The Easter story
I remember when the movie, "The Passion of the Christ" was released in 2004. The Mel Gibson-directed-film was the most talked about movie at the time. It covers the last 12 hours of Jesus' life, based largely on the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
As a Christian, I debated with myself whether or not to go see it. From what I had heard, it was very emotional and very explicit in portraying the brutality Jesus suffered during his last hours before his death.
I chose not to see it.
Our church held a viewing of the movie last Sunday afternoon.
Up until the moment the movie began, I was still unsure about watching the film.
But I did.
It begins with the agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and takes the viewer through his betrayal by Judas, his capture by the Romans soldiers, his trial before Caiaphas, the head priest who takes Jesus before Pontius Pilate to condemn Jesus to death. Pilate finds no guilt in him and does not want to pronounce judgment and sends him to the court of Herod, but Jesus is returned back to Pilate, who says he will chastise Jesus and set him free but the crowd demands Jesus be crucified. Pilate then offers the people a choice-free Jesus or the violent criminal Barabbas. But the crowd demands that Barabbas be freed and to crucify Jesus. Pilate thinks the crowd will be appeased if Jesus is brutally beaten and mocked with a crown of thorns placed on his head. But the crowd is not mollified and Pilate finally washes his hands to be done with it and Jesus is led away, a condemned man.
There are flashbacks to moments throughout the life of Jesus as well.
But the movie focuses on what Jesus suffered from the time of his capture, to the beatings he endured, to the carrying of his own cross to Calvary-a burden so heavy after all his beatings, causing him to stumble and fall, tired unto death-to having nails hammered through his hands and feet, then having the cross raised so he would finally die a slow agonizing death through suffocation. It was so painful to watch that I often put my hands over my eyes. Tears ran down my face. My heart hurt. I bowed my head, feeling so unworthy of his sacrifice.
No one should ever have to suffer like that.
But Jesus did.
And he did it for me. And for you.
Oh, if I never understood that truth before, I certainly understood it last Sunday afternoon. I was so affected that I could not be with people for a while. Harry and I drove around and discussed what we had watched and shared our feelings of what it meant to us.
But here's the kicker to how the story ends. And it does end with Good News.
Jesus could have saved himself. He could have denied being the Son of God. But it was the will of God that Jesus should die so that all my sins would be forgiven.
God wants each and every one of us to understand just what Jesus did endure for us. That's why the story is told in the Bible.
It's why every one should go see "The Passion of Christ."
After his death, Jesus was placed in a tomb with a heavy stone rolled in place to cover it with soldiers guarding it so no one could steal his body. But three days later, that heavy stone was rolled away. The guards never heard or saw it. When Mary Magdalene approached the grave, the tomb was empty. And Jesus revealed himself to her. He was dead, but now was alive!
Here is the joy! Here is the reason for celebration!
Just like God said, Jesus arose from the dead! He was given Everlasting Life and it is His promise to us, that whosoever should believe in him, ask for forgiveness for our sins, Everlasting Life will be ours, too!
That is the reason for Easter the miraculous resurrection of Jesus. It's the reason why our churches should be filled to overflowing on Sunday so we can shout out in joy!
Please do something for me this Easter.
As you fill Easter baskets with candy, as you hide and hunt Easter eggs, as you sit around a table laden with a delicious feast with family and friends, please remember a young man, hurt, blood streaming down his face from a cruel crown of thorns, his skin laid open from the many lashings from a whip, stumbling under the crushing weight of a heavy wooden cross. Remember him. And thank him for the greatest Easter present of all-life everlasting!
Amen and Hallelujah!