The Passion of The Christ (by Colonel Dennis Strissel)

The title of our devotional today bears a similar title of the 2004 Mel Gibson Biblical drama of the final 12 hours of Christ’s life, through the crucifixion with a brief glimpse of the resurrection. You’ll recall it was very controversial for its brutal description of the crucifixion scenes and brave for filming the entire film in Aramaic at the same time. The film grossed over $612 Million during its release and received three academy award nominations. And we’re still talking about it today as probably one of the best depictions of this day in history.

It never ceases to amaze me, and I have said this before and will probably say it many more times before the Lord calls me home, we, as the church, continue to recreate these significant days in our church history. In fact millions of Christians already have retraced the steps of the Via Delarosa this day, both in Jerusalem and in various other parts of the world. It is sad to say but there probably some Christians who have followed the cross today and have lost their lives for doing so. via

So that I do not assume too much, when using the term passion – I am talking about the extreme suffering, originally referred to as the last agonies of Christ. This is the supreme act of Agape’ love from God to mankind.

Isa 53:4-6

4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

The key thought in Isaiah’s prophetic word, (Isaiah 53:4-6), deals with the sweet exchange – Our weakness/He carried – our sorrows/that weighed him down –He is pierced/for our rebellion –He is crushed/for our sins – He is beaten/so we could be whole – He is whipped/so we can be healed.

So for the few minutes that I have your attention, I challenge you to consider two things during this dark moment in our church history…

  1. LET’S TRY TO UNDERSTAND CHRIST’S SUFFERINGsuffer

William Barclay writes about the common criminal customs amongst the Roman government: “It was custom that he, the criminal, should carry the cross beam of his own cross; the other part was already waiting for him at the place designated for crucifixion. The charge for which he was being executed was written on a board; it was either hung around his own neck or carried by an officer in front of the procession, and was later affixed to the cross itself. The criminal was led to the scene of the crucifixion as long a route as possible, so that as many as possible might see him, and take warning from the grim sight.”

We know, from reading the passion story, that the procession to the cross only happened after three illegal trials, with Christ being subjected to insults and allegations, all while refusing to defend himself. He was passed from soldier to soldier, humiliated, stripped, beaten, spat upon and new being dragged down the main street of Jerusalem.

This treatment of Christ did not fit into the neat concept, dream and hope of the majority of Jews when it came to the coming of the great Divine, The Messiah.

I loved the picture that Matthew and Luke paint for us in their narrative of the Triumphal Entry. Can you imagine the likes of Judas or Simon the Zealot mumbling under their breath…? “The colt of a donkey? Never! Messiah should be galloping into the city of God and Kings on the back of a Stallion, signifying his coming as the triumphant victor.” But that is not the way he came, which warns us of our own preconceived ideas of who Christ is and what his desired outcome should be.

See him struggle under the weight of the cross/beam, falling to his knees, looking up into the face of crowds of people, some of whom are compassionate, while others are shouting condemnation. Hear, if you can, one Simon of Cyrene being conscripted into service by the harsh voice of the Roman soldier in Luke 23:26.

churchThere is a series of very beautiful pictures in the cathedral at Antwerp, which represent Christ hearing His cross from the Praetorian to Calvary. These pictures embody the popular idea of Christ’s weakness and exhaustion. In one He stands calm and erect, in another He is bending under the weight of the cross, and in another He has fallen beneath the load that was laid upon Him. It is at this stage of the proceedings that Simon, who is passing by, is arrested, and compelled to bear the cross after Christ.

I suspect Simon had no idea what he was about to be called on to do…likewise, bearing the cross of Christ today could come out of surprise. Please be aware that all you may endure in this life should not necessarily be considered as bearing the cross of Christ. Many of the issues we face may be as a result of our own poor, selfish decision making and does not deserve the high honor of bearing Christ’s cross. Bearing His cross brings him glory and honor to the church. Living with the consequence of our own sin does not. So be careful of misusing the noble term of “Cross-Bearer.”

We need no commentary to explain the suffering of Christ, Lamb of God, We simply paint the background and that is descriptive enough.

