Embedded in Melbourne’s memory is the largest crowd ever to gather at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
Last night Ed Shereran lit up the G for 105,000 people. What a number! And he’s repeating the feat tonight with another 100,000 fans singing along to the pop star and his acoustic guitar.
For anyone walking past the G last night, a 100,000 strong chorus could be heard,
My bad habits lead to you
My bad habits lead to you”
There have been some monumental moments at the MCG. From the 1956 Olympic Games to the famed Box Day cricket test and the odd game of footy.
The MCG is almost a sacred space to Melbournians. Every year we take the pilgrimage to the G for football and for cricket and rock the stadium with cheers and boos as beer and tomato sauce splash on jumpers and jeans.
I have also visited the G at night when no one was around. We even managed to step onto that magical ground…before security ushered us off. Under that night sky and with the stands darkened, the stadium stood tall and magnificent, a Colosseum befitting the world’s sporting capital.
As journalists today rushed to the history books to uncover the biggest crowds in the MCG’s history, they found a day in 1959. On that day, 130,000 people converged at the MCG to hear a man talk about crucifixion. He explained with clarity and passion, how God came to earth as a man and died to take away the sin of the world.
Billy Graham preached and the choir that day did more than sing ‘bad habits’, they cried out,
“Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee
Oh, Lamb of God, I come, I come
Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt
Fighting and fears within without
Oh, Lamb of God, I come, I come”
I was speaking with a friend during the week and commenting about how exciting it is to see my city of Melbourne alive again with music and concerts. Only last week Susan and I picnicked across the river from the G, and listened in the Melbourne Symphony under the stars. To be sure, I’ll be there in 2 weeks’ time for the start of the AFL season and watch the mighty Blues trounce Richmond!
I’m sure the Ed Sheeran concert was great and will leave 1000s with a night to remember. But that day when Billy Graham came, he pointed Melbourne to the Son of God and many thousands of lives were changed forever.
Imagine a God who exists? Imagine moving not only to songs about romantic love but of a God who loves his enemies? Imagine not only enjoying watching a pop star live but coming to know the Son of God?
This message of Jesus Christ isn’t spoken around Melbourne as much as it was once. To be sure, there are still churches preaching this Gospel of Jesus and people are becoming Christians. Fewer people though are attending church and one can’t imagine an evangelist ever again filling the MCG. If anything, we find this Jesus repellent. From politics to education and our local celebrities, we are trying really hard to squeeze Jesus out of the city. We’re uncomfortable with his assessment of this thing called sin. He tells us, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Frankly, we choose ourselves and we’ll worry about God later on. Even the Melbournians who refuse belief in God still clench their fists at his words and claims on this world. But confirmed in the history books and still lurking in our memory, is the compelling story of Jesus and the cross he bore for humanity.
Perhaps it is time for Melbounians to open the old book and rediscover the One who laid down his life for us.