How can this be happening? That's what the disciples of Jesus must have wondered as the events of the week leading up to Jesus' death spun out of control. One minute Jesus seemed to be at the top of the polls, the next he is being arrested and executed like a common criminal. It would have been no less painful--yet no surprise--had the tragedy of Jesus' death been solely the responsibility of the usual culprits who had dogged Jesus from the get-go: the Jewish authorities who had been jealous of his following (15:10). It might have made somewhat more sense were we able to pin fault for Jesus' death to the true outsiders to Israel: the Roman government and those who represented Rome like Pilate, and the soldiers who attended him. What made the events of the week all the more painful and unexpected was that one of Jesus' own, the disciple Judas, was involved. Unlike the other gospel writers, Mark does not give us any backstory on Judas's involvement. All we have in Mark's account are the facts of the betrayal. In similar fashion the fickleness of the crowds, the all-too-easy acquiescence of Pilate to give in to the peoples' blood lust, and the denial of Peter are narrated with little attention as to why or to what end these events are going on. It seems that chaos reigns as the Lord of life is put to death. How can this be happening?
Maybe you've asked yourself the same question in the past five days as the unexpected events at Great Mills High School touched your life, or the life of someone you know. Or maybe you asked the question when another unexpected event (a job prospect that evaporated, an unforeseen diagnosis for a family member, a crisis in the life of one of your children) made it impossible to connect the dots of the past to those of the present. It would be so easy to find an explanation that would cause the Grand Design to reveal itself. It would be so satisfying to just say and believe that "God has a plan." But it wasn't that easy for the first disciples who retreated from Golgotha to a room where they would hide and lock the door. Maybe, for many of us here today, it isn't that easy either.
Jesus didn't ask the "how" question. But as he took on the weight of the world's guilt...as he received the punishment for human sin that he in no way deserved he DID ask the "why" question: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" He didn't get an answer from heaven that day. The world he came to rescue DID get an answer three days later. This week, as we hear Jesus' own words from the cross again, it is necessary to pause and simply voice aloud the question "How can this be happening?" Let's listen to the silence Jesus heard, for a while. The announcement of angels is just around the corner.