Points To Ponder/Pondering The Passion: Why It Cuts To The Heart
by Pastor Dennis Whitmore
In Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9, we find the account of the “transfiguration.” Just a week earlier Jesus had told his disciples that some of them would “see the kingdom of God come with power.” (Mark 7:1) On a “high mountain,” it was Peter, James and John who saw this very thing.
They say Jesus transformed, changed, before them. His clothes became “dazzling white”; and with Him appeared Moses and Elijah. These two are the personification of the Law and the Prophets. They encompassed the message of what Christians call the “Old Testament.”
As we continue to hear the variety of reactions and opinions on the Mel Gibson’s The Passion, I found myself drawn to Luke’s account of the Transfiguration. It is interesting to study this while so much talk is going on about “Who killed Jesus.”
“As (Jesus) was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lighting. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about His departure, which He was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.”(Luke 9:29-31 NIV)
As we ponder the gory details of crucifixion, it is amazing to me that God had His sights fixed on this very thing. Ephesians chapter one tells us that the plan for our salvation was prepared since the beginning. In John 1:1-14, we are told that God Himself, the Creator of all things, came in person (in the person of Jesus) to submit Himself to this horrible and humiliating death (John 3:16-18; 10:18; 12:44-46).
On that mountain, Peter, James and John witnessed Moses and Elijah talking to Jesus about what He was going to do in Jerusalem. Peter would later write about it. In First Peter 1:10-12, He alludes to the message of scripture, which would be fulfilled in Jesus.
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” (I Peter 1:10-11 NIV)
It is an awesome thing to ponder! That God would elect to go through incredible suffering and come in human form (Phil. 2:5-11) in order to die is hotly debated even among some in Christian churches. It is not an understanding one can be logically convinced to accept. These things are spiritually discerned (I Cor. 2:6-16). But this is what Christians, those who know and follow Jesus Christ, believe. Most importantly Christians believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. That fact is presented in First Corinthians 15, Acts 10:34-43, and elsewhere. The statement of faith we recite at baptism also declares the Christian’s belief in both the passion and death of Jesus for our sins as well as His bodily resurrection. (I find it troubling to hear Christian scholars, clergy, and even bishops who recited this creed themselves then go around denying it in books and speeches. I believe they still call that “hypocrisy.”)
Peter, once the headstrong fisherman who shrunk in fear and denied knowing Jesus during His final hours, bravely preached Christ only 50 days later. He was with the resurrected Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, knew the truth and eventually died a martyr. Why would someone elect to die for something that’s not true? Tradition tells us he was crucified himself; however, he requested to be hung upside down because, sources say, he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord and Savior.
Peter, writing to Christians who were being persecuted for their faith, recalls what God showed him (along with James and John) on that mountain.
“We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”
“And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (II Peter 1:16-21 NIV)
As we continue to ponder The Passion, it is a solemn and incredible mystery to think that God intended this very thing to happen. It is also interesting to think that, as our culture continues to sink into immorality and departs from the biblically based roots on which we were founded, we have The Passion for such a time as this. Hardly anyone really reads or studies the Bible today. Biblical illiteracy (even from the pulpit) is permeating our churches and society. But this one movie is bringing people back to the Word and causing others to at least think about it.
As Jesus Himself said, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” And so, He is fulfilling that yet again through the silver screen.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Whitmore serves God at the First United Methodist Church in Laurel, MD.