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THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST

Date: 
Sunday, 28 March 2004

Easter is soon here and it is timely to think about the Passion of Jesus.

The Passion has central place in each of the four Gospels. This is so much so that
someone describes them as 'Passion stories with introductions'. For example, nine
of the 21 chapters in John are concerned with the last few days of Jesus' life that
lasted for about 33 years. Even when we turn to the earlier chapters of John, we
soon see that they are overshadowed by his coming Passion.

The message of this is clear - we cannot understand the life and words of Jesus
outside of his Passion. That is why it is right to pause at this time of the year and
focus on the Passion through our Easter sermons and studies.

Two major films about Jesus are on local movie screens in time for the Easter
market. One is the much-discussed Mel Gibson's film that is being released this
week. The other is an already-released film version of John's Gospel. Both arouse
familiar questions about whether it is right to give any visual portrayal of Jesus
and questions of faithfulness to the text. The Gibson film focuses on Jesus' death
and portrays its violence with graphic intensity.

It is interesting to see how the Gospels handle the death scene. Each Gospel
describes it with sufficient force to convey the horror of the occasion and the
awefulness of Jesus' suffering. However, the pen of the Gospel writers turns away
just before we come to graphic detail. The Gospels are realistic, but they are not
sensational.

The Bible's real interest is not to describe the Cross but to interpret its
significance. This is so for the Gospels, but especially so for the other New
Testament writings. They give us a theology of the Cross. Why was it necessary,
what are its effects, and how does it apply to us? These writings also give a
personal application in their challenge to trust, follow and serve Jesus who died
and rose.

It is a personal choice whether or not we view the current films. I certainly
encourage all to read the Book! Indeed, we would all gain from a decision to read
through each of the four Gospel accounts of Jesus' last days between now and
Easter Sunday. How about it?