Henri Nouwen in his book of Lenten reflections, Show me the way, has a wonderful reflection about Jesus betrayal: “In all truth I tell you, one of you will betray me.” (John 13:21) In the reflection, he reminds us that our salvation came not from what Jesus did during the active, ministerial portion of His life. Rather our salvation comes from how Jesus responded to what was done to Him during the final week of his life. As the prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 50: I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
Let me share with you Nouwen’s thought-provoking reflection.
The moment when Jesus is handed over to those who do with him as they please is a turning point in Jesus; ministry. It is turning from action to passion. After years of teaching, preaching, healing, and moving to wherever he wanted to go, Jesus is handed over to the caprices of his enemies. Things are now no longer done by him, but to him. He is flagellated, crowned with thorns, spat at, laughed at, stripped, and nailed naked to a cross. He is a passive victim, subject to other people’s actions. From the moment that Jesus is handed over, his passion begins, and through this passion he fulfills his vocation.
It is important for me to realize that Jesus fulfills his mission not by what he does, but by what is done to him. Just as with everyone else, most of my life is determined by what is done to me and thus is passion. And because most of my life is passion, things being done to me, only small parts of my life are determined by what I think, say, or do. I am inclined to protest against this and to want all to be action, originated by me. But the truth is that my passion is a much greater part of my life than my action. Not to recognize this is self-deception and not to embrace my passion with love is self-rejection.
It is good news to know that Jesus is handed over to passion, and through his passion accomplishes his divine task on earth. It is good news for a world passionately searching for wholeness.
Jesus’ words to Peter remind me that Jesus’ transition from action to passion must also be ours if we want to follow his way. He says, “When you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will put a belt around you and take you where you would rather not go.’ (John 21:18)
I, too, have to let myself be “handed over” and thus fulfill my vocation.