All In – Palm Sunday

“Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:18)

Matthew 21:1-11 (Procession with Palms)
Philippians 2:5-11
Matthew 26:14—27:66 or Matthew 27:11-54

All In

Though the stories of Jesus’ last days and crucifixion vary differently and are purposely filled with the author’s testimonial theology that are not historical, they still provide, as they are meant to, a wonderful window into the workings between the Holy Spirit and the struggling seeker. The disciples/seekers have been asked to take up their personal cross and to follow the Anointed One who has told them the ending over and over and over, which is ultimately death on the cross. The disciples are also taught that after the cross is the resurrection, but they do not comprehend that part of Jesus’ teaching either. However, they continue to love him and follow in faith doing whatever is asked of them; they believe, but still do not see.

They follow Jesus because they have seen his heart in action, healing the sick, touching the untouchables, giving sight to the blind with a divine eye for justice, and revealing in his life how to love God and neighbor with our whole being. Jesus was/is a man everyone should love and believe in, even if he is just an idea as some say.

As a child I was one of these disciples who believed in the wonderful works of Jesus and when I heard about Judas betraying Jesus I simply would not believe that he had. Who could pal around with someone like Jesus and then turn him in to the authorities? There are non-scriptural references that point to the idea that Judas was only doing what he was told to do by Jesus, as was depicted in the book, “Last Temptation of Christ,” and in the newly discovered, “Gospel of Judas,” an ancient Gnostic text that was probably written in the 3rd century. Who can say, but what we can ask is, “What part of our psyche plays the part of Judas?” We can also ask, “What is there in Jesus that must be abandoned on the cross in order for his resurrection to take place; what must be “betrayed” in us that we may be fully born? On second thought, I remember also thinking, “…turn him in for what?”

According to Christian tradition Jesus’ life and death is all prophesied as the way in which God would save the world. As generations of ordinary Jews felt the weight of invading armies and the injustices of their own leaders making their daily lives not much more than slavery, they longed for a savior type, or Messiah, cast in the dye of King David. This tradition has morphed into a theology that states God was angry with humanity for our injustices and disobedience and needed some kind of human sacrifice to atone for our sins. This does not sound like a very perfect God to me for some reason. That’s because it isn’t; for me the idea of perfection does not include the possibility of anger, jealousy or a purposely retributive personality. The idea that Jesus’ death somehow atones for humanity’s evils, though a powerful metaphor for our own death and rebirth, in a literal sense is pure nonsense. However, there is a kind of sacrifice we must all make, if we can still call it a “sacrifice.”

This does not mean I do not think that Jesus was crucified; I am convinced he was. I am not convinced by any of the literal theological arguments that he died for our sins. Jesus died because he spoke truth to power and imparted a vision of God who favors no one yet, who rained down mercy and love on everyone; Jesus presented God, who is not named or controlled by humanity, therefor a threat to the power structures of the world that profess to receive their right to power from God. This power structure, that is the self-identity we assume as our own in the world, is precisely that which must be betrayed and handed over for crucifixion.

Maybe this is the final obstacle that we see Jesus surrendering on the cross as he is reported to have prayed, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Does Jesus think that he is favored in some way by the Ground of All Being, that he would somehow not suffer the reality of the world because of his love for God? Whatever one might think, Jesus’ idea of himself must be given up before he can be resurrected, as is made even more clear in a conversation between the risen Jesus and Mary Magdalene when she attempts to grasp on to him as before. Jesus tells her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.” We can no longer seek Jesus in the physical sense but only in the mystery of the Spirit. In this endeavor we must betray in ourselves that which still clings to the world.

“There are forces that do favors for people. They do not want people to come to salvation, but they want their own existence to continue. For if people come to salvation sacrifice will stop…and animals will not be offered up to the forces. In fact, those to whom sacrifices were made were animals. The animals were offered up alive, and after being offered they died. But a human being was offered up to God dead, and the human being came alive” (Valentinus, Gospel of Philip). *Valentinus was a second century mystic and preacher who almost became the bishop of Rome, or as we call it today, the Pope.

More to come on Phil. 2…