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					Good Friday 2012                                                                In a nutshell, Spartacus was being trained as a gladiator in training school.
                                                                                He escapes and forms an army of slaves and gladiators. Their plan was to
 is a universal experience –it will visit us all in one way or another – and    leave Italy by ship but he was double crossed so he had no option but to
yet the news media constantly brings to our attention news of death – a         march on Rome. There was a great battle and in the end the might of
well-known celebrity or actor dies – the news records it. A motorway car        Rome won, the slave rebellion was put down – and the captured rebels
crash, the news records it. A terrorist bomb - the news records it, a young     who survived the battle were crucified along the road right up to the gates
family is murdered - the news records it, an atrocity as thousands of           of Rome, the last one of all being Spartacus himself. The film story ends
civilians die in the tangled mess of power politics – relentlessly - the news   with his wife fleeing Rome with their newly born son. By fortuitous events
records it – and deep down – we are struck with the tragedy of it all.          she has been given her freedom, and at the foot of his cross, she shows
Surely – this wasn’t the way it was meant to be.                                him his child telling Spartacus that his son is free. She is driven off into the
                                                                                distance and Spartacus is left to die. It was a great film based on a true
Just over two weeks ago the father of a paratrooper who was killed while        story – but who remembers it now.
trying to help a wounded friend described his pride at receiving his
posthumous George Medal.                                                        What’s the difference between that death and the death of Jesus?
Pte Martin Bell, 24, from Bradford, was serving in Afghanistan when he
disobeyed an order not to move from his position and went to save his           The crucifixion and death of Jesus could also have been just a minor
wounded comrade's life.                                                         episode of history - had it not been for one surprising and unimaginable
But as he helped to move the injured man he triggered a bomb and was            and unforeseen event … the event which we will wait for in the Easter vigil
killed. His father Simon, who received the medal from the Queen, said: "To      tomorrow, the event which we will celebrate on Sunday, the third day, the
say I'm proud is an understatement."                                            resurrection.
In saving a life – he sacrificed his own. His family and regiment will          The death and resurrection of Jesus can’t be separated, they are like two
remember him, and his name will be inscribed somewhere, a cenotaph, a           sides of the same coin, and they belong inextricably together.
memorial – but in 20 or 30 years’ time – who will remember. From the
point of view of the world – his death was just one more in a line of news      Of all the deaths in recorded history – today we remember just one death,
items –quickly forgotten and on to the next. History has many accounts of       that of Jesus. Why this one death - all over the world, why will this one
lives sacrificed for the sake of others.                                        event be remembered, preached and reflected on.
But what’s the difference between those deaths - and the death of Jesus?        Let’s face it – the death of Jesus was a political death. The 4 gospels are
                                                                                united on this. Rome would allow no rivals to Caesar. This was no liberal
Just under 2 weeks ago one Saturday teatime my wife said, you’ll never          democracy – it was a dictatorship and ruled with an iron fist.
guess what’s on – She told me, the film Spartacus. When Fr Nicholas
began his sermon last Sunday asking us had we either read a novel or            It was the high priest Caiaphas who St John records as having said, “You
watched a film more than once, had he turned to look behind him, he’d           do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the
have seen my hand raised, but he didn’t, the perils of sitting behind the       people than to have the whole nation destroyed. He saw the dangers, if
preacher!                                                                       nothing was done Jesus was going to upset the apple cart, Jesus was a
                                                                                loose cannon - the crowds were thrilled by him – and the stakes were high.
I first saw Spartacus when it first came out 50 years ago – it had a great      The Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t want an end to their cosy relationship
cast - Lawrence Olivier, Peter Ustinov, Charles Laughton, Kirk Douglas. I       with Rome. Better that one man should die -
watched the second half yet again.
It was an expedient death, a political death (We have no King but Caesar)          A little later in the same letter – far from seeing the cross as a defeat of
– but also an obedient death – not my will, but yours be done - prayed             goodness, on the contrary it is a statement of God’s victory over sin and
Jesus just hours before his ordeal.                                                evil – he writes … ‘He forgave us our sins, erasing the record that stood
                                                                                   against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.
The gospel writers tell the story with its stark brutality. They paint a picture   He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public spectacle of
of what evil does. It’s present throughout the narrative in everybody –            them, triumphing over them in it’.
The betrayal by Judas, the cowardice of the disciples, the denial of Peter,        It is not Caesar who is Lord – but Jesus
the fickleness of the crowds, the jealousy, the fear & the compromises of          Tonight – we don’t remember or celebrate a failure – on the contrary we
the Jewish leadership, the brutality and corrupted power of Rome – and we          celebrate what St Paul called the triumph of the cross - and that’s why we
see the same dark forces in the world today and it’s in me and perhaps in          are here tonight – we remember a death that was like no other death –
you too.                                                                           not just another item of news

Had his death been the end of the story – I doubt we would be here                 Seen in the light of the resurrection – it was God’s decisive victory over evil
tonight. But in the light of the real resurrection of Jesus, the New               – and that’s why we name it Good Friday. And that’s why the death of
Testament writers reflected on that death and saw below the surface – yes          Jesus is like no other death – it is a cosmic event – with the resurrection -
it was political – but it was more – they remembered his instructions from         it is the climax, the culmination of God’s rescue plan for humanity – indeed
his last meal with them – do this in remembrance of me – and we do –               – for the whole of creation
every week
                                                                                   By the resurrection – God has begun his new creation
They remembered it was Passover and all that Jesus had said came to                So let us look forward to our Easter vigil, let us look forward to our
make sense in a new way                                                            celebration of Easter – perhaps more than we have ever done before, and
                                                                                   let us share the good news with the whole of creation……… AMEN
I give my life as a ransom for many - said Jesus – they saw it in a new
light                                                                              John Metcalfe

The writer to the Hebrews sees Jesus as the true High priest – and the one
who himself becomes the final and ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the
world. And if we have ever felt like blaming God for the world as it is and
for the awful things that happen, he invites us to look at the cross – He
took the sin into himself, he took the guilt, took the blame
St Peter could write: - He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so
that free from sins we might live for righteousness – echoing the words
from the prophet Isaiah.

Writing to the Colossians, Paul saw in the cross God’s great act of
reconciliation – he wrote – ‘and through Jesus God was pleased to
reconcile to himself all things on earth and in heaven by making peace
through the blood of his cross’.

				
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