We are now a week into the 40 day season of lent, in the year of our Lord, 2021.
In the year of our Lord, 1968 (53 years ago!) Professor J. Gomer Williams instructed me to read, in my Freshman Religion class at Hamilton College, Clinton, NY, Hugh Schonfield’s 1965 book, The Passover Plot.
Schonfield, like so many teachers and authors I encountered a few years later in seminary, was convinced that he had to understand the Jesus story without looking through the lens of mystery, miracle, awe and wonder. A Jesus without miracles? What kind of crazy talk is that? (By the way, miracles, I think, are not miraculous in the usual sense that they violate natural law. They are woven into the fabric of the creation; part of the way things are. What they violate is the religion of materialism; which is also violated by the discoveries of quantum physics.)
In Matthew’s story of the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, Jesus tells the disciples to go into the city and find Him a ride appropriate to the occasion, a donkey (Actually, two donkeys in Matthew’s version of the story, but that is a story for the children; see below.) who with just a few rightly spoken works will be released into their care.
Question: How did Jesus know where the donkey would be and how did he choose the words that the disciples were told to speak?
Schonfield’s Answer: Jesus pre-planned the entire event to coincide exactly with the prophecy found in the writing of the “minor prophet”, Zechariah. Jesus planned (Staged? Manipulated?) many events and encounters to fulfill many expectations from the Hebrew Bible so that people, who knew their scriptures, would know who Jesus was, (according to the scriptures).
Back in 1968, the Jesus I knew did not plan, stage or manipulate such things. He simply was not that kind of maneuvering, stage-managing puppeteer. I turned the essay I was required to write for Dr. Williams into my very first sermon. I preached that sermon in a tiny Baptist Church in Clinton and then in a speech competition at the college where I won the prestigious McKinney Prize for extemporaneous speech.
Jesus, I told them, was not that kind of grand manipulator. His integrity was beyond reproach. I did not know Jesus all that well when I was a young 19 years old. But, what I did know was very good and true.
Question: So, if Jesus was not a master manipulator, what then was He? How did he know about the donkey that would be waiting for the disciples?
Answer: I did not know the answer to questions like this in 1968. As I have come to know Jesus in the ensuing years, however, I do know now the answer that works for me. Jesus was well-connected to everything. Everything is connected to everything else. The universe is a connected whole. Separations are illusions. God is One. God is the All In All. God was in Christ Jesus. He was especially well-connected to mystery, to the One-ness of all of creation, to Just Love. So are we all. Knowing things we are not supposed to logically know is actually quite commonplace. There is more than one way of knowing. We just don’t trust the connections the way Jesus did.
I am learning such trust. What about you?