General Articles | Estimating the Passion of the Christ

“Tell me. Ye who hear him groaning, was there ever grief like His?

ISA 53:4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.

With these words Isaiah, the Prophet of Israel, predicts the sufferings of the Messiah of Israel. With these words Isaiah predicts the Atonement of Jesus Christ the Son of God and Son of Man. With these words Isaiah predicts the death of death in the death of Jesus Christ the glorious savior of mankind and bearer of the penalty due to the sins of His people.

The facts recorded in Scripture are there for all to read. The first fact is that the suffering and death of Jesus Christ was foreordained by His heavenly Father. God ordained that Jesus Christ should suffer and die for the sins of His people.

ACT 4:27 "For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, ACT 4:28 to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur.

The second fact is that Jesus underwent a baptism of fire. This baptism was His alone to endure. It included an ignominious death on a Roman cross between two thieves before a mocking throng.

LUK 23:35 And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, "He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One." LUK 23:36 And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, LUK 23:37 and saying, "If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!"

The third fact is that Jesus died and was raised from the dead by God on the third day. The final picture of Jesus’ physical presence on earth is recorded in the Bible is His ascension into Heaven after His resurrection.

ACT 1:6 And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" ACT 1:7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; ACT 1:8 but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. " ACT 1:9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. ACT 1:10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; ACT 1:11 and they also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven."

There are two ways to focus on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The first way, which is the Roman Catholic way, is to emphasize over and over the suffering of Jesus with a view to emulate and perpetuate it. The second way, which is the Christian way, is to emphasize over and over again the death and resurrection of Jesus with a view to finding eternal security in it.

It is the thesis of the Roman Catholic religion that the sufferings of Jesus Christ are to be re-visited vicariously in their bloodless Mass as well as in self atonement for their sins. The gospel preached by Rome is self-denial and personal satisfaction for sin. Hence, Roman Catholics view the death of Christ as a personal example. The death of Jesus Christ serves to inspire them to be the best they can be. For their efforts, Roman Catholics expect that heaven awaits their meritorious and victorious life. The less victorious and meritorious the better chance that a Roman Catholic will land in Roman Catholic Purgatory.

Mel Gibson, as a Roman Catholic, could only have directed a movie about Jesus Christ that centered upon the sufferings of Jesus. The Roman Catholic premise is that the sufferings of Jesus can melt the heart of the most hardened sinners and somehow make them desire to share in the suffering of Jesus for their own sins. This is the portrait of Roman Catholic theology. This is the image of Roman Catholic art. Everything in the Roman Catholic religion is designed to depict the suffering of Christ. The expectation is the emulation of Jesus’ suffering by His followers for the salvation of their souls.

The message of the Passion of the Christ is the Roman Catholic message. The image of Jesus undergoing such excruciating pain begs the question, “If this perfect and innocent man can endure so much at the hands of wicked men then what should I be doing?” Furthermore, “should I not be able to endure far less affliction for the sake of this very same man who has now gone to heaven and left me His example?” The idea is that self-sacrificing begets self-sacrificing. Hence, with every whip lash and with every stinging rod comes the quiet voice of guilt that demands like suffering in return. How can I resist self-sacrificing after seeing what true suffering entails?

If Mr. Gibson were a Christian he would have made a movie illustrating the suffering of Jesus as a backdrop to a more fundamentally important revelation. Rather than suffering that is designed to produce a suffering audience, the pain of Jesus would have been designed to induce a hopeless despair in the audience and joy in the heart of Christians. A Christian would let the agony of Jesus serve notice that no man can pay the awful price for his own sins! The Christian gospel moves through and beyond the anguish, pain, torment and affliction of Jesus to the purpose, person and design of the misery. The death of Jesus was horrific. But the God inspired New Testament authors are more concerned with the fact of the death of Jesus and the purpose of the death of Jesus than the details of the physical ordeal. This is due in part because Christian theology is adamantly opposed to using the anguish of Jesus as an impetus to “go and do likewise for your salvation.”

