Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. – John 15:13
Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is easily the most graphic depiction of the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday ever filmed. For years movies and television shows telling Jesus’ story would be limited in the way they presented the violence of His death. “Passion” left nothing to the imagination. Utilizing modern cinematic special effects to bring the horrors of the scene to life, Gibson gives us an up close look at the physical agony that Christ experienced.
I remember the first time I saw the film in the theater. I understood the physicality of crucifixion, but to see it reenacted on the screen was an eye-opening experience. I’ve seen the movie several times since and still marvel at what Jesus did on my behalf. But it was during my last viewing of the film that I noticed something that gave me a renewed understanding of what Jesus did that day at Calvary.
Jesus has been condemned by Pilate and has been led out to be executed. After Jesus drops His cross, the soldiers grab Him and violently strip off his cloak. Tearing the robe from his weak and beaten body has once again sent him to the ground. He lies there for a moment; catching His breath, summoning His strength. It is here where the most amazing thing happens. Jesus gets off the ground and crawls toward His cross.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Who does this? Admittedly, I realize that this is a motion picture and not a fully accurate account of every last detail as shared in the Gospels. What’s more, I also understand that Jesus is surrounded by armed soldiers who have been ordered to crucify Him. He’s spent the last several hours being whipped, beaten and tormented. He’s in no condition to fight. He’s too weak to run. But to see the battered Savior lying on the ground, exerting His last bit of strength to move toward His death was an amazing revelation to me. You would expect Him to simply lie there, forcing the soldiers to do their jobs while Jesus hung onto life for as long as He could. But as the scene reminds us, that wasn’t the purpose for which He had been sent.
So why did He do it? Why move toward the pain and agony that awaited Him? It was love. It was love that brought Him to earth, to be born in a stable, to feed the hungry, to cure lepers, to heal the sick, and now – to die on a cross. He wasn’t forced to do this. There was no order given. It wasn’t a debt that He owed, just one that He chose to pay. It was his choice, a choice rooted in a love far greater than any other.
As our Lenten journey takes us to Calvary and to Easter Sunday’s empty tomb behind it, let us not forget that our salvation comes from the love of God for us shown through the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ. May we offer our deepest thanks to God for His grace, and let us share His story through our thoughts, words and deeds; now and always.