How is it that a movie claiming to be the most realistic film made about a man and the events around him that occurred 2000 years ago can evoke such strong reactions, fear and resentment today?
“The Passion Of The Christ” claims to be a version closest to the truth, but again as in history, the suffering and death of Jesus creates such extreme passions for and against him and what he came for.
Christians are anxious to see the movie. No Christian seriously wants to see Christ suffering again--indeed some cannot even bring themselves to watch it--but they go in order to understand and appreciate the depth of suffering the Christ endured for them. In some way, they will suffer with him. They hope to be edified and have their faith affirmed.
On the other extreme, the anxiety it has caused in some Jewish circles is a real one. Everyone knows how much the Jewish people have endured and suffered because of this pivotal point in history. Anti-Jewish sentiments are surfacing in Europe and conflict in the Middle East bears witness to this.
How is it that the very people that Jesus came to save have now mostly rejected him? How is it the same nation that he chose to disclose himself to as God is blinded to Jesus as Messiah? And how is it that history has so sadly twisted it that the people who brought the Good News which gave and is still giving such hope to the rest of the world stood to lose the most and now still fears the worse because of it?
What is it in man that can so perverse and so twist whatever God wants to bless us with, whether it is beauty, wealth and talents, or monumental events in history? The believer’s answer is sin but history cannot explain it so simply. What the Jewish people have suffered through is utterly shocking and seemingly meaningless. As Gentiles, we cannot begin to understand the horrors and pain that Jewish people continue to hold in their souls.
But if we look closely at the execution of Jesus, we may see a glimpse of understanding of who we are and why this death was necessary and had to be just so. Ravi Zacharias and a few other writers have referred to the cross as a mirror. Zacharias described it as “a mirror of fearsome reality.” Indeed, it is in that it reflects the evil that surrounds it. What kind of people can come up with such torture in executing some one--a man on the cross twisting himself in order to keep alive, writhing in pain? Scanning back at the scene in Golgotha, we see the evil and the forces that led to the killing of an innocent man. What extent man will go to in order to protect his selfish agenda and political power. How much control one man can have on others that can cause them to stand at the side or do his bidding without thinking that they too are accessories to evil. History tells of the same evil elsewhere in the world. Look at today’s newspaper. It still exists.
What the mirror also reflects is the evil latent in each and every one of us. Whether we choose to or choose not to look into the mirror, whether we admit or not admit it, the evil is there. In every one of us are the evil inclinations of the heart that stem from hatred, anger, greed, lust, ambition, and self-centeredness.
So, who killed Jesus? The question is so loaded, so sensitive. Do we dare raise the question, in view of what Jews have gone through? Or do we just avoid it altogether—and not talk about it for fear of raising even stronger feelings that would hurt them even more.
What is needed is the truth. We need to understand what happened in history that caused such violence and hatred against the Jews. When we find out about early church history, we realize that much of what happened resulted from how the scriptures were taken out of its historical and cultural context. A handful of people, looking through biased lenses and driven by political purposes, either misunderstood or misinterpreted, twisted and misused scripture that led to bad decisions and evil consequences affecting people for centuries after.
In viewing “The Passion Of The Christ,” some of you as believers may still have many questions. You may see some contradictions. People who do not know our Lord may ask you questions, or they will be ready to criticize.
Or, we may even be asked that very fundamental question: “Why did Jesus have to die this way?” We need to be illumined by why he had to die in that specific place and at that specific time—hour and day--in the history of Israel. Why is Jesus called the Lamb of God? We need to see the need for blood sacrifices, how and when they were done. Understanding that, and watching the dynamics of how the key players in this drama come together in the execution of an innocent because of selfish motives of a few men reveal the compelling truth of a divine plan. It points to the existence of master scriptwriter.
We need to be equipped and “ready to give a reasoned answer to anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you” (Peter 3:15.) Everybody, it seems, is talking about Mel Gibson’s movie. Know your stuff before you answer.
We at Antioch feel led to share some insights which will educate as well as edify you. We have set up a website www.thePassion.org.sg to focus on interest that stems from the Passion.
This is what we offer:
As we look at the cross, amidst the depth and immensity of evil, we find as Zacharias also pointed out that it is not only a mirror but also a window. On it we see the face of Jesus, an innocent man killed. With the mind enlightened--understanding the necessity that this was the sacrificial lamb that was killed and why it was done--and with the eyes of the heart, we see good emanating from evil and from it wonders and power of a God that allowed this to happen. Then see beyond the cross that on the face of Jesus is the light and the very face of God.
Finally, let us not dwell only on Jesus’ death on the cross. Let us remember that the plot, the story—even history—did not and does not end at the Cross. Beyond it, three days after Jesus gave up his breath, he was raised from the dead. This is the most important point, his resurrection. If we do not understand and accept this fundamental truth, we have no basis for our Christian faith. And that is why that beside a mirror, it is also a window, a window that brings truth, hope and life. But even more than that it is a doorway in which we are invited to go through, not by coercion, violence or fear, nor in blind faith but with conviction and in truth and love.
Only truth convicted in our hearts will lead us in. We cannot change history. Even understanding why things happened the way they did may not bring away pain the Jewish people endured. We pray that the articles we present convict your heart beyond doubt of the existence of a God who has written the perfect script for the history of the world. We pray they articulate it for you so that you can share the Good News with those you know who do not see the mirror, much less the window, and those who want to walk past that door.
There are no coincidences. Everything in history is God-ordained. They fall perfectly in place—from creation to sacrifices, to crucifixion, to the cross, to where history is, looking beyond to a Second Coming. It is relevant to our lives today. The future is filled with hope because we trust this God will continue to work out history to his end and victory, as promised.
Knowing such truth requires a response from us. Do not be like the man who looks at himself in the mirror and after looking goes away forgets what he sees. Do not turn away but look and see that doorway. If you are not a believer, ponder the events prayerfully and see what God reveals to you. For the believer, commit yourself again to him, and live your life the way he died.