.

A small area of the meadows, near the present Rose Garden, remained as the Jewish burial ground until 1290, when all Jews were expelled from England under Edward I. The site of the former cemetery is now represented by part of Magdalen College and by a portion of the Botanic Gardens.

A plaque marking the site of the Jewish cemetery was erected in 1931 in a corner by the Danby Gate (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Hospital of Saint was dissolved in 1457, when it was granted to William Waynfleet for the foundation of Magdalen College. Part of the site of the original Jewish cemetery was let out as a meadow to tenants of Magdalen College until 1621, when the Botanic Garden or Physic Garden, was founded by Henry Danvers (1573-1644), Earl Danby, a former Lord President of Munster and a cousin of the priest-poet George Herbert.

Lord Danby obtained a new lease of the meadowland site of the former Jewish cemetery from Magdalen College. The site was chosen because it was ‘aptly watered with the River Charwell.’

A mass of bones was dug up when the wall of the ‘Physic Garden’ was built between 1621 and 1633. To free the garden from flooding from the adjacent Cherwell River, the level of the garden was raised between the north wall and the bridge in 1642. The unearthing of bones during the construction of the wall and the raising of the ground suggest that even today there may be graves beneath the site.

The existence of a Jewish cemetery on the site remained widely known and the Jewish community in Oxford would pray there and recite the mourners’ Kaddish on Friday afternoons up until the 1920s.

The plaque by the Danby Gate in the Botanic Garden was inspired by Herbert Loewe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today, the leafy entrance to the Botanic Garden, with its serene classical-style Danby Gate and ornate Rose Garden, offers an escape from Oxford’s busy High Street. But this tranquil spot also displays two of the three plaques in Oxford commemorating the existence of a mediaeval Jewish cemetery.

A plaque on the right-hand wall beside the Danby Gate at the entrance to the Botanic Garden was unveiled by the City Council in 1931. This plaque commemorates the site of the mediaeval Jewish cemetery. The plaque is in a discreet corner that makes it difficult to find and read. The inscription reads: ‘This stone marks the site of the Jewish Cemetery until 1290.’

The plaque was inspired by Herbert Loewe (1882-1940), lecturer in Semitic languages at Exeter College, Oxford, who also inspired the plaque on the site of the Town Hall, commemorating Great Jewry Street and the plaque on the former site of Osney Abbey where Haggai (Robert) of Reading, was burnt to death in 1221 as punishment for converting to Judaism and refusing to recant.

The prominent, granite memorial at the Rose Garden was erected in 2012 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Oxford Jewish Heritage Committee erected a second, more prominent, granite memorial to the mediaeval Jewish Community facing the Rose Garden, outside the enclosure of the walled Botanic Garden, on 4 July 2012.

The very wordy English inscription on the memorial stone gives the history of the site:

‘Beneath this stone lies a medieval cemetery.

‘Around 1190 the Jews of Oxford purchased a water meadow outside the city walls to establish a burial ground. In 1231 that land, now occupied by Magdalen College, was appropriated by the Hospital of St John, and a small section of wasteland, where this memorial lies, was given to the Jews for a new cemetery.

‘An ancient footpath linked the cemetery with the medieval Jewish quarter along Great Jewry Street, now St Aldate’s. For over 800 years, this path has been called ‘Deadman’s Walk’, a name that bears silent witness to a community that contributed to the growth of this City and University throughout the 12th and 13th centuries.

‘In 1290 all the Jews were expelled from England by King Edward I. They were not permitted to return for over 350 years.

‘May their memory be blessed.’

The tablet in the paving in Saint John’s Quad, Magdalen College, was placed in 2019 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Another part of the original Jewish cemetery is the site of the Tower and part of the south side of Magdalen College. Human bones were found in Magdalen College during building works in 2016-2017 on the site of the mediaeval kitchen. They indicated the further reaches of the site of the mediaeval Jewish cemetery. Magdalen College later erected a tablet in memory of the Jewish people who were buried there, and who were reburied on 20 June 2019.

The plaque set into the paving in Saint John’s Quad to mark the discovery reads:

‘The site of the first Oxford Jewish Cemetery c. 1190 – 1231

‘The remains of unknown souls were found here in 2016.’

