Sneak Preview of Pope Benedict’s New Jesus of Nazareth IIPosted by in Faith & Culture | Pope Benedict XVI
The Vatican Press office has released several excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI’s new book a week before its March 10 publication date. Jesus of Nazareth-Holy Week: From the entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection is the second part of Benedict’s three volume work on the life of Christ.
The excerpts show that we can expect the same combination of rigorous historical-literary analysis and deep spiritual insight that made the first book in the series, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, a worldwide success.
In the introduction to that work Ratzinger had clarified that the book was not part of Church magisterium but simply an “expression of his personal search for the face of the Lord.” What emerged was a compelling example of how the deep and simple faith of believing Christians can strive to understand the Gospels in their challenging complexity; and through this union of faith and reason bring to life the historical figure of Jesus Christ.
The excerpts released are taken from three chapters in the book: ‘The Mystery of the Betrayer’ ‘The Dating of the Last Supper,’ and ‘Jesus before Pilate’. While the full text of the excerpts is available here, I’ve selected a few paragraphs to give you a taste of what’s in store. Enjoy!
The Mystery of the Betrayer
John gives a new depth to the psalm verse with which Jesus spoke prophetically of what lay ahead, ['He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me' " (cf. Ps 41:9; Ps 55:13)] since instead of the expression given in the Greek Bible for “eating”, he chooses the verb trôgein, the word used by Jesus in the great “bread of life” discourse for “eating” his flesh and blood, that is, receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist (Jn 6:54–58). Judas’ betrayal was not the last breach of fidelity that Jesus would suffer. “Even my bosom friend, in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Ps 41:9). The breach of friendship extends into the sacramental community of the Church, where people continue to take “his bread” and to betray him.
Jesus’ agony, his struggle against death, continues until the end of the world. We could also put it the other way around: at this hour, Jesus took upon himself the betrayal of all ages, the pain caused by betrayal in every era, and he endured the anguish of history to the bitter end.
The Dating of the Last Supper
Jesus knew that he was about to die. He knew that he would not be able to eat the Passover again. Fully aware of this, he invited his disciples to a Last Supper of a very special kind, one that followed no specific Jewish ritual but, rather, constituted his farewell; during the meal he gave them something new: he gave them himself as the true Lamb and thereby instituted his Passover.
Jesus before Pilate
What is truth? Pilate was not alone in dismissing this question as unanswerable and irrelevant for his purposes. Today too, in political argument and in discussion of the foundations of law, it is generally experienced as disturbing. Yet if man lives without truth, life passes him by; ultimately he surrenders the field to whoever is the stronger. “Redemption” in the fullest sense can only consist in the truth becoming recognizable. And it becomes recognizable when God becomes recognizable. He becomes recognizable in Jesus Christ. In Christ, God entered the world and set up the criterion of truth in the midst of history. Truth is outwardly powerless in the world, just as Christ is powerless by the world’s standards: he has no legions; he is crucified. Yet in his very powerlessness, he is powerful: only thus, again and again, does truth become power.
Barabbas (“Son of the Father”) is a kind of Messianic figure. Two interpretations of Messianic hope are juxtaposed here in the offer of the Passover amnesty. In terms of Roman law, it is a case of two criminals convicted of the same offense — two rebels against the Pax Romana. It is clear that Pilate prefers the nonviolent “fanatic” that he sees in Jesus. Yet the crowd and the Temple authorities have different categories. They would like to see a different solution to the problem. Again and again, mankind will be faced with this same choice: to say yes to the God who works only through the power of truth and love, or to build on something tangible and concrete — on violence.
“Ecce homo” — the expression spontaneously takes on a depth of meaning that reaches far beyond this moment in history. In Jesus, it is man himself that is manifested. In him is displayed the suffering of all who are subjected to violence, all the downtrodden. His suffering mirrors the inhumanity of worldly power, which so ruthlessly crushes the powerless. In him is reflected what we call “sin”: this is what happens when man turns his back upon God and takes control over the world into his own hands.
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