By Dr. Ramesh Richard
It does to me now what it did to me at 5 or 6, when my mother first described the pain of the Cross. Then, the story of my Savior brought tears, thanks, and eventually, personal trust. Each Passion Week refreshes that childhood experience. The crustiness of adulthood sometimes manages to cover up the intensity of Cross. The Lord Jesus was a missionary sent by the Father, and a visionary for the future of the world, but more so a passionary—He loved me and gave Himself up for me (Gal. 2:20).
Reflecting on the Passion of the Christ overwhelms, disarms and renews me all at the same time. Here is my stumbling attempt to encourage your own reflection and devotion.
The Passion of the Christ:
- Humanizes the Lord Jesus. We tend to “humanize” God and “gnosticize” Christ—both basic theological errors! I have discussed the historicity of the resurrection elsewhere, but a proper study of Christ’s final week should remind us of the reality His suffering. He didn’t float above and around the Cross in ghost-like distance—He experienced temptation and death.
- De-sanitizes the Cross. Though some physical reminders of the Cross may be accessories or ornaments, let us remember its function as an instrument of torture, death, and … salvation.
- Exclusivizes Christ’s salvation. The idea of people entering heaven through any other way than by the ontological and epistemological necessity of the Lord Jesus Christ faces huge biblical, theological and existential questions: “If God could have brought people to Himself another way, why didn’t He?” “If people can enter heaven without personally recognizing Christ’s provision, why did Christ personally have to experience such dastardly means?”
- Scandalizes human sin. I remember when I first saw Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Among my public comments after the 2004 movie: “I don’t know how I can sin anymore with rationalization.” I had been overlooking how outrageously my slightest sin offends the Judge of all the earth. My sin necessitates the outrageous act of the Cross. Wrongdoing in any form, by believer or non-believer, joins a cosmic rebellion and requires a divine death strategy to solve it and save me.
- Magnifies God’s grace. Reflecting on Christ’s life and death shows me how unworthy I am of divine favor. If I could truly grasp the depth of my depravity, I would be even more astounded that the Son of God took my place. God’s grace is the reason He pleaded with the Father to forgive the nature and scope of my sins, about which I am still grossly ignorant. The Cross definitely awakens God’s grace in my innermost being.
- Crushes my pride. A survey of the Cross helps me, like t hymn writer points out, to “pour contempt on all my pride.” Part of me wishes I could experience or deserve any small bit of what He went through to execute His eternal initiative on my behalf. We are uniformly small before His provision. The Cross fills me with gratitude—the antidote to poisonous pride.
- Compels our service. His sacrifice was not for us only, but also for the whole world (1 John 2:2). Upon my embrace of His provision, He rescued me from eternal lostness. Since He paid for the sins of the whole world, I carry a sacred obligation to present the outrageousness of the Cross everywhere.
His passion for me elicits my own soul’s passion for Him. I can be a passionary as well. The Divine Passionary demands my soul, my life, my all. And yours too?