Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (John 18:1-14) transports me to the edge of the Forbidden Forest outside of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where Harry Potter has made a decision to surrender to Voldemort and the Death Eaters. He learned from observing some of the memories of Professor Snape that he has to die, in order for the evil Lord Voldemort to be defeated. J.K. Rowling sets up a final showdown in Harry’s life near the end of book seven: Harry understood at last that he was not supposed to survive. His job was to walk calmly into Death’s welcoming arms. . . He felt his heart pounding fiercely in his chest. How strange that in his dread of death, it pumped all the harder, valiantly keeping him alive. But it would have to stop, and soon. Its beats were numbered. And so Harry marched into the forest, accompanied only by the spirits of loved ones who had lost their lives in the battle. Voldemort had issued a deadline of one hour for Harry to show himself, and the hour was up. The Death Eaters Dolohov and Yaxley gave the disappointing report that there was no sign of him. Voldemort was surprised; he had expected Harry to come. It seems I was mistaken, he told his followers, at which point Harry took off his invisibility cloak and announced as loudly as he could, You weren’t. His friend Hagrid tried to come to his aid, but was unable to break free. Harry faced his fate. He surrendered.
Jesus did not march into a Forbidden Forest for his final showdown, but a garden on the outskirts of the city, in the Kidron Valley, where he and his disciples often met. In the dark of night he walked into that valley, and like Harry Potter, he knew what was going to happen. He knew he was not supposed to survive. His job was to walk calmly into death’s welcoming arms. His heartbeats were numbered. He was surrounded by treachery and misunderstanding as the first century Jerusalem version of death-eaters – Roman officials and religious leaders – came to the valley to apprehend him. There must have been some kind of powerful aura around Jesus. When the torch-bearing authorities approached, Jesus asked who they were looking for, and they said Jesus of Nazareth. When he told them he was their man, they drew back and fell onto the ground. He asked again, and they told him again they were looking for Jesus, and he surrendered to them, on the condition that they leave his friends alone. This was his job, his destiny, his fate. The first century version of Hagrid – Simon Peter – did his best to rescue Jesus, revealing once again that he didn’t understand Jesus’ mission. There was power in surrendering, far greater than the power of the sword. So Jesus surrendered.
Harry Potter’s surrendering to his fate completed a convoluted plot involving horcruxes – parts of Voldemort’s evil soul – that had to be destroyed. Jesus’ surrender completed an equally complicated plot involving sin in the human soul – forces of destruction and greed and hate that had to be destroyed. As the early church writers tell us, the only way to destroy these forces was for Jesus to take them into his own body – to become sin, to become all the evil forces in the world – and then to die, taking sin with him, defeating the forces. We have as hard a time as Hagrid and as Simon Peter understanding this, most of the time. Our egos get in the way of surrender. Our hearts pound fiercely in our chests, pumping all the harder when we are called to surrender, valiantly trying to keep our egos alive. But the call is clear; if we are to follow Jesus, we are to surrender. Take up your cross and follow me, he says. Put away your sword. The old hymn has us profess, I surrender all. The old preachers talk about surrendering to the call. The mystics speak about silent meditation and prayer in terms of surrender. It is instructive to see that Jesus walked into the garden to surrender after being in prayer, meditating on his union with God. I have come to appreciate the practice of silent meditation, listening prayer some call it. For me, it is indeed a time of surrender. It is a time when the Hagrids and Simon Peters of my heart struggle valiantly to protect the ego with all its needs and desires. But protecting ego is not the call. The call is to surrender. With enough prayer, enough silence, enough listening, I can sometimes get to the point of understanding what Sarah McLaughlin sings about – sweet surrender. I am captured by grace in those moments, and am free.
How about you? Where does this Primary Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, email, etc. You can mouse over the artwork to get info on the artist and painting or photo.