Some years ago I read a play written in England.
I can’t trace it but it went something like this.
It was set in London and the setting was that there had been an Atom Bomb dropped on London.
It was probably written in the 1960’s.
The scene was at the Jones -
When the curtain rises the scene is something like this -
There is plaster hanging from the ceiling - Mr and Mrs Jones are sitting in their armchairs - Mr Jones is reading the Times - Mrs Jones is knitting - Annabel the daughter is pouring a cup of tea.
Mr Jones: - (Reading the Times.) I say British Steel has dropped
Mrs Jones - How Terrible - I blame the Japanese of course - what they are doing making steel heaven only knows I thought they only grew rice and made funny little plastic Motor cars.
Annabel: - Mother Father don’t you think you should look out the window half of London has vanished - even Harrod’s
MrsJones: No no dear not Harrods those Russians would never dare bomb Harrods - No class you know - they may bomb Boots the chemist or someone like that but certainly not Harrods.
Annabel - (Even more hystyrical.) But but it’s terrible there are people walking around all over the place disfigurred - I saw a man go by with his nose gone.
MrJones- Of course there have always been lots of disfigured people about dear - a certain Mr Tuttle I know of very low repute had a tatoo on - well never mind where - but a most unpleasant thing.. Can I have two lumps of sugar dear.
Annabel - Yes Daddy and you Mummy?
Mrs Smith: Two lumps and do take that frown off your face - there’s a good girl.
Annabel: But Mummy doesn’t it bother you that Wesminster Abbey is now a huge hole in the ground?
Mrs Jones Not at all dear it was just a place for American Tourists - hardly anyone goes there now and I prefer the little chapel just down Clyde street.
Mr Jones. Thank-you Annabel - Now how about you run upstairs and tell Grand-ma to come down for a nice cup of tea.
Annabel - (Bursting into tears.) But Daddy there’s no upstairs and Grandma hasn’t come down yet.
She runs off.
Mr Jones. (Standing.) You know I think I’ll turn in.
Mrs Jones. (Following) Me too.
This play pictures a family holding on to what was normal before when everything around them had changed.
When Jesus died - some spectacular things happened on that day apart from his crucifixion on the cross.
This morning I would like to aquaint you with some of these
The first thing is found in verse 45 of Matthew chapter 27 From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus called out in a loud voice, "Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?
Which means, "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?"
This is an incredible verse:-
For three hours - from 12 O’clock midday until three O’clock in the afternoon the land fell into absolute darkness.
You can ignore all manner of things if they don’t impact on your life.
It is said that people in Nazi Germany ignored the fact that Jews were being systematically slaughtered in their midst.
When rows of prisoners were marched past them they simply looked the other way.
But in Jesus’ case there could be no looking the other way the whole of Jerusalem was plunged into darkness - an utter impossibility without God.
The woman purchasing her weekly bread at the market would have to stumble her way home.
The Pharisees and scribes preparing for their passover celebrations would be crippled in their preparations until the eiree light of lamps flickering in the middle of the day would be a constant reminder of the Greater passover that was happening in their very midst.
The disinterested and the busybodies - the jeering crowds and the Roman soldiers were all bought a sharp and shocking lesson as the light disappeared - This man who was crucified who had healed their sick and given sight to their blind - this man who had fed their thousands and walked in their streets was who he said he was - God himself in their midst and now he hung dying on a cross guarded by fearsome Roman soldiers just out of Jerusalem.
And so time slowly passed - Jesus hanging in his dark agony -
The unnatural position made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the wounds inflamed by exposure, gradually gangerened; the arteries - especially at the head and stomach - became swollen and oppreased with surcharged blood; and while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burrning and raging thirst; and all these physical complications caused an internal excitement and anxiety, which made the prospect of death itself - of death the unknown enemy, at whose approach man usually shudders most - bear the aspect of a delicious and exquisite release.
Meanwhile Pilate, haunted by his nagging conscience in his artificially lit quarters and accompanied by terrified elite guards, standing or pacing waiting wondering what cosmic event he had begun by the fateful washing of his hands. While in the town the ordinary person as much as he could tried to pretend that nothing had happened. It wouldn’t have been easy given that in this crazy topsy turvey day where night was the middle of the day in a world that was remarkable for it’s eveness and sameness day after day.
