Mark’s Gospel chapter 11.
Suppose Jesus had lived to a ripe old age. Would the truth of his teaching be diminished? I think not. Plenty of people (of all religious persuasions and none) have lived this truth, and many have died for it. This blog is dedicated to the recovery of Jesus as a Wisdom Teacher rather than a Saviour. I don’t want to belittle those believers for whom Jesus is their saviour, the one who died for them on a cross. I do, however, want to affirm another way of following him.
I have to confess I have a problem with this part of the Church’s year, called Holy Week. It’s based on the account of the final few days of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, covered in detail in all four Gospels. Mel Gibson’s 2004 film The Passion of Christ seemed to take an almost sado-masochistic delight in the suffering inflicted by Roman authorities on anyone they regarded as a criminal. I notice a physical sensation of sickness and dread in my stomach even as I write this now, with images of crucifixion coming unbidden to mind. Does it help to concentrate on how they killed Jesus? In my case at least, the answer is, no. What matters, for me, is having my eyes opened (like Bartimaeus in chapter 10) to the truth of Jesus’ teaching. Of course I freely acknowledge that he demonstrated dramatically and painfully the truth of his teaching.
Exactly what happened in those last few days of Jesus’ life is difficult to discern. Actual historical facts are shrouded in what today we might call spin. As the earliest Christian communities reflected on the life transforming experience they were all part of it was natural for them to search what we now call the Old Testament for clues. Turn to Zechariah chapter 9 verse 9 and you will find a reference to the future King of Israel entering Jerusalem on a donkey. If Jesus deliberately entered Jerusalem in this way, he wanted to make a point based on the Zechariah passage, but it must have been a subtle one because later when Pilate asks him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus replies, in effect, ‘Well that’s your word’, as if to say, ‘it’s not as simple as that’. What we know of the teaching of Jesus is that he certainly would not want to be thought of as a ruler who lorded it over his subjects would he? Nothing could be further from the truth of his teaching, could it?