Lent Day 39: John 19-20

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Do you ever get the feeling that you’re missing something? It’s not Good Friday until tomorrow, but here I am writing about the crucifixion and resurrection already. And it’s in a blog post entitled “Lent Day 39” when it’s only day 38 ( I missed a number out near the beginning!).

When the film “The Passion Of The Christ” came out I, like millions of others, went to see it at the cinema. It is a brutal, uncomfortable, but probably intensely real telling of the story of Jesus’ betrayal, trial, torture and crucifixion. It’s not a film for the faint hearted as you see Christ’s flesh being flayed by Roman whips, his head bleeding from the crown of thorns, his hands and feet have large nails driven through them and his agonising death on the cross. It is incredibly visual, bloody and emotionally draining.

What looks like being the last shot, just before the screen goes dark and the credits roll, is of Jesus’ lifeless body, having been taken down from the cross, laying in the arms of his grief stricken mother, Mary. Through her tears, she looks directly at the camera, breaking the fourth wall with an angry, accusatory look at the audience. In her silence she seems to be saying “This is your fault. You did this to my son. Your sin, your arrogance, ignorance, greed and selfishness have taken him from me.”. And you sit, looking back at her, dumbstruck. Trying to comprehend what you have done to deserve such a look, such a charge.

Then, as all seems lost, there is one last shot. A closed, rocky tomb, filled only with the body of a young man, suddenly radiates with intense light. As the light dies down you see a glimpse of Jesus, no longer dead, stand up and walk.

When I saw the film there were maybe 100-150 people in the cinema with me. You could have heard a pin drop as we walked out in silence, stunned by what we had just seen. The silence was finally broken by one young lad piping up,

“Wow, they’ve really set that up well for a sequel, haven’t they?”

It’s a comment which still amuses me now. But he’s right. The film concentrates only on part of the story of Jesus’ last few days on Earth; the pain and suffering he went through. And rightly so, because he did it for a reason. Mary’s accusatory look towards us at the end is justified because it is our fault. We have let our sin, our pride, arrogance, greed, lust, hatred and all the other self-centered feelings of the world to take over our lives. He went through that agony to break that.

But it wouldn’t have worked had the last bit, only tantalizingly glimpsed in the film, not happened. Jesus rose again! He defeated death and the power it had over us because our sin was killing us all. The resurrection is where the real triumph comes from and where our real hope comes from.

So, that young man in a cinema in Dorset was spot on. They did leave it open for a sequel. The thing is, the sequel has been and is being made. We are all living it, right now. Every moment on Earth has been changed as a result of what happened that weekend 2000 years ago in Jerusalem and is all geared towards a happy ending beyond anything even Hollywood could dream of. We have the script, we just need to take part in the film, because it is more real and wonderful than we ever imagined it could be.

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