Today we are discussing The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus' Final Days in Jerusalem, by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. It covers, day by day, the week to which we now refer as "Holy Week."
I very much like the preface, titled "The First Passion of Jesus." Borg and Crossan point out that we tend to think of "The Passion" only as what happened on Good Friday...they posit that it might be as, or more, important for us to look at what Christ was passionate about. "The first passion of Jesus was the kingdom of God, namely, to incarnate the justice of God by demanding for all a fair share of a world belonging to and ruled by the covenental God of Israel...so in this book we focus on 'what Jesus was passionate about' as a way of understanding why his life ended in the passion of Good Friday" (viii)
A major theme of this book is that Jesus was protesting a domination system - that of the Roman political leaders who controlled the country and who, in turn, controlled the local Jewish leaders as part of the entire imperial system.
1) In the discussion guide for the book, it suggests that a group reading this together might share, in separate sessions, what they remember knowing or understanding about Jesus at various early stages of life (first memory, childhood, now). I thought of these things as I re-read it.
-What are your various memories of Jesus, and how has your understanding of "the last week" changed over time?
2) In the chapters on Wednesday and Friday, there is substantial discussion of the theory of Substitutionary Atonement. As this is an issue that has been very alive for me this Lent, I read it with much interest.
Wednesday's chapter has a section on page 101 called "Atonement: Substitution or Participation?" Their argument for participatory vs. substitutionary atonement is the word from Mark that "the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many" (102). According to Borg & Crossan, "the Greek word for ransom is "lutron," which means payment to an owner for a slave's freedom...it is not used in the Greek of the Hebrew Bible for anything like vicarious satisfaction or vicarious atonement to God for sin" (103).
The Good Friday chapter reveals the extent to which substitutionary atonement is ingrained in Christian understanding. "Thus it is not surprising that many Christians think this is the "real" reason for Jesus' death, the orthodox and "official" understanding" (138). Borg and Crossan point out that the language of the Markan gospel does not support substitutionary atonement theory (p. 155).
-What is your understanding of substitutionary sacrifice? Were you taught this way of understanding Jesus' death? has it caused problems for you?
3) Chapter Eight, Easter Sunday, discusses the different views of Easter as history or as parable.
-How do you react to this? Is it a useful opportunity for you (even though you may believe in strict historical interpretation) to consider a parabolic view?
-What does the chapter say about Easter and Christian life today?
Other discussion and questions are most welcome. Join us!