Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.”
When I read that last week (while writing the sermon), I have to say—the way Jesus steps forward, fully aware of what would come next, I remember the thought just hit me: this is the freest man that ever lived.
I mean, all around him were individuals who were only too happy to make him a sacrifice: from Judas (who betrayed him), to Caiaphas (whose idea it was to make him a scapegoat), to that old spider Annas, weaving his backroom web. If he had wanted, Jesus could have maneuvered events to go in his favour. It wouldn’t have been hard; the people were with him, and the authorities knew it. In this moment in the garden, Jesus could have just melted back into the trees, then rallied a real movement.
But that isn’t what Jesus did. Knowing all that would happen to him, Jesus came forward. It takes my breath away. It makes me think of all the ways we try to win in our lives, all the ways we look out for ourselves and those on our side. Meanwhile, there is Jesus, quietly stepping forward and giving his life.
And that after his prayer to his Father: “I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them… I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”
So that’s what he did: Jesus sacrificed himself. While everyone else was planning their next political moves, anxiously vying for status and power, Jesus stepped forward and gave up his life. By doing that, he did something else. He revealed, he uncovered, who God really is: the ultimate self-giver. This is the message that Jesus embodied, and this is the message he passed on to us. It’s a part of what we mean when we say the word, gospel.
With you for Jesus,
Pastor Daren Redekopp
p.s. This week we go on with John 18:19-40. Read it ahead of time and come ready for this Sunday!