A Voice in the Wilderness - Observations and Excursions of a Christian Zealot

Terry Walker's Weblog --- Occasional articles on the Christian Ethic

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Passion of the Christ - A Revue -

While God can use the recent movie “The Passion of the Christ,” and I am sure that He will, I want to issue a warning to the church at the same time. No doubt Satan can and will use it as well. Therefore, let us be on guard that we might glorify our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I have seen abundant evidence of grave misunderstanding surrounding this movie. There are those I have spoken to that are walking away from this movie completely missing Christ’s purpose. The Bible is the inspired word of God. Jesus is the Word, the Way, the Truth and the Life. It is the word of God that persuades those who have yet to be saved.

Regardless of how good or accurate this movie is, the truth is far more reaching than any form of media is able to show or any mind is capable of imagining. Such as the incredible sin I personally heaped upon my Lord and Savior, or the indescribable, unimaginable, suffering of Christ Jesus, not from hanging on the cross, but by being separated from His Father for the first time in eternity. In the communication I have had with others who have viewed this film, there is much talk about little more than the brutality of His death.

If you do not understand what I am laboring to warn you about, then let me provide an example. It is a heart felt, emotional e-mail I received from a professing believer. The original e-mail is unedited, except for the removal of personal information, and the addition of my responses to each portion of the e-mail. My responses are in blue text.

Hey Guys,
I just felt like I should let you all know just how much our Lord and Saviour loves us all. I know that you are all probably tired of hearing this from me, but you have to hear it one more time.

Our church went for a private viewing of The Passion of Christ last night, and I am still in amazment. I have read about it and been taught about it for all of my life, but for the first time ever, last night I actually saw it with my own eyes. I saw the agony that he suffered and the blood that he shed for you and me, and I am here to tell you all that it was more than we could have ever imagined.

My friend, you have in no way seen the agony that Christ Jesus suffered. It is beyond human capability to truly grasp the agony of Jesus becoming the propitiation for our sins. What you actually saw with your own eyes, was an actor who was attempting to portray the death of Jesus in a manner that was as realistic as is possible. In reality, even that actor was not seriously harmed. But you have seen this man and related him as Jesus, and in ever sense that is idolatry. This is the very reason graven images are an abomination to God, because they detract from His glory. You were created to glorify God, not an image of Him. The Bible, the very word of God, reveals far more about the character and purpose of Christ than any media can, because the Bible by its very origin is exactly what God wants to tell us, no more and no less. If you have read the Bible your whole life and have never understood and imagined more than the few words of Scripture that are spoken in this movie, then you need to run, don’t walk, back home and pray that God your Father might increase your understanding of His Word.

The actual act of dying was not the hard part of what Christ did for “all of us”, it was what lead up to his death. He was beat with sticks and a "cat of nine tails", which if you don't know what that is it is a stick with nine leather straps hanging off the end, and all of the straps have metal spikes and pieces of glass sticking out of them, he was mocked, spat upon, he had a crown of thorns placed upon his head, and the thorns were at least four inches long, and they were pushed into his head until they were in all the way. They beat him until his bones were exposed, and then they beat him some more. Christ was the only one of the three people crucified that day who was made to carry his own cross, he was also the only one who was beat. The other two men were not beat, and there crosses were carried for them, at least the heavy part anyway, and they truly deserved to be crucified, Christ did not, he chose to die a horrible death for our sins.

How right you are, the actual act of dying was not the hard part of what Christ did! The physical suffering Jesus went through was no doubt horrific, but necessary as there is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood. But the suffering that led to Jesus’ death was not the hard part of what Christ did for those of us who are sealed for the day of redemption, as His Father was with Him during His suffering, but rather His taking upon Himself the penalty of our sins caused His Father to forsake Him. If we concentrate on the mere brutality of His death, which many have suffered in like kind or worse, then we will miss Christ’s true purpose. Yes He died, yes it was excruciating, but who is He, why did He die, and what purpose did His life, death and resurrection serve? Let us concentrate on that, for that is the Gospel. But Jesus did not die as a sacrifice for the sins of “all of us”, but only for those who His Father first drew to Him, (John 6:42) therefore, walk in fear and trembling of your God by Whom wrath is justly applied upon the perpetrator of every act of unrepentant sin.

