A central theme in the story of Jesus’ arrest is being “handed over.” In the Garden, Jesus was “handed over” to Roman authorities. Some translations say he was “betrayed,” but the Greek says that Judas “handed over.”
The same word is used also for God. Romans 4:25, “Jesus was handed over for our sins.” Romans 8:32, “God did not spare Jesus, but handed him over to benefit us all.” So “handed over” is important in the spiritual movement of Jesus from ministry to passion.
The drama of being handed over radically divides the life of Jesus in two parts. The first part of his life is filled with activity and initiative. Jesus preaches, heals, and travels. But immediately after he is handed over, Jesus is the one to whom things are being done. He is arrested, led to the high priest, beaten, and nailed to a cross. Things are being done to him over which he has no control.
This is the meaning of “passion” (to suffer). He is the recipient of other people’s actions. It is important for us to realize that when Jesus says, “It is finished” (John 19:30), he does not simply mean, “I have done all the things I want to do.” He also means, “I have allowed things to be done to me that needed to be done to me to fulfill my purpose.” Jesus fulfills his vocation not in action only, but also in passion.
We are so preoccupied in our culture with staying in control. Our self-esteem is largely based on our ability to stay active, be productive, take initiative, and set directions for our lives. The reality is that we have very little control over our lives. Most things are done to us or not determined by us (gender, color of skin, nationality, family of origin, and education). And our common destination is death.
The challenge is to see our passion as much as our action as vocation. How are you called to follow the way of Jesus to the cross? how are you called to follow Christ to new life? Both are parts of following Jesus in life and death.
Passion is a kind of waiting–waiting for what other people are going to do. All action ends in passion. To love another is to realize that they have the power and freedom to hand us over to suffering, whether intentionally or not. When we are handed over, we wait to be acted upon. When the time comes, we let go of our wishes and desires, and wait open-endedly for others to act, for God to deliver, giving up control over our future and letting God define our lives.