In the Cross of Christ I glory
Towering o’er the wrecks of time
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime
I don’t know what I was expecting! The months of anticipation may have dulled my mind or led to an optimism that could hardly be realized in the first place. Whatever it was, I only know that when I left the theatre, there was something lacking I thought should be there. And as I looked at the faces of the mostly young audience, I didn’t get the sense either that Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ” made any huge or lasting impact. I didn’t see the tears or emotional outbursts I had expected from listening to the many television commentaries leading up to the film’s release. The film was certainly heinous but perhaps the commentators overlooked the fact that our younger generation has feasted on so many Hollywood extravaganzas; they have become almost immune to violence and brutality.
Nonetheless, here is a movie that celebrates a great moment in God’s plan. It would have been wonderful had the writers and producers been aware of their identity, so they could have demonstrated that the redemption of the House of Israel was also a prime purpose of Christ’s death. As Zacharias had prophesied some thirty years before Christ’s death, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He hath visited and redeemed His people.” Yet, the movie is fast paced and very well acted. There is no doubt that Mr. Gibson and his colleagues spent countless hours creating the moment and I’m sure they poured their hearts and souls into presenting a message they considered balanced and factual.
Still, I instinctively felt there must be more to this feeling of disappointment I sensed about the long-awaited film. Even now, days after the viewing, I seem to be caught between two thoughts. The first is that Mr. Gibson took the greatest story ever told and disguised it with the brutality that made his “Braveheart” and “Patriot” characters so successful on screen and so lucrative at the box office. As cynical as this may sound, my second thought is all too frightening. Could this film possibly represent another peg in the movement toward ecumenism led by a resurgent Catholicism? I mean, it has been given extraordinary play, even by prominent members of the Jewish Community, who have cried Anti-Semitism that is simply not there. Was all this play simply to ensure wide exposure, to generate another small step in setting the stage for a world-wide religion headed by the Pope? Gibson did say that the movie reflects his beliefs and this is easily evident, from the prominence he gives Mary, to, and as I saw it, the many suggestive links to modern Catholic false doctrine, even perhaps their doctrine of transubstantiation, the actual re-sacrificing of Christ countless thousands of times daily in masses around the world. One thing seems certain in my mind, Catholicism and Jewry will be major beneficiaries of the message of the film.
The Bible is our most precious possession and we must be careful not to add or take away from the Word. Perhaps this is why I am so disappointed that after all the talk about Mr. Gibson’s courageous stand, he incorporated so much non-Biblical material into his production; that he succumbed to pressure and removed the subtitle for the passage, “His blood be upon us and our children” and that Christ’s words, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” were distorted as to whom they were directed. A great sorrow permeated the entire film and while the Crucifixion was indeed a sad moment, it should have been overshadowed by the triumph of the Resurrection. For Jesus’ death was no ordinary event, He voluntarily laid down His life and took upon His shoulders the sins of the world. He had said, “I lay down my life that I might take it up again.” He gave us the pattern for what we Christians can anticipate and I am puzzled why this was shunned until the final seconds of the film. Happily, unlike Catholicism, we Protestants don’t keep Christ on the Cross; instead we celebrate life and the passionate wonder of the Resurrection.
Yet, we live in such confusing times. Saddled by debt and addicted to pleasure, most Israelites never look at the Bible, let alone study the Word. If they have any Christian leanings at all, they invariably derive their knowledge by listening to church pastors or televangelists. And with the rapid falling away of the past half-century, what comes out of the mouths of theologians is milk-toast, at best. From a true Christian standpoint, what is most sad is that notwithstanding the words of our Saviour, well known theologians are saying there are many paths to God; that Jesus is not the only way. How could they possibly think this? Yet, they do and it doesn’t stop there. A few short years ago, it was estimated that a third of all theologians in America did not believe in the Divinity of Christ and that a huge number even question the Resurrection. The doubt is growing and perhaps this is the reason that few of them even stand up to defend Christ when the media portrays Him in disgraceful ways. Intentionally or not, our theologians are playing a huge part in a departure from the true faith and the move toward a one world religion that only has a place for Jesus Christ as a teacher.
Where is the Christian outrage that should be expressed over the expulsion of our God from the schools, courts and public places? Gone! Replaced by a viewpoint that it is better to cater to other faiths than honour God Almighty! The battle, if it could be called that, goes on and the front named this month is Little League Baseball where one young seven year old’s father has refused to allow his boy to participate because of the mention of God in their admission application.
