June 28, 2010 David Balzer

Luke 22:66-23:46: The Passion of the Christ

Passion. It’s a word that certainly gets people’s attention.  The way we use it these days, it means “a powerful emotion”. Like the Mills and Boon quote. “It was a night of STEAMY PASSION!”

Or your legal defense might be based on your crime being “a CRIME of passion”. In other words, it wasn’t pre-meditated, but your EMOTION was SO GREAT, you couldn’t control yourself. You weren’t RESPONSIBLE for your actions.

And do you remember how the word was used around the time of the Rugby World Cup last year? PASSION. The Wallabies weren’t doing too well. And some commentators were accusing them of LACKING PASSION. Lacking PRIDE in the Australian jersey. Lacking the INTENSITY that comes from playing for your country.

And George Gregan, the Wallabies captain, came back with a comment I bet he regrets. I THINK he was trying to say that EMOTION could be a obstacle on the field. That you needed to be calculating and focused, and not let the EMOTION of the occasion get the better of you. Because that’s when you might make MISTAKES, instead of making good decisions.

But what he said instead was that there was NO PLACE FOR PASSION ON THE FIELD. And that in rugby “PASSION IS A NONSENSE”.

And, boy, did THAT provoke a response. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter FitzSimons – a former Wallaby himself – had this to say. “Whatever the reality of the way rugby is played these days, the rugby public’s view is that if you pull on a Wallabies jersey and it doesn’t make you MIST UP and POUR PASSION FROM EVERY PORE, there’s a problem.”

“You can treat rugby as warfare, as art, as romance or as tribalism but the ‘passion is a nonsense’ line from George gave the impression he treats rugby as a science, which is absolute ‘death at the box-office’.”

Passion. Extreme emotion. For us Aussies, SPORT is often where we see MOST passion.

But there’s another meaning of PASSION. It means SUFFERING. Apparently it’s from Latin. And, in particular, it’s applied to the sufferings of JESUS. His arrest, trial, punishment, and ultimate .

And it’s THAT meaning that everyone’s talking about at the moment. With Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ”. A movie based on those last hours of Jesus’ life.

And BOY, does it focus on those SUFFERINGS! There’s enough to warrant an R-rating in America. And plenty of people who couldn’t sit through the whole movie.

Now, the LAST thing I want to do/ is say that Jesus DIDN’T suffer those things. HE DID. I firmly believe they’re historical FACT. And that the movie gets the story pretty-well straight.

But, like ANY movie, it’s NEVER AS GOOD AS THE ORIGINAL BOOK – The Bible.

And the Bible tells us that there’s MORE TO THE PASSION THAN AGONY AND PAIN.

You see, the whole Bible is BUILT around those three days. Everything in the Bible GETS ITS SIGNIFICANCE because of those events. (Jesus’ arrest, trial and , and ultimately his resurrection). The REST of the Bible either LOOKS FORWARD to those events, or is INFLUENCED by them.

So ly, the Bible has quite a lot to say about their significance.

And I want to summarise some of those things with three questions. WHO? WHY? AND SO?

Who?

Firstly, who? Who crucified Jesus?

ANOTHER controversial question. In the build-up to the movie, the press was full of debate over whether Mel Gibson was anti-Jewish. Because he was accused of blaming the JEWS for Jesus’ . And whether that’s true or not/ is beside the point. Because the Bible says that SOMEONE ELSE was behind these events.

The staggering answer to the question “Who crucified Jesus?” was NOT the Jews. Or the Romans. Ultimately, it was God. The Father of Jesus.

1. The Passion was planned:

The message of the Bible is that the Passion WAS PLANNED. It happened EXACTLY the way God intended it. Peter, one of Jesus’ closest followers, said this about Jesus’ to the Jewish leaders. Acts Ch 2 v23. (It’s printed there for you in the outline)

(Acts 2:23 NIV)  This man was handed over to you BY GOD’S SET PURPOSE AND FOREKNOWLEDGE; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to by nailing him to the cross.

It was according to God’s PURPOSE and PLAN that Jesus was put to . God the Father worked situations, and engineered history, in such a way that he put his OWN Son on a cross. KILLED him.

Now that doesn’t mean the people involved were INNOCENT. (Without excuse). God wasn’t moving them around like CHESS PIECES. Peter says, (look at it), that THEY, with the help of wicked men – that’s the Romans – PUT JESUS TO . Human beings were still guilty.

And yet, in some strange way that we can’t understand, when they CHOSE to do what they DID, from cruel and wicked motives, they were ONLY doing EXACTLY what God INTENDED to happen.

