We are approaching Jesus’ death and I am struck by how there are two very different roads to the same place, Mt. Calvary.
The chapter begins by telling us that Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders are both contemplating the same event, but have very different intentions:
Jesus said to his disciples, “In two days’ time, as you know, it’ll be Passover! That’s when the son of man will be handed over to be crucified.” (26:1-2)
The chief priests got together with the elders of the people. . . . They plotted how to capture Jesus by some trick, and kill him. (26:4)
Next, we have the two groups making preparation for death. An unnamed woman comes to Jesus and anoints his head with very expensive perfume, unbeknownst to her as preparation for his burial. She does this as a sign of honor. Meanwhile, the chief priests strike a deal with Judas to lead them to Jesus in a private place so they can arrest him without a scene. Preparations are made for betrayal.
When Jesus is arrested in Gethsemane, a stark divergence is seen again. Everyone around Jesus — including impetuous Peter — operates by force. Swords are brandished, an ear is cut off, and Jesus is manhandled away to the house of the high priest. In contrast, throughout it all Jesus operates by peace. He so opposes force that he heals the high priest’s slave’s ear and chastises his own defender Peter. These are two radically different ways of operating in the world.
Both groups see Jesus’ body as an object to satisfy a need. For Jesus, his body is an instrument of “forgiveness of sins” and healing (26:28). Later, as the palace guard spat on Jesus and beat him, they show that Jesus’ body is simply an object on which to show hatred and humiliation.
Yet, both of these roads end up at the same place. However, for one it is a cross of shame, mockery, and elimination. For Jesus it is the cross of victory, love, and forgiveness.