Preparing for Easter


“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:20-25)

Many Christians are presently observing Lent, a period of 40 days of fasting and prayer leading up to Easter. Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Holy Saturday, just before Easter Sunday.

This is a season when the Church observes various traditional rituals and practices. The object of the discipline is to spiritually prepare believers for the celebration of Easter. That usually involves giving up some sort of personal luxury such as certain foods, activities, or habits as a form of self-discipline and spiritual reflection.

Many churches provide special worship services to help their members reflect on the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice, and to renew a consciousness of their relationship with God. This is a dedicated time for repentance, self-examination, and spiritual renewal in preparation for the joyous celebration of Easter.

Twenty years ago, actor and producer Mel Gibson released his amazing film, “The Passion of the Christ.” Mr. Gibson endured unbelievable resistance from the Hollywood establishment, certain Jewish organizations, and progressive Christian scholars in order to produce this movie. His goal was to render a meaningful existential experience that was also accurate to the gospel accounts of the last hours of Christ’s earthly life.

It is truly amazing how a mere motion picture could wreak so much social havoc. We would think by then that anything and everything had become acceptable in the current social climate. Evidently, we were wrong!

We have a situation here. The old issue, as irrelevant as it might have seemed, as to who killed Jesus Christ and why, had the whole world in an uproar once again. Many Jewish leaders condemned the movie, even before viewing it, maintaining that it was anti-Semitic.

The truth is that their condemnation (understandably) was based on their rejection of the gospel message itself. The movie as well as most of the New Testament offends their theology. “Jesus Christ crucified” continues to be a stumbling block for most Jewish people.

Most secular scholars and progressive theologians rejected the film as well. The “wise of this world” have always ridiculed the “myth” of a God-man who sacrificed his life as atonement for the sins of mankind. This gospel is sheer foolishness to them.

Furthermore, their preoccupation with a politically correct approach to religion requires tolerance with nearly anything except the proclamation of Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation.

How dare we believe such a thing! The enlightened intellectual elites of this world would certainly like to re-program America away from this dangerous “foolishness.”

Jesus asked his disciples, “But who do you say I am?” (Luke 9:20) I think that’s sort of where Mel Gibson was taking his story.

Personally, I am trapped on this issue. I do believe Jesus is the Lord of all, and I do believe that the Bible is the true and living word of God. I am left with the conviction that Christ’s blood was a sacrifice for all who will believe and that I am under orders by him to proclaim this message to the whole world (Mark 16:15).

In fact, the church is commanded to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus forewarns us that this will be personally costly. The world hated him, it will hate his disciples, as well (John 15:18-25). It persecuted him, it will likewise persecute his followers (Luke 21:12-19).

I’ll admit that this doesn’t preach well in the post-modern church. It is not a user-friendly element of evangelism. It is far more comfortable to accommodate the critics of Evangelical Christianity by stressing the warm and fuzzy humanistic features of Jesus’ earthly ministry than to confront the world with the “cosmic” meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection. We don’t want to offend anyone, do we?

But God himself has already done that. He proclaims that everyone is a sinner who needs to be saved by accepting the blood sacrifice that he provides for us in Christ. Yes, that is a stumbling block to other religions and certainly foolishness to a secular-minded world.

I agree with the “Passion” critics that this is a violent movie. Gibson pulls no punches in presenting an accurate depiction of what a proper scourging and crucifixion was all about. It is, indeed, bloody. But that’s not really what bothers people.

They are “disturbed” because the bloodshed is that of our Savior and the vicarious experience of being there makes everybody uncomfortable. The atoning blood of Jesus is the root of the controversy. It will always be the issue that divides the believers from the scoffers and brings scorn from anyone who might be offended when confronted by biblical truths.

While that fact troubles me, I find ultimate peace in the promise of the Lord. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12).

I want to find the grace in my life to extend unilateral Christ-like forgiveness to those who might despise me for my faith. Jesus requires that from me (Matthew 6:14).

Those who reject and ridicule “The Passion of the Christ” miss the main message of the movie, the central theme of the gospel story. Jesus died on the cross for our sins so that we might accept his sacrifice which provides us with the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Then, as Jesus gave up his life on the cross, he prayed, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Thank God that prayer applies to me as well.

I grieve that my own sins were in part responsible for Christ’s sufferings. I rejoice that his blood avails for me.

God bless you.


[LeRoy Curtis is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Asbury Theological Seminary. He served four years as a U.S. Naval Officer after which he became a pastor, Bible professor, educator, author, and missionary living in E. Africa for eight years where he and his wife developed a curriculum of biblical studies for untrained pastors in rural Kenya. His passion for training young church leaders takes him to various parts of the U.S., Latin America, and Africa. He and Judy are currently residing in Carrollton, Georgia.]