As John the Baptist’s role as messenger of the Messiah concludes, Mark tells us he is "handed over" or "arrested" or "surrendered" or "betrayed"(1:14). At this point in his story Mark reveals nothing about John’s future. Who engineers this "handing over" remains a mystery. We do sense that John’s service for God is coming to an end. The agent ultimately responsible for this transition must be God. The passive form of the verb "was handed over" implies an agent and when this is undefined, frequently God is the assumed agent. He sent John and He affirms the Messianic status of Jesus.
When Jesus begins his final journey to Jerusalem, he prophecies to his disciples that upon his arrival he will be "betrayed" (9:31;10:33) or "handed over". The same word occurs in the passive voice. The agent again is undefined. In the midst of his final Passover meal with his disciples Jesus warned: "the Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed" (14:21). We know that Judas is the person "through whom" this handing over occurs. Jesus’ assertion that this action happens in fulfillment of God’s word indicates that God is intensely involved in this event. Judas may be the immediate instrument, but God is the agent Who effects this complex "surrender". This is affirmed in 14:27 as Jesus himself (quoting Zechariah 13:7) names God as the One who "smites the shepherd". In Gethsemane Jesus asks God, his Father, to "take this cup from me" (14:36), but in the end "here comes the betrayer" (vs.42). In every case the same word is being used, but nuanced by context.
In Isaiah 53 the prophet describes the ministry of the "suffering servant", the Messiah. The Greek translation of this passage says "the Lord gave him up for our sins" (vs.6). God hands over the servant as a sacrifice for our sins. Such language shows that when Jesus regards his own death as an event orchestrated by God for the fulfillment of God’s plans, he is following biblical truth. God Himself, Jesus claims, surrenders John the Baptist and Jesus to a terrible and humiliating death so that His greater purpose of salvation for humanity might be achieved. Judas might be the immediate means by which this happens in Jesus’ case, but God is weaving Judas’ appalling action (for which he remains accountable to God) into a far more significant purpose.
Jesus urges each of his followers to "take up his cross and follow" him (8:34). Do we recognize that such following involves the kind of "surrender" or "handing over" that Jesus himself experienced at the hand of God, his Father? God declares that Jesus is His "beloved son in whom He takes great pleasure" (1:11). In his role as God’s servant Jesus accepts that God’s love for him remains undiminished even as God’s mission for him involves this "surrender" to the cross.
How is God working out your servant leadership? What is He "surrendering" you to so that He might accomplish His larger purposes for the salvation of people around you? Jesus’ first disciples struggled to grasp this principle of servant leadership, but eventually embraced it as the way to eternal life – suffering illuminated by grace and glory. May God grant you His joy today as you embrace the way of the cross in your service for Him.
Application: When ministry gets tough, remember you are a servant for Jesus’ sake, surrendered by God to suffering. This is the way of the cross and the "servant is not greater than his master". We will struggle with this even as Jesus did in Gethsemane, but our Father will help us to accept our service as our gift to Him, our entry into eternal life. Prayer is God’s gift to reconcile ourselves and our service to God’s love and wisdom.