My Easter Tradition - Soapbox Jr.
This weekend, perhaps even tonight, I will complete my annual Easter tradition, even though it is not exactly something I am looking forward to. In fact, it’s pretty embarrassing on some levels.
If things go according to plan, a box of Kleenex will be involved, as it has in the past, and I have no doubt that will be the case yet again.
I plan on watching “The Passion of the Christ,” for what is probably the 6th or 7th time.
Back around 2013, I watched the Roma Downy and Mark Burnett produced miniseries, “The Bible,” and the Jesus portion of it which was released theatrically as “Son of God,” and it was incredibly well done, and I got really emotional as I saw the actor playing Jesus whipped, and then crucified. As good as it was, and as moving as the performances were, it dawned on me there was something missing from it, the sheer brutality of what our Savior endured.
So, I decided to revisit “The Passion of the Christ” which I had not seen since it was released on DVD probably back in 2005, and I’ve made it a tradition ever since.
I watch it alone.
In fact, if anyone saw me during the last hour or so of the film, I would be in serious danger of having my “man card’ taken from me.
But still, I watch.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that the movie is too brutal for them to ever watch again, but that is exactly why I watch it every year during Holy Week.
It’s one thing to understand intellectually what Jesus suffered through his scourging and crucifixion and file it away in the back of your mind because it’s too painful to think about.
But the way I see it, I NEED to be reminded. I need to never take lightly what Jesus endured on the cross, after the horrific lashes that he received before trying to carry His cross to Calvary.
I need to see His stripes, I need to see how He was tortured, and how He died on the cross.
In his book, “The Case for Christ,” author and one-time legal affairs editor at the Chicago Tribune - and former atheist - Lee Strobel, interviews experts in many fields of expertise, going through the same evidence an attorney – or in his case – an investigative reporter would to get a story. From eyewitness accounts to circumstantial evidence to rebuttal evidence – and in the case of the crucifixion – the medical evidence.
His interview with Dr. Alexander Metherell about Jesus’ final hours is one of the most accurate and graphic descriptions about everything Jesus experienced and lends credence to some of the details which have been challenged by skeptics in the past.
For example, according to the Gospels, Jesus began to sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest, but that is a real, albeit rare medical condition called hematidrosis, where the capillaries in the sweat glands break down in extremely stressful situations and small amounts of blood mix with the sweat glands which would give a reddish coloring to the sweat from Jesus’ head.
Dr. Metherell also detailed the flogging with a whip embedded with metal balls or other sharp items designed to do maximum damage to the person on the receiving end, usually thirty-nine lashes which as legend had it was one less than would kill a man, but often they consisted of more. The flesh would be torn by the whipping to the point of where bones and muscle even bowels could be visible.
We know that cross was the standard Roman execution at the time, but one thing that doesn’t get talked about very often is how the cross actually kills. It’s actually a very slow death by asphyxiation. When the hands/wrists and feet are nailed to the cross, it locks the diaphragm in an inhaled position and requires great strength to raise the body up to be able to exhale until the person is no longer able to do so.
According to Dr. Metherell, the word “excruciating” was invented in order to describe the horrific nature of crucifixion, and literally means “Out of the cross,” and the crushing of the nerve when the wrist was nailed would have been unbearable.
Ultimately, Dr. Metherell suggests that Jesus’ death was likely cardiac arrest brought on by respiratory acidosis which would have caused an erratically irregular heartbeat.
This is only glossing over Lee’s interview with Dr. Metherell, it’s engrossing and painful to read, but it goes along with the reason I watch “The Passion of the Christ.”
Jesus suffered the most agonizing death possible for me.
“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5 BSB
I don’t want to take His suffering lightly, and lose sight of the price that was paid for my sin, and yours.
So, I will endure the discomfort of watching Jesus’ suffering which doesn’t even remotely compare, but I feel it is necessary to be reminded, at least necessary for me.
But that is only part of the Easter story. That Jesus rose from the grave with “the keys to death and Hades” means that there is no real death, but rather eternal life for those who follow Him.
To borrow another line of Lee Strobel’s, John 1:12 “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” can be broken down into a simple formula:
Believe + Receive = Become.
It’s that simple.
Lee is one of the foremost leaders in Christian apologetics (defenders of the faith) and his “The Case for” series is well worth many reads. By faith we are healed, but as under constant attack as Christianity is these days, it’s reassuring to know that there is a strong factual basis for that faith.
Happy Easter, everyone.
He is Risen!
What do you think?
Pray for our troops, our police, the Peace of Jerusalem, and our nation.
God Bless America!
— Charlie Daniels, Jr.
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