The story of Jesus’ passion and death begins with Judas. As we heard:
One of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?
The answer that then unfolds is staged through a process of betrayal, abandonment, condemnation, judgement, torture, crucifixion. But it all begins with a question: ‘What are you prepared to give me … ?’
For whatever reason, which we do not know and can only surmise, Judas had lost faith in Jesus. The tragedy that unfolded because of that loss of faith was, of course, monumental. But it was also personal.
It was personal for the other disciples as they ran away. It was personal for Peter as he abandoned his master. It was personal for the Chief Priest and the Sanhedrin as they sought to condemn. It was personal for Pontius Pilate as he acquiesced to their demand. It was personal for the soldiers who enjoyed their torture, and for the crowds who gawked below the cross.
Each step that Jesus took towards his death was personal. What are you prepared to give me … ?
But it was also personal for Jesus, every step of the way. In his journey to death, Jesus took up the question of Judas, and re-oriented it. He asked—and then answered—a different question: ‘What am I prepared to give you … ?’
He saw the heart of Judas and his other disciples. He saw Peter. He saw the malice of his condemners, and he saw the weakness of Pilate. He saw—and felt—the soldiers come at him, and saw the gaping crowd below him. Jesus saw all this, personally. And yet, he kept walking, eventually staggering, towards his death.
And once up on that cross, Jesus also saw us; and with his death, he said: Look at what I am prepared to give to you.
Banner image: Fra Angelico, Crucified Christ with St John the Evangelist (detail), 1441–1442.