It has been 10 years since the attacks of 9/11. Our nation spent weeks in advance of this "anniversary" recounting all the details of essentially everything that went into that horrific day in our nation's history. One immediate effect of the tragedy was a 20% increase in church attendance as stunned Americans sought hope, comfort, and a reason for these attacks. The seeking did not last long unfortunately. Within months church attendance returned to pre 9/11 figures.
Similarly, Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ" hit the country with a thunderous crash. It was all the rage among Christians and those who were curious about Christianity. It was used as an evangelistic tool by thousands and thousands of churches across the United States, and even had its own evangelistic kit that came with it!
I saw the movie a few times. The first time I was struck dumb with literal horror at the brutality depicted against Christ. I felt every lash, and recoiled at what was done to him, knowing that in reality it was probably much, much worse. I think many people personalized what they saw, and it made a huge emotional impact on those who saw it. It was a very well done movie about how Christ died.
However, its long term impact has been minimal for it did not adequately address why Christ died. There was nothing to address the sinfulness of man, nothing to address our depravity, nothing to tell the viewer that we need to be saved from that sinfulness, and nothing to show the viewer that the purpose for Jesus' death on the cross was our redemption because of that sinful and depraved condition we are all born into.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans 10:17
This was the crucial element missing from this powerful movie. There was no preaching of the gospel, nothing to prick the conscience as to the need for salvation. Plenty of guilty feelings, I am sure, as those who are religious understand that the death of Christ was for the sins of mankind- but it was not a personal gospel!
Too often our presentations of the gospel lack that same element. We present the Condemning Jesus, the Fluffy Jesus, the Stoic Jesus, the Loving Jesus, but rarely do we present the Biblical Jesus when we are speaking to someone about salvation and the centrality of the cross in it.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. Isaiah 53:5-6
This is what was done at the cross and why. Notice the pronouns in this verse are He/our, His/we. Because we (you and I) are sinful, God laid our sins on Jesus.
John Calvin says, "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 it is upon ourselves we gaze, for He stood in our place."
When I realized that the battered Christ is representative of me, torn by the power of sin, ripped, marred, battered, and maimed by the price of my sins...I realize the cost of my sin, the price exacted to pay for my sin, and I cannot fail to see what sin actually does.
It is then I can begin to love the cross.