זכרונו\ה\ם\ן לברכה, May their memories be a blessing

Shabbat Shalom

The mediaeval Jewish cemetery in Oxford was first laid out on land by the Cherwell River (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Stations of the Cross
and praying with
Julian of Norwich
on Good Friday 2024

‘Jesus dies on the cross’ … Station 12 in the Stations of the Cross by Irene Ogden in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

Today is Good Friday and later this afternoon I am involved in reading the Gospel at the Good Friday service in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford.

Earlier this week, on Palm Sunday (24 March), I was reflecting on the Stations of the Cross in Saint Alban’s Church, in Holborn, London.

In previous years, during Lent, Passiontide or Holy Week, I have reflected on the Stations of the Cross in a variety of locations including: Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford (2018); Saint John’s Well, Millstreet, Co Cork (2018); the chapel in Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (2018); Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick (2019); Gormanston College, Co Meath (2019); Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth (2019); the Church of the Annunciation, Clonard, Wexford (2022); Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford (2022); Saint Dunstan and All Saints’ Church, Stepney (2023); and Saint Frances de Sales Church, Wolverton (2023).

I was in Norwich earlier this week, when I visited Norwich Cathedral and a number of churches in the city, including Saint Julian’s Church, where the anchorite Julian of Norwich lived in a cell attached to the church. It is possible her name was taken from Saint Julian’s Church.

Julian of Norwich is the first woman whose writings in English have survived. Her book Revelations of Divine Love was written in two versions, usually referred to as the Short Text and the Long Text. The earlier Short Text was written after she experienced a series of 16 mystical revelations, following her recovery from an illness that brought her close to death. Julian of Norwich is also known in modern literature for the phrase ‘all manner of things shall be well,’ quoted by TS Eliot’s Four Quartets.

The Stations of the Cross in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich, were painted in 1993 by the artist Irene (Rene) Ogden (1919-2015), and were given to the church by the parish curate, the Revd Marigold Hall (1929-2023). The stations have inspired a devotional booklet by Sheila Upjohn in which she draws on Julian’s text.

Irene (Rene) Ogden was an art teacher at Norwich High School for Girls from 1946 to 1979. When she retired she moved into the Cathedral Close and made Norwich Cathedral her spiritual home.

She is also remembered for making masks for the mediaeval cycle of miracle plays and Chaucer texts performed in the cathedral. She supported the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield and Christian Aid. She died on 10 November 2015 in Lancaster and a memorial service was held in Norwich Cathedral.

Station 1, Jesus is condemned to death

‘Jesus is condemned to death’ … Station 1 in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

In Station I, Christ stands alone in Pilate’s Court – perhaps by the pillar at which he has been scourged. In his hand he holds a reed or rod, a simple robe hangs on his shoulders has a crown of thorns is on his head. All are part of the ritual in which he was mocked and scorned after being brought before Pilate (Matthew 27; 28-30; Mark 16: 17; John 19: 2; cf Luke 23: 11).

The reflection on this station in Saint Julian’s Church reads: ‘My Kingdom is not of this world. Everyone that is of the truth hears my voice.’

Station 2, Jesus receives the Cross

‘Jesus receives the Cross’ … Station 2 in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

At Station II, Christ takes the cross on his shoulders. Saint John’s Gospel alone says that Christ carried the cross by himself (John 19: 17); the other three Gospels say Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry the cross behind him.

The reflection on this station in Saint Julian’s Church reads: ‘Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.’

Station 3: Jesus falls the first time

‘Jesus falls the first time’ … Station 3 in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

At Station III, Christ falls beneath the weight of his Cross. This is one of the traditional Stations of the Cross that depict Passion scenes that are not recalled in any of the Gospel accounts.

The reflection on this station in Saint Julian’s Church reads: ‘He was despised & rejected for our transgressions.’

Station 4: Jesus meets his Mother

‘Jesus meets his Mother’ … Station 4 in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

At Station IV, Christ meets his Mother Mary. Perhaps he drops his Cross forgetfully as he rushes towards her and she rushes towards him. She stretches out both hands as if she is about to embrace him; he has one arm around her neck, his right hand clutching her left shoulder. But his other arm is being pulled back by the arm of another, a soldier, an official, someone who has also been brutalised.

