Between the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the words “delivered into the hands of sinful men” are stated three times by Jesus himself in predicting his own death. Luke’s gospel and the book of Acts each use this same exact phrase at least once in directly tying Old Testament prophecy to Jesus’ death and resurrection. And a slight variation of the words “delivered into”— delivered over, handed over, given over —are used an additional six times in the gospels referring directly to how Jesus would be seized, tried, condemned, treated, and killed. Incidentally, nine of these examples immediately follow Jesus’ warning of the unbelieving spirit of the Pharisee and the cost of following Messiah—which, on the whole, are two principle subjects of Jesus’ message regarding the embrace of kingdom rule and reign in a person’s life. In a word, “the Son of Man must suffer many things…” is all over the scriptures (see examples below).
Not surprising, however, for each of the numerous occasions referenced it appears those who heard these words did not understand them. To his hearers, Jesus was speaking in parables, bizarre riddles, some unintelligible language, a ghastly thought worthy of rebuke. How could their friend, their teacher, this worker of miracles, the “confessed Christ” who would inevitably establish righteousness, justice and peace across the land suddenly be found in custody of the state awaiting death by torture? How can this be? And who would dare?
Mark 12 Again he began to speak to them in parables… “Finally the owner of the vineyard sent his own dear son to the tenants he left in charge, saying, ‘Surely they will heed my son and respect him.’ But they did not. Those tenants said to one another, ‘This here is heir to vineyard. Let us kill him and take his inheritance for our own!’ So they seized the man’s son, killed him, and threw his body out of the vineyard.”
Given over into the hands of sinful men is the ultimate tension of engaging community. Entrusting thyself to the care of human will is the decisive test of obedient faith. Committed to the will of the Father as it’s unveiled through people is our most noticeable expression of enduring love. And these are the unalterable imperatives of following Jesus! “Whoever receives you receives me, but whoever rejects you rejects me; and whoever rejects me rejects the One who sent me”(Lk 10)
This is the world Christ is born into. This is the world we too are born into. Death is a part of Jesus’ life as it is for us. Life that includes rejections and betrayals, the worst of hurts and pains and the sins of others. Death is part of our life in Christ. And community is part of that death. We see Jesus is ashamed of this death and yet in no way does he avoid or evade. The Word has indeed become flesh and dwells in the care of those who will both love and destroy him—the Pharisee, the Tax Collector, the Soldier, the Leper, the Woman, the Child, You, Me, the World. The “confessed Christ” is completely present and completely immersed in community—hearts and hands and eyes that will not return his gaze.
What we do with the Savior delivered into our own hands will be most evident in how we care for Christ’s body. The body of Christ is his gathered church, a believing community of frail and disjointed people of whom we are a part, in whom we are made more human, and by whom the power of God’s grace is administered in the form of enduring hope. We were created for community… to give and receive love, to feel and be felt in others, to minister the hope of eternity. This is who we are; this is why we’re here.