April 4, 2012 3 Comments
Get it? Get it?! It’s a pun!
Anyway, this is exciting! I’m kind of glad I got so off-track with my thesis because now I’m on Matthew 26 and Jesus is about to celebrate Passover, just like me! Except Jesus is going to actually talk about God at his seder and also he is going to be betrayed and die. Whereas I will be going to the Harvard Secular Society’s seder, for which we are currently in the process of constructing a Haggadah which is, to say the least, a bit unorthodox. I can’t say for sure how much our Haggadah overlaps with his, but I am guessing that the Haggadah Jesus used contained exactly zero Gil Scott-Heron material. Also, I think we are probably going to make vegetarian matzo ball soup, which would probably make Moses roll in his sandy grave until he made pearls. Oh, and I don’t think there will be any lethal betrayal at our secular seder.
So! Let the passing over begin!
Jesus tells his disciples that Passover is two days away [JUST LIKE FOR ME RIGHT NOW] and he is going to be crucified. Meanwhile, a bunch of priests and elders plot to kill Jesus, but they decide to wait till after Passover so the people don’t get upset. A woman comes to Jesus and pours a container of really expensive perfume on him for no apparent reason. The disciples are like, “wtf, lady? you could have sold that and donated the money to the poor!” But Jesus is like “no it’s all good, she’s just preparing me to be buried.” Because it’s more important that dead people smell like flowers while they decompose than that poor alive people get food. Biblical ethics FTW once again!
Judas Iscariot goes to the scheming priests and asks what they’d pay him to betray Jesus; they give him thirty pieces of silver and he’s satisfied. Jesus sends his disciples to set up the seder at a local dude’s house. During the festive meal, when they’re all celebrating, Jesus decides to be a total buzzkill by announcing that one of them is going to betray him. He warns that the betrayer is going to wish he’d never been born. Each disciple asks if he’s the one who will do it, and when Judas asks, Jesus answers – according to this translation – “You said it” (25).
Jesus blesses bread, gives a piece to everyone, and says, “Take and eat. This is my body” (26). Then, as you can probably predict, he passes around the wine and says, “Drink from this, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many so that their sins may be forgiven.” Everyone sings happy songs and then goes to the Mount of Olives – which, you may remember, is definitely a reference to a take-out restaurant in my hometown. Jesus warns everyone that shit is about to get real. Peter is like “I will stick with you even while the shit gets real!” And Jesus is like “You say that now, but you’re going to deny me three times before the rooster crows.” And Peter is like “Nuh-uh!” but my money is on Jesus because he is God and all.
Next, Jesus goes to the garden of Gethsemane, partly to pray, but mostly to taunt me because “gethsemane” was the word that eliminated me from the freshman spelling bee because this was before I decided to start a ridiculous Bible blog. He tells his disciples, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying” (38), which is not very surprising since he has made it very clear that he knows he is about to die. In all fairness, though, this is one of the most moving parts of the whole Jesus story. Jesus prays to God, but God doesn’t answer him. He says he would really rather not go through with this whole thing, but that he will do whatever he must. Eventually Judas comes over with an armed mob in tow and shows them which one Jesus is by kissing him. (Sorry to ruin the moment, but don’t they all already know who Jesus is because he’s been running around healing lepers and walking on water? What new information does Judas really provide here? I’m not sure the betrayal is necessary for the arrest and crucifixion. Can anybody clear this up for me?)
Anyway, Jesus is a stoic badass about the whole thing, and tells Judas, “Friend, do what you came to do” (50). One of the other disciples tries to defend Jesus by hacking off a priest’s ear with a sword, but Jesus tells him to cool it because “All those who use the sword will die by the sword” (52). Wait a minute. Remember back in chapter 10, when Jesus said that he hadn’t come to bring peace, but a sword? What happened to that? Is this one of those “do what I say, not what I do” things? I think I’m going to have to call bullshit on this one.
Jesus gets put on trial before Caiaphas, the high priest. People give false testimony against Jesus, but he stays silent instead of defending himself. Caiaphas asks him if he is “the Christ, God’s Son” (63), and Jesus again responds, “You said it” (64). He also says people are going to see the Human One sitting next to God in the clouds, and the priest flips a shit and tears his clothes off and yells that Jesus has insulted God, and then the crowd gets worked up into a frenzy and spits on Jesus and beats him.
