The violence in The Passion of the Christ has many moviegoers asking: Does the movie have to be so bloody?
Most film critics have felt the need to stress their discomfort with the amount of violence in the film. Roger Ebert, who gave it a thumbs up, said The Passion of the Christ is the most violent film he had ever seen.
One critic said, “The film is frightening [because of] the relentlessness of its brutality.
The beating and whipping and ripping of skin become so repetitive, they’ll leave the audience emotionally drained and stunned. ‘Yes, yes. That’s the point,’ Gibson has said. He wants his film to be shockingly graphic to show the [enormity] of Christ’s sacrifice.”
Did the one-time "Lethal Weapon" star took the violence too far? Gibson said he wanted to push the viewer "over the edge."
Let’s face it: The suffering of the Christ and the shedding of His blood gave birth to the church. And Mel Gibson doesn’t shy away from it in his movie about Jesus.
A question begs to be asked:
Just how badly did Jesus suffer?
Series: The Passion of the Christ: True or false?
Text: Isaiah 53:4-6, 52:14, p. 525
Have you ever considered that you, your family, or your ministry might just be under attack… spiritually?
With our recent growth at CVCC in both AM and PM services, I believe that we are increasingly on the “radar screen” of our spiritual enemy, the devil and his demons. We know that we are in a battle. Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Some of our leaders at CVCC have been having unusual nightmares. Others are experiencing unusual struggles with children and other relationships. Some of our leaders are facing health concerns. Maybe it’s just the aging process or maybe it’s just that we’re living in a fallen world. But the obstacles and issues we are facing seem to be unusual. I wonder, “Are we facing targeted attacks from our enemy?”
Do you know how to fight this fight? Do you know how to wage spiritual warfare?
We are privileged to host a seminar on Saturday, March 27…
Spiritual warfare conference.
In past weeks, we’ve looked at biblical answers to: Who really killed Jesus? What crime did Jesus commit? Talks in the coming weeks will give the biblical answers to: Why did Jesus die? Couldn’t there have been another way? How now should we live?
But today: Just how badly did Jesus suffer?
The agonies of God’s Son were without equal. No one ever suffered like this man. The Bible tells us that one song we’ll sing in heaven is “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain” (Rev. 5:12). Through all eternity, we will sing about the death of Jesus – the shedding of His blood.
No one ever deserved suffering less, yet received so much. He was without sin. The only person in history who did not deserve to suffer, suffered most.
In Isaiah, hundreds of years before Jesus was even born, we see words that predict His suffering.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;
… upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:4-6 (ESV)
I see five words in this passage that give us a glimpse of just how bad it really was:
Words from Isaiah 53 are shown at the beginning of The Passion of the Christ to provide a biblical context for understanding all the violence that follows. This week, I looked at these words in the Hebrew to try to unpack a little more of their meaning.
The Bible says that Jesus was…
Stricken – refers to the blows He received
Smitten – refers to the beatings He received
smiting, hitting, beating
Afflicted – refers to how He cowed down
oppressing, humbling, being bowed down, being forced into submission, having pain inflicted upon
Wounded – refers to His fatal piercing
boring through, fatal wounding
Crushed – refers to His being shattered
This word emphasizes not only the physical pain, but the emotional and spiritual suffering of the Savior as he became sin for us.
All these words together describe the scourging and the crucifixion.
Scourged. The word comes from Latin. Excoriare is a compound word meaning “to flay.” Ex means “off” and corium means “hide or skin.” So scourging literally means “off with the skin.”
Jesus knew about scourging. Everyone did during His time. It was one of those brutal punishments the Romans used to put fear into everyone in order to keep lawlessness under control. Just the thought of being scourged kept many would-be criminals in check. It was a legal preliminary to every Roman execution. Only women and Roman senators and soldiers were exempt. Jesus knew what was coming.
It’s difficult to know or even imagine exactly what Jesus experienced, felt, or thought during his beating beyond what we are told in Scripture. Consider, however, the following imaginary scene of a man experiencing a typical scourging.
