We live about an hour away from a big church that puts on a very good passion play each year. We took a group of students to see it earlier this week. I have some experience with drama, mostly on the technical side (sound, lights, set construction). There are some special effects that work well even in amateur theater to help the audience suspend their disbelief. This particular passion play uses a silk screen and shadows to show Jesus being scourged; a little bit of technical effect combined with good acting really sell the scene.
Movies have a whole other dimension of effects available, and today it is hard to tell what is real and what isn’t. Watching a play or film during Holy Week adds to our understanding by providing visual stimulation. We can read the story, discuss it, and even share it with others, but seeing and hearing the dramatization can still add to our experience. There are times when the Bible itself seems to have a flair for the dramatic and God uses some special effects of his own to drive the point home. After displaying his power and wonders in Egypt, the Hebrews cross the Red Sea on dry land and see Pharaoh’s army crushed by the same water. Mount Sinai shook and smoldered when God descended onto it. No other biblical display was greater than on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.
One of the plagues visiting Egypt was darkness. Note that it was more than cloudy. Exodus says no one could see their hands in front of their own faces, that’s the kind of dark we are talking about. So when darkness covered the land from the sixth to the ninth hour (noon to 3 pm) on the day Jesus died, I believe it was more than overcast. Luke 23 says the sun’s light failed. When the Bible says dark that’s what it means. When Jesus died the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. This passage in Matthew 27 records an earthquake and the saints being raised from the dead and appearing to many. Perhaps the zombie prophets never appear in your Easter message, but look again and see it they’re not in there. (I’m half kidding, but it does say the graves opened. Spooky.) Upon seeing everything that happened, the centurion declares that Jesus must have been the Son of God.
There are other special effect moments in the New Testament; the Day of Pentecost and pretty much every single event in Revelation come to mind. But what about us? We were dead to sin but have been made alive to God. The old man is dead and in Christ we are transformed into new creatures. The Gospel message has a very special effect on those who receive it. As Christ followers, we are to be the salt and light of this world. By sowing the seeds of the Gospel, we should have an effect as well.