Meanwhile, Peter has been chilling outside while all this is going down. Three different people come up to him successively and say they think he’s with Jesus, and every time, Peter is like “Nope, I don’t know that guy.” Then a rooster crows and Peter remembers what Jesus said, and he bursts into tears.
In the morning, the trial people decide Jesus should be executed, and they turn him over to Pilate. When Judas hears this, he feels bad and tries to return the blood money, but the priests won’t have it, so he throws the money into the temple and goes away to hang himself. The priests can’t put the money in the treasury because it’s unclean blood money, so they use it to buy some spare cemetery space for strangers.
Meanwhile, Jesus is being interrogated by Pilate. When Pilate asks if he’s the king of the Jews, Jesus responds, “That’s what you say” (11). I’m waiting for him to go for “I know you are, but what am I?” Maybe that’s in the Gospel of John. Anyway, Pilate asks some more questions and Jesus stays silent.
Now, Pilate has the opportunity to release one prisoner because it’s a holiday. He wants to release Jesus because he knows the priests only went after him out of jealousy, and because his wife had some bad dreams about killing Jesus. But when he asks the crowd whom to release, they clamor for Barabbas, another prisoner. Pilate relents and releases Barabbas, and washes his hands in front of the crowd in order to show that Jesus’s blood is not on his hands. Then he has Jesus whipped and sends him to be crucified, which sort of negates the whole hand-washing charade.
Some soldiers mock Jesus for a while, dressing him up in military uniform, putting a crown of thorns on his head, spitting on him, etc. On the way, some people try to give him vinegar and wine to drink. After some more torments, Jesus is eventually crucified in between two outlaws. Passersby and priests and so on keep insulting Jesus while he hangs on the cross. Even the two outlaws on the neighboring crosses join in the teasing, which I find a hilariously surreal image.
The whole earth goes dark for three hours. At 3 pm, Jesus yells “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (This translation has “left” – verse 46 – but it’s so much less poetic.) One guy offers Jesus a vinegar-soaked sponge to drink from, but everyone else keeps teasing him. Why do people keep trying to give him vinegar instead of water? Earlier it seemed like a deliberate taunt, but in this case I thought the guy with the sponge was genuinely trying to be nice. Maybe not? In any case, Jesus cries out again and then dies.
Then everything gets freaky! Earthquakes! Rockslides! Lightning! Zombies! The people guarding Jesus are like, “Oh. I guess he really was God’s son. Our bad.” Some women are watching this whole thing, which I think will become relevant later.
A guy named Joseph (not the one who was Jesus’s adopted dad, I think) asks Pilate for Jesus’s body and gets it. He wraps the body in a clean cloth and puts it in a new tomb he’s just carved out of a rock like a badass, then rolls a big rock in front of it. Mary Magdalene and another woman named Mary who was the mother of James and Joseph (a third Joseph, I think? why does everybody have the same names?) are watching in front of the tomb.
The next day, all the Pharisees and assholes remind Pilate that Jesus kept claiming he would rise three days after he was buried. So they ask for permission to seal the tomb in order to prevent Jesus’s followers from stealing the body and claiming he’d been resurrected. Pilate agrees, so the bad guys go seal the tomb and put soldiers all around to guard it so nobody can steal Jesus’s body.
A few days later, the two Marys come back to check out the tomb, and an angel appears to them and rolls the boulder aside and says, “Hey ladies. I know you’re looking for Jesus, but he’s not here because he’s been resurrected just like he said. Go look at his grave for proof. Then go tells his disciples that he’s gone ahead of them to Galilee.” They go to give the message to the disciples, but they run into Jesus first and worship him, and Jesus reminds them to go tell his posse that he’s going to Galilee.
The soldiers go tell the Pharisees and all what happened, and they bribe the soldiers to tell everyone that the disciples came and stole the body. But wouldn’t they realize by now that Jesus actually is the son of God and it’s in their best interests not to fuck with him anymore?
The eleven remaining disciples go to Galilee and meet Jesus and freak out and some of them don’t believe it but he calms them down and tells them to go spread his message around the world and “make disciples of all nations” (19).
I do think that the idea of a god who can relate to humans by having actually experienced human suffering first-hand is really appealing.
I’m really unclear on why Judas is even necessary to the whole story other than to make it more tragic.