Passion: going the distance.
The passion of Christ is essentially his unrelenting pursuit of the cross in Jerusalem. The 2004 Twentieth-Century Fox film The Passion of the Christ graphically portrays Christ's final twelve hours and his horrible death on that cross. Many people were shocked and perhaps offended by the films vicious depiction of his scourging, crucifixion, and death. In many ways we've been distanced from the deeper realities of passion by our many cultural markers. Mel Gibson's vividly grotesque movie was an in-the-face challenge to our soft and cuddly understanding about what it means to be passionate. When we talk passion, it may help to know what it really means. It's more than a warm fuzzy!
This week is Passion Week in the Christian calendar. From Palm Sunday, remembered in most traditions yesterday, March 25, 2018, through Easter Sunday the following week, we will observe critical moments in the days and hours leading up to Jesus' arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial, and glorious resurrection. Our worship during Passion Week will be somber and reflective, culminating in in our recollection of the last supper on Maundy Thursday, and his crucifixion on Good Friday. In every way Passion Week should prepare us for celebrating his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
The passion of Christ was evident in his life and ministry long before those final twelve hours or even that last week. When Jesus actually knew about his mission is one of the debates historians and Bible scholars have tossed back and forth for generations. Some believe it was very early in his life, a result of knowing his name, Yeshua, and perhaps some of the things Mary, his mother, had treasured in her heart (see Luke 2:19). Others acknowledge his baptism as the moment of revelation, while still others identify the appearances on the Mount of Transfiguration as the pivotal time in his earthly ministry. We may never know the answer to this particular secret of God (see Deuteronomy 29:29). But, we do know that Christ's earthly ministry took a definitive turn after he was transfigured on the mountain.
Luke's orderly account of Christ's life reveals his passionate, determined pursuit of Jerusalem. There are ten verses from Luke 9 through Luke 19 that track his entourage from the area surrounding the Sea of Galilee to the city of Jerusalem in Judea, perhaps 70 miles, depending on the location of the unknown location of the Transfiguration. Luke's language and phrasing make it clear that they were intentionally and purposefully pursuing Jerusalem as their destination. Read through these verses---
And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
Luke 9:30-31, ESV
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
Luke 9:51, ESV
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.
Luke 10:38, ESV
He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem.
Luke 13:22, ESV
Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’
Luke 13:33, ESV
On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.
Luke 17:11, ESV
And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.
Luke 18:31, ESV
He entered Jericho and was passing through.
Luke 19:1, ESV
And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
Luke 19:28, ESV
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it.
Luke 19:41, ESV
Luke's record of what must have been an arduous journey speaks to me in many distinct ways. As they traveled Jesus ministered, teaching the multitudes, healing the sick, and giving instruction to the disciples. Luke made it abundantly clear, however, that these occasions of ministry, though important to the kingdom, were not the mission. Christ's passion was the mission, that is, a cross in the city of Jerusalem. He would not be distracted from achieving it. This passion meant going the distance in fulfilling the Father's purpose. And, that distance was death in Jerusalem.
Passion is trendy culture speak. These days it's bedroom rhetoric, stadium antics, political rants, social concern, corporate jargon, and even moments of worship on Sunday. This Friday I'll review several instances when the internal fires of Christ's disciples were ignited in what may have resembled passion but were really short-lived hot flashes of emotion. Scripture will teach us Friday the shallowness of these hot flashes and challenge us to experience something that will generate real passion into the reality of our faith.
Wednesday will be more about the Passion of Christ. His passion moved him to finish God's redemptive plan.
Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_albund'>albund / 123RF Stock Photo</a>