Do we live by faith or certainty? Some people live by certainties and have no doubt about what they know.
Other people accept that there is quite a lot of uncertainty about life, but nonetheless they trust that fundamental things are reliable.
Yet others think that there is very little that is certain, much that they don’t know and some that can never be known, so their only option is to live by faith, recognising they might be wrong.
Perhaps we all need to be aware of where we stand on that spectrum.
The danger of certainty is that it can be fragile.
Certainty can’t search for new ideas because it might be challenged.
Faith is more robust because it doesn’t rely on knowledge, but trusts that truth is good.
A person who is certain, relies on their own knowledge, faith looks beyond itself.
Certainty is like a rigid building that collapses in an earthquake.
Faith is more like a building with the flexibility to withstand the earthquake.
The wise build their house on rock, fools build on sand, but where is the rock?
Certainty seems much stronger and more attractive until the earthquake happens.
Did Jesus live by faith, or certainty, and how did that affect the way he faced suffering and brutal death?
Dipping into different parts of the Bible gives different views.
Indeed the four Gospels give different and necessarily incomplete descriptions of Jesus’ character.
In St John’s version of the arrest, trial and crucifixion, Jesus appears totally in control, there is no description of his physical suffering.
Jesus permits what happens because it fulfils prophecies.
St Mark’s Gospel shows Jesus’ great distress at what he faces, his suffering is brutal, he is made powerless, and feels abandoned, even by God.
Both descriptions are true, but St John’s Gospel conveys much more certainty, while St Mark’s shows Jesus’ faith that his appalling suffering will lead to an outcome that is unimaginably greater than anything he could have known at that time.
This time of year is a time to focus on the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus, so it is worth thinking about which way of telling the story you could hold on to faced by catastrophe.
Not everyone bases their faith or certainty on Jesus, but wherever you find it, it is worth having an idea of what you could hold on to when things go wrong.