I try to watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ every year around this time. It’s an extraordinary film experience, reminding us of the suffering Jesus went through as a ransom for all. In fact, one could say that Mr. Gibson’s film is one of the reasons why I am a Christian.
In early 2004, I was an agnostic / borderline atheist. I was extremely hostile to Christians and considered them all hypocrites based upon my previous experiences with them. I had never really learned about Jesus and what His death actually meant. Oh sure, I had heard the stories. But to me, he was just some guy hanging on a cross that I was supposed to revere for something. Looking back on it now, my ignorance was embarrassing.
I had no interest in seeing The Passion of the Christ, but whenever I saw the trailer, I felt a tug on my heart and a deep unsettling feeling in my stomach; as if something was telling me that I was going to see this film despite all of my denouncements of it and it was going to effect my life in a big way.
There was a girl I knew at that time who was a Christian, and I respected her because she actually talked the talk and walk the walk. She asked me if I wanted to go see the film with her youth group. I refused at first, but since I enjoyed her company and attention, I figured it would be a good way to get to know her. So we met up a few days later with the rest of her church group and watched the film.
For two hours, the film held on to my spirit like a dog and never let go. As the events in the story began, I was thinking to myself, “Why are these people doing this to an innocent Man?” I had been pulled into the story. As the film unfolded, I became more and more aware of what was actually happening, as if my mind was a flower, blooming brilliantly for the first time. I really understood what His suffering, death, and resurrection meant. Something just clicked.
There was one scene in The Passion of the Christ that really made everything truly mesh. Jesus was on the Via Dolorosa, carrying His cross to Golgotha, when he stumbled and fell under the weight of the cross, and it pressed His head into the ground. Mary saw Him fall and rushed over. The story then flashed back to a time when Jesus fell down as a child, creating a parallel emotional event. I enjoyed that strictly from a cinematic viewpoint at first.
Mary tried her best to comfort her Son, desperately telling Him, “I’m here.” He then stroked her face and told her, “See mother, I make all things new, ” quoting Revelation 21:5. Jesus not only picked up His cross again; He embraced it and trudged on.
This scene was powerfully moving, despite it not actually being in Scripture. I think any mother could understand Mary’s desire to comfort her Son. Being the Son of God, Jesus could have stopped this at any time and punished those who tortured Him, and He would have been justified in doing so. Despite all of the punishment and pain, Jesus still goes on. He willfully and knowingly accepts what has happened and what will happen, and embraces it.
Jesus tells Mary that He will “make all things new,” illustrating the purpose for His death: the payment for the sin of the world, washing away our transgressions, and making us new creations. It parallels 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
God has interesting ways of reaching people. Since we are all individuals, we each need different ways to see who the Lord is. The Lord knew I am very passionate about film. Movies strike me on an emotional level, and He knew that I would react in the way I did. No other medium could do it: Bible stories, television, comic books. Nothing struck me more than a good movie.
After I saw the film, I felt something wash over me; a new understanding. I still resisted for a few weeks, haunted by this new-found love brought to my attention so suddenly.
I was not only aware of His suffering, but I was also aware of the reason for His suffering. My sins came to the forefront. I was an imperfect wretch, in need of a Savior. A few weeks later, I dedicated my life to Jesus…and it’s been the best thing that has happened to me.
My journey has been a narrow, winding path. There have been ebbs and flows. I have slipped up many times. But God looks at the heart, and His forgiveness is endless. It is the gratitude for the love and grace I received through no accomplishment on my part that makes me want to be more like Christ every day. I know my Lord has conquered evil, and I can face any hardships in this life with Him.
If anyone is unsure of how much God loves them, they should take a good, long look at the cross. It took a movie to show me that. I sincerely hope that you know that love, or that you will come to know it soon.
“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
God bless you, and Happy Easter.