Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Judas, Jesus, and Holy Week

The following is a response I wrote to a post on "Westcoast Chuck's Blog" regarding an article by Elaine Pagel in Salon.
I’ve always appreciated Elaine Pagel’s work because she raises important questions that are challenging and thought provoking. Author and Pastor Frederick Buechner has written that “doubts are the ants in the pants of faith, they keep it alive and moving”. I believe the same can be said of questions about Jesus and the Gospels. What I have always found appealing about the Christian faith is that the story of Jesus is not neat, simple, and without contradictions. The four Gospels differ quite significantly in their telling of the events leading up to Jesus’ death and the aftermath. Each gospel was written by a different author, at a different time in history, to a unique audience in unique circumstances. Therefore the focus and approach to the telling of the story varies. What is convincing, for me, is the common theme and conclusions that the writers share. Biblical scholars and creative minds alike have pondered Judas’ motives and relationship with Jesus. The telling of the events leave plenty of room for this kind of supposition. Did Judas do it for the money? Was he a member of the Zealot party, committed to overthrowing the Romans, and was he impatient with Jesus’ methods and message? Was he Jesus' closest friend and simply following Jesus’ instructions? Look at how the relationship between Jesus and Judas is portrayed in “Jesus Christ, Superstar”. Human relationships and events are complicated and messy. Jesus, fully human and fully divine, carried out his mission in the midst of that same messiness. The message of Holy Week and Easter that resonates in the four Gospels is that Jesus represents a God who cares, who is willing to suffer in the same ways that we suffer, who forgives, and who promises something beyond this earthly life. For over 2000 years this message has been studied, critiqued, attacked, and laughed at but continues to bring hope to those of us who choose to believe.

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