Theology, Thoughts & Coffee

Reading and Class Schedule:

Amy-Jill Levine, Entering the Passion of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week

  • February  21: Introduction and Chapter 1, Jerusalem: Risking Reputation, pp. 7-42
  • February  28: Chapter 2, The Temple: Risking Righteous Anger, pp. 45-62
  • March 7: Chapter 3, Teachings: Risking Challenge, pp. 65-88
  • March 14: Chapter 4, The First Dinner: Risking Rejection, pp. 91-106
  • March 21: Chapter 5, The Last Supper: Risking the Loss of Friends, pp. 109-126
  • March 28: Chapter 6, Gethsemane: Risking Temptation and Afterword, pp. 129-142


Download Introduction and Chapter 1 notes

“In the chapters that follow, we delve into the history and literature of the last days of Jesus’ life. We find ways to question our own lives through the stories of his trials and choices. This Lenten journey challenges us to examine our consciences and find out how deepening our relationship with Jesus and the Bible brings us into closer relationship with others and the world”

“But this study is not simple a review of Jesus’ Passion. It’s also a form of personal introspection. Jesus is about to give up his life, which requires determining what a life is worth. And that means we all have to determine what our own lives are worth. What is worth dying for? What is worth living for? What are our values, and have we lived up to them?

Lent is a time of atonement, a time to repair past wrongs and address brokenness. Atonement is “at-one-ment”, or being reconciled. Paul believes that through the life and death of Jesus, God is reconciling the world—with God, each other, and all of creation. Tikkun Olam, repair of the world.

Jesus says that anyone who wants to follow him must deny themselves and take up their cross (Mark 8:34) and that whoever does not do this is not worthy of him (Matthew 10:38). Following Jesus is not easy. The followers of Jesus are called to place ourselves in solidarity with Jesus through the events of Holy Week from the Triumphal Entry to the Temple to the two suppers, and on to Gethsemane and then the cross.

This study and the story of Jesus’ last days bring with them several challenges: What do we stand for? What do we believe in? When do we stand up for those beliefs? We can also watch the disciples and ask ourselves, when have we denied or betrayed? How can we make it right? Jesus talks about taking up the cross. The Passion narrative shows him doing that. Can those who claim to be his followers do the same? “When a friend comes to you and says, ‘What is the cross that you’re bearing? What is the cause that you have taken up? How much have you risked?,’ do you know what your answer is? That’s entering into Lent. Thatring into the Passion.”

Chapter 1: Jerusalem: Risking Reputation

The Gospels give us four versions of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (what we call Palm Sunday): Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; and John 12:12-19. Each has a different emphasis that contributes to the greater whole.

For Jesus the risk of riding into Jerusalem is very real. Pontius Pilate appears to let the Jewish people know that Rome is in charge. “Tensions are running high, as are expectations: of liberation, of freedom, of autonomy. As Jesus enters into town riding on a donkey with the crowd crying out for him, the Passion begins.”

The Meek King: Inheriting the earth, in the Psalms and the Gospels, is not about power, control, and domination but requires humility, not in the sense of being lowly, “but in the sense of being able to listen to others, to share resources, to prioritize community rather than authority, to serve rather than to be served.”

Save Us, Please: The crowd cries out for salvation—redemption and liberation—leading us to ask from what do we seek salvation? “From sin yes. But also from pain, from despair, from loneliness, from poverty, from oppression. We are all in need of some form of salvation. Indeed, the idea of salvation for most of the Scriptures of Israel is not about spiritual matters, but physical ones: the Passover, the setting of the Passion narrative, is about salvation from slavery.

Son of David: Matthew depicts the crowds as praising Jesus and calling him the “Son of David”—a reference to the great king of Israel who brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. This is a reminder of God’s promises of a kingdom ruled by peace, safety, justice, and compassion for all people.

Jerusalem: When Jesus enters Jerusalem, the city is in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The response is that it is Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee is a reference to an allusion to Deut. 18:18 thus connecting Jesus to Moses as well as David. Indeed, Matthew’s Gospel depicts Jesus as the new Moses, leading Israel to salvation. Tensions arise because Pilate is also on the scene to secure Rome’s dominion.

The End of the Parade: Where are we in response to Jesus triumphal entry? “When the election is over and the victory is won, now what? Do we expect miracles, or is now the time the work really begins? Can we do more than sing songs? Can we walk the walk? Must we move so quickly from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, or can we take time for Lent to do its work? What do we know now, and what might we learn of we looked again, at our Scripture, our lives, our world? Do we see it differently in the light of the good news?