The Passion of the Christ: A Prophetic Voice Crying in Our Wilderness
10 days from today - Feb. 25, 2004, a prophetic voice will be crying out in our cultural landscape. A voice that is, perhaps, preparing the way for many people to encounter the person of Jesus Christ in a way previous generations never had. Movie theatres round the world will be opening their doors to the screening of the much-publicized Mel Gibson flick, The Passion of the Christ. The world is and will be talking about Christ in the public arena.
Gibson desires that this movie would help change lives and lead to the message of grace, love and forgiveness of sins. And how should we treat this movie? Some here don’t even go to movies at all or seldom do. Some say it’s too gruesome to watch this R rated violence. Some in the world are getting offended by it. So shall we just dismiss it or is it an opportunity? Turn with me in the Bible to Philippians 1:15-18
15It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Philippians 1:15-18 (NIV)
This is what we should be doing as this movie comes out: rejoice. Yes, rejoice that Christ is preached in a fresh and new way. Look at Philippians 1:15-18 closely with me. Paul could have gone and started a row about the motives of others when it comes to preaching about Christ. He could have spent lots of energy criticizing others who were troubling him while he was in chains. But he says, “what does it matter?” For Paul, what matters is this- Christ is preached and he is just jumping for joy that Christ’s message is proclaimed.
Christians round the world should say along with Paul the Apostle: “And because of this I rejoice.” Let’s not care what the motives are, let us pray that people will seriously take a good long hard look at the person of Christ and be informed and be changed forever. Paul was happy that the good news gets to be shared. Look at the reaction Gibson’s movie has already generated and this even before the movie is out:
1. Newsweek (Feb 16 issue) has it on their cover. They call the story of the Passion of Jesus “the final chapter of the most influential story in Western history.” They acknowledged Mel Gibson’s movie as “a powerful and troubling work about Jesus’ last hours.” It is interesting that Newsweek does not question that Jesus did die and was resurrected. It is most interesting that they say it’s a “troubling work” because I suspect, the world is confronted with the violence of the cross on this one unusual yet inspiring figure in history and it changed the world. Since these are undeniable historical events the author of the Newsweek article in an underhanded way sought to imply - let’s not get overboard with the literal statements in the Bible because that made persecuting the Jews an OK thing to do in history. So they wrote “But the Bible can be a problematic source…Scripture is not always a faithful record of historical events.” In other words, what Newsweek wants people to believe is that the Bible can’t be trusted to tell the truth about Jesus. It’s slanted to provoke an uncritical faith and not tell the true story. In short, the Newsweek article says, “don’t believe what the Bible actually says.”
If the Bible is not be trusted then how do you account for Old Testament prophecies coming true in the person of Christ regarding His passion (Source: Josh McDowell, 1999, The New Evidence that Demand a Verdict, p.202)
· Rejection by Jews and Gentiles: Psalms 2:1; 22:12; 41:5; 56:5; 69:8; 118:22,23; Isaiah 6:9, 10; 8:14; 29:13; 53:1; 65:2.
· Persecution: Psalms 22:6; 35:7, 12; 56:5; 71:10; 109:2; Isaiah 49:7; 53:3.
· Triumphal entry into Jerusalem: Psalms 8:2; 118:25,26; Zechariah 9:9
· Betrayal by own friend: Psalms 41:9; 55:13; Zechariah 13:6
· Betrayer’s death: Psalms 55:15, 23; 109:17
· Purchase of Potter’s Field: Zechariah 11:13
· Desertion by disciples: Zechariah 13:7
· False accusation: Psalms 2:1, 2; 27:12; 35:11; 109:2
· Silence under accusation: Psalm 38:13; Isaiah 53:7
· Mocking: Psalms 22:7, 8, 16; 109:25
· Insults, buffeting, spitting, scourging: Psalms 35:15,21; Isaiah 50:6
· Patience under suffering: Isaiah 53:7-9
· Crucifixion: Psalm 22:14-18
· Offer of gall and vinegar: Slam 69:21
· Prayer for enemies: Psalm 109:4
· Cries upon the cross: Psalms 22:1; 31:5
· Death in the prime of life: Psalms 89:45; 102:24
· Death with malefactors: Isaiah 53:9; 12
· Death attested to by convulsions of nature: Amos 5:20; Zechariah 14:4-6
· Casting lots for garments: Psalm 22:18
· Bones not to be broken: Psalm 34:20
· Piercing: Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10; 13:6
· Voluntary death: Psalm 40:6-8
· Vicarious suffering: Isaiah 53:4-6, 12; Daniel 9:26
· Burial with the rich: Isaiah 53:9
How do you account for the “right on the money” prophecies that could not possibly be engineered by Jesus or His followers? I mean, these people were not even in diapers when these prophecies were first uttered. How did Jesus engineered the fact of His first coming to coincide with these verses: Genesis 3:15, Deuteronomy 18:15; Psalm 89:20; Isaiah 9:6; 28:16; 32:1; 35:4; 42:6; 49:1; 55:4; Ezekiel 34:24; Daniel 2:44; Micah 4:1; Zechariah 3:8. It is mind-boggling to imagine a mere human being could have pre-arranged all these verses to coincide with one lone-figure in the backwaters of Israel.
