The word passion has such negative connotations that I hesitate to use it for fear it may draw a lot of crazies to the blog. If it does, so be it. God may use it to bring them to Himself. This is Passion week. Thirty three years of human life with three and a half years of public ministry culminated with these last eight days that changed history forever.
The week started on Sunday with a triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on the foal of a donkey accompanied by the donkey’s mother. I’d always assumed the donkey’s mother was there to calm the donkey down since it had never been ridden on before, but I was informed this week that having the mother there would normally have the opposite effect. Donkeys are passionate creatures, and she would ordinarily have conniption fits someone was riding her colt. But evidently Jesus calmed her fear. Why was she there then? Maybe it was symbolic. The King comes riding in on a donkey when He comes in peace, but this King came riding in, in the Name of His Father.
Immediately, Jesus stirred up the passions of the people of the city. Whether they loved Him or hated Him, no one could ignore the Carpenter of Nazareth that week. His first act was the cleansing of the Temple, an act of deliberate provocation and confrontation with the priests and power brokers of the day. He had done a similar cleansing at the very beginning of His ministry, but obviously the people had gone right back to their wicked ways.
We don’t have much information about the next couple of days, but apparently Jesus was openly preaching and teaching right there at the Temple complex for most of that time, drawing crowds of hundreds or possibly thousands to hear His marvelous words. No wonder the leaders of the Sanhedrin were so anxious to rid themselves of Him. They were afraid these crowds would rise up against them and usurp their authority. Possibly Jesus was slipping out each night, going back and forth from the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany, or maybe He never left Jerusalem at all. He had many friends who would gladly let Him stay. Wherever He stayed, it was a well-kept secret, prompting the Sanhedrin to offer Judas a large reward to betray Him.
How did they know to target Judas? The Bible tells us he was the treasurer and sometimes pilfered money from the moneybags. His passion was money. Surely Jesus knew of his thievery. Why did He not stop Judas? Why didn’t He nip the problem in the bud and confront him with his problem, and maybe stop the betrayal before it happened? God always knows our hearts and our minds, but He doesn’t usually stop us either. Freewill is that important to Him. He refuses to make us puppets. He will warn, urge, and allow consequences to teach us the lessons we need to learn, but He seldom directly intervenes to stop our determined path even when it leads to destruction.
Our next view is of Jesus sending two unnamed disciples to prepare for the Passover. They obeyed His unusual instructions without hesitation or reservation, and the feast was set. Somehow, I think there were a lot more women involved in this enterprise than we know about, but that’s another discussion for another day. All the disciples (and the women who cared for them) were passionate about their Messiah even though they didn’t at all understand His mission or His goal. But they soon would. Though they boldly proclaimed their allegiance, they would soon quake in fear and go into hiding. Would we do any less under the circumstances? It’s doubtful. We’d all like to think we’d be like John, faithful to the end, but the truth is at one time or another, we all fail. Praise God, He’s a God of second (and third and fourth) chances. Though we may falter, He is faithful. Forgiveness is readily available. All we have to do is ask for it.
Peter and ten others did. Could Judas also have been redeemed? We know he was very sorry for what he’d done. He was so sorry he hanged himself. Sorrow is not repentance. It gets us nowhere unless it leads to confession and repentance. Repentance means turning away. It’s putting self aside and seeking to make amends. Just as sorrow isn’t repentance, suicide is never the answer. It’s the ultimate form of selfishness. Yes, he could have been saved. What a testimony he might have had. But instead, he will spend eternity in hell with the devil and his angels. All for thirty pieces of silver. Is any amount of money worth that?
The Passion of the Christ is probably the most accurate movie out there depicting the crucifixion. Still, it doesn’t begin to portray the gruesome reality of the event. No one except possibly a serial killer would be able to watch it if it did. There’s an old hymn that says “He had no tears for His own griefs, but sweat drops of blood for mine.” I’m not sure I quite agree with that song. Jesus would not have been fully human as well as fully God if He hadn’t had tears over what He had to face. Passion doesn’t deny fear. It overcomes it. Jesus’ body was beaten to a blood pulp, and when He hung there naked for all the world to see, His form was barely recognizable as human as He cried, “It is finished!” and died for our salvation. His passion for mankind is beyond our comprehension.
I can imagine Mary’s agony though as she stood there at the foot of the cross watching her son die. I’ve watched my child die a slow agonizing death. I know that pain. But to watch someone beating and purposely killing my child? I would be so furious! Talk about passion! Did she understand yet? The disciples didn’t. I don’t know whether she did or not. She’d had thirty three years to ponder the question. Did she ask Him? Could He explain? Even if she didn’t yet fully comprehend, the answer would soon come.
Thirty-six hours in a borrowed tomb, surrounded by a Roman cohort or a Temple guard, either of which would be under a sentence of an excruciating death for failure or dereliction of duty could not keep the two ton stone affixed to the door. The open door wasn’t even necessary. It was opened not to let Jesus out, but to show us He was already out! The grave clothes were empty and the face cloth was folded. “Why do you search for the living among the dead?” the angel asked. Hallelujah for the Passion of the Christ that overcomes death itself!
The folded face cloth reminds us the story’s not over yet. Jesus will return to claim His bride-us, His church. He’s passionate for you. Are you passionate for His return?