Friday, April 22, 2011

Two Betrayals

Continuing The Wild Reed’s special 2011 Holy Week series, I share today a fifth excerpt from Albert Nolan’s groundbreaking 1976 book Jesus Before Christianity.

This excerpt is accompanied by images from Derek Hayes and Stanislav Sokolov's The Miracle Maker: The Story of Jesus, a stop motion and animated film about the life of Jesus as told by Tamar, the young daughter of Jairus, who is raised from death by Jesus. Ralph Fiennes voices Jesus.

(To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)


It was the Romans . . . who wanted to destroy Jesus. Whether they had found out about Jesus themselves and wanted an extradition, or whether they were told about him by Caiaphas after the deliberations of the council, remains uncertain. That they should have wanted to destroy Jesus is fully in accord with the known policy of Pilate and other procurators. They destroyed all prophets and potential Messiahs.

The Jewish authorities, for whatever reasons, decided to find Jesus and hand him over to Pilate. The accusation which we must make against them is that they betrayed Jesus. To hand over and to betray are the same word in Greek: paradidomai (Mk 31 parr; 10:33, 34 parr; 14:41 par; 15:1 par; Mt 26:2; Jn 19:11; Acts 7:52). There were therefore two betrayals: Judas betrayed him (handed him over) to the Jewish authorities and they in turn betrayed him (handed him over) to the Romans (Mk 10:33–34 parr). He was then tried and sentenced to death by a Roman court.

The most remarkable thing about the trial itself, the one thing about which we can be absolutely certain and yet the one thing that is frequently overlooked, is that Jesus did not defend himself. Throughout all the proceedings, no matter who accused him or what they accused him of, Jesus remained silent (Mk 14:60–61; 15:4–5; Mt 26:62–63; 27:12, 14; Lk 23:9). If and when he did speak, it was only in order to be non-committal and in effect to refuse to give an answer: “It is you who say it” (Mk 15:2; Mt 26:64; 27:11; Lk 22:70; 23:3) and “If I tell you, you will not believe me and if I question you, you will not answer” (Lk 22:67; see also 20:8; Jn 18:20–21). The dialogue, which was constructed by the gospel writers or their sources in order to give expression to the relationship between Jesus and his opponents, should not obscure their own plain statement of the facts: “He offered no reply to any of the charges” (Mt 27:14).

The suffering servant in Isaiah 53:7 was silent before his accusers – like a lamb before its shearers. It cannot be argued from this that the gospel writers or their sources invented the idea of Jesus’ silence in order to point out that Jesus was the suffering servant. Remaining silent before his accusers is exactly what we might expect Jesus to do. He had consistently refused to produce signs from heaven; he had never argued from authority; he had refused to answer questions about his own authority; and now he refused to defend or justify his behavior.

In other words, Jesus stood there without a word, putting everyone else to the test. The truth of the matter is that it was not Jesus who was on trial. His betrayers and accusers were on trial before him. His silence puzzled, disturbed, questioned and tested them. Their words were turned back at them and they condemned themselves out of their own mouths.

– Albert Nolan
Jesus Before Christianity

Images: Stills from the 2000 film The Miracle Maker: The Story of Jesus.

Writes Paul Mavis:

In an effort to bring a different storytelling angle . . . The Miracle Maker: The Story of Jesus tells the oft-told Easter story of Jesus (Ralph Fiennes) meeting his [death] and resurrection, through the framing story of Tamar, the young girl who is deathly ill until her father, Jairus (William Hurt) seeks Jesus' help. An effort has been made in the script to present the story in the plainest of terms, with characters speaking in unadulterated English, with little or no flowery prose associated with most religious epics. Realism seems to be goal of the film, with the claymation figures modeled as closely as possible on the actual human form, and their dialogue written in an easy and accessible style.

. . . There's . . . enough in The Miracle Maker: The Story of Jesus to make it worth your while to check out this Easter. The claymation process, although hardly as realistic as the makers would have you believe, is masterfully caught in the big-screen-like camera dollies and trucking shots that distinguish them from other claymation films. They may be dolls up there on the screen, but the camera treats them like big name actors in a big-budget film, so The Miracle Maker: The Story of Jesus has a realism of camera movement that goes a long way towards keeping our interest. The cell animation scenes, as well, are gorgeous to look at, and are recommended despite their relative brevity. And finally, maybe you're just tired of watching the same Easter movies . . . The Miracle Maker: The Story of Jesus just might be the new Easter title that grabs your family's interest this season.

NEXT: And What of Resurrection?

For The Wild Reed’s 2010 Holy Week series (featuring excerpts from Andrew Harvey’s book Son of Man: The Mystical Path to Christ), see:
Jesus: Path-Blazer of Radical Transformation
The Essential Christ
One Symbolic Iconoclastic Act
One Overwhelming Fire of Love
The Most Dangerous Kind of Rebel
Resurrection: Beyond Words, Dogmas and All Possible Theological Formulations
The Cosmic Christ: Brother, Lover, Friend, Divine and Tender Guide

For The Wild Reed’s 2009 Holy Week series (featuring the artwork of Doug Blanchard and the writings of Marcus Borg, James and Evelyn Whitehead, John Dominic Crossan, Andrew Harvey, Francis Webb, Dianna Ortiz, Uta Ranke-Heinemann and Paula Fredriksen), see:
The Passion of Christ (Part 1) – Jesus Enters the City
The Passion of Christ (Part 2) – Jesus Drives Out the Money Changers
The Passion of Christ (Part 3) – Last Supper
The Passion of Christ (Part 4) – Jesus Prays Alone
The Passion of Christ (Part 5) – Jesus Before the People
The Passion of Christ (Part 6) – Jesus Before the Soldiers
The Passion of Christ (Part 7) – Jesus Goes to His Execution
The Passion of Christ (Part 8) – Jesus is Nailed the Cross
The Passion of Christ (Part 9) – Jesus Dies
The Passion of Christ (Part 10) – Jesus Among the Dead
The Passion of Christ (Part 11) – Jesus Appears to Mary
The Passion of Christ (Part 12) – Jesus Appears to His Friends

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Why Jesus is My Man
Jesus Was a Sissy
The "Wild Gaiety" of Jesus' Moral Teaching
Jesus, Sex and Power
Jesus and Homosexuality
Jesus and the Centurion (Part 1)
Jesus and the Centurion (Part 2)
Revisiting a Groovy Jesus (and a Dysfunctional Theology)
When Expulsion is the Cost of Discipleship
Christ and Krishna

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