There are others prophecies of course, such as where Jesus was born and his early years (see Gen.3:15, Is.7:14; Jer.31:22; Num.24:17,19; Micah 5:2; Hos. 11:1; Jer.31:15).These prophecies written hundreds and hundreds of years before Christ’s appearance break down the arguments of today’s revisionist views of history that the prophecies as written in the Bible and fulfilled in the person of Christ, are unreliable and not to be trusted. Today be assured the Bible is worthy of trust, not because some people said so, but because God clearly planned it even before the events of the Passion took place.
2. The Anti Defamation League (ADL) are not at all thrilled with Gibson’s movie. They also voiced their concerns, with ADL director Abraham Foxman at one time stating, "We are deeply concerned that the film, if released in its present form, could fuel the hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism that many responsible churches have worked hard to repudiate." Bob Kraemer countered that in an article on www.thelife.com “Is The Passion of the Christ anti-Semitic?” and he noted that, the major reason why this charge is levelled on the movie is this:
“Though the overt criticism of the film is potential anti-Semitism, a close inspection points out that the criticism is more a liberal agenda than a Jewish agenda. Recent articles make it clear that the ADL are proponents of a pro-choice position, in favor of gay marriage, and want to preserve religious pluralism. By religious pluralism they do not mean the ability to co-exist, but that all religions are basically equal and no religion should be able to make claims of absolute truth. These are not Jewish positions but liberal positions.
The BOTTOM LINE is that critics of the film are critical of the claim that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God. The Passion of the Christ clearly claims that Jesus is Lord. The film should not be censored for that belief.”
How could Jesus who prayed for his enemies, (see Lk.23:34), “Father, forgive these people, because they don’t know what they are doing” be anti-Semitic? How can this phrase be twisted to inspire hatred? “Father forgive them” is an incitement to racism? He taught people to love their enemies, he taught people to love another as the fulfillment of a new commandment. What a world this would be if Irish could forgive the English, and vice-versa and if the Arabs could forgive Israel, if Bin Laden would forgive the Americans, if people could forgive like Jesus…
Yet we know Jesus’ message has been twisted, using His name for hatred rather than what He truly stood for as seen on the cross – love for the enemy. Remember Jesus Himself was a Jew, born a Jew, died as one and was mocked by the Roman soldiers “Hail king of the Jews” and they struck him in the face as they said that (John 19:3). As I look Kraemer’s article, I began to understand a bit more why the ADL is against such a portrayal of the Christ. It clearly spells out Jesus as the Savior of the world and that message just offends the ADL. The movie goes against what they hold to be very true and dear to their own system of beliefs.
3. In www.weeklystandard.com “It is the most powerful movie I have ever seen. In the days since watching that rough cut, I have not been able to get the film out of my mind. Although I have read many books on the death of Jesus, and heard countless sermons dwelling on its details, I would never have believed a human being could suffer as much as Gibson’s Christ does.” Passion Play
From the August 25, 2003 issue: The controversy over Mel Gibson’s forthcoming movie on the death of Jesus Christ.
by Michael Novak
08/25/2003, Volume 008, Issue 47
“I have not been able to get the film out of my mind” – wow, may God blow people away with His love, through this film. Billy Graham apparently wept, he was quoted as saying “After watching … I feel as if I have actually been there. I was moved to tears.”
4. Chuck Colson noted in his Feb. 12, 2004 breakpoint article “Who Killed Jesus?”, “-
“The Dutch painter, Rembrandt painted The Raising of the Cross as a self-portrait. As Christ hangs on the cross while it is being lifted into place, the soldier pulling it up is Rembrandt. Who killed Jesus? Rembrandt knew. He did. And I did. And you did. We’re the ones who sent Jesus to the cross loaded down with our sins.” And in the movie, the passion of the Christ, the hand that nailed Jesus to the cross, was Mel Gibson’s own hand. Gibson understood that it was he, not anyone else; it was his sins that nailed Jesus to the cross.
To equip you to understand the Passion and to explain it to others remember this points. This is how you can share the message of Christ using the Bible…
1. SIN: All have sinned - Romans 3:23
23 For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
No one is perfect, everyone has sinned and will continue to sin. We live in rebellion to God’s ways. God holds us responsible for our own behavior. The therapist may want to bamboozle us to believe we’re OK, but the truth hurts, we have messed up big time, no one is OK, you feel in deep in your gut. We’ve gotta be blind to not notice the pain and despair in the world caused by sin. Progress in technology and science has not given us a world with less despair. This world groans for all have sinned!
