Keeping the Mystery

Sunday Morning Musings:  In preparation for the Christian church’s “Holy Week” I have been re-reading about the last week of Jesus’ time on this earth.  It began, we are told, with the triumphant entry into Jerusalem; that which we now call Palm Sunday.  All four gospel writers (there were more gospels written but only Matthew, Mark, Luke and John made the final cut) have an account of Jesus and crowds.  Granted only Mark and John mention the using of leafy branches, but we still celebrate Palm Sunday.

One of the many questions that arises for me and others, if I read them correctly, is whether the “parade” was spontaneous or was it planned.  Was this Jesus finally declaring to the world that he was the long-awaited for Messiah of Zechariah 9:9?  The singing of Hosanna by the crowd would not be unusual as it was a natural part of the singing by pilgrims on their way into Jerusalem for Passover.  But the fact that a lot of attention in the story is paid to securing the donkey(s) give credence to the idea of a pre-planned event.

Of course, there are those (Marcus Borg and John Spong to name just two) who have suggested that Jesus was also mocking the entry of a Roman emperor that was happening on the end of the city who would be riding on a white steed to a great fanfare.  By Jesus’ actions that followed his entrance (the turning over of tables in the temple), there was no doubt that he was considered rebellious and somewhat of a danger to the establishment.  In less than a week, Jesus was hanged on a cross.

So began what is called Holy Week – without the next weekend, Easter, some have called it a very unholy week because of the lies, betrayal, denial, fake news and the lot. What started out so promising seemed to have gone downhill quickly.

With a few exceptions much of the week is forgotten or just overlooked, until we get to Good Friday.  Not that I recall reading in the Bible that Jesus ever named it that. But the church over the centuries called it Good because God sacrificed his only Son that through his blood we might be forgiven.  We can celebrate this fact because we know that Easter will surely follow.

But what if I don’t believe is that a God who wouldn’t let Abraham sacrifice his son, Isaac, would turn around and sacrifice his own son? Centuries before the prophet Micah told us that God didn’t want human sacrifice, rather justice, kindness and humility. Despite these writings I believe the answer would be “yes!” reminding us that Abraham was provided with the sacrificial lamb just as Jesus was the sacrificial lamb for the world, or as Paul says in Romans 5:6 “the ungodly” .  Depending also on one’s view of atonement, one would question whether or not there were a select group of ungodly or a universal group.

Is this starting to sound complicated to you?

It seems that there is no real agreement about the purpose of the many events that are recorded to have occurred, but fewer would suggest that no matter what is written something like we are told did happen.  It is the “why?” that really creates the differences of opinion.  To me the important question is “what does it mean?”  In that question, dear reader lays the mystery.  And mystery is okay.  In the midst of the Second World War, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

“The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty. A human life is worth as much as the respect it holds for the mystery” Bonhoeffer (God is in the Manger).  Even though he was writing over a half  century ago we still have a problem.