Good Friday in Sydney’s CBD: the heartbeat of compassionate hope
The heart of Sydney’s CBD was silent. Only the beat of a single drum and the cries of loved ones and friends echoed through the concrete canyons.
Jesus carrying his cross moved past the colonnades of the former Martin Place General Post Office, their neo-Roman grandeur a striking but brief reminder of when pax-Romana ruled with brutality, providing the political and religious context for Jesus’ execution.
Wesley Mission’s Good Friday re-enactment, however, was no place for reminiscing. Jesus moved slowly around Martin Place and after being beaten, collapsed with exhaustion, scattering his crowd of followers. He was helped on his way by Simon – a man whose strength was matched equally by his compassion.
No other event speaks louder to the heart of the CBD. Banks and shops are closed. Overseas visitors, airline staff and curious tourists from city hotels join the throng.
The drama had begun on the stage of the Martin Place Amphitheatre 30 minutes before. The modern day take of Jesus’ ministry, betrayal and trial, was delivered in song and script by young actors, who were moved by the opportunity and experience.
Alec Green, who played Jesus, told Australian Associated Press it was a challenge to play the role of Jesus.
“It’s hard for anyone to put themselves in that sort of position,” Alec said.
“You are in front of large audiences, and in front of the whole world, realistically, and you get betrayed. It’s very hard emotionally.
“It’s just trying to bring it to a modern audience, to sort of help them understand.”
On his return to the Martin Place Amphitheatre, Jesus was crucified. He cries out “it is finished” to the crowd of more than 1000.
The Rev Keith Garner, Superintendent of Wesley Mission, spoke of the importance of focusing upon the person of Jesus not just the method of his death. The cross was a common form of execution and over the centuries it had become a symbol. However, the person of Jesus should be the focus of Good Friday.
“We are surrounded here (Martin Place) by businesses, financial institutions, major expensive car dealers, jewellery shops: all of them they not what branding is about,” Mr Garner said. “But in history there is no stronger brand, no stronger symbol than the cross.
“There is nothing more recognisable in history than the cross. The cross speaks of the risen power of Christ, it speaks of the generous love of God for all people…Jesus is for all.
“The cross touches us in some part of our hearts. But when the crowds gathered on the first Good Friday they didn’t see a brand, they didn’t see something that was unique or something to venerate. It is not where Jesus died that matters, although he died outside the city wall in a very ordinary place. “It’s not where he died or how he died that makes this day important but it is who died that makes this day different.”
Dr Garner said that if Jesus’ death was left to the popular branding merchants they would have called it Bad Friday.
“But it isn’t bad Friday,” he said. “After three hours on the cross, He died for me and he died for you. That’s why it’s Good Friday: because he met at us at our place of need: the point of need of human sin, the point of need of human selfishness and the point of need of human greed. Sin is not the action that we do, it is what we are without God in Christ. Sin is a condition and it needs to be cleansed, healed and put right.
“On that first Good Friday as his arms were stretched wide on the cross: symbolically those arms represent Him reaching out to the world: the world in its brokenness, the world in its hurt, the world in its need.
“He offers his grace and love to you. If you have never received the love of God into your heart and life I cannot think of a better day of the year to do so than on Good Friday.”
What followed was a moving experience as people placed flowers at the foot of the empty cross, led by children.
Wesley Mission hosted a series of powerful Easter events, re-enactments and worship services and events during Holy Week 2018.
For more than 50 years Wesley Mission has taken the story of Easter into the public space giving people the opportunity to hear and share in the message of Easter.