The Protestant reformers knew from reading the Scriptures that God did not put to death His Son as an example so that mere men would be encouraged to “pay a price” themselves to satisfy God’s wrath against sin. They came to understand that God put to death His Son because nothing else could satisfy the wrath of God. The guarantee that God was satisfied with the death of His Son for the sins of His people is found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is ironic that Roman Catholic art and images are designed to induce self flagellation without the deep inner remorse that demands the lost to cry out “no hope, no hope!” Whereas the Christian gospel sees within the terrible cross of Jesus Christ “no hope for the lost because they cannot suffer enough for their sins” and because it produces within the Christian a deep and profound cry of “hope only in the sufferings of Jesus.”

Thus, Christians look bravely to the resurrection as proof that there is hope for them for the sake of Jesus Christ and His death alone. Without this message Mr. Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is just one more idol for destruction and one more icon separating Roman Catholics from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The following article serves to show the importance of a historical and artistic perspective that all Christians should take into account with regards to Mr. Gibson. We live in precarious times. The interpretation and application of God’s Word is dominated by humanistic philosophers. Lead by a parade of Pelagian, Semi-Pelagian, Arminian and Evangelical Humanists the gospel has been disemboweled of its content and God continues to be misrepresented throughout the land by religious charlatans.

Though regrettable, it is understandable why so many confessing evangelicals like this movie. It appears that the false gospel of Rome intersects with the false teachings of many evangelicals. False prophets may rejoice with responses to this film such as, “Look at that suffering, does it not make us ashamed of our own suffering for God?” Or, “Look at that suffering, how shall we ignore a God who loves us so much?” Or, “Look at that suffering, let us all hold hands across the divide of faith and reason and feel God’s love for us.” However, regret at not suffering more for one’s idea of God is not the response the Gospel elicits. Also, sorrow over a failure to love more and sacrifice more for our fellow man is not the response the Gospel of Jesus Christ elicits. The Gospel brings with it a command to bow the knee to Jesus Christ Who at the right time died for the ungodly. The Gospel strips bare our pretence of goodness and the death of Christ drives a stake into the heart of our righteousness. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

How unpopular is the real gospel that announces the wrath of God upon all those who are outside of Jesus Christ. How out of favor is the real gospel that convicts men so deeply that they realize a thousand priests chanting the Roman mass a million times could not touch their sin. How detested is the real gospel that exposes the hapless ecumenical evangelical humanist. The Word of God does not envision eternal life for those who are ‘moved’ toward greater introspection and resolve to live better and love more. On the contrary, eternal life is for those who view the substitutionary suffering of Jesus rightly.

“Ye who think of sin but lightly Nor suppose the evil great Here may view its nature rightly Here its guilt may estimate Mark the sacrifice appointed See who bears the awful load Tis the Word the Lord’s anointed Son of man and Son of God”

Christians well understand that the preaching of the cross of Jesus Christ is a stumbling block. It is so because rightly viewing the suffering and death of Jesus amounts to a stumbling block for those who wish to imitate it to gain heaven. The foolishness of the cross is none other than that the death of Jesus Christ and faith in His atonement alone is the only criteria for eternal life.

The word of the cross is that Jesus paid it all. Nothing can be added to the suffering of Jesus to ensure eternal salvation. The word of the cross is that there is no room for self-salvation. All the effort one can muster to improve one’s self is struck dead by the death of Jesus Christ. The word of the cross is foolishness to those perishing because they are not stricken, smitten and afflicted with a sense of despair at their own goodness.

In an ironical sort of way Mel Gibson gives the world what it wants. He gives them hope if they can borrow from the suffering of Jesus to some way improve themselves. This makes the self-salvation and self improvement religion of Rome even more appealing. But, this is not the word of the cross that Christians have come to love and live for.

“For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18.

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