I knew the story of Jesus and His passion on Good Friday long before I first saw “The Passion of the Christ.” I knew what was going to happen; I had read the very words of Scripture and imagined it in my own head. “The Passion” would be one of those movies where I’d put my hands over my eyes and watch through my fingers, with tense muscles, wincing through each harsh word, immense mistreatment, and gruesome battering.
But I knew I needed to see it. I needed the visual reminder of Jesus’ passion, the cross, and my personal human connection to it. So I watched “The Passion” on Good Friday one year and it was as intense as I thought it would be. And it certainly renewed my gratitude and awe for what Jesus did for me on the cross that day. But I didn’t I truly understand how the cross of Jesus was of profound personal importance to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I knew the cross was Jesus’ plan for taking on all our sin. He endured the punishment for sin at the cross and defeated the power of death when He came back to life three days later. That’s the Gospel and I believe it wholeheartedly. But I didn’t realize the depth of Jesus’ experience with mankind and how important it was to me personally until I was sitting in a college class a few years later.
The class was all about the life of Jesus — a whole semester of just Jesus. Near the end of the semester, when it was time to study the last days of Jesus’ life on earth, the professor — one of my favorites and now a dear friend — walked us through the events leading up to the crucifixion, including the abuse and vast injustice Jesus experienced. In the hours before Jesus died, he was betrayed by one of his closest friends, arrested, and secretly sent through a round of illegal judicial hearings in the middle of the night — a kangaroo court if there ever was one. His own nation and church abused and deserted Him, and ultimately brutally killed Him.
I listened to the lectures, read the text, and quickly realized this wasn’t an easy portion of Scripture to study, that it would be much like watching “The Passion of the Christ.” So I tried my best to keep it just an academic thing. But then something happened that wouldn’t let me keep Jesus in the world of academia.
Passion Deeper than I Thought
That semester was a difficult one. I had experienced betrayal from some of my closest friends; I was deeply hurt by those I knew to be Christians. It was one of those things I couldn’t see coming; I was totally blindsided. Church didn’t feel like church anymore, but a gathering of people turned against me and I wasn’t even given a chance to speak. It was upsetting — no, it was maddening. I felt unfairly treated, misjudged, and unheard. And I had just about had it. I was ready to give up.
I approached my professor that day after class, just after studying Jesus’ betrayal and flagrant mistreatment. I had sought counsel from this professor throughout my own mistreatment and wanted to explain the most recent developments.
“It’s not fair,” I said as I went on about my strife. “I don’t get it!” I couldn’t get my head around the fact that these Christians would act in dishonest, cruel, and oppressive ways.
“You know,” he said, “One of the more disturbing things about Jesus’ passion week is that He, the very Son of God, experienced the darkest, most twisted actions of mankind. But it’s deeply comforting, in a way, because Jesus knows exactly what serious injustice is and what it feels like.”
I thought about that for a moment, and realized my professor was exactly right. Jesus knew well my pain, and experienced it even more deeply than I had. I realized the kind of Savior Jesus truly is — One who not only dies for those He loves but also endures the darkest moments of life just to empathize with me. The Passion of Jesus is deeper than I’ll ever know.