It was the morning of Good Friday, five minutes before the Divine Service was about to begin, when the skidder appeared across the highway to begin the very noisy work of hauling fallen trees from the site of the new bypass. For weeks the logs had lain there (this is a long term infrastructure project). For weeks there had been no sign of any heavy machinery. Indeed, since that day I have only seen the skidder one further time. But there on Good Friday, like clockwork, the big diesel tractor begins his deafening work only a few hundred feet from our church’s front door.
And as I stood there watching in disbelief, I found myself then looking at the hundreds upon hundreds of cars steadily making their way (presumably) up the road to the ski hill for a last long weekend of skiing in beautiful 20 degree weather. The clouds of darkness began to descend upon my heart. What was going on? Didn’t people realize that this was an important day? That earth-changing events were being remembered? Life and death were being played out on a cosmic scale. We were about to hear the last words of Jesus as He sacrificed Himself for this world that has lost its way, that has got its priorities all wrong! Work and play can wait, this day is different! Let the trees lie, there will be time to move them later! Stop for a few minutes on the way to the hill and hear what your God did out of love for you! But the world didn’t listen to my pleas. They all just kept on doing what they were doing, oblivious to life-changing events going on right under their noses.
But then the words of that Good Friday reading struck me in a way I had never really considered before.
“Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.” (John 19:19-20)
“And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads.” (Matthew 27:39)
When Jesus was crucified for the sins of the world, He was hung beside a busy highway, just like mine. And as He hung there paying the debt of every sinner, the world went about it’s business. Flocks of people going into the city for their holiday weekend festivities. Normal men and women on the way to or from their daily work. As Jesus hung there dying, life went on! When the Saviour was lifted up, how many were too busy to look? When the King spoke His last words, how many gave no pause to listen? How many took no notice at all? How many simply paused for a moment to wonder what all the fuss was about, only to be called back to their own concerns a moment later? How many, took the opportunity to sneer and jeer, and think to themselves what a big waste of time and life that sad spectacle was?
That’s what the world does. What it has always done. It busies itself with countless frivolities that will never really matter. It distracts itself with work and play, very rarely ever giving thought to what is really going on around them. Life and death, forgiveness and salvation is right there, but will they ever see it?
Only four days later, I sat in the hospital room of a dear saint as she passed from this veil of tears into her heavenly reward. She died in her Lord with her beloved children by her side. And in the hallway of the hospital people continued to hurry from one task to the next, from one thing to another. Life went on and very few took any notice of this life and death either. But some did.
The doctor, the nurses, the caregivers, and the family … each was given that pause. Each marked the passing and the promise. Each dropped, even if only for a moment, the trivialities of this life to ponder the eternal truths and comfort of a Saviour who brought about life for His dear saints, from His own death and resurrection. Each was pulled to the side of this busy highway of life to consider again, the cross, the tomb and the hope of the resurrection.
So, now as the world continues to stream by the doors of the church, hurrying on to whatever job or joy they have planned and taking little or no notice of what is going on right there beside that busy road, I don’t get as upset. For I know that even if they are not willing to stop today, there will come a day when they cannot go any further and will have to pull in. A day when their life comes crashing down like a fallen tree, ready to be hauled off and disposed of. And I pray that on that day when they pull of that busy road they will see the cross and the tomb, the death and the resurrection, and I can share with them what Jesus did for them on the side of that busy Judean road so long ago.