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Jacopo Bellini_1430_Crucifixion

The Crucifixion, Jacopo Bellini, c.1430

For the final reflection in the series on Christ’s passion and death, we will use the movie The Passion of the Christ to help us understand the incredible sacrifice Christ made for our salvation.

And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. Luke 23:33

Last week, we reflected on Christ’s journey to Golgotha carrying the instrument of His death, the cross. Simon of Cyrene was enlisted to help Jesus carry the heavy cross. In the movie, we see Simon carrying the cross with the brutally beaten and exhausted Jesus hanging over Simon’s shoulder, appearing to add an extra burden for him to carry. But as Jesus falls to the ground at the peak of Golgotha, we see Simon crushed by the weight of the heavy, wooden cross. In spite of outward appearances, Jesus was in fact carrying the weight of the cross and the burden of the sins of the world.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Although you may feel as if you are bearing a heavy cross on your own, Jesus is with you bearing the load for you. Yoke yourself to Jesus and allow Him to carry the burden of your difficulties and struggles. He is beside you every step of the way, encouraging you and giving you strength for the journey.

He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

After crashing to the ground, Jesus crawls over the jagged rock and willingly climbs onto the cross. He wasn’t physically restrained and forced onto the cross. He voluntarily placed His life at the mercy of the Roman soldiers and was nailed to the cross for the forgiveness of all sins – yours and mine – past, present and future. What love He displayed in willingly submitting to crucifixion for the salvation of the world.

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

Jesus forgave his tormentors who inflicted incredible pain and suffering. He is our model of forgiveness. No matter how much pain and suffering is inflicted on us, we are to love and forgive as Christ has forgiven us. Give Jesus all your pain and resentment, your sorrows and bitterness, allowing them to be nailed with Him on the cross. Jesus is able to shoulder the burden that we in our human weakness cannot.

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Luke 23:39-42

Many have described the powerful effect of the movie The Passion of the Christ on their recognition of their own sinfulness. I (Dennis) saw how many times in my own life that I had acted like the ungrateful thief, turning my back on Jesus and His mercy. I related to Peter’s denial of Jesus three times and the despair he felt in his weakness in time of trial. But I also felt hope in knowing that like the repentant thief, I will someday be with Jesus in Heaven, if I continue to submit my life in obedience to Him. Yes, I will fail at times to live in righteousness, but Jesus is ever there to pick me up, dust me off and cleanse me of my sins.

And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43

Throughout The Passion of the Christ, we see flashbacks of Jesus with His mother Mary. We are shown the incredibly love they had for each other. Jesus demonstrates His love for Mary, when near death, He places His mother into the care of His beloved disciple, John.

“So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag′dalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. John 19:25-27

Jesus is also speaking to you and me in saying, “Here is your mother.” Mary is a powerful intercessor for families. Join your prayers with hers’ for the healing of divisions in your marriage.

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Luke 23:44-45

Jesus predicted to the Pharisees that He would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. His mission on earth is nearly accomplished. With His last bit of energy, He raises His head in prayer to the Father in Heaven.

Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Luke 23:46

A single raindrop, falling like a tear from Heaven, falls on the crucified Christ. The skies open in a downpour, signifying the cleansing of the world through the sacrifice of one man, Jesus Christ. A Roman centurion standing near the cross, witnessing the powerful sacrifice of Christ, has a change of heart and sees Christ for who He truly is.

Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, and said, “Certainly this was a righteous man!” cf. Luke 23:47

Christ is the righteousness of God. He died for the sins of all of His creatures. Trust your spouse and family to the loving care of Christ. He died for your sins and theirs’. He longs to hold you all in His loving arms, protecting you from the ravages of sin and division. He wants no one to perish. Christ is Lord over the heavens and the earth. The power of sin has been defeated through His sacrifice. Praise be to God for His love and mercy!

In the next two weeks leading up to the Resurrection, contemplate Christ’s passion and death. The greatest event in human history is quickly approaching. Spend time in prayer and fasting for the strengthening of your marriage and all marriages. Satan hates marriage and seeks to destroy it. But thanks be to God, Christ has conquered sin and death. Christ is victorious, alleluia. May your marriage be blessed.

Previous reflections in this series include:

Lenten Reflection: Christ’s Agony in the Garden

Lenten Reflection: The Scourging

Lenten Reflection: The Crowning with Thorns

Lenten Reflection: The Carrying of the Cross