Christ Lutheran Church
September 19, 2021
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
From there they passed through Galilee but he did not want anyone to know it because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them in no uncertain terms that: "The Son of Man will be given over into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and dying he will rise again on the third day." But they could not understand what he said and were afraid to even to ask him. Mark 9:30-32 (DKV)
When people are exposed to dreadful news there are several predictable responses, one of which is to shut down so that the bad news knocking on the door cannot get in. The entire process happens in the blink of an eye – the bad news is spoken, heard, fleetingly registered, then immediately rejected and the door to the mind is locked tighter than Fort Knox. It is a defense mechanism that is often seen by those whose job it is to deliver devastating news to people.
The lesson that our Lord taught the disciples that day frightened them to death. It is not clear whether St. Mark is saying that “they could not understand” or “would not understand,” but either way it overwhelmed them and reduced these normally debating disciples to radio silence.
But what made them quake with fear THEN, is the good news for us NOW!
Namely that the holy, innocent, bitter suffering and death of God’s beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and his resurrection on the third day, rescue us from the ravages of time, and make us immortal.
But the question we should ask today is who exactly handed Jesus over?...
Our first thought goes to Judas one of the Lord’s own disciples. He is a man who was privileged to learn heavenly truth from the Word Made Flesh. He was one of the Twelve whom Jesus sent out to preach the everlasting gospel, heal the sick and expel demons; and one of the Twelve who were appointed to sit in judgment of the 12 tribes of Israel.
But we know that some time on Holy Thursday, at the Eucharistic table, Satan entered into him, and he went out into the night, to give Jesus over into the hands of men, in exchange for 30 pieces of silver. And, ironically, that he betrayed him with a kiss. And so be careful of who you kiss; and who you let kiss you all concupiscent people who are ramped by the burning desires of the flesh…
Let us ask again. Who gave Jesus over into the hands of men to suffer and die in our place? Not Judas! He was only an instrument. The Jews and the Romans were, likewise, instruments. But to answer the question rightly, “Who handed Jesus over into the hands of men,” we must look not to man, but to God who is love!
We learn this from the lips of Jesus himself who says (John 3:16): “God so loved the world that he gave his One and Only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
We learn it, too, from St. Peter when he says (Acts 2:23-24) that “Jesus was handed over according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, to be crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men; and that God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for death to hold him.”
And again from the pen of St. Paul who writes, “God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
And so if we ask who gave Jesus over into the hands of men we must look to the source of our salvation. To God our Heavenly Father whose boundless love for his fallen creation moved him to give what was most precious, his own dear Son, in order to redeem us from all our enemies, and to restore our humanity to us.
But what does “given over into the hands of men,” mean?
It is a question we must answer very carefully.
The word used in the original New Testament Greek is “paradidomai,” which can be translated as “betrayed” – as in what Judas did. But it can also mean, “given over, or handed over” as in what God did.
St. Paul uses this word – “paradidomai” – when he says, “I handed over to you what is of first importance, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and was buried, and raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor. 15:3)
But the most crucial place where we must understand “given over into the hands of men” is at the consecration of the Blessed Bread and Cup where the celebrant says, “Our Lord Jesus Christ on the night when he was betrayed took bread.”
This translation of “betrayed” unfortunately makes us think of Judas and his dastardly deeds. But we can also legitimately translate it to say, “Our Lord Jesus Christ on the night when he was handed over, took bread” etc.
Then our thoughts turn away from Judas as the chief actor, and return to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who gave his one and only Son: for us men and for our salvation.
But when our Lord says, “The Son of Man will be given over into the hands of men,” there is more that we should comprehend, namely this Holy Communion that God puts into our hands every Sunday. By which we “remember” the Lord’s death.
But “remember,” like “betrayed” is another word that we must rightly understand.
It doesn’t simply mean to recall something psychologically. But rather to “participate.” To receive the Lord’s Supper, and to offer our bodies, along with Christ’s, as living sacrifices which are holy and acceptable to God, for this is our reasonable (participatory) worship. (Romans 12:1-2)
Moreover we are to “do this” every Sunday because Jesus says, “do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor. 11:25). But again let us be clear. “As often as you do it” does not mean that the frequency of the Lord’s Supper is to be determined by pastors or voters’ assemblies.
Nor does it mean that each Christian can decide to participate or not participate based on the standardless standard of his own need.
As long as you have flesh you need this food.
As long as you are mortal you need this medicine of immortality.
And so this sacrament is “given into the hands of men” to be received by the baptized every Sunday of their lives.
Nothing eclipses this.
Nothing is more crucial than this.
No food is as desirable as this.
It is the Bread of Heaven. Our Lord’s own glorified and exulted Flesh and Blood, that God has given over into the hands of men – we are those men – so that we might obtain the remission of our sins, life and salvation. Amen.