The Fractal and the Cosmic

Monday 26th March 2018
Monday of Holy Week
Holy Trinity, Hurstpierpoint

As we know from our own experience, it does not matter how long we wait for a crisis and how well prepared we think we  are for  it, when the crisis actually breaks we can become completely disoriented; we have the stuffing knocked out of it and that is the most difficult time to make rational decisions.

It is therefore unkind to judge those hit by the Holy Week crisis by some clinical standard. A crisis takes place when a situation gets out of control and, except for the portrayal of Jesus in John's Gospel, everybody is out of control: the followers of Jesus are bewildered as they fall headlong from palm triumph to crucifixion tragedy; Judas is in shock when he sees that his political ambitions are in ruins and, feeling betrayed, he betrays; the religious authorities, on edge at the best of times, are scared witless by the Romans; and even the Romans, with all the force at their command, are chronically nervous; conquerors always are but they had particular difficulties with the Jews whom they regarded as a perversely anomalous race.

At this point, more than at any other in reading the Gospels, even though all four give due weight to the events of the early days of Holy Week, I long to know what had to be missed out because I am sure there were huge mood swings among the followers of Jesus who therefore had to contend both with his own ordeal and the problems of his followers even though he knew - and kept on saying - that everything would be all right for them and, in a strange way, for him too. But we all worry, when we are going through a crisis, that people who tell us that everything is going to be all right are merely comforters not accurate prognosticators.

As for the religious authorities and the Romans, they tend to fall into the automatic villain category in which we lump people in authority, particularly if they are collecting taxes; but we need to ask ourselves whether we would be better off without taxes, authorities and politicians. One interesting question is what would have happened if Jesusmania had swept Passover Jerusalem that year? Would this have precipitated the disaster of 70 AD and, therefore, from the point of view of the High Priest, did he buy some time for his beleaguered people?

This is not an academic exercise but an attempt to imagine oneself into the story. This is what we do when we read a novel or a biography and this is what we must try to do with the accounts of the final days of Jesus, otherwise we are simply beguiled by the beauty of the words and the familiarity of the outcome; which means that we are not so much walking alongside Jesus as watching him in a slickly edited film.

But at the end of the fourth day, which we call Wednesday, the turbulence gives way to an irreversible sequence of judicial violence with which we must also learn to identify. In the meantime, let us consider this turbulence in a state of reflective calm.