And, by means of wicked men, great good has come to the world.

It was God who crucified Jesus.

2. The Passion is obedience

But there’s another aspect to the “Who?” question. And that’s “What part did Jesus play?”

The unbelievable, yet unmistakable answer of the Bible is that Jesus went to the cross WILLINGLY. He was OBEDIENT to his Father’s will. At any time during those last 12 hours, he could have pulled out of it. Overpowered his attackers. Ran away. He calmed STORMS – a few dozen SOLDIERS would have been no match!

And yet he didn’t.

A lady told me about a time she worked as a volunteer at a hospital,

She got to know a 3 yr old named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a transfusion from her 5-year old brother. Miraculously, he’d survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to fight the illness.

The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his to his sister.

The lady saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save her..”

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in the bed next to his sister and smiled, seeing the colour returning to her cheeks.

Then his face grew pale and his smile faded.  He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”

The little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister ALL of his in order to save her. He thought that he had been asked to give up HIS life for that of his younger sister.

And yet he DID it. With barely a MOMENT to think about it. And, with the same choice before him, Jesus ALSO chose .

And he too, like the boy, had a moment of doubt. On the night of his arrest, he prayed

(Matt 26:39 NIV)  “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me…. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

He LONGED for there to be some other way. A plan B. But he knew there wasn’t. And so he was obeyed his father.

The author, John Piper, is to-the-point. “The controversy about WHO killed Jesus is MARGINAL. He CHOSE to die. His Father ordained it. He embraced it”. (The Passion of Jesus Christ, p13)

And so, instead of “Who?”, the question becomes WHY?

Why?

What were the reasons BEHIND it. Because if God PLANNED it, then he must have had REASONS. If Jesus was obedient to , there must have been a pretty strong motivation.

3. The Passion is justice and love

And the first reason is God’s JUSTICE. The Passion is about JUSTICE.

God is JUST. He will ALWAYS deal JUSTLY. No bribes. No corruption. God’s actions are always RIGHT. Which is GOOD NEWS if you KEEP the law. But BAD NEWS if you BREAK IT.

And God’s most IMPORTANT law says this. It’s the summary. Or the SOURCE of the rest.

(Deut 6:5 NIV)  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

It’s what he DESIGNED and MADE people FOR. To love him more than anything. Because he is of more WORTH than anything else.

And yet, fools that we are, we’ve all loved OTHER things MORE. At the root of it/ that’s what SIN is. Dishonouring God by preferring other things over him. And then ACTING on those preferences. Romans 3:23 says.

(Rom 3:23 NIV)  ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

And this is NO SMALL MATTER. It’s not jay-walking. It’s THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE we’ve offended. Failing to love God isn’t TRIVIAL, it’s TREASON.

And because God is JUST, he must PUNISH law-breakers. Romans 6.23 tells us what that just punishment IS.

(Rom 6:23 NIV)  For the wages of sin is .

The message of the Bible is that that’s the fate waiting for everyone of US. Rebels, who deserve nothing less than .

And yet there’s ONE PERSON who DIDN’T deserve . Jesus. Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus was

(Heb 4:15 NIV)  …tempted in every way, just as we are–YET WAS WITHOUT SIN.

The only PERFECT HUMAN BEING.

And yet God gave him the punishment that SINNERS deserve. How can this be? How is this JUSTICE? That the ONE MAN in the history of the world who DIDN’T deserve was PUNISHED with . by the JUST GOD?

And the answer is that God places OUR guilt onto an innocent man. And then punishes that innocent man instead.

God CANNOT overLOOK sin. (Pretend it didn’t happen). That wouldn’t be JUST. Justice demands that sin be punished.

And so God chose to punish his Son INSTEAD. The criminal’s that WE deserved/ went to his Son instead. And so, our crime is paid for. JUSTICE is DONE. And our slate is wiped clean.

Imagine that Jason/ (Melanie) was in trouble at school. He/ (she) was on his/ (her) last warning. The file of infringements was getting bigger and bigger.

And so the Principal calls Mum into school. “I’m afraid Mrs Kal/ (Wilson). We have no alternative but to suspend your son/ (daughter). Look at how full his/ (her) file is.”

And THEN imagine that Judy/ (Sue) said this. “Well, What about ME? How big is MY file?”

The principal goes to his filing cabinet, and pulls out her folder. “Well, it’s EMPTY!”

“Can you take all of Jason’s/ (Melanie’s) records, and put them in MY FILE? And then SUSPEND ME.

And so the principal DOES it. Jason/ (Melanie) goes back to class. Because his/(her) record is empty. A clean slate.

