Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Greatest Story Ever Told

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. (John 19:17-18)

It is always difficult to think of what to say, or write, about the crucifixion. I've heard preachers elaborate on the pain, preach volumes on the casting of lots for Christ's seamless garment, and wax eloquent regarding the way he was concerned about his mother even while suffering himself.

Then there was Mel Gilson's movie, The Passion(2004). Some one had given us tickets to an advanced screening. So we talked about it, and a kind of apprehension settled in.

I have always had a problem with graphic violence. I understood the educational rationale for the opening scenes of "Saving Private Ryan'' and the horrors revealed in "Schindler's List.'' Yet I still waited a long time before viewing either movie, preferring to screen them at home.

I'm not suggesting that Gibson included the explicit violence for entertainment, as many movie producers do. That approach is inappropriate, even pornographic. History has documented the story of the brutal "Pax Romana'' in excruciating detail. "They make a desolation,'' one historian wrote, "and they call it peace.'' We agree that cruelty is a dimension of the Easter story.

However, as we were eating dinner before the screening, Rebekah put the seal on our decision. "Why would I want to spend two hours,'' she said, "watching someone I love so much being tortured and killed?''

The amazing reality for me, in considering the horrors of that day, is that Jesus not only knew exactly what was going to happen to him, but could have ended it at any moment. He could have stopped the Crucifixion at any time … before they jammed the thorns into his head, before he dragged the heavy cross up the hill, before the next cruel nail was struck… yet he chose to see it through.

I guess I'm still a little stunned by the implications of that violent act of cruelty and hate. Because the horror of it puts the ball squarely in my court.
  • I listen to Jesus teach and recognize his wisdom and I can intellectualize his message.
  • I hear of his miracles and compassion and I can help with my money and time.
  • I witness his ministry to the downtrodden, the rejected and the dispossessed, and I can be encouraged on my own path.
  • I can play my guitar in worship, and I can teach my heart out, and I can fascilitate small groups and train leaders and...
  • And I can avoid most of the emotional baggage that getting too close can rattle loose; I can keep it neat and clean and controlled as I like.
But the cross! The cross forces me to confront the harsher realities of my sin and the real cost of my compounded intransigence. The cross of Jesus demands an emotional response and I'm not so sure of what to do with that kind of Savior.

To be honest, somewhere inside of me I would rather he had not died; I would be more comfortable with the idea that he had negotiated our peace and sponged up my shortcomings with his good deeds. Sometimes I cannot stomach the idea that anything about me might place someone like him on a bloody cross. It just isn't right, and I feel that I want him to take it all away...

But, what really occurred on the cross 2,000 years ago is the only effective antidote to evil that I know. That is the heart of the story. Not Roman brutality, not Jewish culpability, not my squeamishness nor any other distraction that people who are nervous about the idea of God want to talk about instead of the truth.

If you doubt that there is evil in this world, then review some of this month's news, from the massacre of innocents in New York, to the child found in a suitcase, to suicide bombings, to genocide and worse.

What Christ achieved on the cross that day is The Greatest Story Ever Told. I know that story all the way to the bottom of my heart.

Truth like that threatens the status quo on so many levels that controversy is no surprise. I simply hope that the message gets through. Lord knows the world needs it.

Love and blessings - DEREK

No comments: