It’s Palm Sunday, and so begins the final week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
Not many people in history have had the last week of their lives covered so thoroughly or in such a dramatic way. And it is a week full of political and theological drama. It all comes to a head in this final week – from Palm Sunday through to Good Friday. But really, it’s been on this trajectory from day 1 of his ministry. Since He stepped out of the river Jordan, spent time in the wilderness working out how to be the anointed one, and then returned to Galilee to fulfil His mission – to restore the ‘lost sheep of the House of Israel’. From Jordan to Good Friday. In so many ways, Jesus’s whole life has been a reflection of his last week.
But it’s in this final week that things come into a very sharp focus: the power of the Roman Empire and the politics of the Jewish Temple Institution conspire together to crush him. To crush the one who preached about an alternative way of living: an alternative to empire. Or, as Dominic Crossan puts it, in that last week, the already present kingdom of heaven meets the already present Empire.
This final week, as it is written up by Mark ( a friend of Paul and most probably writing on behalf of Peter) offers a powerful insight into how the ‘status quo’ always seeks to suppress any resistance to its authority and culture. It was true 2000 years ago and it’s just as true today.
We see it being played out at this very moment in Federal politics and I find it extremely poignant that all this is happening during the season of Lent. This incredibly profound season in which the powerless confront the powerful. When the powerful will not listen but seek instead to vilify and undermine those who seek to expose their hypocrisy. When those with authority conspire together to defeat those who have had enough.
We know how the Easter Story ends and without the courage of one particular woman, we might never have heard about it. Of course, I’m talking about Mary. Faithful Mary. Possibly the most infamous example of patriarchal ‘slut-shaming’ in human history. A much-loved disciple who had her reputation trashed and voice silenced for decades and centuries. The Church itself is not innocent with regard to this attitude toward silencing the voice of women.
So, while I suspect most of us hope that when it comes to what is unfolding in Canberra this Easter, that those who are seeking and working for a radical change in culture and practice with regard to women, will indeed be heard and, just like the Easter Sunday story, it will be good news for everyone. But what will the Good News look like? Will it include being able to speakout without fear of retribution? Will it include no suppression and greater representation of women in positions of influence and power? Will it include something as straight-forward and as simple as respect? We live in hope, but more importantly, such ‘good news’ must to come to life wherever patriarchy reigns and misogyny flourishes.
Thank God for courageous women in every era.