Recalling Sesame Street which was brought to us by particular letters and numbers, today’s news and views and social commentary seem to be stuck on the letter ‘B’. It is so dominant that it sucks in everything near to it. It consumes inexorably. Nothing escapes its orbit and once in its thrall there seems to be – there is – nothing else. Of course I am talking about the black hole photographed for the first time this week by the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration – or to be specific the event horizon of the black hole at the centre of the galaxy M87. The calculations say that the black hole has a mass 6.5 billion greater than our Sun and the actual size of its shadow (when light itself can’t escape its gravity) is almost the size of our solar system! It is huge in a still expanding universe and it – and the story of the collaboration and work and ingenuity of the scientists (over 200 of them) to get the picture – are stories in themselves. If things are weighing you down, then it can be good to look up – or around – because there is a lot happening which can make us consider more than just the reality of our everyday lives.
Such astronomical news may make people feel so miniscule and irrelevant that life might have no meaning. Alternatively such astronomical news might wow people about God which in turn – depending on their view of God – might inspire them to live with purpose. The same stimulus might raise hope or dash dreams.
Today in the Christian Church we remember Jesus’ public entry into Jerusalem – celebrity-like – with fans and sceptics – the point however is that both were mingled in a large crowd who were crying for rescue, relief, and salvation. I’m sure people had their reasons – removal of the Romans and independence perhaps? Health issues? Death issues? And the reason for their expectation is that Jesus had just raised Lazarus – the guy who had been dead 4 days – in fact he was already in the tomb – and now he was alive and well again. That news spread – as we can well imagine. Such news would interrupt whatever else was happening in your world – what if it is true?
What if indeed?
I don’t think anyone knew what to expect or what actually was going to happen next. Everyone was reacting to news of Jesus’ power – cheering and shouting, praising and blessing, admonishing and rejecting. The religious leaders saw such power as leading to a fight with the Romans which they believed they – and every Jew – would lose. (No one can raise that many dead!) And we have no record of people trying to get Jesus to other tombs, to other sick relatives, but they did listen to him. What was everyone waiting for? Better to nip the insurgence quickly! False Messiahs come and go and one who claims divinity can be squashed by having God curse him. That’s why Jesus was crucified. Even Pilate knew something more was going on. And yet one couldn’t help but noticing a person wearing a crown and lifted up (not exactly on a throne but still lifted up) praying forgiveness as he died. Death seems to have won on Friday. Lazarus must have been a fluke. But then the message happened again – Jesus has defeated death!
What if it is true? What if indeed? Who saw any of this coming for the man riding a donkey? GS