It is Wednesday of Holy Week. Tomorrow, we begin the Triduum with the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Everything is hurtling toward the events of Christ’s Passion.
Today, we hear Matthew’s account of Judas’ betrayal being set in motion. First, Judas meets with the chief priests to determine the price that they would pay for him to hand Jesus over. Then Jesus announces Judas’ betrayal at the Last Supper.
Why do the chief priests want Judas to do this?
Yes, Jesus had cleansed the Temple. But the really threatening thing to them was his prediction of the destruction of the Temple.
Jesus represented a major change, in part, because he replaced the Temple. Temple worship becomes obsolete with Jesus. The early Christians recognized this. They might have still gone to the Temple initially for prayer and preaching. But, their celebration of the Eucharist was in their homes. Eventually, they would not even go to the Temple for prayer.
As we heard in last Saturday’s Gospel, the Sanhedrin convened to decide what to do about Jesus after the raising of Lazarus. Jesus death was inevitable once Caiaphas, the high priest, said, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” Caiaphas’ statement amounted to a death sentence and led to the cascade of happenings that followed.
As the events of this week unfold, can we sense what it might have been like to be there in Jerusalem? The triumphal tone of Jesus’ entry on Palm Sunday. The panic once Jesus was arrested. The dynamics of the Temple authorities pushing for Jesus’ crucifixion. The supporters of Barabbas mobilizing to shout for his release over that of Jesus. The Crucifixion itself. Things went from celebratory to terrifying very quickly for Jesus’ followers.
As we deal with emotions ranging from mere boredom to frustration to fear or even terror around this current pandemic, we likely have at least briefly experienced some of the emotions that those earliest Christians would have felt during that first Holy Week.
The one thing that we know that they did not, about both their story and ours, is how it ends. There is Resurrection. There is life. A life in which we can participate…even now. We know that this life cannot be destroyed by anyone or anything, even death. From this, we have hope, a hope that cannot be dimmed.