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

Putting Jesus Back

Monday after Easter, and the Easter dress is on the floor in the laundry room, as are the Easter suits and carelessly tossed ties and shoes.  Easter is over.  The Celebration party had its curtain call.  Everyone went home.  So…what now?

What impact does the Resurrection have on us the day after?  The week after?  The month after?   Understandably we can say “Well there’s always next year…”  or “I go to church every Sunday anyway.”  These are all valid points, but what kind of impact does Christ’s resurrection have on you and me in our daily lives?

All too often we want to put Jesus back.
We put Him back into those boxes for next year.
We put Him back on the hanger as we hang up that Easter dress or suit.  dress
We close our Bibles to that story until next year rolls back around.
We put Jesus back into our preconceived, compartmentalized places.

But should we put it all back like that?
Is there a trace of Him in our work places, social events, friendships, relationships, families?  Or does He get put away just like the seasonal stuff in our closets?
I have to wonder what the answer is even for me sometimes.
I can accept a risen Savior, but what does it mean in my habits, and in my faith walk and my desire to become more and more like Him?  How does this Resurrected Christ fit into my overly complicated life?  Am I secretly compartmentalizing Jesus?  Am I packing Him away for another year?  Am I checking that season off on my calendar  and moving on without Him there?

box2

 

What a tragedy it would be for any of us to progress past the cross and the empty tomb without it affecting the entirety of who we are as His creation!  Essentially when we put Him back on the shelf, in the box, on a hanger – we are selectively accepting who He is and who He can be in our lives.   We are, subconsciously putting limits on the Almighty…we are also putting limits on our own spiritual growth.

 

A New Creation: 
A friend of mine on Facebook posted this comment that sparked my heart and ignited some intrinsic truth deep within me.  Have you ever had one of those “A-ha” moments?  Where the light bulb flickers on, and it’s bright and it shines on truth.  Perhaps this will spark something within you too in terms of re-framing  who Jesus is, which will undoubtedly make us second guess putting Jesus back…here it is:

One could suggest that the ‘tetelestai’ (it is finished) saying refers not to atonement but to creation; it is the creation that is completed on the cross. On the cross, the true human is created, creation is now complete.” (Cameron Horsburgh/Michael Hardin)

                                                      -Mind. Blown. –

How can you ever go back to putting Jesus on the shelf?
How can you not have a life changing event take place in your heart when you consider ALL of creation is now complete in this Messiah atonement?  That we can’t put God in a box and only bring Him out once a year in light of creation becoming complete in Him.  There’s nowhere else to move besides forward in our relationship to the One who has made EVERYTHING complete!

It’s like buying a new suit, wearing it only one time just to put it on a hanger and stare at it while wearing the same old dingy ripped up, dirty outfit you’ve always worn.  It just doesn’t make any sense.  So…why do we do this sometimes with Jesus?

Unwrapping It.
Take Jesus off the shelf.   box3
Throw the old outfit away – you have a new suit to wear!
Throw away the old title for yourself – “Sinner”
Because you’ve been saved by this amazing grace found only in Jesus, and you’ve been given a new title – “Child of God.”
You can’t compartmentalize Jesus.
You can’t “seasonalize” Him either.
He can’t be contained.
He wants to transform you!
He has already completed creation – which can include YOU!

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20

May you find an ever present Christ with you today!
May our hearts be compelled to live for Him and reside with Him every moment of every day!  May we experience this new creation every time we utter His name on our breath.
May this transformation of the new, complete creation be in us EVERY day.

Something more to Ponder today.
To God be the glory!

(Another fitting article for today from Steve Simms entitled: “Why Put Jesus In A Box?” check it out too!)

A Pondering: “Walking Into Good Friday”

This week, I want to focus on our memories of Good Friday.
Easter Sunday you ask?  -We’ll get to that.
But this week let us zone in on the influence these Fridays (the ones we can recall from years past) have played into our lives.  I share with you a glimpse into my 11 year-old self…enduring Three Hours of the Cross: pew

I remember as a boy being told that we would be going to a meeting that would last at least three hours.  I remember my dismay and outrage at such a thing.  I thought to myself, “why would anyone want to sit for three hours in a church service?”  I remember falling asleep during a particularly long quiet part of the service.  This three hours of the cross was truly agonizing to an 11 year old.  I was impatient.  I understood the symbolism, but three hours?

