"Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, 'Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.'
'Where do you want us to prepare for it?' they asked.
He replied, 'As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.'
They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover."
- Luke 22:1-13
The Jewish leaders were 'afraid of the people,' yet somehow, Jesus was not. Like so much else in the gospel story, this seems upside down and backwards. As today's passage so clearly outlines, Jesus is the one heading into danger. Yet he shows no fear. His cloak-and-dagger description of how to prepare for the feast speaks to his keen insight and his awareness that trouble is brewing, but there isn't a whiff of fear in any of his words.
Looking back on this whole story from the vantage point of 2000 years, we sometimes lose sight of how terrifying Jesus must have been to those in power. He wanted to turn power structures on their head and he was bold enough to say so. Those who had the power were loath to relinquish it and they saw in Jesus a very real threat to their way of life and their authority. Why?
Because up to this point, the people love what Jesus has to say. They respond to his compassion, they follow him from place to place to find healing and wholeness, they appreciate his upside-down worldview.
Something has to give.
And Judas, listening to the voice of the enemy, is the spark-plug for the entire reversal which is relentlessly coming down on Jesus' head. Luke's gospel tells the story in a masterful way, tying threads together beautifully, connecting the sacrifice of Jesus to the offering of the lamb and showing us Judas' connections to the Jewish authorities. The suspense is building.
An interesting lectionary choice for Advent, I think. To read the end of the story as we wait for the beginning. To be reminded of how the Gift in the manger is ultimately received and discarded, like so much used wrapping paper.
In the end, the betrayal comes from 'the people.' From folks like me and like you. And Judas starts the horror-ball rolling. Within days, the adoring crowd will be crying, "Crucify him!" Stunning. And chilling.
Why, Lord? Why were you not afraid to come to us, this scheming, jealous, fearful race? How could you continue to live your life of love and die your death of love when the ones you came to love rejected you? It's a miracle, that's the only word I can find. And so today, as we are one day closer to the celebration of your rude and bloody entry into our midst, I thank you for that miracle, for being willing to make such a rude and bloody exit. . . for our sakes alone. Thank you.