Friday, April 10, 2009
Anniversary of a 2000-year-old lynching
Today is Good Friday; the nominal anniversary of the Crucifixion of Christ some 1,976 years ago. Although no one knows for certain, Biblical scholars speculate that the crucifixion occurred on a Friday based on details of the Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus. The time of year has never been firmly established, as far as I know. Some suspect that the Catholic Church chose springtime so as to make the Easter holiday roughly coincide with the Pagan celebration of the Spring Equinox. The Church, after all, was trying to convert a skeptical bunch of druids and oak-tree huggers.
Be all that as it may, let's not spend time arguing about the specifics, eh? Let's just roll with the idea that today, Good Friday, is the anniversary. So, today was the day that the Roman guards dragged poor Jesus out of his dungeon and nailed him up. It was the end of a bad week.
On the previous Sunday, Palm Sunday, Jesus, his twelve apostles, and their entourage rode into Jerusalem so Jesus could get a wider audience for his message. Today's equivalent, I suppose, would be to land a gig on Letterman or Leno. Jesus' message was a simple message which I hesitate to characterize. Let's go with this: God is accessible to everyone. No need for intermediaries and arcane rituals. He is there; He can speak to us all.
But to the Jewish powers-that-were, the Pharisees and Priests of the Jewish orthodoxy, Jesus was an uneducated hillbilly, a mob orator come down from the hills to stir up trouble. He claimed that they were hypocrites, more interested in promoting their own agendas than serving their people or their God. He lambasted them, riled up the common folk against them, scorned them publicly.
The Romans, for their part, had no dog in the fight. It was all one to them. Let the Jews sacrifice goats on altars, burn incense, and mumble their incantations. Or, if that wasn't what they wanted, throw it all away and follow this charismatic upstart from out in the sticks. So long as everybody continued to "render unto Caesar" there wouldn't be a problem.
Well, the Jewish mucky-mucks decided that Jesus was getting too big for his britches. So, they secretly approached one of Jesus' inner circle, Judas Iscariot, and cut a deal. They bribed him to lead them to the place where Jesus and the gang were hanging out on Thursday night: barbecuing, drinking a little wine. There, they arrested him on some trumped up charges and dragged him before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.
Pilate, however, didn't want to get involved in the brouhaha and refused to render judgment, deferring to the Jewish king of Galilee. So they took the shackled Jesus away to Herod's place where he endured a quick (and no doubt, "fair") trial which was wrapped up in short order. Guilty as charged.
Back to Pilate, who began to sense that the Jews had their blood-lust up and didn't want to stand in the way, possibly instigating riots. Wouldn't look good in the reports back to Rome. Reluctantly, he authorized the execution.
The next day was Friday... what is today called Good Friday...
When it was all over, they took down the broken corpse and stowed it away. On Sunday, Easter Sunday, Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus' entourage, went to prepare the body for entombment and had a bit of a shock...
So, that, in a very rough nutshell, is what happened on that week one-thousand nine-hundred seventy-six years ago, according to Christian tradition. Whatever the literal truth, that series of events caused titanic movements in the sea of humanity.
The Christians claim that Jesus was "the Christ;" the Jews claim he was an impostor; the Muslims split the difference, claiming he was a high, holy prophet, but not the son of God.
I don't claim to know. As I've stated before, the literal truth of the story is, for me, not so important as the moral lessons that are derived from it. And so, I'll sign off today with some of the words Jesus was alleged to have spoken as he died.