It’s Christmastime which means that I will be watching quite a few yuletide-inspired movies. I mean, I’m a serious freak when it comes to Christmas movies, taking in everything from the classics like It’s a Wonderful Life and all the renditions of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, to the relatively obscure and cheesy (see Mister Saint Nick or Christmas Do-Over).
But last night I watched the most important Christmas movie – The Passion of the Christ.
Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Our Savior, Jesus Christ, and to me you can’t really separate His miraculous birth without acknowledging His powerful, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. The Passion vividly details the final 12 hours of Jesus’ life on earth and is something we all need to see.
I’m a book guy, so when I’m reading I have little issue with my God-created mind coming up with the necessary visuals as needed, however when I recently re-read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, my mind struggled as it tried to visualize how things likely appeared as Jesus became sin and took on the wrath of judgment for which we are spared.
Suffice it to say, The Passion brings it on. Vividly and shockingly so.
It’s impossible to not get emotional while watching the portrayal of Biblical events transpire. There were so many things that impacted me and affected me in ways I didn’t really expect.
Judas’ betrayal, regret and ultimate demise. How do you betray the Kings of Kings? I thought the film portrayed the greed and the torment that followed with realism. Luke 22:3 – Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve.
Peter’s denial of knowing Christ. Just sad, and the grief Peter must have felt when Jesus’ foretelling of his thrice denying his association with Our Savior was tragically played-out. Matthew 26:75 – Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
The despair of Jesus’ mother. I can’t pretend to comprehend what it would be like to watch my own son being killed right in front of my eyes, yet Mary endured it. And in the end Jesus made certain that she was to be cared for by His disciple John. John 19:26 – When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,here is your son.”
There is a powerful Mary moment when Jesus’ lifeless body is brought down from the Cross and she stares straight at the camera as if to say, Here is my son, God on earth. He died for you….
The self-serving and evil intentions of the Sanhedrin. Represented mostly by the high priest Caiaphas in The Passion, the Jewish religious authority was threatened by Jesus’ teaching and very presence. They would stop at nothing to incite the angry mob and get them worked into a blood thirsty frenzy. The crowd ultimately decided to free a murderer – Barabbas – and chant for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This combined with the indecisive and politically motivated actions of Pontius Pilate ultimately carried out God’s plan of sacrificing His own Son for all of mankind. Matthew 27:19-30 – While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
The flogging. Do you have any idea what is involved with this gruesome activity, also known as scourging? From Biblical teacher and missionary Duncan Heaster:
Scourging was usually accomplished by tying the victim’s wrists to an iron ring set about knee level, so that he would be bent over; or, facing or backed to a column, the wrists would be tied overhead. There were probably two scourgers, standing on each side, each with whips five or six feet long ending in two leather thongs tipped with metal. As the scourging whips fell across the victim’s back they would wrap around his body at times lacerating his body front and back, so that scourge marks soon covered all of his body except the head, feet, and forearms…
That’s right. They didn’t just nail Our Lord to the Cross – they spit on Him, beat Him, whipped Him and literally ripped the skin from His body before making Him carry his Own Cross to Golgotha. The film provides a sympathetic view from Simon of Cyrene, who is recruited to assist Jesus with the final painful trek to the place of His crucifixion. Mark 15:21-23 – A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.
It was at this point in the film where I experienced a surprising emotion: Anger.
While I watched the very events that I had just read about only a week ago unfold on film I frantically scribbled some notes to just capture my thoughts. I’ll transcribe them here for you as they are:
How much pain must He endure, Father?
Unspeakable love, Jesus. To spare us of judgment, through sacrifice of The One.
So much blood. Too much blood. Our sins are forgiven in each drop.
He died a criminal’s death….for us.
Jesus told His disciples that He was not long for this world, that He would not be with them on earth forever. He also promised that He indeed would live again. Luke 9:21-23 – Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
The tomb was empty – He is Risen!
Christmas is a wonderful time for all of us. It is a time for warmth, family, tenderness and love. It is a time to celebrate the birth of Our Savior, Jesus Christ. This year I will be enjoying that celebration, but I’m also taking the time to reflect on His tremendous sacrifice on that cross. I’m going to think about His blood and how it cleanses my sin. I’m going to think about His marvelous resurrection and the promise of everlasting life that is there for the taking and all we have to do is believe that Jesus is indeed the Christ.
I know the truth and love God for caring so much for His creation that He would send his only Son to die on that cross for us.
It is my prayer that you will all be giving that some thought throughout this entire Christmas season.
My hope is that the thoughts will continue into the New Year and beyond. Please know that Our God is real but that a gap exists between He and mankind. There is absolutely only One Way to bridge that gap – Jesus Christ.
John 14:6 – Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
God bless you all.