WHEN EVERYTHING GOES HAYWIRE

When I was a kid, I helped farmers with their harvests for pocket change. I clearly remember working feverishly to bale hay and get it into the barn before a threatening storm hit us. Dark clouds kept getting closer and we worked even faster.

Then it happened! It wasn't the rain, but a tangle in the haywire! What a mess! There was no reserve roll handy and farmers knew that untangling haywire was an impossible task. There was nothing we could do but take the finished bales back to the barn and hope the storm would soon blow over.

Few people living today are familiar with haywire, but most of us have heard or even used the expression, "gone haywire." There doesn't seem to be an English equivalent that can adequately describe such futile situations. Fishermen who get their lines tangled, say it "went haywire." In December, I tossed several strings of Christmas lights into the trash rather than spending hours attempting to locate and replace bad bulbs and untangle the wires. When our carefully made plans and efforts to accomplish something are hopelessly foiled by an unexpected disaster, we are forced to stop whatever we are doing and reassess the situation. What do you do when everything goes haywire? If you are lucky, there may be several options, but continuing as planned is not one of them.

As Christians, we should consider the possibility that God is trying to tell us or teach us something. Sometimes our busy-ness gets in the way of what God desires. He may have attempted to get the message across in normal ways, but we were not listening, too intent on what we wanted.

"Haywire" situations preceded the invention of haywire by thousands of years, but I don't know what people called them in those days. The people of Babel were intent on making a name for themselves by building a tower that would reach the heavens. Then, suddenly, everything went haywire!

About two thousand years ago, everything went haywire in Israel, first for the disciples and then for the Jewish leaders.

It is difficult to say who was actually in control in Israel in those days, but no matter who claimed to have the power and authority, God never lost control. The High Priests, Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians were not good friends but they were collectively unhappy about being subjected to Rome. The Roman puppet ruler, Herod the Great, found it expedient to let these Jewish sects fight among themselves for political supremacy as long as they kept the rebellious Jews in line.

Anomaly
People first heard of Jesus when a group of shepherds from Bethlehem spread a fantastic tale of an angelic appearance and of a baby bearing the name "Jesus" that had been born in a stable. There were many visitors in town at the time who had traveled long distances in order to appear for the Roman census. After they returned to their homes, the story of the angel, shepherds and baby Jesus was told and retold.

Months later, the entire city of Jerusalem was talking about a caravan of dignitaries from the East, who came seeking a newborn Jewish prince. They claimed that the unusual appearance of a star had given them reliable information. It was so important to them, that they set out on a journey that must have taken months.

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him (Matthew 2:3).

Respected Scribes and Rabbis had been teaching in the Synagogues, that according to the prophet Daniel, the Messiah would soon arrive. This teaching was also known to King Herod. When the caravan arrived and asked to see the newborn prince, he became alarmed and called all the important teachers of Israel into his palace for consultation. He asked them where the Messiah should be born and asked the special visitors when the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, demanding that they report back to him. When they didn't, Herod ordered all male children under two years in the environs of Bethlehem to be killed.

Astonishment A decade later, it was Passover time and important Scribes and Rabbis were in the temple discussing theological, prophetic and political matters. A 12-year-old kid named Jesus joined the group and started asking questions. Before long, the priests, scribes and rabbis were asking him questions.

And it came to pass, that after three days they [Jesus' parents] found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers (Luke 2:46-47).

Apprehension
Seventeen years of relative calm passed. Herod was building palaces for himself and an impressive temple for the Jews. Jewish leaders seemed to have the people under control. Only an odd-ball preacher out in the wilderness gave reason for some Apprehension. He called on the people to repent and be baptized, saying that the Messiah was coming and His kingdom was close at hand.

And the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not (Luke 3:15).

The following day, Jesus came to John the Baptist asking to be baptized. He then selected 12 men to accompany him and began to declare everywhere that the kingdom of God had arrived. From that point on, things began to get uncomfortable for the Jewish leaders.

Anxiety.
Jesus was the main topic of discussion in meetings of the Sanhedrin. At first they asked, "What shall we do? If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and the nation. They tried to trick Jesus into making wrong statements, but it always seemed to "go haywire". They accused him of disobeying their laws, but Jesus managed to turn the tables on them. He also overturned the tables of the money changers and sellers of sacrificial animals in the temple.

Animosity
The High Priests and Pharisees became intent on eliminating Jesus, but Jesus always escaped, saying that his time was not yet come. While they were plotting to kill him, Judas showed up with a plan. For once, all religious parties worked feverishly together. Their efforts and cunning plans seemed headed for success. Jewish leaders worked up the crowds, who coerced Pilate to release a notorious prisoner named Barabbas ("Son of the Rabbi") and turn Jesus over to the executioners. Jesus showed no signs of resisting even while he was being brutally persecuted. Their goal seemed within reach.

Achieved!
On the 14th of Nisan around 9:00 am, Jesus was nailed to the cross. He died six hours later at 3:00 p.m.. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemas laid the lifeless body of Christ in a tomb.

After three years the enemy was defeated! It was time to enjoy the feast! Or was it?

The Jewish leaders sat down to enjoy their feast, but they couldn't get their minds off the events of the day. There was the solar eclipse that lasted three hours, a great earthquake and reports of the dead rising out of their graves and walking around the city! Most disturbing was news that the temple veil had been rent in two from top to bottom, and that right at Passover time!

Rabbi Simeon, described this veil in the Mishna as follows: The veil was an handbreadth thick, and woven of seventy-two twisted plaits; each plait consisted of twenty-four threads. [The veil] was forty cubits long, and twenty wide (60 x 30 feet) and made of eighty-two myriads [the meaning is not clear]. Two of these veils were made each year, and it took three hundred priests to immerse one.

That night neither the Jewish leaders nor the disciples slept well. The disciples were filled with anguish. Christ's enemies had succeeded in killing their Messiah! Where was God? Gripped by fear, they barricaded themselves in a room for three days and three nights.

Early the next morning, on the 15th of Nisan, the Chief Priests and Pharisees returned to Pilate and requested him to seal the tomb and assign soldiers to guard the tomb. They said, Sir, we remember what that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first (Matthew 27:63-64).

The 16th of Nisan was a weekly Sabbath and an uneasy calm settled over Jerusalem. At sundown, people were finally able to clean up the worst of the mess left after the feast of the Passover before falling into bed and trying to get some much needed sleep.

As the sun rose on the first day of the week, however, everything went haywire! The soldiers reported that the tomb was empty. They deserved the death sentence yet the High Priests who had bribed Judas, also bribed the soldiers to spread a lie and they promised to bribe Pilate if he got wind of the matter. They were to tell everyone that they witnessed the disciples breaking the seal, rolling the heavy stone from the tomb, and stealing the corpse - while they slept!

Ralph V Harvey, April, 2015