11/4/2013 1:00:00 PM
It’s been almost 10 years since Mel Gibson’s brilliant film “The Passion of the Christ” was released in theaters.
The movie was notable for many reasons. It showed Hollywood that films with faith-based themes could be moneymakers. “The Passion of the Christ” cost just $30 million to make but took in almost $84 million at the U.S. box office alone on its first weekend. No faith-based movie has been quite as successful since, but the quality of those films has improved greatly as producers realize a well-made film will attract men and women of faith.
“The Passion of the Christ” was important for another reason, as well: it was unflinching in the violence portrayed as Jesus was crucified. You may remember how difficult it was to watch a bloody Jesus hanging on the cross at Golgotha.
Critics recoiled at the realistic depiction of crucifixion. They said it was gratuitous. They said it was inflammatory. They even said it was anti-Semitic. What they could not say was that it was historically inaccurate, because it was not.
Too often in the Church, we like things clean and neat, no matter how little that reflects reality. We are preparing for a great Miracle, Healing and Victory Prayer Cloth service
at World Harvest Church on Nov. 10. Our altars will be filled with prayer requests. What we sometimes fail to appreciate is that each prayer request represents deep anguish on the part of someone in the Body of Christ – an unsaved loved one, a severe or chronic illness in the family, financial strife, household turmoil or some similar situation. Many of you have been in one or more of those situations, and they cause a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of tears. Yet when we get to church on Sunday, we often recoil at the thought of sharing our deepest hurts with someone who is inclined to pray for us (and likely understands how we feel more than we know). So when we’re asked how we are, we muster up our bluster and say “Blessed and highly favored!,” as much to convince ourselves as anything else.
Likewise, we like our crosses clean, don’t we? And yet, as the writer of Hebrews tells us, keeping promises is a bloody affair:
For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you." And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
- Hebrews 9:16-22, ESV, emphasis added
May we never separate our love of the cross from our knowledge that Jesus shed his blood for us there! Bloodshed was a necessary element of His sacrifice. We celebrate Easter each year as the day he overcame death, and rightly so. But we cannot fully appreciate Christ’s triumph without a keen, detailed understanding of what that death entailed.
There are more details about the crucifixion in my book "The Cross: One Man…One Tree…One Friday"
than I have room to recount here. It’s not pleasant to read – it certainly wasn’t pleasant to write. But it is necessary for all believers to understand that what Jesus did so we could be reconciled to the Father was gruesome. It was horrific. And yes, it was bloody.
From the book:
Yes, the shedding of that spotless blood—a blood utterly untainted by the stain of sin—was absolutely essential to affect a redemption that could pass legal muster in the court of heaven. But a sacrificial death that would once-and-for-all-time annihilate the curse spawned by rebellion had to be an obedient death on a tree. There had to be thorns at that tree because thorns were a God-declared outcome of that curse’s unfolding. It had to be a naked and shameful death because the very first indicator that Adam and Eve had fallen under the potent power of sin was their shame-filled realization of their own nakedness.
There was no other possible death for that “Seed” promised to Eve. The One whose heel the serpent would bruise (and oh, how His precious heel was bruised!). The One who, in His victory over Death, would crush the head of that Serpent of old and make all things new.
It had to be a cross.