The reflection on this station in Saint Julian’s Church reads: ‘I know him and the fellowship of his suffering being made comfortable unto his death.’

Station 5: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his Cross

‘Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his Cross’ … Station 5 in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

At Station V, we meet Simon of Cyrene, who is compelled to carry Christ’s Cross, according to all three Synoptic Gospels (see Matthew 27: 32; Mark 15: 21-22; Luke 23-26).

The reflection on this station in Saint Julian’s Church reads: ‘Whosever will come after me let him take up his cross and follow me.’

Station 6: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

‘Veronica wipes the face of Jesus’ … Station 6 in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Station VI tells a story not told in any of the four Gospels, although there are some parallels with the story of the woman who was healed miraculously by touching the hem Christ’s garment (Luke 8: 43-48). In popular depictions of this station, Veronica is often seen on her knees, offering her veil with both hands. Christ stretches out to receive the veil, while Simon of Cyrene continues to prop up the Cross. According to tradition, Veronica is moved with sympathy when she sees Christ carrying his cross and gives him her veil to wipe his forehead. When he hands back the veil, it is marked with the image of his face.

The reflection on this station in Saint Julian’s Church reads: ‘The revelation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus.’

Station 7: Jesus falls the second time

‘Jesus falls the second time’ … Station 7 in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Station VII also illustrates a story that is not told any of the four Gospel accounts of Christ’s journey to Calvary, although the popular numbering of three falls may have a Trinitarian intention. In this station, Christ falls to his knees beneath the weight of his cross. As children, we used to say: ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names shall never hurt me.’ Do those who force Christ to carry his cross beat him as he falls with sticks and stones? Do they berate him verbally and call him names?

The reflection on this station in Saint Julian’s Church reads: ‘He was despised & rejected, he was bruised for our iniquities.’

Station 8: The women of Jerusalem weep for Jesus

‘The women of Jerusalem weep for Jesus’ … Station 8 in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Saint Luke alone among the Gospel writers tells the story recalled in Station VIII, where Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem:

A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’ (Luke 23: 26-35).

The ‘Daughters of Jerusalem’ are mentioned several times in the Song of Solomon (see 1: 5, 2: 7, 3: 10-11, 5: 8, 5: 16). For example: ‘O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, tell him this: I am faint with love’ (Song of Solomon 5: 8).

The reflection on this station in Saint Julian’s Church reads: ‘Weep for me. Weep for yourselves & your children.’

Station 9: Jesus falls the third time

‘Jesus falls the third time’ … Station 9 in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Station IX is another of the traditional stations that does not recall an event in any of the passion narratives in the four Gospels. The third fall, like the other two falls, is not mentioned in the Gospel accounts of the Passion, but the incident is part of traditional Christian piety and Station IX in the Stations of the Cross.

The reflection on this station in Saint Julian’s Church reads: ‘He was despised & rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.’

Station 10: Jesus is stripped of his garments

‘Jesus is stripped of his garments’ … Station 10 in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Station X depicts a scene described in all four Gospels:

And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him (Matthew 27: 35-36).

And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take (Mark 15: 24).

And they cast lots to divide his clothing (Luke 23: 34).

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says,
‘They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots’ (John 19: 23-24).

The reflection on this station in Saint Julian’s Church reads: ‘Being made in the likeness of man, he humbled himself.’

Station 11: Jesus is nailed to the cross

‘Jesus is nailed to the cross’ … Station 11 in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

In Station XI, Christ is nailed to the cross. When I search for ‘Nails’ on Google, trying any of the towns I have lived in, I get endless lists of nail bars offering glamorous treatments that I am never going to contemplate or need. But there is nothing glamorous about the nails and hands in Station XI in the Stations of the Cross.

Two thieves will also be nailed to two more crosses on the hilltop. One will ask for mercy and forgiveness and he will receive the promise he seeks from Christ.

The reflection on this station in Saint Julian’s Church reads: ‘I lay down my life of my own free will, no-one takes it from me.’

