There is the Christ portrayed in The Passion [a reference to Mel Gibson’s movie], which has caused an international stir with its brutality and controversy. But there is also the Christ of the four Gospels, who works in quiet humility and does not make headlines. This Jesus doesn’t persuade or manipulate: he wants voluntary servants. He does not draw us to him with images of agony. He says, “Come, all you who are burdened, and I will give you rest,” and “Whoever drinks the water I give shall never thirst.” His good news is free and belongs to every person who is willing to accept it. It is a gift to all, and it cannot be paid for with a ticket.
— Johann Christoph Arnold
I like this quote. I thought of posting it myself. The author is reminding us that there is more to Jesus than just His sacrifice at The Cross.
Then I read David M.’s comment:
…The Passion Addicts miss the point of Jesus’ teachings and life. What kind of a God needs blood sacrifice? Not the God that Jesus talked about. Something is terribly wrong with most so called Christians interpretation of the meaning of Jesus’ life.
This comment irritated me. I understand that some people do not like the movie. That is their freedom. I am not going to defend the movie. (I have not seen it yet.) It is, after all, just a movie. It is a powerful, moving movie for some, and a revolting scene of blood and violence for others. The movie is someone’s interpretation, and any discussion of the movie must keep that in mind. BUT that is not the point of this post.
David’s comment irritates me because it implies a misunderstanding of the sacrifice of The Cross. I posted the following reply:
David, you are correct that the teachings of Jesus are important, but they are pointless without framing them within what happens on the Cross and His resurrection.
“Which Christ?” is a type of question that tries to de-construct Jesus. You have to accept *all* of Jesus and His message, not the bloodless parts that you like.
You ask a good question—did God need a blood sacrifice? I particularly don’t think that God *needed* one. But I ask you, why did Jesus willing choose to sacrifice Himself for us in that manner?
In all honesty, I barely understand or comprehend Jesus’ sacrifice myself. The Cross is a mystery that I am trying to workout for myself. I do know that to ask why God demanded the death of His son is to frame the question in such a manner as to point the search into a fruitless orchard. The question, at least for me, needs to be framed in why did Jesus sacrifice Himself for us?
Scripture hints to why. Jesus said that for one to lay down his life for another is the highest form of love. (God is love.) He also said that one must loose his life in order to live. Jesus also followed God’s will in such a radical way. He trusted God completely and wholely. He knew that His death was going to be painful and humiliating. He trusted in God that everything, in the end, would turn out for the best. Jesus knew, as Nouwen writes, “Instead of a final irrevocable end [to his ministry], his death became the beginning of a new life. Indeed, his yes enabled him to trust fully in the rich harvest the dying grain would yield.” It is through the humanity of Jesus that we are saved. (See my posts The Cups of Sorrow and Joy and Can You Drink the Cup? for more background.)
I am familiar with the traditional line of reasoning. He had to die so that He could be resurrected. It is in the Resurrection that He destroyed death so that we may live. So that we may live in Him, through Him, for Him. He paid our toll into heaven, because the price is impossible for us to pay. “Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28). (See the poem by Charles Péguy about a judging father, I Am Their Father.)
I feel like I am circling the heart of the matter. I need to dive into it, except that I am not sure how to hold this mystery, how to live this mystery. I need to accept it within my heart as my narrative, not that of the Church.