Where is the Christian courage to demand that we be allowed to honour the Lord Jesus Christ in public ceremonies? In an article for the January, 2004 Pathfinder, Robert T Woodworth wrote, “For Years I had been invited to pray at the opening of the Maryland General Assembly both in the House and for the Senate. Then I was told that I could not use the name of Jesus Christ in my prayer.” There is story after story about this, including prayers for the downed airliner passengers off the coast of Nova Scotia a couple of years ago when the Christian representative was forbidden to mention Christ in his prayer. In the early eighties, I attended the Vancouver Prayer Breakfast and the name of Jesus was mentioned in almost every third sentence. In the late nineties, I attended again and it took to the seventh speaker to make even a cursory mention of Christ. My host for this meeting, a dedicated and highly influential local Christian, excused this omission for the sake of unity. I remember him saying, “Well, Brooks, we’re in a different era now, we have to change so that everyone feels comfortable.” He was so naïve! Or cowardly! Or so fearful of his prestigious place in the community that he was willingly prepared to have our Lord Jesus Christ shunted aside for the sake of a one-sided unity. For no other religion is prepared to sacrifice the core of their belief. My friend suffered many difficulties in his last few years and I have often wondered if it was partly the result of an anguished mind knowing he had betrayed our wonderful Lord. The mind knows, this is why Judas could not go on after his betrayal. Or Peter suffering such anguish after his denial of the Lord three times. Jesus Christ is our Saviour, the Christian world should be ever thankful for this and never get caught up in any movement that denies His Divinity or glorifies other religions, for whatever reasons.
Mr. Woodworth wrote, “If there were ever a persecuted minority in the world today, it is born-again, Bible-believing Christians, who are attacked on every side, whose morals are aligned, whose ethics are derided, whose concepts of right and wrong are ridiculed, whose Bible is banned in public, whose Savior is crucified every Christmas and Easter by public sanctions.” All true! Yet, it’s only because of the acquiescence, for this sake of unity, of our influential Christian leaders and the blind sheep, too lazy to study God’s Word by themselves, refusing to hear the call of the well known hymn, “Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus.”
One wonders how this downward slide ever got underway. Did it begin with the increasing ly popular expression, “Judeo-Christianity”, whatever that means? I recall my first exposure to the term when I attended a B’nai Brith banquet in the mid-sixties and it seemed to express a unity between the two religions. It has grown so rapidly in the minds of Christians and Christian theologians that, today, the term suggests a common denominator. Yet, how can we marry the traditions of men with the Gospels or unify a God with a Son to one that hasn’t? Nonetheless, Christians have jumped in with both feet and our shepherds spoon feed this false doctrine to us daily. Not so the Jews! They may be “dupers” but they are not “dupees.” They know the difference and they know the term Judeo-Christianity favours their ultimate objective of ridding their world of Jesus Christ. The Jan/Feb, 2004 Magazine “Faith Today” published a letter from Len Rudner, Director of Community Relations, Canadian Jewish Congress, in response to “Jews for Jesus.” In it he wrote, “The concept of a divine messiah “dying for our sins” is completely foreign to Judaism. In Judaism, no intermediary can atone for the sins of another, whether those transgressions are between man and man or man and God.” This says it all! It is only the power of the false prophet media that keeps Israelite brethren tied to a doctrine that has led to the decline in the blessings bestowed upon us by God and the heaping on of all the curses of Deuteronomy 28.
At least Mr. Gibson’s “Passion of Christ” reinforces God’s promise to True Israel and the world in general. For this reason, everyone should make an attempt to see the movie. Apart from its brutality, the movie is sure to reinforce God’s plan to save a part of an unworthy creation through His gift of a pure act of grace. There is a wonderful beauty in the Resurrection for every Christian, but particularly for the Christian Israelite. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name: thou art Mine.”
I don’t think I could end these words more appropriately than the final paragraph of a long ago National Message “Easter” article that said, “Had Jesus been merely human, death must have held its prey; but as He was also God it could not do so. Following His triumphant Death, whereby He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. Jesus rose again from the dead by the power of His eternal Godhead, and His glorious Resurrection became the guarantee of Israel’s national and spiritual resurrection, and the pledge of the believers’ future resurrection to life eternal at the Lord’s coming.”
This Easter, as we see the figure on the central cross depicted in Mr. Gibson’s film and visualize the sepulcher where He was laid, we must do what we can to reach our brethren, to remind them how Jesus rose again and left an empty tomb. How He was crucified for our sins, but raised again for our eternal promise. That as sure as He ascended into Heaven, He will come again in like manner! That instead of betraying Him, as so many Israelite theologians and Israelites are doing by relinquishing our heritage for the sake of a religious unity that is not of God, we look to all the signs around us and to warn of the nearness of His glorious return. Amen.