We watched the Passion of the Christ this past Friday as a family. My wife and I had seen it several years ago. Due to its intense nature, we held off on showing it to our kids until they were older. My wife suggested this would be a great year to show it to them – to provide some meaning to Good Friday and Easter. Watching it again I was struck at the intensity of the movie. The brutality with which they beat Jesus was nearly too difficult to watch. I found myself angry at the men who whipped him. They laughed and mocked him. My daughter who enjoys reading up on Greek and Roman culture indicated this was very common. They were trained to do so. We chatted as a family that it is amazing that Jesus survived the abuse. A normal person would have died long before the cross. Clearly, God sustained him to the cross so that he endured the full weight of our sins. He was bloodied. His flesh was torn apart. He was mangled in appearance. This was only the physical side to say nothing of the emotional and spiritual agony of enduring the scorn, shame, and separation from God respectively. It brought new meaning to our family as we celebrated Good Friday and Easter.
Days later I am still struck by the “reality” of this movie. It is not Photoshopped. The scenes are not sanitized. The movie contains subtitles which adds a realistic tone since Jesus did not speak English. From my perspective, the movie accurately reflected not only the biblical details but also the culture. The movie was real. Appropriate since Jesus was real and the crucifixion was real. Oftentimes, I think that Jesus is viewed in a mythical sense. He was a person who lived thousands of years ago. We worship and call on him as a Savior (in this sense he is real) but not with a sense of seeing him as someone with a real body and real flesh. Yes, we affirm that he lived but I think he has become romanticized. We quickly comment on his humanity as we jump to his spiritual nature. He’s our friend. He’s our pal. Oh, I think we miss something very powerfully when we do so. We minimize the truth that he lived here on earth fully as a person. He wanted to be that close to us that he became like us. Yet, he didn’t do so simply to show us empathy by identifying with us but to fully embrace our humanity for the sake of redeeming us. This movie reminded me afresh that he was a man who suffered and endured like no other.
As a family, we also talked about how much he suffered. My daughter indicated that it was helpful to her since she still had a Sunday school version in her mind. Yes, it was painful but she found it hard to imagine how painful. After seeing the movie, her comment was “it would be better in today’s day and age to say Jesus was shot 100 times, survived, and still had to go to the cross.” Good point. We live in a culture where violent images are everywhere. We don’t practice crucifixion executions; therefore, we don’t have a vantage point. Yet, if we think of someone getting shot that many times we have a mental framework. He endured this pain and still God sustained him so that he would experience the weight of sin. He suffered this much in order to remove the curse of sin. He went through “100 shots” to express how much he loves us. Yes, it is humbling. Yes, it is overwhelming. And yes, even after being a Christian for so many years, I find myself deeply grateful to have such a Savior.