Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few months, you’ve probably been inundated with articles, TV interviews and Sunday morning messages about Mel Gibson’s $30+ million movie “The Passion Of The Christ”.
It’s been an awesome blessing to us Christians who have not been able to openly articulate our passion for our beliefs without offending anyone or “crossing the line” of casual evangelism.
Gibson’s work of art, albeit a movie, does exactly what we’ve all wanted to do – cause a stir in the heart of the seeker (those who are investigating Christianity) to the point of asking deep relevant questions concerning Christ’s death by crucifixion.
Questions like; what did Jesus really do that was so wrong, why didn’t He just stop his own suffering, why didn’t God intervene, why did the disciples bail out so quickly, why was Pilate so undecided and who appointed Caiaphas to be the people’s representative, anyway?
After seeing the film with my family recently, my wife’s and my reaction was one of utter silence! We had no questions. We were in awe having just experienced scripture in a unique way – experiencing the compassion of Christ. His compassion for me and you.
Almost immediately, the opening scene of Christ praying in the garden with satan taunting in the background engages the viewer in the passion with which He prayed regarding the final twelve hours of His human existence. It was here that we first began to experience scripture; Mark 14:35 says Jesus fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from Him.
Incredibly, Jesus’ earlier predictions came to fruition: senseless betrayal by one of His own, fearful abandonment by several of His own and enduring almost indescribable suffering for all our sins – on His own!
The continual relentless beatings, scourging, harassment, humiliation and eventual condemnation to a horrifying death by crucifixion, had an awesome effect of intimately connecting us to His passion to suffer for our sake. It was His mission, His purpose, His deliberate intent to suffer and die for us because of our sins. Again, we continue to experience scripture. Isaiah 53 says that He was pierced and crushed for our sins … the punishment that brought us peace was now upon Him.
Relatively few people embraced the compassion of Christ that day 2,000 years ago. Not wimpy Pilate, not the power-crazed soldiers, certainly not Caiaphas (the high priest) or his cronies – perhaps not even the seekers who watch the film in the theater 2,000 years later. They just don’t get it, yet.
Throughout the film Jesus had many flashbacks (cut-aways to prior events leading to His capture) whenever He saw some recognizable faces in the crowd along the streets: the washing of the disciples’ feet, casting of the first stone, breaking of the bread, telling Peter he would deny Christ before the next morning and others.
But I felt as though He was looking specifically at me with those eyes of strength, resolve and Passion. He was flashing back to events in my life that caused His incarceration, exhaustive suffering and agonizing pain as He hung on the cross for me.
There is an old classic hymn that asks: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? …… Sometimes it causes me to tremble … tremble … tremble. Were you there when they nailed Him to the cross?”
His mother, His friend Mary Magdalene, His brother John, Simon from Cyrene (who carried the cross up to The place of the Skull), the crucified criminal next to Him – they all caught the compassion of Christ.
But what about you… do you catch the compassion of Christ? Do you identify with the reality that you and I have been given a “do over” because of Christ dying for our sins? We (our sins) caused His death.
What will you and I now do with that realization? How will our lives be affected from now on? How will we affect the lives of others for Christ? These are the real questions that need to be asked after experiencing scripture in Gibson’s epic film.
Having reservations about buying into this compassion concept? Not quite there yet? That’s understandable. Go see the “The Passion Of The Christ” and you’ll experience His compassion.
Jesus asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matt:27 46
I found myself asking, “My God, my God … why have I forsaken you?”
The good news is that Jesus endured the suffering and went to the cross to show how much God loves us. Three days later, He demonstrated even more compassion by overcoming the ultimate price to be paid for our sins.
Maybe Gibson’s next film should be called, “The Passion Of the Resurrection”.
I’m still trembling!
Copyright © 2004 Duane Careb, used with permission.
Duane is on staff with Growthtrac and is a regular contributor to our featured article library. He and his wife Erika are voluntary marriage mentors for pre-married couples within their church. They also serve Growthtrac as seminar leaders and teachers of various Bible-based marriage topics. They have five married daughters and seven grandchildren!