The Fickle Finger of Fate

Apr 09 2017


When a special configuration called the finger of God, or the finger of fate is found in an astrological chart, it points to a special destiny of the person for whom the chart was drawn.

There are individuals who believe that everything we do in life is pre-ordained. They liken our lives to a great weaving. The weaver passes the shuttle through the loom and creates a special pattern for each of us. Call it fate or call it destiny – it’s all the same. And at a special point in history the fickle finger of fate brought a special group of people together in Jerusalem.

We could almost call it “a perfect storm.” If you saw the movie “The Perfect Storm,” you might recall that it was based on a storm that developed on Halloween in 1991. Hurricane Grace headed up the Atlantic Coast and met a massive low pressure system coming down from Canada and later developed into a subsequent new hurricane. At one time this storm generated 100-foot waves. The men of the Andrea Gail fishing off the Newfoundland banks were never found.

We could say that a perfect storm hit Jesus in Jerusalem. This perfect storm had three main actors: Caiaphas, Herod and Pilate. While they were helped along by the betrayal of Judas, the blame for Jesus’ crucifixion falls squarely on the shoulder of those three men.

Most of the people were in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Most of the people were there for religious reasons, but make no mistake about it – it was also party time. Between the religious feasting and celebrating, between the remembering and the creating, was the party. How could there not be? This was the place where the religious gathered to feel their roots – the same roots they had held sacred since before the time when Solomon built his temple. The same roots that called them to remember the Exodus from Egypt, the 40 years in the Wilderness, the miracles of Moses, the leadership of Aaron, and the closeness they felt to their God.

While many may have traveled to Jerusalem before, this year was different; this year the finger of God was at work and a perfect storm was about to hit. This year a special group of people gathered for Passover; a special group of people lined the road; a special group of religious leaders got rid of their opposition; a special group of Roman leaders sentenced a man to death; a special group of the man’s followers fled in fear; and a special group of people glorified and crucified the same man in a period of six days.

Do you think any of them really knew ahead of time exactly what they would be doing? Maybe Jesus knew, or at least had an idea. The Pharisees knew what they were trying to do. But in the final analysis, the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem set off a perfect storm. We do not know if it happened as portrayed, or if Jesus even rode into Jerusalem, but we do know that those who wrote the Gospel accounts were trying to convey the impact that Jesus had on the people.

Those who wrote the Gospel accounts did not write them to be historical; they wrote them to try to convey the complete awe and reverence they had for this man Jesus and what he had accomplished on earth. They wrote about those things that made him special as a man and closer to God than any of the patriarchs that went before him. He was the charismatic leader of the day that touched something so deeply in their souls that somehow the writers had to figure out how to explain his life after his death; how to explain the fact that he died through the life that he lived and give both his life and his death meaning and purpose 

But what struck the people to their very core? His love for the people; his willingness to defy the religious establishment of the day by showing them the true message of God – that we ought to love one another and love God, and because we love one another and God, Jesus showed them and us a new way to live. Of course, the miracles that we read about must have helped his cause along a bit.

Why did the people flock to hear Jesus? Because they could understand him – most of the time. Because he showed them how much he loved them. Because he reached out to those whom others were afraid to associate with because the taint of sin might rub off on them. Because he cared more about people than religious law. Who were they? The lepers, the blind, the lame, the Samaritan woman at the well, the tax collector in the tree, the woman who bathed his feet with her hair. Those whom he healed and touched and loved, when no on else would or could heal their hurt. His touch reached out to them and healed their spirits and their bodies.

He was a threat to the established religions of the day, not because he was from God, but because he challenged their hypocrisy, their disregard for people, their pomposity, and their hardness when it came to accepting that perhaps God was speaking in a new way to them.

Some called him the Messiah. If Palm Sunday happened as we read about it this morning, the people were of course going to cheer – they knew who he was; some believed he was the Messiah, some did not. His ministry threatened the established church of the day, not unlike it would today, because he focused on the needs of the people, he loved them, he healed them, and he wanted to take them to the next level when it came to their relationship with God.

It was not his divinity that started this week. It was not his divinity that made the religious leaders plot to kill him. It was his humanity. It was the unbiased, unadulterated way in which he loved people and defied the religious laws - laws that did not take into consideration the needs of the people. It was his love and understanding of what people needed that led those leaders who would disregard people for the sake of those laws that challenged the religious leaders of the day and made them want him dead. Therein lies the message of his life for us – be courageous, love people, do the right thing.

As we enter this Holy Week, let’s remember Jesus for how he lived, not how he died. The radical effect of Jesus on first century Palestine was his humanity, his love, his compassion, not his death. And it was the angst surrounding his death that led the early church writers to try to explain his death by looking at the life he lived and by somehow connecting it to the great Patriarchs and prophecies that had gone before him.

Why did he enter Jerusalem? Because his entrance was a sign that a new kingdom of peace and love was about to be formed on this earth. We haven’t made it yet. But as we contemplate on his death during this coming week, let’s remember that his death would have had no significance if his life had not been the one it was. Remember him if you will, but remember how he lived, not that he was about to die. Amen.