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The Passion of the Christ
By Wayne Nelson

Easter has just passed with all the pageantry associated with this great resurrection day. The ladies, down to the smallest toddler, have been able to show off their latest spring finery, the children have gone on their Easter egg hunts, the big family meals have been served and everyone is feeling good about themselves and their world. The merchants are happy that their cash registers are fuller from the season and the preachers were greeting members of their congregation they hadnít seen since Christmas. All things considered, it was a good Easter season.

But one thing is missing from our happy, successful Easter season. Most of the Christians have gone through the entire season with not a hint of what the real cost of Easter is. We dwell on what Easter costs us in new outfits, Easter parties, Easter egg hunts, etc. We concentrate on what the Easter season costs us out of our pocket, not what Easter cost the Son of God who paid the price for Easter before Easter could actually be.

The word "Passion" as in "The Passion of the Christ" is a word that generally is foreign to most Christians today. To them, the word "passion" describes the feeling they get when they see a beautiful, curvaceous female wearing a gown with a neckline so low and so wide that, as far as modesty is concerned, she might as well be topless. Or they see a handsome, well-muscled young man with his shirt off and his jeans seemingly painted on, and they go, "Oh my," as they quickly suck in some air. This is the definition of "passion" that many Christians harbor, all of it tied to lust and romantic liaisons.

But that is not at all the definition of the word "passion" when it is applied to Jesus. The definition of "passion", when used in relation to the Son of God, is "suffering" and it details the extreme torture and suffering the Son of God willingly endured so that your sin debt and mine could be paid for all eternity.

So what suffering did Jesus endure for us in order to pay our sin debt and offer us a way back to God and His presence?

First was the agony He endured in the garden of Gethsemane as He was praying to His Father. He knew that the outcome of His Fatherís plan was the total and complete separation from His Father He would experience when He became sin for us. This separation had never occurred before and Jesus was truly in agony as He contemplated being totally separated from His Father. So much so that Jesus actually sweated drops of blood, a condition that is brought about by extreme trauma to the human body.

But the agony in the Garden was only the prelude to the most miserable days that Jesus would ever experience. When Jesus was taken from the garden, He was scourged, as was the custom with the Roman justice system. But His scourging was different from others who were scourged by the Romans. All the hatred Satan felt toward God was unleashed on Jesus by those instruments of Satanís wrath, the Romans, who whipped Jesus so severely that He didnít even look like a human being, fulfilling the prophecy Isaiah made in Isaiah 52:14. Most men would have died under such a severe beating with the whips the Romans used, but it was not the Fatherís plan for Jesus to die at the whipping post, He must go to the Cross.

So, after the very severe beating that left Him looking sub-human (thus fulfilling Isaiahís prophecy), Jesus was forced to pick up the very heavy cross on which He was to die and carry it to the execution site.

On the way to Golgotha, Jesus stumbled under the weight of the cross and His beaten physical condition. Another man had to help Him with the cross on the way to His execution. When they arrived at Golgotha, Jesus then had to undergo the excruciating ordeal of being nailed to the cross. As if He had not suffered enough pain and suffering, Jesus now had to have large nails driven through His hands and feet, nails that would support His entire weight when the Cross was lifted and set into place Ė an agonizingly painful procedure.

Surely the Son of God had suffered enough by this time. His suffering was already more than any other man could endure. His body had been subjected to so much pain and suffering that had He not been the Son of God, He would have been dead from the torture (He wore a crown of thorns), the beating, and the journey to Golgotha. And Jesus went through all this pain and suffering because He loved the spiritually lost and was willing to pay this price in order to be able to pay their sin debt.

But the suffering and the pain up to this point was just a preview of the pain and suffering that would soon overtake Jesus. He was nailed to the cross at 9 A.M. and He hung there for six hours until 3 P.M., at which time He yielded up His spirit and died.

The first three hours Jesus mainly took care of last-minute details; the penitent thief, turning His mother over to John, asking His Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him because they didnít understand what they were doing, seeing His garments parceled out among the soldiers and other items. During all this time, whenever He talked with God, Jesus called Him "Father". But during the last three hours, from noon to 3 P.M., darkness covered the land (Mark 15:33).

At precisely 3 P.M., Jesus cried with a loud voice "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mark 15:34 KJV). This time He addresses His Father as "My God."

What happened at 3 P.M. to cause Jesus to address His Father as "My God?" 2 Corinthians 5:21 gives us a clue: "For He (God) hath made Him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (Jesus)." (KJV, parenthetical explanation added). This was exactly what caused the great agony Jesus endured in the Garden only a few hours earlier on Thursday night. At 3 P.M., God, the Father, laid the sin of the world on Jesus, His only Son, while He hung there on that Cross. Having done so, God, the Father, had to turn His back on Jesus, His only Son, because a righteous God cannot look on sin and His Son was now sin personified. As a result, the Father and His Son were totally separated for the first time in all of eternity. This was the forsaking that Jesus spoke of when He addressed His Father as "My God". There was now a total separation between God, the Father and His Son, Jesus. This was necessary because the wages of sin is death, or total sep
aration from God.

After becoming sin for us and being totally separated from His Father, Jesus then said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, He gave up the ghost." (Luke 23:46).

Jesus then descends to the depths of hell as shown in Ephesians 4:9-10, where He pays our sin debt. When this is completed, the Holy Spirit then lifts Jesus out of hell (Romans 8:11) and the Resurrection becomes a reality.

Todayís Christian largely ignores the great pain and suffering Jesus endured in order to pay our sin debt. Even His appearance in hell is denied by a lot of Christians. Seems we modern Christians cannot stand to see and understand the suffering and pain Jesus went through to pay our sin debt. Perhaps it is time for Christians to reflect on what the "Passion of the Christ" really means.

Dr. Nelson is the author of one book, "Walk Where Jesus Walked" and is taking yet another step in the journey his Lord has called him to Ė namely helping the babes in Christ mature, as well as helping other more mature Christians go deeper into God's word.
Sadly, this is Wayneís last column as Editor of A Word in Season. Our heartfelt thanks go to him for all that he has done over the last eight issues and we will miss his input greatly. Corinne Smelker will be picking up the reins of this department from the May Issue and is keen to continue on in Dr. Nelsonís footsteps.
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