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known knowns, known unknowns, unknown unknowns (3)

And Jesus said to them, “you will all become deserters.....” [...] All of them deserted him and fled. [...] And they crucified him [Jesus, AD 33, Galilee], and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take. It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.  Mark 14: 26, 52; 15: 24


Easter 2009 in Jersey is past. But Donald Rumsfeld’s famous quote remains: “Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know.”


The “known known” for Jesus of Nazareth well before Passover in Jerusalem AD 33 was his imminent desertion by his followers and death.


Not only did he accept his known known – he organised its fulfilment. No other man has ever done that – been obedient to his Father in that way – completely and utterly to benefit others and not himSELF. As he said just before his betrayal, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


Those close to Jesus had three known unknowns that week in Jerusalem AD 33. How much they are identical with my own obsessions is painful to see. They were all me orientated. They were also the “Jersey way”.


·         First risk: “Death is my great problem – it’s not yet is it?”

·         Second risk, “Well-being is my long-term objective, will I succeed?”

·         Third risk, “How will my place in the hierarchy rise – or fall?”


Jesus wanted to teach his key followers something vastly different – something that would begin to release them from prison to themSELVES. He wanted them to know about their unknown unknowns. What were these?

Jesus taught his key followers the first truly amazing unknown unknown – it arose from the first bullet above. Did you work it out last week? It was both an opportunity and a threat to them (and to us).


What was the second unknown unknown? It too was an opportunity and a threat for them (and us in Jersey). And it arose, this time, from the second bullet above. Jesus again tried to teach them through memorable events and sound bites.


Will you try to work it out? The first incident is about receiving things. Jesus’ sound bite is that whoever receives, whoever welcomes a child in his name will find that he receives Jesus and he who receives Jesus doesn’t receive Jesus but the one who sent Jesus. Some “receipt”. Some “well-being”.


Another event occurs when Jesus explains in public why he has come. The Jerusalem leaders have had charge of a wonderful “vineyard” but they have not returned any “fruit” to the owner. Jesus says he will take the vineyard from them and give it to others. Prosperity and well-being for me? No fruit for the owner? New tenants, then. And what a wonderful vineyard for the new ones. Who’s in charge of who gets that?


A further event occurs when a matter uppermost in Jersey’s thoughts these days – taxation – is tabled. Jesus asks for a coin bearing the image of Caesar and says, “Yes, pay to Caesar whatever carries his name and image. But pay to God what bear’s God’s image”. What thing does carry God’s image? Well-being for me – but what do I owe to the one whosr image I bear.


The last two events (for this info – there are more) concerned two people whom Jesus unreservedly praised: a woman who poured a £30,000 jar of ointment on Jesus the day before he died; a widow who gave her last two (not one) 50p coins to benefit others.


Have you seen the second unknown unknown? They had no idea that they were so vulnerable – and yet so marvellously able truly to enjoy well-being beyond their imagination. It’s not what you know – it’s who you know.

‘Death is not part of the natural process, but is the judgment of God on sin.’ (Peter Misselbrook)
‘We do not realise how much we are attached to the things of this world until they are taken from us’ (Augustine, Philosopher, 354-430)
Richard Syvret

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