But Mum gets suspended because her file is full.

Justice is done. The guilty has been punished.

That’s A LITTLE bit like what happens with God. But in the case of Jesus, God makes his OWN offer of a swap.

HE transfers OUR files into Jesus’ folder. And then punishes Jesus for OUR SIN. The of his own son took the wrath which WE deserved.

And with the punishment paid (with justice satisfied), the slate can be wiped clean. The record of wrong can be removed.

So, when you see, and read, of the sufferings of Jesus. Recognise how SERIOUSLY God TAKES sin. How seriously he takes YOUR sin. Because it’s THAT SORT OF PUNISHMENT that JUSTICE demands. .

But perhaps you might ask, “Why on earth would God DO that for me?

4. The Passion is love

And the answer is because God LOVES you. The Passion is JUSTICE. But it’s also LOVE. If God were merely JUST, then there would be no need for the cross. ALL mankind would DIE. That would be just. And God would shrug his shoulders, and move on.

But he is ALSO LOVING. And so, he did something ELSE. Another of Jesus’ disciples, John, had this to say about what motivated God. Jn 3:16

(John 3:16 NIV)  “For God so LOVED the world that he GAVE his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

It was because God LOVED you that he arranged the SWAP. The transfer of guilt from YOU onto JESUS.

It was because God LOVED you that he wanted to SPARE you the punishment he was prepared to put his only son through.

I can’t imagine the sort of motivation which would force me to sacrifice my own son. And yet God did it. Because he loved you.

So when you look at the sufferings of Jesus/ recognise LOVE. Love FOR YOU. Love that was prepared to see God’s Son suffer and die/ So that you didn’t have to.

So?

5. The Passion demands a response

“Well, so what?” perhaps you’re saying. “What’s it all got to do with me?”

The final thing I want to say about the Passion, is that the Passion DEMANDS A RESPONSE.

You must make a choice. The events of that first Easter are God’s loving gift. A gift that’s offered TO YOU. And whether you like it, or not, a response is required.

Even if you turn your back, and walk away. That’s a response. You’ve made a choice. It’s saying NO to the gift. To the offer of friendship with God. Of him wiping the slate clean.

And yet, with the movie, it seems like many people are choosing a DIFFERENT RESPONSE.

Associated Press reports that a man in Texas CONFESSED TO A after seeing The Passion of the Christ movie.

Dan Leach’s viewing of the movie, along with the discussion with a family friend, led him to walk into the Fort Bend County, Texas sheriff’s department earlier in March, and confess to Ashley Nicole Wilson, Det. Mike Kubricht said.

A coroner had ruled her by hanging a . The 19-year-old had gone off anti-depressant medications because she was pregnant.

The pregnancy apparently was the motive, Kubricht said, because Leach believed he was responsible and did not want to raise a child. Leach, 21, wore gloves and left none of his own DNA behind. It was very well-planned and well executed,” Kubricht said.

“Something (the adviser) said, between that and the movie, he felt that in order for him to have REDEMPTION he would have to confess his sin and do his time,” Kubricht said.

Leach faces up to life in prison if convicted.

That’s the most EXTREME response I’ve heard to the movie. But plenty of other people report being deeply affected. Of re-evaluating their life. Of recognising the love of God in a fresh way.

And it’s that sort of response that God WANTS us to make. Because a gift isn’t a gift until it’s ACCEPTED.

And if you look at that last verse, you can see what it means to ACCEPT the gift. Whoever BELIEVES in him won’t perish, but will have eternal life.

The RIGHT response to God’s gift is BELIEF.

But belief is more than acknowledging that someone exists. Recognising that a certain event HAPPENED. I might BELIEVE in fairies. I might BELIEF that man landed on the moon. But that’s not what the BIBLE means by belief.

Belief means CONFIDENCE. TRUST. Trust that Jesus has DEALT with your sin. Trust that God HAS swapped your files into Jesus’ folder. And then punished him. Instead of YOU.

Trust that God is telling the TRUTH when he offers you forgiveness. And the GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP with him.

To accept God’s gift is as simple as TELLING him. And if that’s something YOU’D like to do, you can do it RIGHT NOW.

There’s a simple prayer printed there in the outlines. There’s nothing special about the words. But it’s saying the sort of thing you need to say.

Have a look at it. If it’s saying something YOU want to say, then repeat it in your own head after I say it.

Dear God. Thank you that you LOVE me. And that you punished Jesus instead of me. Thank you that you offer me the gift of forgiveness and friendship. Forgive me for my sin. Help me to live TRUSTING your PROMISE. Amen.

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