The coarse Roman soldiers strip the victim of his clothes and tie his hands to an upright post in the middle of the courtyard.
Two muscular soldiers take their places slightly behind and on each side of the prisoner. In their hands, they each carry what some have called a “cat-o’-nine tails”—a short whip with nine strips of heavy leather stained with the blood of previous victims. Attached to each strip at various intervals are metal and stone pellets and little pieces of sharp bone.
The first soldier cocks his arm and releases. In unison, all nine strands of the whip whistle full force through the air and strike the prisoner in the middle of his back. The shrapnel on the ends of the leather cords tear easily through his flesh straight down to the base of his back. Little bits of flesh tear loose. The small balls of lead make large, deep bruises ready to be broken open later by other blows. The prisoner jerks forward at the impact. The pain seems to wait a brief moment. Then a wave of burning agony pours over his body.
The second soldier’s lash slices a little lower. More skin tears off, and the flesh opens up. It is a horizontal hit. The victim grits his teeth and sucks in his breath, but he can’t contain the groan of pain.
It is the first soldier’s turn again. He aims his strike at the kidneys. The leather and the shards of bone embed into the skin, while a few wrap around, this time slashing at his stomach.
Now the second soldier strikes the same spot hit earlier, tearing deeper into the tissue and leaving oozing slashes on the body. As the flogging continues, the whip tears into the underlying skeletal muscles, producing quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh.
The soldier on the prisoner’s left hits him harder now. Bone begins to show. On and on the beating continues. The blood no longer oozes now—it spurts with every heartbeat due to arteries in the underlying muscles being damaged. The skin on the back hangs in long ribbons, and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn tissue.
In Jesus’ case, such a scourging was just the beginning. The soldiers cut Jesus loose; and He fell to the ground, blood and dirt mixing into the wounds. Jesus was beaten so severely that His body did not look human.
In Deuteronomy 25:2-3 the Bible says, “If the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offense. Forty stripes may be given him, but not more…”
Later, the Jews never did more than 39 lashes so they wouldn’t be guilty of breaking the law if they miscounted.
The Romans who beat Jesus, however, were unhindered by a Jewish law. They could hit a prisoner as many times as they wanted. One writer said that when the Romans whipped a Jew, they struck at least 41 times out of spite to the Jews. How many times was Jesus hit? Who knows?
Jim Caviezal, the actor who played the role of Jesus, wore a board on his back during the scenes depicting the scourging. The actor playing the Roman soldier missed the board once and hit his back. He said that it took his breath away. He has a 14 inch scar on his back.
Mark’s account of the death of Jesus simply says, “And they crucified Him” (Mark 15:24). The film, I think, helps us better grasp the meaning of those few simple words. The biblical authors don’t elaborate on them. But people in New Testament times knew what they meant. They had witnessed crucifixions firsthand.
Jesus was laid down on a cross and square spikes about 3/8’ wide and 7" long were driven through his wrists and feet.
He was then lifted up. His shoulders and elbows may have been dislocated, making his arms freakishly long. In this position, it was impossible to breathe. The only way Jesus was able to breathe on the cross was by lifting His body up by pushing down on the nail through His feet and pulling Himself up on the nails in His wrists. This would allow the breathing muscles to stretch in their normal fashion. But it also produced searing bolts of excruciating pain through His arms and legs. The bleeding ribbons of torn flesh on His back scraped against the rough cross and bled once again. Each breath was not only agonizing, but extremely tiring.
About the crucifixion:
“The wounds swelled about the rough nails, and the torn and lacerated tendons and nerves caused excruciating agony. The arteries of the head and stomach were surcharged with blood and a terrific throbbing headache ensued…The victim of crucifixion literally died a thousand deaths…The suffering was so frightful that even among the raging passions of war pity was sometimes excited.” Henry Dosker, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
* * *
There is one verse in the Bible that makes me think that even with all the brutality showing and the blood flowing in The Passion of the Christ, the film probably doesn’t go far enough in depicting the suffering of Christ.
