The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus’s Final Week in Jerusalem

 

Top Jesus scholars Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan join together to reveal a radical and little-known Jesus. As both authors reacted to and responded to questions about Mel Gibson’s blockbuster The Passion of the Christ, they discovered that many Christians are unclear on the details of events during the week leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion.

Using the gospel of Mark as their guide, Borg and Crossan present a day-by-day account of Jesus’s final week of life. They begin their story on Palm Sunday with two triumphal entries into Jerusalem. The first entry, that of Roman governor Pontius Pilate leading Roman soldiers into the city, symbolized military strength. The second heralded a new kind of moral hero who was praised by the people as he rode in on a humble donkey. The Jesus introduced by Borg and Crossan is this new moral hero, a more dangerous Jesus than the one enshrined in the church’s traditional teachings.

The Last Week depicts Jesus giving up his life to protest power without justice and to condemn the rich who lack concern for the poor. In this vein, at the end of the week Jesus marches up Calvary, offering himself as a model for others to do the same when they are confronted by similar issues. Informed, challenged, and inspired, we not only meet the historical Jesus, but meet a new Jesus who engages us and invites us to follow him.

 

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Taking Mark, the earliest Gospel, as their guide, Borg and Crossan “retell a story everyone thinks they know too well and most do not seem to know at all.” So doing, they offer an alternative passion of the Christ, the primary feature of which is not suffering (Latin passio) but passion understood Anglophonically as “consuming interest, dedicated enthusiasm, or concentrated commitment.” Jesus’ passion was the kingdom of God declared in terms of God’s justice, they say, and the fact that such declaration was seen, despite Jesus’ nonviolence, as a threat to the system of domination by Rome and its wealthy Jewish collaborators led to his suffering. Borg and Crossan parse Mark’s reportage (so to speak) on the days from Palm Sunday to Easter to demonstrate the challenges Jesus made to Roman and Herodian-temple rule. They point up Jesus’ insistence on justice, especially equitable distribution of necessities, and such too-little-noticed matters as Jesus’ great popularity, attested by the crowds who hang on his words and his adversaries’ fears of angering those crowds; so fearful are they that they must find a traitor, seize Jesus at night, and whisk him through the courts. Written with Crossan’s scholarly scintillation rather than Borg’s sometimes plodding earnestness, this is politically concerned analysis of Christianity at its best.

Ray Olson
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