Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Week Possibilities: Thursday

So who exactly is this Joseph of Arimathea guy? Leaving a body on a cross for the inevitable, gruesome destruction by predators would have been the desire of the Romans, so Joseph must have had some pull to get the body of Jesus off the cross after only three hours. It makes me wonder about how he came to be a disciple of Jesus, and just what kind of follower he was. He seems to be friends with Nicodemus and perhaps they are both on the Sanhedrin. We hear about Nicodemus coming to Jesus in the night (and returning to the darkness after not being enlightened by the encounter) and are told that he was a follower from afar. I don't imagine Jesus courted friends in high places but that he certainly attracted their attention. That is what we should be doing as disciples today; doing the gospel in ways that attracts attention from the powers that be, not for the sake of the attention but in a way that can't help but be noticed.

I'm also pondering the fact that even at the time the theory that Jesus' body was stolen to fake a resurrection was considered more likely than what the followers claimed. It really is more likely that that is what happened, it really does take the suspension of rational thought to accept the story of a bodily resurrection as factual. I'm not saying that it didn't happen, but I am questioning how important it is for me to believe it. Can't I still find salvation through Christ if Jesus' body was stolen and he remained dead? I'm leaning toward answering "yes," but I'm still pondering. More on that later.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Holy Week Possibilities: Wednesday

Today I return to the question about why the Sanhedrin didn't stone Jesus to throw into the mix that there were a whole lot more people around to stir up because it was Passover. Not only were there more Jews who possibly could riot but also a lot more Romans around to watch them. Matthew tells us that there was a cohort present mocking Jesus and that alone is 600 soldiers. So perhaps those other stonings and beheadings simply were "under the radar" for Pilate.

I'm also intrigued by the the trial. We know that Nicodemus was a supporter of Jesus, apparently making sure that there was a trial. Hmmm, so perhaps there was the intent simply to kill Jesus, but one powerful supporter (or possibly two, if Joseph of Arimathea had influence) was able to force at least a show trial. Maybe the Sanhedrin would have made it look like self defense, killing Jesus at Gethsemane during the arrest. That is always the way with bullies isn't it? Still, the form of trial seems to be that there was no one to defend the accused but the accused. Of course, there is a requirement that two witnesses agree so it is more than one person making a false accusation. In this case truth still loses because two people concur. Actually, they do tell the truth, don't they? They say that Jesus said that he would tear down the temple and in three days rebuild it. It is a prime example of the problem of literalism. Jesus was not talking about the actual temple, but neither was he only talking about his body using the temple as a metaphor. It seems clear that he was talking about replacing the corrupt religious practice of his day with a new path of spirituality. In many ways that is exactly what we should be seeking during this Holy Week now.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holy Week Possibilities: Tuesday

So what if we really took the parable of the Last Supper seriously? What if we realized every time we took the bread and cup that we are just like the disciples who shared that meal with Jesus? Jesus washed their feet so that they would understand service to others that involves making them clean too. Our instructions are to go out and share this good news. "You are going to hell, repent" is not exactly good news, but "God loves you and wants you to be clean and fed, both physically and spiritually...and I'm hear to help that happen," now THAT'S good news.

And we have this power because we have the Holy Spirit, the divine spark, inside us. Jesus made sure we understood that by taking bread and drink and reminding us that when we take that into us it becomes part of us. So when we decide for God and God's way, we have God inside us. So what are we waiting for? Do you expect something more powerful than God?

As this week goes on I continue to struggle with the sacrifice part of all of this. I have a friend who prepares a vegetarian Seder. I like the idea that the lamb doesn't need to be sacrificed. Is is possible that Jesus argued that point with God, i.e. no more sacrifice? Could it be that like Abraham and Moses that Jesus had the chutzpah to argue with God to change plans? It would be fitting, and it raises interesting possibilities to ponder.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Holy Week Possibilities: Monday

Did Jesus run into trouble because the religion of his day was corrupt? There is no hard evidence in the Bible, but there are hints. Surely the money changers were corrupt, cheating people with unfair exchanges, or at least that is what is implied. But how did the money changers get there in the first place? The religious leaders must have allowed it. Why didn't they police the situation? I can imagine Jesus being irate not only at the money changers but at those with the power in the system who turned a blind eye, or worse. Of course, when you hit someone in the wallet then they will really pay attention, that must have been as true 2000 years ago as it is today.

I've also been wondering about the consequence of angering the authorities for Jesus. It seems that capital punishment was not limited to the Romans during this occupation since the woman caught in adultery was about to be stoned. On top of that, John the Baptist was beheaded without Roman intervention, and Saul had the authority of the Jewish leaders to kill Christians after Jesus' death. So this begs the question, "why didn't the Sanhedrin execute Jesus themselves after convicting him of blasphemy?" My answer is that they were being clever. If they could get Pilate to have him killed then if Jesus' followers rose up in violence it would be against Rome instead of them. If it ended with the followers disbanding then they get what they want anyway. But perhaps there is more at work here. It is interesting to ponder.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Holy Week Possibilities: Sunday

Jesus' disciples continuously failed to grasp and/or believe what he told them. He let them know that he was going to Jerusalem in order to die, but they didn't seem to do much to stop him. What if you had been there? Would you have refused to go find the donkey like he instructed or was it more loving to help him accomplish the task he had before him? It would have been so easy to get caught up in the hoopla of the day, letting the light of celebrity reflect a little off of me. It would have been easy to convince myself that this man who could raise the dead would be safe, could take care of himself. But in those quiet moments, like at dinner when Mary annointed him with costly ointments as if he were already dead, I can imagine my heart breaking. These few in the inner circle had to have been intimate friends, how could the idea of their best friend and leader dying been anything less than earth-shattering? Knowing what lies ahead, whether through Jesus' prediction or via hindsight, heightens the drama of the week just begun.