Last night, TBN aired an unedited presentation of The Passion of the Christ. There are two things you need to understand at this point: we don’t watch a lot of TBN in my house (if any at all), and it has been years since I’ve seen ‘The Passion.’ But I have seen it before.
At the time (last night), I thought it worthwhile because not only was it on, but my twelve year-old son wanted me to watch it with him. And believe me when kids hit the tween years, and hormones and peer pressure start kicking in, parents are always on the lookout for ways to hangout with their kids. And what better way than to share, cinematically at least, in a telling of the Gospel?
Now, my son had seen the beginning of ‘Passion’ before, but never the middle, or the end. And certainly, like Job, he’s heard of these things, but never seen them with his own eyes.
The abstract was soon to become actual–for both of us, yet in profoundly different ways.
Thus it was that we sat down to watch just as Jesus came before Pilate for the first time. Most of you reading, whether you’ve seen the movie, or not, are familiar with the story from this point onwards: Jesus is taken before Herod, back to Pilate, and then scourged.
And that for me is where things took an interesting turn.
“Dad, what’s wrong with them? Why are they doing that to Jesus? He didn’t do anything. He’s innocent.”
“Son, this is the reason why He came: to die for our sins.”
“I know, dad, but it’s not fair. Hey, dad, do you think bullets could pierce the soldiers’ armor?”
“I suppose so, son. Why?”
“‘Cause if I was there, I’d kill ’em all for what they did to Jesus.”
It was right then that a couple of things dawned on me: not only was he profoundly moved, and deeply troubled, by what he was seeing, my son was mad. Righteously so. Indignant. He wanted blood. He wanted to defend Jesus.
Curiously, I did not. Having seen the film before, having read the Gospels numerous times, and having attended church for the last twenty-three years, I was familiar (to say the least) with the story. And that familiarity had bred, if not contempt, but a certain distance, a remove, from the reality of Christ’s sufferings. It was the way it had to be–God’s plan to reconcile rebellious man with Himself included the horrible disfigurement of His Son.
Here was Jesus (or a representation of Him), whom I say I love, suffering for my sins, and what did I feel? Resignation. Acceptance. It was the way it had to be. He had to die that I might live. All true, but where was my outrage at the unfairness, the injustice, of it? Why did I not feel the urge to rise up, kick some Roman ass?
Watching ‘The Passion’ again, seeing it through my son’s eyes, left me with nothing so much as feeling profoundly convicted. The truth is, like Peter at the close of John’s Gospel, I don’t love Jesus as much as I think. (Or, more dangerously, as much as I may let on).
I certainly don’t love Him as much as my twelve year-old son (despite how cool and aloof he may act when I try to talk “God things” with him).
God, forgive me. Help me find my first love again.
Perhaps you are like me in this? Too comfortable with the Gospel, and the centrality of Christ’s sufferings? If so, may I recommend sitting down with your own kids (if you have any, and you feel they are old enough), and watching ‘The Passion’ with them? Try to see it through their eyes. I can promise you that whatever it is, it will not be something you expect.
As the scripture says, “Out of the mouths of ‘babes’…”