Journey to the Empty Tomb: Exploring the Final Week of Jesus’ Life by Paula Gooder (2014)
“maybe the poet… shows you new ways to see”
Paula Gooder’s Biblical Exploration might well have been titled ‘the Subversive Jesus’. From Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (ironically turning the traditional Roman ‘Triumph’ into its antithesis – eschewing pomp… acting out of love not status) to the extraordinary ‘triumph’ of the Cross, her account of every part of these Last Days poses unimagined questions, presents radical answers.
While Sunday Readings throughout the Church year offer short Bible passages which thread together the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, how often do many of us read the Bible as we might read a book?
Yet it is the interweaving of – for instance – the three stories of the Cleansing of the Temple, the Widow’s Mite and the cursing of the fig tree, that bring a shock of understanding never present when the stories remain separate.
Or, through the lens of the Vineyard owner’s parable, who would ever now forget that the blood money paid to Judas was actually the Tyrian shekels given for the Temple’s upkeep – God’s house – and at that moment used to ensure His Son’s death.
Art, like Music (via the great Passions) links both Old and New Testament in the route to the Cross. But it is a rare book that digs into the connectedness of words and action, of symbolism and story, to bring such intense insights to inform our Lent.
Rather than harmonising the Gospels (as preachers tend to prefer to do) Paula Gooder lays bare the uncertainties of their writers: ‘Why did Jesus die?’
It is a sharp and startling question to focus our personal Lent reflections.
As the great Canadian songwriter Bruce Cockburn once suggested, “maybe the poet… shows you new ways to see” and in this sense that Paula Gooder is both theologian and poet. This is a book to commend, to read in depth, and to allow to change our whole understanding.
Reviewed by Lavender Buckland LLM
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