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Easter Breakfast/Lunch Address

WHY IS MEL GIBSON’S FILM SO VIOLENT?

John 10:7-18
6th–7th April 2004

Several hundred million people have this year seen Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ”. The humorous side to this story of the suffering of Jesus, is in the way the theological liberals in our churches have been desperately finding excuses not to praise the film. These theological Wiggles started by saying it was Anti-semitic. This was before any of them has seen the film. No one argues that now, because it is plainly not true. Those who have seen it retort, “It was the Italians, stupid!” The Romans are the violent ones, not the Jews.

Each denominational magazine has the usual suspects writing about how his view is more correct than that of Mel Gibson, and how the rest of the church has been taken in by the right wing, conservative, evangelicals who do not understand the nature of sacred writings in a post-modernist world that is culturally relevant and psychological free from first century views of blood atonement and the barbarous Jewish sacrificial system which was a product of the patriarchal non-inclusive elitists. One wrote that he would not see “The Passion” on the grounds that he was opposed to blood and violence. Good for him! But what about for Jesus? What about those faithful 330,000 martyrs who were killed for their faith last year? Does he think Jesus called us to take “up our cup of tea and follow him”? It was “a cross” and nothing symbolizes blood and violence more than crucifixion. Trendy clergy want to replace the suffering Saviour with a middle class Jesus who is full of positive thinking, nice thoughts and respectability. They never preach on “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” or “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from our sin.”

I am sure he never lifts the chalice and says, “The blood of the new covenant which is shed for many.” The religion of a charming Christ without the redemption through His blood, is safe, sanitizied, and simplistic. And so is he! Years ago, the Fellows of the Jesus Seminar came up with a dozen interpretations of the true Jesus. They called him a Galilean cynic, a Greek Sage, the Wandering Patron, the Charismatic Holy Man, the Radical Social reformer, Sophia’s prophet, the Marginalized Messiah — and nothing is more dated than these names. You can call Jesus anything you like but you never come anywhere near the Bible view of Jesus unless you describe Him as the Suffering Servant, by whose stripes we are healed. The Passion — from the Latin passus, the word means “having suffered” — is the very heart of our faith.

NEWSWEEK magazine said of Mel Gibson’s film: “Gibson obviously reveres the Christ of faith, and much of his movie is a literal-minded rendering of the most dramatic passages scattered through the four Gospels. But the Bible can be a problematic source. Though countless believers take it as the immutable word of God, Scripture is not always a faithful record of historical events…” Then it adds the slur: “Gibson is an ultraconservative Roman Catholic, a traditionalist who does not acknowledge many of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. He favors the Latin mass, does not eat meat on Fridays and adheres to an unusually strict interpretation of Scripture and doctrine.” There it is: reject the film because Gibson bases it upon the Bible and he is an odd Catholic who eats fish on Fridays! Mel Gibson’s portrayal of the arrest, the scourging and the crucifixion are depicted in harsh, explicit detail.

One of Jesus’ eyes is swollen shut from his first beating as he is dragged from Gethsemane; the Roman torture, the long path to Golgotha bearing the wooden cross, and the nailing of Jesus’ hands and feet to the beams are filmed unsparingly. The effect of the violence is at first shocking, then numbing. After Jesus, carrying his cross, sees the faces of the priests, he says: “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” From the cross, He says: “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Gibson says “This film collectively blames humanity for the death of Jesus. There are no exemptions there. I’m the first on the line for culpability. I did it. Christ died for all men for all times.” Gibson, the actor, does not appear in the film, but his hand does: he holds the nail to the hand of Christ, and holds the hammer that drives it in! He is saying: it is my sin that nailed Him to the Cross! The Gospels do not end in the accidental death of the most wonderful man who had ever lived. They end on a note a triumph and power, brought about because “no one took away the life of Jesus; He chose to lay it down.” Jesus laid down His life for us because He was fulfilling God’s will, including fulfilling the prophecies of a suffering servant who would die for the sins of the world. Jesus had said: “I have come in order that you might have life — life in all of its fullness I am the good shepherd who is willing to die for His sheep… I am willing to die for them. The Father loves Me because I am willing to give up My life in order that I may receive it back again. No one takes My life from Me. I give it up of My own free will. I have the right to give it up and I have the right to take it back. This is what My Father has commanded me to do.” John 10:7–18

The death of Jesus was no accident, nor a victory by fearful and rigid men. God allowed the death of His Son. His Son chose to die. Why? Why did He choose to die just outside the walls of Jerusalem, that golden city, dominated by the magnificent Temple? Why at Passover when the city was thronged with people who had come to make their sacrifice? The concept of offering sacrifices is foreign to us but central to Israel. The Patriarchs, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, all built altars and made sacrifices.

The Temples of Solomon and Herod had huge altars where animal sacrifices were made for the sins of the people. The rising smoke was sent as a message to God of a person’s heartfelt repentance of sin. The person who had sinned deserved to die, but a sacrifice was made instead — the blood of the sacrificed animal being given in place of the blood of the person who deserved to die.

