The Politics of Passion Week

March 19, 2016 § 1 Comment

Some time ago, I started and nearly finished a book that evolved into a new reading of the gospel of Jesus, tentatively titled This Is My New Covenant: Economics and Politics, Spirituality and Community, Wholeness and Brokenness in the Gospel of Jesus. The centerpiece of the chapter on Jesus’ politics is a section on the Politics of Passion Week.

I published much of this section in my first blog, Biblemonster, around Easter in 2010.

I’ve been thinking about this work a lot lately and have decided to re-release it here, with links to the original posts, edited somewhat for this presentation. This post is an introduction to the series.


Jesus is probably the most famous person in human history to be tortured to death by an empire as an insurrectionist. This fact makes the administration of George W. Bush and especially, of the torture apologist and unindicted criminal-against-humanity Vice President Cheney pathologically ironic—claiming to be Christian, while sanctioning and conducting the torture of alleged religious insurrectionists.

But back to Jesus. His public life—his ministry—is framed as with bookends by two trials. At the beginning, his trial by the Satan in the wilderness just after his baptism by that other enemy of the state, John the Baptist. It’s worth reminding ourselves the the word Satan is not a name, it is a title—the Satan.

The Satan was Yahweh’s attorney general, the chief prosecutor in the divine court. The Satan’s role was to read from the Book of Life the account of a person’s life and prosecute for damnation based on the sins recounted there. (Correspondingly, the Paraclete, the Comforter, was the defense attorney in the divine court, defending the accused against the Satan’s indictments.) The Satan evolved in ancient Jewish mythology from prosecutor to tempter.

So Jesus acquits himself well against the Satan’s first assault, but now he has a target on his back, and the two wage a war against each other throughout the rest of Jesus’ prophetic career, the Satan trying to get Jesus to veer off the track and abandon his ministry, Jesus pushing back and remaining steadfast. In Passion Week, this war between the two comes to a climax in a second trial, one set up again by the Satan.

But first, Jesus proclaims himself. Tomorrow: the royal procession into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday.


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