I went to see Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ. I sat in the theatre ready for a Hollywood portrayal, one that would satisfy the masses who would see it. Expecting something that would tell the story once again, the story we so often hear from the pulpit, the Sunday school lesson, the picture bibles for kids. What happened in that theatre was way beyond what I had expected.
The daring of Gibson to portray the Passion, the suffering of Jesus, was brutally honest, raw, torturous to see, agonizing to view. Somehow we have dressed up those moments to satisfy our holiday. Easter has been made into a spectacle more kin to a festival than to reality. We have made it day of color, spring fashion, chocolate, rabbits, chickens, eggs. We date it to coincide with spring rites. We have followed the traditions laid down by the church leaders centuries ago. We have not questioned or wondered why.
It was Passover. It falls on the same date annually. It is based on the Exodus from Egypt, not our current moon phases. It was the fullness of time when the significance of Passover was going to be fulfilled in the death, the sacrifice of the Son of God. The blood sacrifice that was going to be offered on a Roman cross once for all time, for all people, in all places. God was bringing to an end the need for daily sacrifices, the slaughter of animals to cover temporarily the sins of man.
Theologically, we say “yes” he paid the price. We say that it was a substitutionary death for us, for me. We teach all around that. We accept it. Nice, neat, packaged for consumption of the mind without cutting the groove too deep where it hurts. I grew up with that. I had no other reference. No one was malicious or hiding the truth, it was just glossed over.
But sitting in that theatre, Gibson took the reality of the time and graphically portrayed it on film. The ruthlessness of the Roman soldiers, the hatred of the pharisees, the horrible vendetta orchestrated by the high priests, all were shown with emotion. The heartbreak of Mary and the followers, the hopelessness that ensued, the defeat of expectations were there.
The scenes of Satan’s plot, the agony in the garden helped reveal the true crisis of the soul and spirit of Jesus. The Kangaroo courts of the Jews, the lack of due process, the rush to judgment revealed the true spirit of men who hated but dressed it in religious robes.
But what I could not bear, that brought tears and grief to me, so much so that I cannot view that scene again, was the scene where Jesus was beaten, brutally, unrelentingly, with vengeance from Roman, angry soldiers; and then with his flesh ripped from his frame and bone showing, he is forced to bear a cross through the streets to Golgotha.
It was ugly, brutal, savage. But he did it for you and me. It was not pretty, colorful. It was red with blood everywhere, the blood that gave me eternity with him.
- Pastor Bill