Passion of the Christ must become the focus of every Christian life
Wounds have an unusual attraction for children. They want to see the cut or bruise to study it carefully. A hurt, even if there is no broken skin, calls for a Band-Aid. As people grow older, they remain curious about injuries. Notice how the traffic piles up around car accidents as spectators want to see the injuries. Notice how every cast draws an audience.
When my mother first read me Matthew’s account of the crucifixion (I was about 4), the story did not register with me until the Roman soldiers pierced Jesus’ side and the blood and water flowed out. The wounds of Christ. When I was a teenager, it was really popular for speakers to paint bloody pictures of the crucifixion. The beatings, the abuse, the nails, the agony of weight on the nailed hands and feet the physical suffering of Jesus became a spur to my conscience. In my mind I deliberately ran through all those details every Sunday as I took communion. But eventually my hart became calloused to those bloody wounds of Christ, and I began seeing a different way of understanding the pain, the emotion, the significance of Jesus dying on the cross.
The most vivid images my imagination conjured were mild to the physical images of The Passion of the Christmost of us were seeing three years ago. The scenes were so bloody andviolent that I felt compelled to close my eyes for self-protection.Even after three viewings, I am not sure I have seen all the imagesbecause I cannot stick through the whole ordeal. The physical sufferingportrayed in the film offers a powerful display of pain and agony.
About the time the movie appeared, our congregation was learning the contemporary hymn How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.Some of the horror of the crucifixion scenes was transferred to thesong with its focus on love and atoning power symbolized in the crossand Jesus’ death. The song has a haunting melody that keeps remindingme of the feelings that are all tied up in Mel Gibson’s portrayal ofthose events.
After a glut of detail about the horrors of the crucifixion and too many bloody images of Jesus, most of us gradually become concerned with the more intellectual aspects of Christ. The knowledge that he knew his destiny when he entered the world makes his incarnation the most powerful sacrifice. The idea that Jesus was with God and the instrument of God for the creation of the world and of man remains one of the great truths for man to grasp. For man, all things have a beginning and an ending. God has neither beginning nor ending. Jesus as God had neither beginning nor ending. Yet Jesus the man had a physical beginning just like every human since Adam and Eve. That beginning meant that his deity was transformed as he took on all the elements of humanity to learn the lessons of human life and obedience.
The manger in Bethlehem marked the ultimate sacrifice of divinity as Jesus left heaven to experience sweat, temptations, rejection and ultimately death on one of man’s cruelest torture devices. Only a God who is love and who creates all the matter of this universe with a spoken word could transform eternal, all-powerful spirit into a fetus that grows into a man.
The humanity of Jesus is shown in the torture his body endures, and his divinity is shown in his reaction to the false charges, the beating, the insults, the crown of thorns, the slap, the spit, the weight of the cross, the spikes, the total rejection by those he came to bless with forgiveness and redemption. “Forgive them. They know not what they do.”
The wounds on the body of Christ must become the wounds to our hearts and spirits.
The passion of the Christ has become the focus of a season for the Christian world.
But the passion of the Christ should be the focus of every Christian life.
It must be more than Easter. It must be more than communion on Sundays.
It must be more than symbolic emblems. It must be more than the Gospel narratives.
The passion of the Christ must become my passion. I must pray in its shadows. I must make my decisions feeling the heat of it. I must serve seeing the vision of my dying Savior.