Holy Week: The Week Jesus Failed

THIS CATHOLIC’S VIEW By Thomas J. Reese Holy Week is a challenging time for Christians because it reminds us that … Continued

THIS CATHOLIC’S VIEW

By Thomas J. Reese

Holy Week is a challenging time for Christians because it reminds us that Jesus failed. That’s right, I said he failed.

This is especially emphasized in the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus’ preaching is not accepted and his mission is a failure. In the Gospel of Mark, no one understands Jesus, not even the disciples. At the passion, Jesus is alone. The disciples fall asleep. He is betrayed by Judas. Peter denies him, and the young man runs away naked. Even the women do not approach the cross but stand at a distance.

The Roman and Jewish authorities condemn him of blasphemy and sedition. The bystanders mock him. He even appears to be abandoned by God. He prays at the beginning of the passion that this cup pass, but no answer is recorded. At the end, he pays “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And then he dies with a loud cry.

This is especially disconcerting to Americans who prize success. We believe we can do anything.

But the Gospel of Mark is not a gospel of success but of failure. If Mark’s Gospel were presented to movie producers in Hollywood, it would be sent for rewrite (which is actually what happened with Matthew and Luke who found Mark too much of a downer). “Why don’t we have the disciples break into the Praetorium and release him? Bruce Willis could play Peter. Or why not have Jesus give a brilliant speech at the trial and convert everyone?”

But the reality is that Jesus failed.

Mark’s Gospel for is losers, for people who feel abandoned by God. This is a Gospel for sinners, for people like the disciples who have abandoned Jesus. This is a gospel for people who understand their limitations. This is a gospel of failure unto death. This Gospel proclaims that Jesus had to suffer and die, and challenges us to take up our cross and follow Jesus. It does not guarantee success.

But this is also a gospel of hope because it reminds us that Jesus did not want to suffer any more than we do, but he went on. This is a gospel of hope because it shows that Jesus refused to give up even when he knew he would fail. This is a gospel of hope because it reminds us that even his closest disciples abandoned him like we do, but they were welcomed back. But most importantly, this is a gospel of hope because we know that it does not end on the cross, it does not end in failure, but in the resurrection. God would not let failure have the last word.

Thomas J. Reese, S.J., is Senior Fellow at Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.

By Thomas J. Reese | 
April 8, 2009; 10:57 AM ET

 | Category: 

This Catholic’s View


Save & Share: 

 


 

<!–Twitter
 –>

 


 


 


 


 


 

Previous: A Practical Coalition for Afghanistan |

Next: Weak Economy Crippling the Poor

<!–
Main Index –>

  • Robert_B1

    Fr. Reese –Thanks for reminding me why hope is one of the theological virtues.

Read More Articles

shutterstock_185995553
How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

HIFR
Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

shutterstock_186364295
This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

shutterstock_186566975
Hey Bart Ehrman, I’m Obsessed with Jesus, Too — But You’ve Got Him All Wrong

Why the debate over Jesus’ divinity matters.

shutterstock_148333673
Friend or Foe? Learning from Judas About Friendship with Jesus

We call Judas a betrayer. Jesus called him “friend.”

shutterstock_53190298
Fundamentalist Arguments Against Fundamentalism

The all-or-nothing approach to the Bible used by skeptics and fundamentalists alike is flawed.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

SONY DSC
Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.

shutterstock_186090179
How Passover Makes the Impossible Possible

When we place ourselves within the story, we can imagine new realities.

This Passover, We’re Standing at an Unparted Red Sea

We need to ask ourselves: What will be the future of the State of Israel — and what will it require of us?

pews
Just As I Am

My childhood conversion to Christianity was only the first of many.

shutterstock_127731035 (1)
Are Single People the Lepers of Today’s Church?

In an age of rising singlehood, many churches are still focused on being family ministry centers.

2337221655_c1671d2e5e_b
Mysterious Tremors

People like me who have mystical experiences may be encountering some unknown Other. What can we learn about what that Other is?

bible
Five Bible Verses You Need to Stop Misusing

That verse you keep quoting? It may not mean what you think it means.

csl_wall_paper
What C.S. Lewis’ Marriage Can Tell Us About the Gay Marriage Controversy

Why “welcome and wanted” is a biblical response to gay and lesbian couples in evangelical churches.