Jesus knew He was the Lamb of God, sacrificed for the sin of the world. John the Baptist said: “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:29 Paul said: “Christ, our passover lamb has been sacrificed.” 1 Corinthians 5:7 “God offered Him, so that by His death, He should become the means by which people’s sins are forgiven through their faith in Him.” Romans 3:25 Christ’s death became an atoning sacrifice to enable the forgiving of our sins through the shedding of His blood. He was to make a sacrifice on our behalf, once and for all. How does the shedding of His blood upon the Cross help us today? The answer is found in His understanding of the significance of what His blood accomplishes. His understanding has great relevance to us today.

1. THE BLOOD BRINGS LIFE.

We have seen traffic accident victims, pale and unconscious through loss of blood. But as a paramedic inserts a needle into the vein of the victim’s arm, a fresh supply of blood comes down the thin plastic tube, through the needle and into the vein of the patient. Almost immediately, colour flows into the cheeks, the pulse strengthens and consciousness returns. The patient speaks. Life has come back through the blood. In the history of Israel, the blood of a lamb, smeared on the doorposts of believing families saved the Jews from death in Egypt. Death passed over them, and every year since, to this day, Jews have celebrated Passover, remembering the blood saved them. Life was in the blood. Blood was sacred. It saved them. Every time Christians drink from the communion cup they remember the words: “This is my blood which seals God’s covenant, my blood poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:28 The blood of Jesus brings us life, but we have to partake of it to receive its benefits. His blood has a powerful effect upon our spiritual future. “Would you be free from your burden of sin, There’s power in the blood! There’s power in the blood! There is power, power, wonder-working power in the precious blood of the Lamb.”

2. THE BLOOD BRINGS CLEANSING.

Inside us blood is the cleansing river of life. Everyone of our hundred trillion cells receives a continuous supply of oxygen, nitrogen, sodium, potassium, calcium, sugars and hormones through that river of blood. Then, in return, the blood removes all waste, particles of refuse and inert chemicals. Our blood is purifying us, inwardly cleansing us.

Millions of red and white cells and platelets, feeding, purifying, cleansing, and plugging up leaks, course constantly through our veins. Tie a tourniquet around your arm until the flow of blood is stopped. Then start exercising your fingers. Within a minute weakness will occur, then a sharp pain as your muscles cramp. Pain overwhelms and you will be forced to release the tourniquet. Then fresh blood moves in, bringing relief, movement, and freedom from soreness. By exercising your muscles without the removal of waste products from the oxygen used, you cause waste metabolites to collect in your muscles and toxin poisoning begins. But upon release, there comes the rush of cleansing blood. Your muscles are washed in cleansing blood. So the sins of people could be cleansed by being “washed in the blood of the Lamb.” Jesus Christ chose to die to cleanse us from sin. That is why Christians sing: “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

3. THE BLOOD BRINGS IMMUNITY.

Mankind’s greatest killer has been microbes. World War 1 was the world’s bloodiest war killing eight and a half million people. But just after the Armistice the 1919 influenza epidemic spread throughout the world killing twenty-four million people, three times the number killed in the war. The great plague, smallpox, measles, — all have wiped out generations. What keeps us safe from the ravages of disease is our blood. When bacteria infects us, the blood rallies, and the dormant white cells multiply and rage against the infection. Their number increases tenfold and defeats the disease ensuring good health.

We can help the blood cells by giving them more time to fight disease through immunisation. A serum or vaccine made from the blood of someone who has overcome the disease is injected into the patient causing a rapid increase of blood cells that are able to overcome the disease. By having the blood cells of the one who has overcome, we too overcome. The blood of Jesus Christ has made us immune from sin. Victorious blood gives us immunity! Jesus Christ died to make us immune from sin’s effects. “Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned He stood; Sealed my pardon with His blood; Halleujah! What a Saviour!”

Last Sunday, after seeing the film “The Passion of the Christ”, two young adults, Jake and Samatha, walked out of the city theatre and said, “Let’s find a Church and commit our lives to Jesus Christ.” Wesley Mission is the only Church open in the city at night. They came in, listened to my preaching, and then came forward to accepted Jesus Christ as Saviour. They prayed the sinner’s prayer and understood that His blood cleansed them from all their sin.

That is why we tell the message of the blood of Christ, shed as a sacrifice for us. His blood brings us life, cleanses us from sin, and helps build our immunity towards sin. An understanding of His passion tells us why Jesus chose to die upon a Cross for us. Once a Christian understands, his or her heart fills with praise: “I will sing of my Redeemer, and His wondrous love for me, on the cruel cross He suffered, from the Curse to set me free. Sing, O sing, of my Redeemer, with His blood He purchased me, On the Cross He sealed my pardon paid the debt and made me free.”

 

Wesley Mission, Sydney.