We don’t hear much about what happened on the Wednesday of Holy Week. We hear that Judas makes a deal with the chief priest to hand over Jesus and then looks for an opportunity to carry out the plan.
Often, most Christians will think of betrayal. That’s the way it is translated in English in many biblical translations. Here’s the problem – that’s not the best translation of the Greek. (A sidebar – This is also a good reason why literal interpretation of an English translation is highly faulty) The Greek word used for this is παραδιδομι (pronounced paradidomi). It means to hand over and it can also be translated as betrayal. I’m going to be jumping ahead to Friday here, but I think understanding what’s happening on Wednesday makes a bigger impact to understanding what happens on Friday.
Many of our English translations translate this word as “betrayal” when it is used in regards to Judas, but then the translations change. They translate the term to “hand over” when it relates to the chief priests, Pilate, and the Roman soldiers. So why betrayal for Judas, but not for everyone else?
Maybe we humans want there to a human bad guy to start the chain and so we cast Judas as the guilty party – the one who causes it all to start. That’s satisfying isn’t it. Yet it removes us from any participation. We’re no longer the ones crying out Crucify him! Crucify him! It was Judas’ fault. We’re no longer the guilty ones along with the rest of humanity. Only maybe that’s not totally the case.
If we look at the Gospel of John, we see in John 13:2 that it was the devil who had already put it into the heart of Judas to paradidomi Jesus.
For John, it starts with the devil and goes forward.
Except, death and sin and the devil don’t get the last laugh.
In John 19:30 Jesus received the wine and said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Or at least that’s what most English translations have. Yet, that’s not exactly it.
First, Jesus doesn’t say “It is finished.” That’s an active present statement. It means it is done and complete. That’s it. Game over. The Greek word here is τετελεσται (pronounced tetelestai) which is a perfect passive word. A better translation is “It has been accomplished.” What’s the difference? Significant. The perfect passive voice in scripture is often considered the Divine passive. Which means that it is God’s action that is happening. And furthermore, the perfect passive indicates that something isn’t just done – but the effects of what happened carry on into the future. It’s not just a one time event that is done and complete. It’s an event that is done, but still has an effect today and into the future.
And how about when Jesus gives up his spirit. Again, that’s not exactly what it says. The Greek says – παρέδωκεν τὸ πνεῦμα. παρέδωκεν is a form of παραδιδομι which I’m translating as “hand over”. τὸ is the definite article, in simple English, this means “the”. And finally πνεῦμα means Spirit. There is no possessive in the statement. It’s just not there. Instead, when we translate the Greek, it should say “He handed over the Spirit.”
Satan is the one who starts the process of handing over Jesus. But it is God who has the last laugh. Jesus hands over the Spirit to continue to work of God in the world. God hasn’t been defeated in Jesus’ death. Rather, Jesus overcomes sin and death and hands over the Spirit to continue his work in the world. Holy week isn’t just about Jesus dying and being resurrected (although that is powerful in its own right). It’s also the handing over of the Spirit to continue the work of God in the world.
There isn’t a betrayal. There is a handing over that carries on through many actors who just don’t know what to do with Jesus. And in the end we have Jesus, God self-emptied who hands over the Spirit. That’s powerful.
On this Wednesday of Holy Week, as we prepare to enter into the holy three days, let us take a breath and remember. Let us let go of our need to scapegoat. Let God wash over us and hand over the Spirit to us to work through us for God’s glory.