These two weeks are called Passiontide in the church’s Calendar. They focus on the last two weeks of Jesus’ life. By coincidence my journey in this blog through Mark’s Gospel enters the writer’s build up through the story to the trial and execution of Jesus. Here in chapter nine verse 31 the author puts some editorial words into the mouth of Jesus:
The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed he will rise again.
Of course Jesus knew the risk he took in going to Jerusalem and no doubt he tried to prepare his followers for trouble but as usual Mark reveals the disciples’ lack of understanding. These words bear the quality of Mark’s hindsight.
But hang on! All of us Christians have the benefit of hindsight. As a memorable poster once proclaimed: “We are an Easter people and alleluia is our song.” Which is why I find these two weeks leading up to Easter somewhat difficult. They demand that I forget that I am already part of the Easter experience in order to relive, in some liturgical detail, the events that led up to the death of Jesus. Why? Because the Gospel writers (and the church) are keen to help me interpret what happened to Jesus in the light of the Hebrew scriptures (the Old Testament to Christians). They want me to see Jesus as a saviour. But as you can see from the heading to this blog, my purpose is to recover the idea of Jesus as a Wisdom Teacher. He is a teacher who offers ‘salvation’ but not, in my experience, because he ‘died for my sins’. Rather, he shows me the way and teaches me how to walk it. His demonstration of the way included his willingness to die and plenty of his followers have likewise been willing to follow that way to a similar end. Christians were known at first as followers of The Way. We are offered a way to live, not a set of beliefs to accept.
So I wish Easter came before Holy Week in the church’s calendar if only to try and avoid some of the misunderstanding that surrounds the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. The miracle is that so much of his teaching still shines through the spin so quickly put on it even among the earliest followers of the Way. Some of these misunderstandings are dealt with in the next verses of chapter nine. I’ll take a look at them in my next blog entry.