Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The arrest and trial of Jesus, part 1


Visited by Ann, Michelle and Graham, three representatives of a production?installation performance? called the Ascent. Having had a trial run at a Brooklyn warehouse, they’re ready for a bigger go. It involves brain waves and hoists and I’m not sure what else. They examine every inch of the church.Ann had been here for the Tenant, felt this would be the perfect place. The possible loss of control over much of the church house makes me bite my lip. We’ll see what they propose. 

Stephen takes them on a tour of the premises while he leaves behind a young man he has just met, Alexander. Dressed a bit, well, Victorian. But intrigued by our organ, anxious to volunteer. Fresh from  Mexico City. A composer with lots of ideas. Letting the space speak to him. Wanting others to discover the space as he did on his search for me. As I listen to him play, I realize that he can actually read music. So many who play here do so wonderfully, but but by ear and  feel. 

Almost time for the Center board meeting. The weather is starting to go bad. We get caught up with where we are in our negotiations. Ted lays out financial realities moving forward. We turn to a discussion of programming for the first time in months. There is a glimmer of light flickering. 

Tonight’s Bible study covers the arrest and trial of Jesus. (Mark 14:43-15:21) We notice a number of things:
  • Jesus is betrayed by an intimate act: a kiss
  • a bystander attacks a slave with a sword. This means there were more there than the disciples and that they had come armed, expecting a uprising
  • Jesus does not criticize the bystander, only those who seize him. They come under cover of night and seize him with excessive force when they could have picked him up anytime in the temple
  • There is a strange cameo by a young man in white linen who winds up naked. Is this about vulnerability? Exposure? Keep an eye on this character
Trail before the Sanhedrin:
  • It’s improper from the get go. It’s Passover. It’s night. These officials should be at home. They cannot do anything legal at night. 
  • They’ve lined up false witnesses, but they can’t agree. 
  • His saying that he would destroy the Temple in three days and rebuild it with his own hand is a political issue, not a religious issue. It threatens the whole power system of the temple. They are right to perceive it as a threat. So would most of Jerusalem, even all the workers employed in Herod’s building projects, including the temple. Almost everyone has a stake in the existing system.
  • Jesus’ silence connects with the image of the suffering servant in Isaiah
  • The chief priest’s question about  Jesus saying that he is the Messiah, even Son of God, is not in itself blasphemous. Any king or royal pretender could claim this.
  • Jesus answers in terms of being the Human One, the One who comes to judge. Now the line has been crossed. He has condemned himself by his own words. 
  • Still the Sanhedrin only has the power allowed it by Rome. They cannot exercise capital punishment without Roman consent. Jesus will not be stoned to death but crucified.
  • The soldiers mock Jesus, taunting him (see Palm 22). Telling him to prophesy. Their actions are an enactment of prophesy.
  • Everyone has fled. The discipleship project has collapsed.

In between is Peter’s denial. He must have remembered his promise and followed at a distance. But he gives in to fear. His accent, from Galilee, gives him away. So he denies. Denies. And vehemently denies. The cock crows. he cries. Mark draws us to him. Wants us to feel that. The rock has crumbled.

Trial before Pilate:
  • No record of Passover amnesties.But all kind of prisoner exchanges, deals. 
  • Pilate questions him about being an ethnic leader, King of the Jews, not king of  Israel. And all Jesus says is You said it. All kinds of charges. No plea bargaining. (Too late for that.) The silence of Jesus amazes Pilate.
  • He offers the crowd a choice between Jesus and Barabbas (Son of the father.) Barabbas is a guerrilla assassin, a terrorist.A threat to Rome, not the Temple. The Barabbas movement is restorationist, not transformational.
  • The chief priests stir up the crowd. The crowd calls out for Barabbas. And to crucify Jesus. The language is like that of demon possession. Perhaps it’s just what happens in a crowd when mob mentality takes over. Perhaps as Marsha says, they want the devil they know, not this strange one whose disciples have all deserted him. At this point Jesus is completely, absolutely alone. 
  • It’s not the crowd, the Jews, who do Jesus in. Pilate is at every turn completely in control. With the collaboration of the Temple establishment who will do everything they can to keep their privilege. In the Roman colonial system, to  sentence Jesus to crucifixion is to brand him an insurrectionist. 
  • A second mocking scene. Jesus stripped naked. Exposed. Humiliated. Twice. Carried out by lower level colonial occupying soldiers. Like lower level police who have to be the front line. It’s festival time. More angry people around. Tensions high. They take their frustrations out on Jesus.

And so it is. An age old story. So many things come  to mind. 
  • Guantanamo. Abu Ghraib. 
  • We think of the dirty war in Argentina. Rabbi Marshall Meyer, who later rebirthed our neighbor B’Nai Jeshurun, demanding information on los desaparecidos, the disappeared ones. And when no answer came, stripping naked in the police office. Weren’t you scared? People later asked. I was scared shitless, he replied. But he did it.

I’m willing to keep an open mind on the new pope, Francis. He is a Jesuit. St. Francis is a good model. I’m willing to believe that he did not actually aide the junta in Argentina. And that maybe he even helped people behind the scenes. But he never raised a voice. Stood naked in front of power. We’ll see. 

Hope asks why Marshall’s story isn’t more widely known. I ask,how many remember Andrew Goodman, who lived next door? Only half the people around the table know. Cara wasn’t even born. Andrew who lived next door. Went to Mississippi in 1964 with the Freedom Riders to work for voting rights. Along with Schwerner and Cheney, arrested then virtually turned over by the police to the Klan. Who lynched them. And today, 49 years later, the Goodman Foundation has to fight all over again to protect the voting rights Andrew died for as Republicans seek to turn back the clock. The trial continues.

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