Just as there were many who were appalled at him – his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness.
Isaiah 52:14 (NIV)
Many were amazed when they saw him – beaten and bloodied, so disfigured one would scarcely know he was a person.
Isaiah 52:14 (NLT)
Everyone was appalled. He didn’t even look human – a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.
Isaiah 52:14 (Msg)
We see so much make-believe in our world today that we have lost our sense of reality. But remember: the Cross of Jesus was real. There was no stunt man, no fake blood, no rubber nails, no light-weight cross. It was real. When they beat him in the face, it was real. When they spit upon Him, it was real. When they whipped Him, it was real. When they nailed the nails in hands and feet it was real.
If we had been forced to watch, we probably would have passed out.
Remember that Jesus said: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18, RSV). He freely chose to join the Father’s design for his own suffering and death.
Why? Why did He go through this? In the very hour of death the Father and the Son were glorified. “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him” (John 13:31).
Redemption: Buying again, obtaining something by paying the proper price for it.
You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life… but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
I Peter 3:18-19 (NASB)
When you speak of redemption, a ransom comes into view.
A term related to redemption = Ransom: the price paid to redeem someone from bondage or captivity.
You were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
Revelation 5:7 (ESV)
To understand redemption and ransom, you have to understand that we are slaves to sin.
The truth about us is this: We are not essentially good people who have done sinful things. We are essentially sinful people with a thin veneer of goodness whose sin shows through way more often than we’d like to see it… or admit it.
I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t. When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway.
Romans 7:18-19 (NLT)
It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 7:21-25 (NLT)
This is what it means when the Bible says we are slaves to sin. I can’t stop it. I can’t help it!
You don’t have to be a slave to sin. You can have a redeemer. You don’t have to be a slave to pornography. You don’t have to be a slave to homosexuality. You don’t have to be a slave to drugs or to alcohol. You don’t have to be a slave to eating disorders. You don’t have to be a slave to irritableness… to abusive speech… to anger… to resentment… to anxiety.
You can say, “Jesus paid the price – He shed His blood – to set me free from this. Ste me free, Lord Jesus! I claim your shed blood for me!”
* * *
Three responses to the Passion of Jesus:
I’ll forgive, Lord Jesus.
No one has ever had a great right to retaliate, but used it less. He had at his disposal infinite power to take revenge at any moment in his agony. “Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). But he did not do it. No one has ever borne so much injustice with so little vengeance.
Will you forgive?
I’ll personalize the cross, Lord Jesus.
You are my Propitiation, my Justification, my Redemption.
I’ll feel your love, Lord Jesus.
Have you come to the conclusion that God loves you this morning? I hope so. He went through a lot of pain for you. Now the question is: Are you going to love him back by saying, “Yes, I love you Jesus and I am so thankful that you endured the cross and its shame.”
Here is my challenge to you. If you are a Christ-follower and you have not been living the way you know that you ought to be, think on this: Really look at what your sins cost. Decide that you will no longer live in sin.
If you cannot say that you are a Christ-follower, here is my challenge to you: Become one. Jesus will be your Redeemer but only if you will recognize Him as Lord and Savior.
A point to ponder: I, the one who deserves to suffer much, suffer little. Jesus, the One who deserves to suffer least of all, suffered most of all.
A verse to remember: God bought you with a great price. So honor God with your body. You belong to Him. I Corinthians 6:20 (NLV)
A question to consider: Since I have been bought with a great price, what changes should I make in my life so I can better glorify God?
We feel utterly unworthy in the face of Your sufferings, Lord Jesus. We are sorry. It was my sin that brought this to pass. But the very pain your suffered that makes us despair is our salvation. Waken dead parts of our hearts that cannot feel what must be felt—that we are loved with the deepest, strongest, purest love in the universe. O God, open our eyes to the vastness of the sufferings of Christ and what they mean for sin and holiness and hope and heaven.