Wednesday, May 16, 2012

John, Chapter 19: The Stuff of Mel Gibson's Wet Dreams

Pilate flogs Jesus for a bit, then has him dressed in a crown of thorns and a purple robe. The soldiers smack him around a bit more and call him King of the Jews! (v. 2) Pilate again tries to wash his hands of the mess, saying he can't see where Jesus is guilty, but the audience is bloodthirsty and insists on punishing him for something. Pilate is afraid they're getting out of hand, and goes back in to ask Jesus where he's from. Jesus refuses to answer. Even Pilate is losing his temper at this point, and reminds Jesus that he has the power to either execute or exonerate him here. Jesus says his power comes from god and the people who brought him are the real sinners. I don't know. It seems like not executing the innocent just to appease the braying masses is just one of those unpopular decisions that politicians sometimes have to make and Pilate is just as guilty as the crowd here.

Pilate tries again to say 'Fuck it. I am tired of you bringing me the people you're mad at and expecting me to kill them for you.' But by now the people have just decided to throw everything against the wall and see what sticks, so if they can't get Pilate to convict Jesus of sedition, they'll accuse Pilate of the same thing. Finally, Pilate is convinced that every single person in this drama is utterly insane and it's not worth his own head to save one idiot who is determined to die anyway, so he goes back inside and gets Jesus and says Jews, Behold your King! (v. 14) But the Jews are like, 'Nah, Caesar is our king, not this guy,' which, if you believe anything my hero Bart D. Erhman has to say, which I do, because he's super-knowledgeable about this stuff, would never, ever have happend in a million of one years. Not the Jesus bit, the Caesar bit. Un. Governable. 

Finally, Pilate has no choice but to admit defeat and order Jesus crucified. In this version they make Jesus carry his own cross along the Via Dolorosa to Golgotha, where they hang a banner over his head helpfully reading JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS (v. 19) in Greek, Latin and Hebrew. The chief priest prostests the wording of the sign, but Pilate puts his foot down and refuses to change it. Surprisingly, this does not lead to revolt. Meanwhile, the soldiers are trying to figure out what to do with his clothes. Eventually, despite being a Roman soldier, one of them remembers a Hebrew scripture about dividing a prophet's clothing by casting lots, so that's what they do.

Three women, all named Mary, which isn't confusing at all, show up, as well as an unnamed disciple. Jesus orders the disciple to adopt his mother, which he does. Then he complains he's thirsty, so the soldiers give him some vinegar, which kills him.

Because it's the Sabbath, and people don't like thinking about how horrible they are on feast days, the Jews ask Pilate to break the prisoners' legs to speed up their deaths so they can take them off the cross.  Only then do they notice that Jesus is dead. One of them callously picks up a spear and stabs him in the side with it. Blood and water pour out. Apparently these fulfill an Old Testament prophecy.

Joseph of Arimathaea, fearing what will happen to Jesus' body if the Jews find it, asks Pilate if he can have it. Pilate shrugs. Nicodemus helps and also brings along a hundred frigging pounds of anointing spices. They wrap the body in the spiced shroud and put him in a fresh tomb conveniently located in the garden where he was crucified, a location that could be anywhere in Jerusalem, depending on your personal beliefs.

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