  1. Vernon McGee would say, “The pain will attract the people.”

Church history records the following regarding Clovis King of the Gaul’s from 481 – 511, “When Clovis Leader of the Franks, was told about the crucifixion of Christ. He leaped to his feet, drew his sword and exclaimed, ‘If I had only been there with my Franks.” But Jesus didn’t need the Gaul Army or any army for that matter. As the old song says, “He could have called ten thousand Angels to destroy the world and set him free, He could have called ten thousand Angels, but he died alone for you and me.”

crossAs he hung on the cross, the voyeurs standing watch challenged Jesus to show them his power. Another way we might put it is, “we would just believe if you would just show us you can Houdini your way off that cross.” Listen to them using the glory of Christ to mock him…

Matt 27:39-44

39 The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. 40 “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!”41 The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. 42 “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! 43 He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

William Booth is recorded as saying, “It is precisely because he would not come down that we believe in him.”

No amount of descriptive words will ever do justice in describing the horrible humiliation and suffering our Savior endured for you and me.

O sacred head once wounded,
With grief and pain weighed down,
How scornfully surrounded
With thorns, thine only crown!
How pale art thou with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish
which once was bright as morn!
Paulus Gerhardt

 

  1. LET’S TRY TO COMPREHEND GOD’S SUBSTITUTION PLAN

I don’t know about you, but I get chills up and down my spine when I see or read about those times when the team, as they were, could not win the prize or accomplish the goal. The coach then calls on the one person, the person that no one expects to accomplish the seemingly impossible. When the substitute enters the arena and accomplishes what seemed all but lost, we rise to our feet and stretch out our arms and cheer for all we, and they, are worth. The substitute is worthy of the team’s acknowledgement and praise.

John Stott, author and theologian writes: “The concept of substitution lies at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.”

We see the picture of Christ, the substitute, implied and explicit, all the way through Scriptures.lamb

  • We see an act of redemptive bloodshed in Genesis 3:21, as an animal sacrifices its life and coat to cover the nakedness of mankind.

 

  • We are witnesses to the attempted sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham, along with the surprise substitution that arrives through a ram caught in the thickets (Gen. 22:13).

 

  • In Exodus 12:21 we note the instruction of the preparation of a Passover lamb whose shed blood will serve as an act of Salvation for God’s chosen. Interesting that the substitute is always a willing participant in the Divine transaction.

 

  • As one moves to the New Testament we hear John the Baptizer declare upon seeing Jesus, his cousin, coming to be baptized, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

 

  • The transformation of Peter should amaze us, it does me. You hardly recognize the impulsive, blustering Peter at the end of his life compared to his first baby-steps with Jesus. That’s the way it should be in all our lives I suspect. Listen to the Holy Spirit-filled wisdom of the more mature Peter helping us understand that God’s plan of substitution was no accident and that it all began way before the creation of the world.

1 Peter 1:18-21

18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days. 21 Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

And this brings us back to our text from Isaiah 53, verse 7 & 8; perhaps one of the most descriptive portions that help us note God’s plan for this substitute for your sin and mine.

What we deserve is death but we need not experience it all because of God’s amazing grace.

Hear Isaiah’s voice clearly state…

7 He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 8 Unjustly condemned, he was led away.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

…led away to die in our place. God went out of his way to redeem mankind by the substitution of his only begotten.

Rom 4:25

25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

A story is told about a farmer named Blake who was drafted as a soldier during the War Between the States. He was deeply troubled about leaving his family because his wife had died and there would be no one to support and take care of his children in his absence. The day before he was to leave for the army, his neighbor Charlie Durham came to visit him. “Blake,” he said, “I’ve been thinking. You’re needed here at home, so I’ve decided to go in your place.” The farmer was so overwhelmed that for a few moments he was speechless. The offer seemed too good to be true. He grasped the hand of the young man and praised God for this one who was willing to go as his substitute. Sadly, Charlie was shot and killed in the first battle. When the farmer heard the bad news, he immediately saddled his horse and rode out to the battlefield. He found the body of his friend and arranged to have it buried in the churchyard near the spot where they had often stopped to talk after the services. On a piece of marble he carved the inscription with his own hands. It was roughly done, but with every blow of the hammer on the chisel, tears fell from his eyes. He placed the marker on the grave of his devoted substitute. Many villagers wept as they read the brief but touching inscription: He died for me.

Isaiah finishes his prophetic word this way…died

Isa 53:10-11

10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted                                                             righteous, for he will bear all their sins.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

The outcome of his Suffering and Substitution allows you and me the privilege of being His descendant and being counted as righteous. Please, do not let His death be in vain…

25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

Rom 3:25-26

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

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