Dennis Campbell
February 9, 2004
"The Passion": a message of love, an opportunity to hate
By Dennis Campbell

It seems that nothing short of the war in Iraq has stirred as much outrage and controversy as Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ." Perhaps we all could lower our voices for a few minutes and address the charges that it will stir up anti-Semitism and that it "blames the Jews" for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

It is a simple matter to do so. We simply go to the historical record of this seminal event in the history of mankind. That, of course, is the Bible, from which we get nearly all of our knowledge of Christ, His death and His resurrection.

Christ has always been divisive and controversial, and that by design. He says in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12:

"Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother...."

As he confronted the Jewish authorities of the day, the Pharisees and Sadducees, for their hypocrisy, love of money, self-glorification and lip service to God, Jesus caused the same discomfort and anger as today. Interestingly, the word "God" on television or in films is acceptable, but the use of "Jesus Christ" is acceptable only as an epithet.

Eventually, the continual strife between Jesus and the authorities ended in His crucifixion. In Mark 11 we read that He said, "Is it not written: 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.' " At that, "the chief priests and the teachers of the law...began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching."

Then in the 15th chapter, Mark writes:

"Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising.

"The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did. 'Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?' asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him.

"But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. 'What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?' Pilate asked them. 'Crucify him!' they shouted.

After the resurrection, Peter said (Acts 3), "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus. You handed Him over to be killed, and you disowned Him before Pilate, though he had decided to let Him go.

"You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you."

Clearly, for Jews today to say that the Jews of that time were not complicit in the crucifixion of Christ is to deny history.

But later, Peter's prayer in Acts 4 clearly shows that in fact God Himself ordained the crucifixion:

"Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed. They did what Your power and will had decided beforehand should happen."

Yes, God was the author of the death of Jesus Christ. In God's economy, "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." But only the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God, pictured in the Old Testament sacrificial system, was capable of achieving that forgiveness. As the Apostle John wrote in his first epistle, "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world."

This was done, John says in his gospel account, because "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son...."

If there are those whose bigotry and hatred causes them to take a message of love and transform it into an opportunity to hate, it reflects not on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but on the sinful state of mankind that required His crucifixion in the first place.

© Dennis Campbell

 

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