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Monday, April 13, 2015

 

The Passion of Jesus seems much more believable these days



Does Jesus trial and crucifixion seem far afield from where we are today?  It's really not.

It seems much more believable today. Every week, a charity called the Barnabas Fund sends me a “persecution update”. This Holy Week, its reports include a Muslim mob in Egypt storming a village where Christians were recently beheaded, and two motorcyclists opening fire on a church in Lahore. On Maundy Thursday, the Feast of the Last Supper, al-Shabaab invaded a Kenyan university and killed 147 students for being Christians. In the Middle East, Christians (and not only, or even chiefly Christians) are murdered in scenes that resemble the punishments on Golgotha, although the technology of death is more advanced and the executioners have the additional fun of filming it.

In "The West" Christianity is mocked for it's beleifs

a country where atheism is becoming more fundamentalist, is an angry and sometimes wilful misunderstanding of Christian belief. This particularly arises in anything to do with matters of sex and family, in arguments about education, in definitions of life, and in reasons for dying or putting people to death. It is easy to enumerate Christian concepts that now attract contempt or worse. The list includes sin, virginity, humility, poverty, grace, revelation, prayer, miracles, Heaven, self-denial, obedience, Sabbath, and even marriage....

The thing that used to puzzle me so much – why would anyone want to kill Jesus? – becomes almost the heart of the story. There is no exact reason. It is mixed up with politics and control, with the desire of the religious authorities (the Jewish high priests and scribes) to police their own faith, and that of the civil authorities (the Romans) to use their power of life and death to their advantage. But the essential point is that people like punishing and killing other people, and they particularly like doing so in a form that clothes this desire in the righteous robes of justice.

It is central to the Passion of Jesus that his death was the result of a trial, and that the trial was a travesty. It would be a much less powerful story if he had just been killed by an angry mob. It was, indeed, mob feeling that wanted his blood, but it was the sham of due process that revealed how human institutions can always find ways of justifying evil. It is also important that, at his trial, he was attacked for his opinions and his claims. He was misunderstood, because his accusers wanted to misunderstand him, and they wanted their misunderstanding to have legal weight.

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