2. DEATH: What we deserved for sin – Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
To a holy God, every sin is an affront to him, so we earn for ourselves what we deserve the death penalty. But God has a way out for us…
3. JUSTICE: Punishment for sin is meted out through Jesus – Romans 3:25
25 For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times. 26 And he is entirely fair and just in this present time when he declares sinners to be right in his sight because they believe in Jesus.
Jesus, suffered, as vividly shown to us in the Passion and He died for our sins. Justice was served through His sacrifice. The crime against God must be paid. Attention is called to the Cross, it is there not make us feel good about ourselves, it is there to remind us in spite of ourselves, rebelliousness, thumbing our noses at God, all is forgiven for Jesus was sent to take the hit for us.
To be a true Christian is to believe the work is DONE, so there is no need to DO more, pay up more, get a line of credit or a loan, the job is done!
4. LOVE: Because of love, Jesus paid the penalty for your sins – Romans 5:8
8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
The reason for His willingness to pay the ultimate price of suffering and death – LOVE – a relationship with people precious to Him. Lots of people would die for their country or for their loved ones, but to die for an enemy – that what’s Jesus did, He died for those who hated him, who murdered Him, and he says “forgive them.”
5. YOU: It’s all about saving you, and it’s personal!– Romans 10:9-10
9 For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.
Ask yourself this:
Do you recognize you were made to know God, that He loves you and wants a relationship of love with you?
Do you see you have sinned and cannot become perfect at all?
Do you believe Jesus paid the price, the death penalty for your sin by His death on the cross?
Do you believe He rose from the dead, therefore can guide us to victory over death?
Have you truly confess your sins (agree with God regarding your condition) and that sin separates you from God?
Do you wish to repent (turn away from the direction of sin and turn to God alone)from your sin?
Have you asked Jesus to save on the merits of His grace, not your own merits?
Will you let Jesus be the guide and ruler through life now and forever?
Jesus’ purpose was to remove sin, the barrier between God and us:
He came once for all time, at the end of the age, to remove the power of sin forever by his sacrificial death for us. And just as it is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died only once as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. Hebrews 9:26-28 (NLT)
Jesus’ suffering is directly linked to OUR guilt and sins, not because of one race of people:
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the guilt and sins of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6 (NLT)
Jesus’ suffering accomplished what we could not, payment for all our sins.
It is finished! (John 19:30)
Jesus’ offer to us a life free from the burden of guilt:
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans 5:1 (NLT)
Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writing in www.crosswalk.com, Feb. 10, 2004, said:
The death of Christ was not a tragedy that befell Him. As Christ declared, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" [John 10:11]. Further, "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down at my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father" [John 10:18].
The cross does not represent defeat, but victory. Jesus Christ did not have his life taken from Him--He gave it willingly for sinners. His death was not the end of his ministry, but its fulfillment. Christ willingly suffered and died in the place of sinners--and God raised him from the dead as the vindication of his earthly ministry.
WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
Allow me to share with you these Bible verses from Colossians 4:2-6.
1. PRAY WITH JOYFUL AWARENESS:
2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.
Rejoice in your heart that there is a door open for Christ’s message to invade our dark culture. Be attentive to what is happening in our times.
2. PRAY FOR GOD-SIZED IMPACT THROUGH THE MOVIE:
3 Don’t forget to pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to preach about his secret plan—that Christ is also for you Gentiles. That is why I am here in chains.
Pray for the church of Jesus Christ to be ready to bring an answer to those who asked as a response to the movie. One pastor noted that many people were prompted read the four gospels because they wanted to know if the movie is correct or to find out what really happened.
3. PRAY FOR CLARITY:
4 Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.
Gibson said to Outreach Magazine (Jan/Feb issue): “I want this movie to affect people on a very profound level and reach them with a message of faith, hope and love and forgiveness. Christ forgave even as He was tortured and killed. That’s the ultimate example of love.”
4. MAKE THE MOST OF IT:
5 Live wisely among those who are not Christians, and make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone.
This movie could be starting point of spiritual conversations. In Acts 17 the apostle Paul though distressed by the idols he saw in Athens, nevertheless, he wisely used the Athenian culture effectively to point people to the uniqueness of Christ. He could dialog with them using their techniques and their way of thinking. Today movies, have an impact, look at how people reacted to the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Star Wars movies, and it got world-wide attention. So let the dialog begin with the respect and humility, “making the most of every opportunity.” Invite people to investigate more through our post- Passion Alpha course in March or the new sermon series “Curious. Find out more!” beginning Feb.29th. Do all these with the way of Christ – i.e. grace – love people, pray for them, so that you will have the right answer.
So 10 days from today - Feb. 25, 2004, a new prophetic voice will be crying out in the landscape of our post-modern wilderness. A voice that is, perhaps, preparing the way for many people to encounter the person of Jesus Christ in a way previous generations never had. Will you pray that God will open doors for the message to be heard clearly and people will be asking questions about the message and person of Christ.