Station 12: Jesus dies on the cross

‘Jesus dies on the cross’ … Station 12 in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

In Station XII, the Crucified Christ dies between the two thieves on either side. At the top of the Cross are the words written by Pilate, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.’ In Saint Luke’s Gospel alone, the Penitent Thief cries out: ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (Luke 23: 42).

When Christ dies on the Cross in Station XII, the group at the foot of the Cross are mainly women. The Gospel writers say many women were there (Matthew 27: 55; Luke 23: 55), and they name his mother Mary (John 19: 25-27), her sister Mary, the wife of Clopas (John 19: 25), Mary Magdalene (Matthew 27: 56; Mark 15: 40, 47; John 19: 25), Mary the mother of James and Joseph (Matthew 27: 56; Mark 15: 40, 47), Mary the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matthew 27: 56), and Salome (Mark 15: 40).

The only man at the Cross on Good Friday, apart from those who condemned Christ and the two thieves, is Saint John the Beloved Disciple (John 19: 26).

The reflection on this station in Saint Julian’s Church reads: ‘When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to me.’

Station 13: Jesus is taken down from the cross

‘Jesus is taken down from the cross’ … Station 13 in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Sometimes, Station XIII is described as ‘The Body of Jesus Is Placed in the Arms of his Mother.’ In the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke say Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus, took the body, and wrapped it a clean linen cloth (Matthew 27: 28; Mark 15: 43, 46; Luke 23: 50-53); Saint John’s Gospel adds that Nicodemus helped Joseph with the preparation of the body for burial.

None of the Gospels says that the Virgin Mary held the body of her son when he was taken down from the Cross and before he was buried. But this has become a popular image in Passion scenes, from Michelangelo’s Pieta to the statues that dominate Good Friday processions today in Italy, Spain and Portugal.

The Mother who once cradled the Infant Child on her lap, now holds her dead son on her lap. The hands once raised in adoration and in love, are now raised in horror and in anguish. Had she known that this was the end, would she have said yes to the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation when he greeted her with those words, ‘Ave Maria, Hail Mary’?

Does she remember now how she once cradled the Christ Child on her lap? Are the grave clothes he is to be wrapped in as he is laid in the grave a reminder to her of the swaddling clothes she wrapped him in as she laid him down to sleep in his crib in Bethlehem?

The reflection on this station in Saint Julian’s Church reads: ‘He that descended is the same that ascended.’

Station 14: Jesus is laid in the tomb

‘Jesus is laid in the tomb’ … Station 14 in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

When Christ is laid in the tomb at Station XIV, the Virgin Mary, hands crossed as if she is about to approach the Altar at the Eucharist to receive the Body of Christ, watches as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus gently lay Christ’s body in the grave.

Nicodemus who came to see Christ under the cover of darkness, now prepares to bury his body before darkness falls. Nicodemus who had questions and doubts, now holds the Body of Christ in his hands. Nicodemus has become a full communicant member of the Church.

In death he knows what is meant by new birth.

‘The Body of Christ given for you.’


But this is not the end.

The reflection on this station in Saint Julian’s Church reads: ‘We are buried with him in our Baptism. We are raised to new life with him.’

There are seven days of creation. God’s work is complete and God rests on the seventh day; now Christ is to rest in the grave on the seventh day, his work is complete.

Early on Sunday morning, before dawn on the first day of the week, the women come to the tomb with spices they have prepared. But they find the stone has been rolled away from the tomb, there is no body, and two men in dazzling clothes ask them ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen’ (Luke 24: 5). There is a similar greeting in the other two Synoptic Gospels: ‘He is not here; for he has been raised’ (Matthew 28: 6); ‘He has been raised; he is not here’ (Mark 16: 6).

The Cross is empty.

The Grave is empty.

We have Good News to proclaim.

‘We are buried with him in our Baptism. We are raised to new life with him’ … the Baptismal font in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Daily prayer in Lent with
early English saints:
45, 29 March 2024,
Walter Hilton of Thurgarton

We have reached the climax of Lent and Holy Week today with Good Friday … posters for Holy Week and Good Friday services and music in Oxford this week (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

We have reached the climax of Lent and Holy Week today with Good Friday (29 March 2024).

