The Passion of Christ

This brief collection of thoughts contains the Thought for the Week items posted during the cinema screening of the movie The Passion of the Christ. 

THOUGHTS ON THE PASSION OF CHRIST

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2004

THE POWER OF THE PASSION OF CHRIST

This week many people will go to the cinemas to view 'The Passion of the Christ'.

The suffering of Jesus Christ, traditionally known as his 'passion', will impact us all with its brutality. Doubtless we will cringe; doubtless many will cry. Some will wonder what makes the human race capable of such horrific violence and irrational hatred. Others will wonder what motivated this one man, this Christ, to deliberately submit to these atrocities.

Behind this passion, this suffering, is a deeper passion: the passionate and powerful love of the Christ for the people he created.

Because of this powerful love, this powerful passion, Jesus Christ 'resolutely set out for Jerusalem'. Because of this passion Jesus Christ refused to avoid the cross and its suffering: 'Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.'

The deep and powerful passion of Jesus Christ for sinful human beings ' for us ' brought him deliberately, purposefully to this place of suffering. Here his love, God's love, is demonstrated: that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, chose to die as our substitute to bear the full penalty for our sins:

  • The Christ was rejected so that we can be accepted.
  • The Christ was condemned as guilty, so that we can be acquitted as righteous.
  • The Christ was subjected to the law of sin and death, so that we can be set free.
  • The Christ died, so that we can live.

He, the sinless One, took the sinner's place, bore the sinner's punishment, paid the sinner's price, so that all that justly and legally hung over the sinner, was taken away from us, nailed to his cross, forever purged off our record.

This love, this incomparable grace, is the power behind the passion of the Christ. He knew that there is no other way. He knew that only this way, only this death, could bring us sinners back to peace with God.

From the depths of his powerful love he calls

Come to me 'and I will give you rest.'

[Scriptures: John 1:1-4; Colossians 1:16; Luke 9:51; John 12:27; Matthew 16:21-23; 26:52-54; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:8-10; John 3:16; Matthew 27:46; Isaiah 53:4-11; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; Romans 8:1-4; Colossians 2:14; John 14:6; Romans 5:1; Colossians 1:19-22; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; Matthew 11:28-31]

 

THE PURPOSE OF THE PASSION OF CHRIST

The horrific suffering of Jesus Christ was no accident. Nor was it an unfortunate, premature ending of a life of great potential.

This suffering, this death was the purpose of his birth. It was set in the plan of God before the creation of the world ' it was the God-ordained goal in which all of Christ's life and all of the Holy Scriptures reach their climax and purpose.

Christ, the eternal Son of God, came to earth as a human being to do his Father's will and achieve his Father's purpose: he came to die the death which would take away the sins of the world.

His suffering and death was in God's mind when he said to the serpent in the Garden of Eden 'he will crush your head, and you will strike his heal'.

His suffering, his death, which would provide for the deliverance of all people from spiritual death, was in God's mind when he instructed the Hebrews in Egypt to paint the blood of a perfect lamb on their doorways on the night of the first Passover.

His suffering, his death, his blood, was the real meaning of every sacrifice for sin offered on the blood-stained altar in the Hebrew temple, and the real meaning of the blood sprinkled in the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement for the remission of sins.

All of these sacrifices took their meaning and power from the sacrificial death of Christ that was already a timeless reality in the mind and purpose of the eternal God.

His suffering and death, and its sin-bearing, guilt-annulling significance, were detailed by the prophet Isaiah 700 years previously:

Many ' were appalled at him ' his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness 'he was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised ' he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed ' the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all

[Scriptures: Revelation 13:8; John 12:27; Luke 24:25-27, 44-47; John 17:1-5; 1:29; Hebrews 10:7,9; Genesis 3:15; Exodus 12; Leviticus 16; Hebrews 9:11-10:18; Isaiah 52:14; 53:2-6]

 

THE PARADOX OF THE PASSION OF CHRIST

The death of Jesus Christ on the cross pulsates with paradoxes. Here in this death we are confronted with a great list of concepts which it binds inseparably together, but which, to our human understanding, have nothing in common.

Here on the cross:

  • Mercy is poured out through judgement,
  • Blessing emerges from cursing,
  • Salvation comes out of damnation,
  • Acceptance is procured through rejection,
  • Freedom is purchased through submission,
  • Acquittal is granted through condemnation,
  • Life springs forth from death,
  • Joy comes out from sorrow,

All of this is because of an incredible exchange that occurred at Calvary: Jesus Christ, who was without sin, deliberately stepped into the place of us, the sinners.

All that accrued to us: all the judgement, the curse, the damnation, the rejection, the condemnation, the death, the sorrow, that is justly ours because of our rejection of God and his commands, was taken by Jesus Christ, as our substitute.

All that rightly accrued to him because of his sinless life: all the blessing, the acceptance, the freedom, the acquittal, the life and the joy that is rightfully his, is credited to those who receive him.

He took our place so that we, united to him by faith, can stand in the presence of God accepted, guilt-free and unafraid. Full of joy. Full of peace.

It is for this reason that the person who believes in Jesus Christ no longer fears the condemnation and judgement of God that will inevitably confront everyone.

Christ has already borne all the judgement, all the punishment, all the condemnation on our behalf.

This is the meaning of 'mercy' and 'grace' that this salvation from God's judgement has nothing at all to do with us and our ability to keep his commands: it is totally his gift, obtained through the death of our substitute, Jesus Christ, and granted to those who believe in him.

This incredible exchange, this substitution, this immense act of indescribable love, is the explanation of the paradox of the passion of the Christ.

May it not be in vain for any of us.

Scriptures: Romans 3:19-28; 5:1-11; 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:14-6:1; Galatians 2:15-21; 3:6-14; Ephesians 1:3-8; Colossians 2:13-15; 2:20-3:3; Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 Peter 2:24]

 

THE PATHOS OF THE PASSION OF CHRIST

It the Gospel of John we read statements throbbing with deep pathos:

'The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.'

'He was in the world, and the world was made by him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.'

'This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.'

'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.'

'You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.'

Matthew's Gospel contributes to the pathos:

'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.'

And Luke reports:

'As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, 'If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes.'

This is the deep pathos of the cross of Christ: that this crucified One is the Lord of Glory who dwelt among us clothed in human flesh. So far had our human god concepts degraded that God himself walked among us and we did not recognize him.

But there is a second and deeper pathos: that this rejection, this crucifixion, was known to him even before the creation of the world ' yet he still created. He still created the first hill, the first tree, the first human mind and muscle: everything ' every object, every element of strength that was used in the crucifixion, existed only from his hand. In an act of incredible love God created us, knowing we would one day nail his human body to a cross.

But deeper still goes the pathos: that this cross, this ultimate expression of human rejection of God, is our one, final chance of acceptance by God: and this final offer, this last and only hope, is still rejected. 

[Scriptures: John 1:5, 10-11; 3:19; 4:10; 5:39-40; Matthew 23:37; Luke 19:41; 1 Corinthians 2:8; Revelation 13:8; 1 Peter 1:19,20]