31 March 2010

What was Jesus' intent?

Friends, I must confess that this trip through Jerusalem, exploring The Last Week:  What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus's Final Days in Jerusalem, has not been so immediately enlightening as I hoped.  It is not that the book has failed, it is that all my years of wimping out on Greek and Hebrew study because I was a "pastoral counselling" student has come back to haunt me.

Now I find that I'm faced with a relatively scholarly book that is written for the popular market, and each place I read a translation of Scripture, I am picking up my NRSV translation and finding it wanting.  The book is based on a more up-to-date reading based on both archaeology and reading of original language text, and focuses more on the book of Mark, as the earliest accounting of the story.  Even Mark was writing 70 years after the events, and writing knowing of the destruction of the Temple that occurred in his own era.  So the story is a delicate teasing out of history, to discern the "true" history of the time.

I like what I find, I'm just not sure whether to trust it.  It's hard to give up one's lifelong held version of Jesus' life, even if it is in favor of a version that more suits my life today.  I want to believe what I am reading:  that Jesus was an activist, and that many of his movements, even in this last week, were planned fulfillment of the prophecies, meant to call attention to important lessons for the people, about following their true leader, rather than the Romans.

I've just spent an amazing amount of my life being in dialogue with the 'suffering servant' interpretation of Jesus, and it has not always been pretty.  The salvific model of Jesus life, leading up to his death and resurrection on the cross, has not really had much meaning for me.  I must admit, however, that since it is the Cross that was the focus of my Christian upbringing, this book calls me to see how much time I have spent rebelling from the beliefs of my childhood, a fact that perhaps deserves a little more attention.

So Borg and Crossan have caught my eye, in a way I didn't expect.  They have put the part of me that believes in the work of Jesus' life, in direct conversation with the part of me that was raised to believe (and rejected) his death.  I'm know this is not by accident.  I'm tired of pretending to stand for something, to be polite in certain circles, and I'm ready to have this dialogue.

In my reading of this Last Week, I am at Tuesday night, and so far, my first surface reading has uncovered the powerful messages of Jesus as a countercultural leader, on his Pam Sunday entry into Jerusalem as the peaceful presence counter to Herod's military domination. On Monday, I view his work as a challenger of the status quo, as the Temple has been degraded to a pitiful amalgamation of Roman and Jewish allegiances that serve no one but the rich.  Here he fulfills the prophecy that the Temple shall become as a "den of robbers."  On Tuesday he continues to grapple with both the Priests and the Romans in the temple, calling attention to their own inconsistencies, and deliberately putting himself into more confrontations that fulfill the Jewish prophecies.  Borg and Crossan tell us however, that Mark struggles here to inject meaning that has more relevance for the later destruction of the Temple, so I am left to tease out that which is appropriate to Jesus' life that week.

It is a much more difficult task than I expected.  I can only tell you today that I am halfway through this week, and I do not know how Jesus' life, seen from this perspective, will end.  It is a much more exciting and active week than I have previously thought.  Without viewing the week through the Cross, I am free to see more of the message Jesus may have intended his peope to see, the spiritual message of listening to the Light, to the Divine, rather than falling prey to the fierce, fearsome violence surrounding the Jerusalem that was under domination of the Romans.

I'll continue to read and write, but I can tell you already that this new perspective, while familiar to my innate understanding, will take more than just this week to digest.

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