Throughout Lent this year, I am taking time each morning to reflect on the lives of early, pre-Reformation English saints commemorated in Common Worship.

Later this afternoon, at 3 pm, I hope to be involved in the dramatic reading of the Gospel at the Good Friday Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion and Death in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford.

But, before this day begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning to give thanks for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, A reflection on an early, pre-Reformation English saint;

2, today’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The Crucifixion depicted in a window by NHJ Westlake (1833-1921) in the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles, Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Early English pre-Reformation saints: 45, Walter Hilton of Thurgarton

Walter Hilton of Thurgarton (1396) is remembered in Common Worship on 24 March as an Augustinian canon and mystic.

Walter Hilton was born in 1343 and studied Canon Law at Cambridge. After a period as a hermit, he joined the community of Augustinian Canons at Thurgarton in Nottinghamshire ca 1386.

He was highly regarded in his lifetime as a spiritual guide, he wrote in both Latin and English and he translated several Latin devotional works. Controversy with ‘enthusiasts’ and with the Lollard movement gave a sharper definition to his exposition of the aims, methods and disciplines of traditional spirituality.

Amongst his major works, Ladder of Perfection (Book Two) declares that contemplation, understood in a profoundly Trinitarian context as awareness of grace and sensitivity to the Spirit, may and should be sought by all serious Christians. He died on 24 March 1396.

‘Woman, here is your son … Here is your mother’ (John 19: 26, 27) … the Virgin Mary and the Beloved Disciple depicted on the Rood Beam in the Church of Saint John the Evangelist, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

John 18: 1 to 19: 42 (NRSVA):

1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ 5 They answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus replied, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he’, they stepped back and fell to the ground. 7 Again he asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’[e] 8 Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.’ 9 This was to fulfil the word that he had spoken, ‘I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.’ 10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. 11 Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?’

12 So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. 13 First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

15 Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16 but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. 17 The woman said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ 18 Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing round it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

19 Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 20 Jesus answered, ‘I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.’ 22 When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ 23 Jesus answered, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’ 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, ‘You are not also one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’ 26 One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’ 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

28 Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ 30 They answered, ‘If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.’ 31 Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.’ The Jews replied, ‘We are not permitted to put anyone to death.’ 32 (This was to fulfil what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ 34 Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ 35 Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’ 36 Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ 37 Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ 38 Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’

After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, ‘I find no case against him. 39 But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ 40 They shouted in reply, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a bandit.

1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. 3 They kept coming up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and striking him on the face. 4 Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.’ 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ 6 When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.’ 7 The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.’

8 Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. 9 He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Pilate therefore said to him, ‘Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?’ 11 Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’ 12 From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.’

13 When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ 15 They cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but the emperor.’ 16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus; 17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew,[o] in Latin, and in Greek. 21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews”, but, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.”’ 22 Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’ 23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24 So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says,

‘They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.’

25 And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ 27 Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35 (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) 36 These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘None of his bones shall be broken.’ 37 And again another passage of scripture says, ‘They will look on the one whom they have pierced.’

38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

The Byzantine-style crucifix by Laurence King (1907-1981) in the crypt of Saint Mary le Bow on Cheapside in London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers (Friday 29 March 2024, Good Friday):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Holy Week Reflection.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by the Revd Canon Dr Peniel Rajkumar, Theologian and Director of Global Mission, USPG.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (29 March 2024) invites us to pray in these words:

Let us dwell with our Lord in the darkness of Good Friday, longing for Easter to arrive.

The Collect:

Almighty Father,
look with mercy on this your family
for which our Lord Jesus Christ was content to be betrayed
and given up into the hands of sinners
and to suffer death upon the cross;
who is alive and glorified with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Additional Collect:

Eternal God,
in the cross of Jesus
we see the cost of our sin
and the depth of your love:
in humble hope and fear
may we place at his feet
all that we have and all that we are,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday: Richard Rolle of Hampole

Tomorrow: Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe

A Byzantine-style crucifix by Αλεξανδρα Καουκι, icon writer in Rethymnon, Crete

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org