How rich and varied were the thoughts and feelings of the people of Jerusalem that day turned night as the life blood of their King trickled onto the ground drip by drip we can but guess at - but Matthew faithfully records for us in verses 50 and 51 two paral1el sets of events that should have given those who should have known in Jerusalem - deep cause for reflection.
In verses 48 - 50 Matthew faithfully writes - Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, "Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him."
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after jesus’ resurrection they went intpo the holy city and appeared to many people.
If the darkness was not testimony enough - God now underlines the earth shattering importance of this event.
On the cross we read And when Jesus had cried out in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
The moment of Jesus’ unjust death was marked by God by a number of events.
Firstly the curtain of the temple wads physically torn in two from top to bottom - Why because up to this time only the High Priest was able to go into the Holy of Holies - the place with God
- on the day of Atonement - this was the veil behind which the spirit of God dwelt - Up to this time god was in some respect hidden and remote - but in the death of Jesus we see the hidden love of God, and the way to the presence of God once barred to all is now open to all who will receive what Jesus gave on Good Friday.
Then their was what appears to be something like a massive earthquake - The earth shook and the rocks split. This earth shattering experience presumably was felt all over Jerusalem and following on from the darkness must have served for many to accentuate the profound event that had just happened in jerusalem - but even further than that there was a miraculous resurrection that happened of a number of holy people who had died and suddenly were raised to life - these people now turned up in Jerusalem so that we could imagine Josiah the fishmonger meeting up with someone we shall call him joseph and saying I know you you were Joseph and I went to your funeral - his face would turn ashen and he would either faint or run away - if he was like you and me.
These earth shattering experiences must have had a profound impact on the peop[le of Jerusalem -
They were so shocking that, Matthew tells us - When the centurian and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely he was the Son of God!"
Such events convinced one of the hardest most murderous men in Jerusalem that Jesus was the son of God.
But do you know the really incredible thing?
The next day - despite all that they had seen.
As far as we can ascertain . . . .
The normal person in Jerusalem just went about their normal business - just like the Jones’s in the play.
The more alert and devious in their midst - carried their denial to a ridiculous level by sealing the tomb and putting a guard outside - as if you can stop God with a guard.
It is incredible that through these incredible signs that people in Jerusalem did not perceive what was happening in their midst -
The fact that they could ignore all of this and carry on business as usual could come as nothing other than a shock to us.
And yet today - on Good Friday as God again speaks into the world of his message of salvation - People still act as if there was no saviour and no eternity -
Christians have lost the sense - the very edge of certainty about the fate of their neighbours and friends - who without Christ are heading for an eternity without him.
When Jesus hung on the cross he took the weight of the sin of the World on his shoulder - He took your sin and mine -
Before this - for eternity - Jesus had had what you and I have only caught a fleeting glimpse of - close intimacy - close unity with God the Father and with the Holy spirit. - But there on the cross he experienced for the first time in uncountable eons - the potent cost of sin - death separation for the first time in all eternity from Gods the Father - this separation with all it’s terror was more horrifying more terrible for Jesus because he of all people apart perhaps from Adam knew what true intimacy with God was like - this separation undoubtably led to the horrifying cry -
"Eloi Eloi lama sabachithani? - which means "My God, ,my God why have you forsaken me?"
That for Jesus not the excrutiating pain was the terror of the cross.
Don’t you think then as Christians we should stop pretending this has not happened?
Don’t you think we should have some sort of urgency some sort of spring in our step as we gaze upon a world rushing headline largely into a lost eternity.
Good Friday is if nothing else a wakeup call to us as Christians to go into the world and tell those who will listen that there is another way - there is hope there is a saviour and he has already made a way.
Every now and then I come across a Bumble bee trapped in our house and in his frantic panic to escape has exhausted himself into stillness. When that happens I mix some sugar and water together and put them in a saucer with the Bumble Bee - as he sucks the life giving food into his system his energy invariably returns and he flies off.
Many people don’t bother and think it is un neccessary.
They may be right.
But there are people you will meet who are longing to hear the life giving message of the gospel.
When they do they fly off not for the short life of a Bumble Bee but into the inheritance of eternal life won by a loving saviour.
As we go from this Good Friday Service this morning -
Let us life like it has happened.
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