Gospels Week 9: The Passion

Reading

Mark 15; Matthew 27; Luke 23; John 19

Questions

  • Why must Jesus die?
  • What proof can we demand from God?

This week…Jesus died. For our sins, allegedly (although it’s quite unclear in the Gospels whether this is actually what’s going on). It’s a highly pathetic scene, as in, there’s a lot of pathos. Matthew tells us that as he is tortured to death, Jesus of Nazareth cries out, “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani!” My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Our discussion this week covered free will (of course), anti-Semitism, utilitarianism, Dune, the raising of saints, and snakes that eat their own tails…

Some brief notes:

  • What is “The King of the Jews”? It’s not what Jesus calls himself, but what the Romans mock him as.
  • Was Judas actually evil? Or was he just following Jesus’s secret instructions, à la Gospel of Judas?
  • The Gospels give pretty different accounts of how involved the Pharisees / Sanhedrin are in the arrest and execution of Jesus. In Luke, the Pharisees actually warn Jesus that he’s in trouble, whereas in John, the execution of Jesus is firmly placed on the Jews.
  • There are many parallels between the crucifixion and the Akedah (the near-sacrifice of Isaac). Except in this case, there’s no ram substituted for the human child at risk. Jesus really dies.
  • In the various gospels, Jesus has varying relationships with the criminals crucified on either side of him. Does he forgive them? or do they simply mock him?
    • A lot of the mockery aimed at Jesus during the Passion surrounds his claims to be Messiah. “If you’re really the Messiah, get down from there!” they say. Christianity does the amazing thing of turning this massive “failure” (the death of a prophetic figure) into the definition of victory.
    • In the synoptics, the first person to recognise Jesus’s greatness at his death is a Roman soldier. But note, this isn’t necessarily the soldier calling him the son of God — our translations had variations on “a good man,” “innocent” and “a great man.”
  • Gabriel talked a bit about how the evolution of mechanisms for human sacrifice says a lot about a society. It’s the cross vs. the ouroboros.
  • Azazel thinks Jesus is actually about the kingdom of Heaven on earth, not necessarily looking at an afterlife all the time.

Our final discussion centred around the question: How important is the crucifixion to Christianity?

  • Lucifer doesn’t think it’s that important to the way she thinks about Christianity. In fact, learning about the crucifixion was a huge disappointment. She prefers the Nativity. But does that mean she’s missing something crucial? Probably.
  • Uriel says that as one pastor once told him, Christians have to assume that there was at least one miracle: the resurrection of Jesus. And use the “Great commandments,” or loving and serving God and loving neighbours as oneself.
  • Lucifer questions whether we can do this while also not “believing in” a bodily resurrection, or any form of resurrection. How valid are Jesus’s teachings if he actually did just die? Possibly super valid.
  • Gabriel sees the child-sacrifice motif and the scapegoat mentality as really important to the Judea-Christian worldview. It’s a purging of society’s sins. In Christianity, the resurrection is important because the scapegoat doesn’t just die, but comes back — it’s a rebirth, a life after death. It’s not being stuck in death.
  • Azazel‘s position is that Christ not being divine was historically heretical, but there’s also lots of other logistics that Christians have debated over the centuries. Early Christians, for instance, were really into physical bodies being reanimated (hence the emphasis on burial).

Continuing from last week’s “Hebrew-Bible-backwards” trend, we also realise that we might want to read some Paul (stay tuned)…


Takeaways:

It’s really impressive how Christianity makes death into a symbol of birth.

Gems from the Chat

Last execution by guillotine in France? 1976

Uriel

Jesus is on melange spice

Lucifer

Fear is the Christ-killer

Azazel

Image: “The Passion,” courtesy of Pixabay.

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