The Greatest Event

Sunday, July 1, 2018
Passage: Mark 5:21-43

Can you put these six digits into some sort of order – not a strict mathematical sequence: 0, 1, 1, 1, 2, 6?

The order I’m looking for is 1-2, 1-6, 1-0, precisely in those parings.  Anyone any the wiser?  They are England’s scores in the World Cup qualifiers: a win against Tunisia, a win against Panama and a loss to Belgium.

Some people are riveted by the World Cup. Many are not particularly bothered. But I think everyone at least knows it’s happening.

The World Cup is a magical (?) event when it rolls round every four years.  It is the defining tournament in every player’s or manager’s or trainer’s career. Consequently there is no tournament more full of emotion or angst or intrigue than the World Cup.  We can all think of great or unbearable moments associated with the past World Cup tournaments – depending on your nationality!  And every four years it brings:

  • hope and expectation
  • passion and controversy
  • commitment, pain
  • and victory

And its fall-out has an impact for years beyond its playing, e.g. can you complete this commentary: “Some people are on the pitch…. (They think it’s all over.  It is now, it’s 4…).”  England’s epic, yet to be repeated 4-2 win over Germany 52 years ago and Kenneth Wolstenholme’s memorable commentary.  An event so epic that the match was even re-shown on its 50th anniversary on screen at Wembley.  I think I still remember the noise my Dad made watching it originally on a very fuzzy BBC 2 channel with no aerial!

The Greatest Event

The World Cup is full of many different stories and emotions and people have opinions about players and managers, fouls, penalties – you will hardly fail to get a reaction if you mention the World Cup in your local, even if it’s a negative one.  Not many people are indifferent.  And, because of the time and investment in all sorts of ways that people make in it, alongside the Olympics; it can rightly be classed as ‘The Greatest Event in the World.’  Whether we follow it or not, that’s where many of our friends’ and families’ heads are at, at the moment and we need to understand what’s going on – for them and their  “Greatest Event in the World”  because all these emotions that I mentioned earlier:

  • hope and expectation
  • passion and controversy
  • commitment, pain
  • and victory

rightly belong to our faith, to the story of Jesus Christ.


Take yourself back (or forward) to Advent, when we revisit each year, the preparation made since the beginning of time for the salvation of all creation.  “God did not make death and He does not delight in the death of the living.  For He created all things so that they might live!” Wisdom 1.  As Jesus came to earth, throughout his life as a man, people asked the question ‘was this man the long-awaited king?’


We even have a time in our calendar called Passiontide. This was when God loved us so much that he sent his own son to die in our place.  How passionate is that?  Consider the passion Jesus showed throughout his earthly life – he didn’t condemn that woman who had no right to anywhere near such a crowd.  No, Jesus said,  “Daughter your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease” Mark 5:34.


Jesus divided opinion when he was on earth and continues to divide opinion.  People debate whether he was just a good teacher, a mad man, a prophet or the son of God.  But they do STILL debate him!  He is NOT irrelevant.  “And they laughed at him” Mark 5:40.


When Jesus came to earth he was beaten, scorned, shamed and crucified.  He then went to the cross for the sake of the whole creation and he died in our place. What greater sign of commitment to his people can there be?  He carried on regardless of what people were saying to him or about him:  “He took her by the hand and said ‘Talitha cum'” Mark 5:41.


The cross was possibly the most brutal form of execution ever invented. Not only did Jesus suffer real physical pain, he took the weight of the sins of the world on his shoulders and experienced abandonment, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?,’ as he took the punishment for our sin on the cross.  “For God created us for incorruption and made us in the image of his own eternity” Wisdom 1.


Jesus died on the cross for our sins but death could not hold him.  He defeated death and rose again from the grave, proving he is who he said he was and that he had authority to forgive sins, the power to beat death and the authority to offer us eternal life.  “For righteousness is immortal” Wisdom 1.

As Christians then, we must maintain that there is only one, truly unique ‘Greatest Event in the World’ – in the whole history of the world.  And this event, as we will remember in few moments, happened just once, never to be repeated because it was perfect.

All of this can be summed up in a verse from the Bible that we started our service with. Spectators over the years have held up throughout successive World Cup tournaments.  Scan the crowds carefully and you will see this:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. That’s truly the greatest event ever and we’re on the winning side.  Don’t forget it.  And don’t forget to let people know it.

See this link to Christians in Sport for more.


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