For three years Jesus had gone from village to village doing good, teaching and healing. Everywhere he went he was surrounded by crowds of people who listened to him, and sought things from him. It had been an incredibly full and active three years. Yet during all that time he had been in control. He came and went more or less as he pleased.
But when he was handed over to his enemies in the garden of Gethsemane (handed over by one of his own), all this came to an end. It represented a turning point in his ministry. From then on he began to undergo suffering. And that’s when his passion began. From that moment on he was no longer in control of what was happening. Things were now done to him rather than by him.
Thus he was arrested, put in prison, led before Caiphas, Herod and Pilate, interrogated, scourged, crowned with thorns, given a cross to carry, stripped of his clothes, nailed to the cross, mocked … and finally he died. Jesus fulfilled his mission not only by what he did, but also and more especially by what was done to him – by his passion. We have to be very clear about one thing: the Father didn’t throw him to the wolves. Jesus died voluntarily. He gave his life.
Much of our lives are determined more by what is done to us than by what we do: in a very real sense this is our passion. It is this passion, if we can genuinely accept it, as well as our actions, that leads to salvation. It is important to realize the extent to which we are acted upon. As children we are ‘at the mercy’ of adults. As we move through life there is fate, betrayal, bad-luck, illness of one kind or another, loss of friendships, failure in relationships, disappointments with spouses and children, the death of loved ones, the drudgery of the workplace, and so on.
Of course, there are joyful moments and periods of peace too. But the reality is that there are many things which are outside our control. They are all part of what it means to be human. We do however have a choice in how we respond to what life throws at us. It can make us or break us. Jesus survived as himself, strong, pure, good. Who would we be, if loss, or crisis, or the depredations of time were to take away from us the trappings of success, of self-importance, even personality itself?
The Passion Story shows how Jesus responded to what was done to him. He absorbed all the violence, transformed it, and returned it as love and forgiveness. This is the victory of love over all the powers of destruction. There was nothing but love in him. Even when they nailed his hands and feet, he was loving. It helps to think about that when we are going through hard times.