Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Did Mel Gibson Kill Jesus?

Two days before the opening of The Passion of the Christ, I sat in front of the television, wide-eyed, anxiously awaiting Diane Sawyer's prime-time special - an interview with Mel Gibson, the film's director. At the crux of the interview, Sawyer squinted her eyes, tilted her head, and asked Mel Gibson the big question: "Who killed Jesus?  Was it the Jews?  The Romans?"


Mel Gibson and Diane Sawyer
I leaned forward, curious what Gibson would say.

"The big news is, we all did," said Gibson.  "I'll be the first in the culpability stakes here."

I initially liked Gibson's answer, but something about his "we killed Jesus" verbiage didn't sound right, and I didn't know why. 
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The next day, I sat down on the front porch at my friend Brannon's house, where we were meeting to do a Bible study.  I told him about the Gibson interview and said, "I don't know why, but something about us being the ones who killed Jesus doesn't seem right."

Gibson's only appearance in the film
Despite both of us growing up in Christian homes, neither of us were certain who was ultimately responsible, and solely blaming the Jews and Romans seemed to be an exaggeration of their power over deity.

We figured the answer ought to be easy to find in scripture.  So we started thumbing through our Bibles, looking at the references to the death of Jesus.  One bizarre verse caught my attention: "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God . . . " (2 Cor. 5:21) (emphasis added). 

I reread it.  Was that right?  Jesus actually became our sin?  I had heard preachers say He "took the blame for our sins" or "carried our sins to the cross" or "died for our sins."  But this verse described a Savior who did more than just haul our garbage to the dump.  This verse described a Savior who became the garbage, an unnerving thought. 

I read the scripture out loud to Brannon and said, "Maybe God is the one who killed Jesus.  I mean, it says Jesus became sin, and God hates sin.  Maybe God took out all His rage on Jesus instead of us."

Brannon furrowed his brow.  

Photo: davidwhiting.org
"I don't know about that,"  he said.  "It sounds like an interesting idea, but that's pretty controversial to say that God the Father killed His Son."

I started to argue back, pushing for my odd theory, but Brannon waved me off, saying he needed to see it in black and white before he would believe it.  He continued flipping through the pages of his Bible until he reached Isaiah 53, a detailed, blow-by-blow prophecy of Christ's death.  Surely, this would tell us who killed Jesus.

But the chapter was riddled with passive verbs that described Christ's violent treatment without revealing who actually carried out the violence.  The verses said He "was stricken ... was smitten ... was afflicted ... was wounded ... was crushed ... was oppressed ... was cut off."  But by whom?  It wasn't clear.  And then we came to verse ten, which said, "But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief" (emphasis added).

We looked at each other, speechless.  Mel Gibson was wrong - we didn't kill Jesus; God, the Father, did it. In fact, it actually pleased Him to crush Christ, the one who had become our sin.  

I wasn't trying to beat Mel Gibson in a game of Bible Trivia.  I just wanted to know whether I was secure in my salvation.  Some people could read John 3:16 and believe they were saved forever - I needed a provocative, biblical road map to my salvation that made sense, that showed me the deal was done.  This was it.
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I had heard plenty of sermons on eternal salvation, but they left me with the impression that Jesus had just taken the fall for my sins.  I needed more than a Savior who would say, "Yeah, yeah, you can blame Me for your sins."  I didn't want someone to blame.  I wanted my sins dead and buried, and Jesus had accomplished that.  He had become my sin, and when He died, all my sins died - even the ones in the future (Galatians 5:22-24).

I had spent so many years running from God's wrath, afraid of Him electrocuting me with His holy rage.  But then I realized God had already poured out His wrath on Christ.  His judgment was satisfied when He executed His Son, who had become the very face of our sin (John 3:14Romans 8:3-4).

I had spent so many years trying to make myself righteous, but there was no need.  Christ had already given His righteousness to me as a gift - now I just had to work it out "with fear and trembling," knowing that God is the one doing the work anyway (Philippians 2:12-13).  

The deal was done, and now I had something to say for myself on Judgment Day when God asked me to answer for my sins: "What sins, Lord?  They're dead.  All I have left to give You is the righteousness of Christ.  You gave it to me on Good Friday.  I'm alive in Christ now.  I was a part of His body which rose from the grave on Resurrection Sunday."
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    The battle for freedom wasn't over; but that day, I finally realized God had won the war, that I didn't have to do His job for Him, that I had something to stand upon on Judgment Day - I could stand on His love. 


    As I meditated on God's extraordinary interruption in the affairs of our broken planet, obedience to God seemed more like an opportunity to love and less like a divine obligation.  I now realized I could revere God without having to be terrorized by the thought of Him.

    And rather than hide from Him, I was now free to hide in Him (Colossians 3:3).  Thanks to scripture, the Holy Spirit's leading, years of exhausting legalism, and a shot of bad theology from Mel Gibson, I saw the beautiful truth . . .

    My sin - dead.

    God's wrath - satisfied.

    His righteousness - mine forever.

    Freedom - finally.

    8 comments:

    1. I can honestly say that I have never once thought of this. But it makes so much sense. I need to go think on this more. Good stuff!

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    2. I have thought about this, as well! The understanding I came to eventually, which makes sense to me is that we all come to this earth with a "mission". Christ's mission was to do exactly what he did and us killing him was part of the plan. he did his part, we did our part. Christ saying "forgive them for they know not what they do", was his acknowledgement, at some level, that he understood this. I never felt guilt about this, although I feel sadness and continued sadness that today we continue to be mean to each other, be intolerant, etc. Interesting posting!

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    3. If I may offer an alternate view of this same question: in Genesis 22, where Abraham is asked to sacrifice his only begotten son, Isaac, we are told that "God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering" (V. 8). I have been told that this statement made by Abraham to his son was a prophetic statement which looked forward to the sacrifice of the cross yet to come. If we accept this, then it would be more appropriate to say that The Father did in fact provide the sacrifice, but we, not The Father, were the instruments of His suffering and death.

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    4. I think a lot of people share your alternate view, SAG45, and I can see the reason in it. I think the most important thing is that Jesus became our sin, and when He died, our sin died - regardless of who killed Him (though, to me, it seems that only the Judge would have the authority to do so).

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    5. Josh:

      I totally agree... And to further clarify, when Pontius Pilate told Jesus that he had the authority to either free Him or put Him to death, Jesus responded with: "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above;" (John 19:11)

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    6. Good stuff, Josh. You should book-ify this series!

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    7. This is very revealing for me. before this I had never thought about the Crucifixion in this way. I didn't see the connection between God hating sin and the idea that Jesus BECAME our sin. I always saw that it was all our fault for Jesus' death, but the prophecy says Jesus had to die but the death was controlled by the human race.

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