In Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ we find it very difficult to look upon Christ in His final state. As I watched the movie I could only do so through the cracks in my fingers, and the blur of tear washed eyes for his appearance was gruesome and made me ill.
John Calvin wrote, “When we behold the disfigurement of the Son of God, when we find ourselves appalled by His marred appearance, we need to reckon afresh that is it upon ourselves we gaze, for He stood in our place.”
This explains a lot to me about my response to the movie and about the internal recoil I experienced in watching it.
What Calvin means is that the battered Christ is me torn apart by the power of sin, ripped marred, battered and maimed. This is sins price. This is what sin costs us. This is what sin does.
It could very well have been my face on that body for without Christ that is what I was. (It is hard to wrap my mind around what I am trying to say, and difficult to put my fingers on the keys here to explain what I see in my minds eye.)
The maimed Christ pictures the effects of our sin and the toll it takes upon us. You and I arrived in no better condition at the foot of the cross than Jesus did! Spiritually we were in as grave of condition as He was physically. The toll and effects of sin on our lives were evident. Many of us arrived bruised and bloody and maimed because of our sin and were near death.
The end of the Via De la Rosa was crucifixion; it was a hopeless journey with a bleak and excruciating ending, a torturously slow suffocating death lasting as long as 3 days sometimes.
Was our way any different? Each of us, without Christ was on a hopeless journey that would have an excruciating ending and eternity without God in a place of utter blackness and torment where the worm does not die and the heat never ends. It does not end for all of eternity….eternity. (Mark 9:43-48; Matt. 8:12)
The beating Christ took represents our lives and the cost of sin. Who would want to remain in this position and condition?
Even those who lined the streets watching the macabre scene take place along the road were shocked by His appearance and longed to help Him, comfort Him with water or a gentle touch. Many of us have people in our lives who tried to reach us when we were on our own Road of Death. They saw our condition; addicted to drugs or alcohol, slaves to sensual desires in pornography or sexual promiscuity, caught in a tangled web of lies and more lies, deceit and treachery. They saw our suffering and stretched out a helping hand in the gospel… and we turned them away. Sometimes we were no kinder than a Roman soldier who was in charge of Christ as he carried the cross. We rebuffed them in anger and hostility sometimes threatening them with harm or assaulting them with vile words and criticisms. We laughed in their faces thinking them weak and foolish or delusional, adding more bloody stripes to our already disfigured bodies and mangled hearts.
What did it take for the gospel to penetrate your heart? What was the crisis that brought you to the point of life? Interesting isn’t it that we all began dead on that road? We thought we were alive, we thought at some point that our lifestyle brought us so much pleasure and that it was all go grand. But we were dead! The walking dead! For us those stripes and beatings of Christ brought us to a place of living.
Ephesians 2:1 says so clearly, “For you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you used to live when you walked in the way of the world…living in the lusts of the flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind…”
It is all about the cross.