Of course I didn’t get it.  Most children at that age couldn’t tolerate sitting through another service in the week, let alone three hours.  But what I didn’t know then, I know now.  I recognize what that service was suppose to portray.  I understand the meaning pew2behind it now.  I can still feel those uncomfortable chairs to this day…yet it doesn’t compare to the backbreaking anguish of the cross Jesus faced.  I can recall how bored I was (again I was 11).  I had pen and had probably written on every service of the service program.  There were some wonderful musical pieces share that day.  For the life of my I cannot tell you one of them, for they are lost in my memory.  I do not remember anything about the content of the service, because I was so consumed with my own comfort and attention.

I do remember with startling clarity the ending of the service.  arms
As I lovely call it now: the “it is finished” benediction, and with a exhalation of jubilance in my new found freedom – I bolted swiftly out of that hall, like a gazelle from the clutches of a lion.  I was no longer a prisoner to the pew, pen and church bulletin.  I. Was. Free.
I recall how fresh the air felt on my face felt when I stepped outside.  I felt like prisoner on parole…I was walking free again.  It’s funny how a three hour service can feel like a prison to an 11 year old child.

I confess this memory has very little to do with the cross than it did with an 11 year old selfish child.  Perhaps the only thing this memory shared with a cross was the perceived agony of three hours.  Yet I still remember it vividly, and isn’t it odd, that I now remember it with such admiration and fondness?

How about your memories of of Good Friday? friday2
Share them with us.  Describe the place you participated in a service.  Where were you?
Tomorrow I will share another memory of another Good Friday service that I can recall.

The purpose?
fridayPerhaps we missed something along the way.
Perhaps as we ponder it together, we will recall how we felt then, and engage in our emotional and spiritual state today – here and now.  Maybe, like me, you will see just how far you’ve come.  And as we discover ourselves in these tales retold – I believe we discover once again Christ’s humble and loving sacrifice for us.  We discover His suffering, shame, and gift to all those who would seek Him.

Ponder with me this week.
Do you have a recollection or memory?
Comment below, share and join the Good Friday Ponderings!
Hastag – #Goodfridayponderings

Looking At The Cross

I’m not here to proselytize,
no, we will never be moved from our positions and convictions by mere words.
9 times out of 10 most will never be “saved” by signs on billboards saying “Jesus Saves”
or by a “Preacher” on a soapbox with a bullhorn.
No, none of these things seem to penetrate the heart.
None of these things contributes to the glory of God…
it only adds to the noise.

pathIt’s a slow walk…
This path towards the cross.
The place where Jesus was killed was literally called the place of the skull because it looked like a skull cap.
It was never pretty.
Death. Is. Not. Pretty.
Even when the Son of God faced death…it was not pretty.

Death is brutal. death
Death has its claws into the sides of humanity and many learn to fear it.
Even Jesus prayed for the “cup to be taken from Him” while in the garden of Gethsemane, yet He was still faithful and He still went through with it.

BloodBlood was spilled.
People spat in His face.
A crown of thorns was forced upon Jesus’ head…
more blood was spilled.
The path that Jesus walked is called the ‘Via Dolorosa’ which means “the way of suffering” or “the way of sorrow”.
No, this was not, by its own a rite, a “glorious” day…and yet we look at the cross,
we explore His gruesome execution,
we peal back the “polished” veneer of the cross’ description,
and we discover just how much our Father in Heaven desires to rescue and redeem us from our sin tattered lives.

We linger here…
we must not overlook its importance and its horror.cross1
Divine carnage, blood, suffering, pain.
We ought not turn our eyes away too quickly in order to get to the “good stuff”… just yet.

Divine love was broken and spilled out for us.
His blood became our atonement.
His sacrifice our salvation.
His willingness our redemption.
Perhaps THIS, above all else, speaks louder than any of our “big” words could.
Perhaps THIS, the mark of suffering could capture the hardened heart.
nailsPerhaps THIS, is where healing can take place…
if only Christians would get this.
if only we would live this.
if only we would “take our crosses” (no really) and selflessly follow Him.
I’m not being preachy here,
I’m listening to the groaning of my own heart
and this truth rings out in me.

So I look at the cross…cross2                                                                              for a little bit longer.

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