Summary: Christ’s death is a statement of extreme love and the power to bring that love into our own experience
If you’ve seen it you know of its power. If you haven’t you’ll be touched by the extreme depth of the movie The Passion of the Christ. You can see it as a tremendous art film with stunning camera shots, well-planned flashbacks and powerful metaphors. You can also become drawn in and become part of the crowd following Jesus to the execution site, remaining overwhelmed by the violence and cruelty of the event.
If you haven’t I would recommend you see the movie. It’s not for children for sure but most adults can handle it. And when you see it let me urge you to allow the power of what you see touch your life. Although most of us know the story of Jesus’ death this film has the unforgettable way of bringing it home to us and making it personal.
Starting this morning and for the next three weeks I want us to consider how Christ’s death allows us to Experience Pure Love; Complete Forgiveness; Ultimate Wholeness and Everlasting Life. If you’re new to our group of Christ-Followers, welcome. We plan to learn and grow together as we learn how to meet with God in better ways.
If you were here before worship you heard part of Handel’s Messiah playing behind our pre-worship announcements. The piece is called “With His Stripes We are Healed” and it takes it’s title from the verse in Isaiah on which Mel Gibson based his view of the Passion. Isaiah 53:5 says, “He was wounded and crushed because of our sins; by taking our punishment, he made us completely well.” CEV You may know this but Isaiah wasn’t writing this as an eyewitness to Jesus’ death but some 700 years prior to Christ’s birth. It would be like Christopher Columbus describing the details around the World Trade Center attack. Isaiah has been called the “Messianic” prophet because so many of his visions and messages deal with the Messiah or Christ. Those words mean the same thing actually. Christ is Greek for “anointed one” and Messiah is Hebrew for the same.
A very valid question for us might be how does the bloody, cruel hatred of executing Jesus have to do with love? Or as Tina Turner asked, “What’s love got to do with it?” The short answer is that this “Passion” is an act of pure love. But it’s not an example but a powerful event that literally blows the door open for us to experience God’s love once more.
Why do we need this access to God? Because something has happened to everyone one of us that keeps us out of reach of God. In our lives, our attitudes, our actions and our wishes there is something that just seems to keep God and us at odds. We’ve been trying to “get back to the garden” and failing. We’ve been “looking for love in all the wrong places” and been surprised when nothing seems to satisfy us for long. The pure, powerful, overwhelming love we have longed for and sought after is there in God, just out of reach because of our failures.
Theologically we call this “sin”. Our world downplays this by calling them mistakes, errors, goofs, moral lapses, oversights, or just being ourselves. Whatever you call it the outcomes the same. We end up missing out on a relationship with God and the love He offers to us.
How does this execution answer the situation we face? A genderless satanic figure appears in the film and even while praying in the garden it taunts Jesus. It tries to get him to give up on this plan of God’s. One man cannot bear such a burden. Their souls aren’t worth it. it Satan says, “One man cannot pay for the sins of all mankind. No! Never! In a telling conclusion to this period of prayer in the garden Jesus says, “Your will, not mine Father”. And the issue is settled.
You never get the idea that things were out of control, at least from Jesus’ perspective. He knew where this was leading even if all the rest didn’t. It was God’s plan from the get-go. Watch the movie and you’ll see that Christ’s death wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t a tragic afterthought, or even an epilogue to a moral life. It was the very plan of God so that you and I could experience God’s love again.
The whole “who killed Jesus” controversy is so overblown it hardly deserves mention except to say that in one very telling flashback Jesus is teaching his disciples and you hear him “No one takes my life from me. I give it up willingly! I have the power to give it up and the power to receive it back again” John 10:18.
It wasn’t the Jews. It wasn’t the Romans. It wasn’t the man. It was us. It was our illness, our sins, our failures, our moral failings. One of the most powerful paintings for me is by a Christian artist named Ron DiCianni. In his painting, “The Cross” http://www.onlineartmall.com/limited/rondicianni/main.cgi?command=rdc0008) you only see the base of the cross with a dark sky, lightning strikes and Jesus’ feet with the nail pounded through it. Kneeling, a hammer in one hand his face hidden by his other arm against the cross with yet another nail clenched in it is a young man who is obviously shamed and overcome. What made this so wonderful to me is that the man isn’t dressed as a Roman soldier or Jewish priest but in normal everyday clothes of today. And DiCianni’s message is clear. We, our sins, nailed Jesus to the cross.