One thing that really amazed me was to see Christ's reaction toward the people who crucified him. He was so kind and loving, he never had a harsh word or a cruel jesture toward any of them, he never fought back, he was his Perfect, Loving, Wonderful self throughout the whole thing. Not in a happy way, but in a loving way. The pain in his eyes, and the way that he trembled, not from fear, but from pain showed us all just how much he suffered, but through it all there was love.

Where are all these details in the Bible? And once again you are speaking as if you actually saw the crucifixion of the almighty Savior, Lord and King, Christ Jesus. Were you there to see the pain in His eyes, His gestures and His reactions? God does not react to anything, rather He works all things, everything, including His own mortal death, in accordance with the pleasure of His own will. He is omnipotent. Consider this Scripture in light of your amazement: “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers; that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:27-31) Do you see from this scripture that God is telling us that His Word is what makes the difference, not even the supernatural appearance of your dead brother can keep you from going to Hell, if the truth of the word of God doesn’t make a difference in your life? My friend, this is eternal life and death we are talking about. This is serious.

I know that my husband would do anything for me, and my well being, but I'm not sure about suffering as Christ did, no normal human could survive it. But Jesus did, and He did it all for us, so that we could be Saved and spend our life on this earth serving him and winning souls for him, and so that we could spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

Actually the Bible says that Paul survived both beatings and stonings. There are even present day cultures that have religious celebrations that include self mutilation by means of striking one’s own back with multiple knife blades tied to leather straps until the loss of blood causes unconsciousness. It is seen as a means of penance for your own sins. Jesus received 39 strikes which was 1 less than the legal limit, after which it was considered cruel and unlawful. Much of the beatings that are shown in the movie are not recorded in Scripture, we cannot simply conjure up what might have happened and accept that as truth, entertainment yes, truth no. Furthermore, Jesus wasn’t trying to survive; He was accomplishing what His Father had sent Him to do. Even the day of Jesus’ death was determined so as to happen during the Passover, as He was the Passover Lamb. Jesus died in the same moment that the Passover lambs where slaughtered in the temple. Jesus died well before the others because “It was finished”, not His life, but His work.

But more importantly than seeing this movie, is seeing Christ's love and accepting him as your Lord and Savior so that we can all spend eternity with Him together in Heaven.

I love you all and want you all to experience the lifetime of joy that comes from knowing, loving, serving and being loved by Christ, but in order for this to happen you have to accept him through salvation as your saviour.

Please don't think that I am just some holy roller blabber mouth because I promise I am not saying these things just to hear myself talk. I feel that this is something that God really wants me to do, and serving Him is my top priority. Sincerely (name withheld)

My Christian Sister, toward the end of her e-mail, was finally starting to ground herself in the truth. She is obviously fervent. In fact, the something she feels God wants her to do, is to pay for anyone’s ticket that wants to see this movie. I doubt very seriously that God wants her to do that in light of His command against images and idolatry. However, we can say that this movie will certainly be used by God, but just as certainly it will be used by Satan to distract people away from the inspired Word of God. Using this movie as an evangelism tool is an extremely risky thing. As you have seen by what you have already read, people can be caused to believe things that simply are not true, even lifelong readers of the Bible. Let us remember that “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.” (2 Pet. 1:3) He has given that to us in His Word as it alone reveals Christ.

Some of us are about to see or have already seen this movie. Let us remember that the Bible is the source of truth for which we seek. Jesus is the Word, this movie is just a gory portrayal. And as good as it may be, it simply cannot demonstrate the true nature and purpose of Jesus Christ, because, by any human effort, whether by song, or eloquent speech, movie or art or any other human endeavor, we can only produce little more than a shadow of Jesus. His glory cannot be contained in a pathetic painting, stained glass window or a movie screen. Jesus told us to love Him with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our soul, He did not say love a likeness of Him. In fact it is an abomination to look upon a shadow and think “I have seen my Savior.” So when you have seen this movie, please remember that your Christ is far greater than the image you are seeing.

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:11-16)

Brother Terry Walker
Providence Baptist Church
Greer, South Carolina