Obedience to the Father in "The Passion of the Christ"

OUR FAITH IN ACTION

We like to think that we are really grown up when we can do our own thing. Jesus Christ challenges that assumption.


Obedience to God is where the real power lies. It is a different kind of power: the power to set men free.

"By his loving obedience to the Father, 'unto death, even death on a cross' (Phil 2:8), Jesus fulfils the atoning mission (cf. Is 53:10) of the suffering Servant, who will 'make many righteous'; 'and he shall bear their iniquities' (Is 53:11; cf. Rom 5:19)"

Obedience is not easy for us. It wasn't for Christ as a man either. In Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ, there are many moments in which Christ's obedience to the Father stands out. Let's talk about three especially powerful ones.

Agony in Gethsemani

"Let this cup pass... not my will but Thy will be done." (Lk 22:39-42)

The Gospel of Luke gives a detailed account of the Agony. In the dark, Jesus has his battle about the apparent futility of the Passion.

First, what he is about to undergo seems useless because it is a suffering that human nature automatically rejects; for no one likes the idea of pain. Christ knows he is about to go through the worst type of pain that man can dream up for another man.

Second, Christ's agony is increased because he realizes that his sacrifice would not work for some souls — those who refuse to obey God and their conscience.

Finally, the gratuitous nature of the Passion makes it seem senseless. It could have happened in another form. However, God wanted to show His love for us in this extreme fashion and wanted Christ to give us the maximum example of obedience: "unto death, death on a Cross" (Flp 2:8).

Back in the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus had been tempted by the devil in the desert. (Lk 4: 13). Jesus had been victorious over the devil in the desert, and the Gospel says that the devil had "departed from him until an opportune time". That opportune time is now, when Jesus is to make His final decision to obey the Father to the last consequences.

That decision was made in prayer, as must our decisions. Here we find our Lord giving the perfect example of how to live our lives. Prayer is not a superfluous addition. Prayer is essential to human existence because we are creatures of God, in need of Him. We are not doing God a favor when we pray, but we are receiving heavenly favors from Him when we pray. This is called grace.

There was certainly the temptation of the devil for Jesus to abandon the idea of the Cross and obedience. The movie shows this very well. Jesus overcomes the devil again because He will obey God the Father. The devil always goes for disobedience.

The Scourging

"Father, my heart is ready" (Cf. Mt 27:26; Mk 15:15; Lk 23:16; Jn 19:1).

There are many moments to comment in this moving scene. First, Jesus does not resist when they fasten Him to the pillar. He is not fighting against the Passion, because of His love for us. He willingly accepts suffering to save us from eternal condemnation. He doesn't scream and kick, or cause a scandal while they literally rip Him apart with their diabolical instruments of torture. It is horrible what my sins have done to Jesus.

There is an especially moving moment which meaningfully demonstrates Christ's obedience. After the first round of bruising that they give Him with their switches, Jesus falls to the floor. That is the way the body reacts. When they relent from that onslaught, He realizes He is down and lifts Himself back up. "Father, my heart is ready", He says. Jesus knows that this is the ransom for sin, and He is no sissy. Christ's love for us is incalculable. "Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man — though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Rom 5: 7-8). Loving obedience and obedience for love, that is the mystery of the Christ's passion and death.

Christ's death on the cross

"Father into Thy hands I commend My Spirit. (Lk 23:46).

Some perhaps surrealistic happenings during the crucifixion and death of Jesus are depicted in The Passion. These are the attempts of an artist to show that all of creation was trembling due to the fact that God, the Author of life itself coming as Man, was being put to death by men. Though this happened in a specific place in the world, it was the sins of all of us that crucified Jesus.

The devil was thinking (his mind so obscured by pride), that this was finally the moment of his victory over Jesus and God. What a dreamer! Jesus, through His humility and obedience was willfully winning our redemption.

Jesus knew he was winning, even though winning meant living all the pain and loneliness that man feels in his soul when he sins. For this reason Christ quoted Scripture from that excruciating position: "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me" (PS 22)? Then to fulfill the Scripture said: "I thirst". He is obeying the Father, even through what was written about Him in the ancient Scriptures (because inspired by God) was horrible and full of pain! Jesus is able to recognize God's will wherever it may come from.

Then He finally says the words the audience is awaiting Him to say: "Father into Thy hands I commend My Spirit." By that time the tension is overwhelming. When will this torture finish? You feel it is not soon enough; too weighty the expectation.

Jesus wanted it that way. He does not measure out grudgingly his love for us and for the Father. He is not petty but magnanimous, because that is not the way his Father is. Jesus shows the depth of true love. No fair mixing in egotism or personal pleasures. Love is obedient and long-suffering. There is no valid substitute. Either it goes all the way to giving one's whole life, or it is not true love. Small pieces of the heart will never pump life-supplying blood.

Definitions

Obedience — the virtue of submitting our will to the will of God.

Humility — the moral virtue that restrains the unruly desire for personal greatness. Humility leads us to an orderly love of self based on a true appreciation of our position with respect to God and neighbors; the virtue of being without pride.

 

Facilitator's Guide: Obedience to the Father in The Passion of the Christ

The purpose of this unit is:

Prayer: Lord, help us to realize that it is only in submitting our will to yours that we will only truly be free. Give us the grace to rid ourselves of our pride.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you think that God's way of saving us (the Passion, death, and resurrection of Christ) makes God still seem distant and uncaring about man? What do you think this way of saving us shows about how much man is worth to God?
  2. Do you think that God wants to force us to love and obey him? Does the Passion of Christ force us to love God? How does it help us to love and obey God?
  3. In what other moments of Christ's life can we see His obedience? Why is obedience important in the role of the Redeemer?
  4. As a Christian, to whom should I be obedient? God? Our parents? Teachers? Boss? Husband?
  5. Like Jesus, are my decisions made in prayer?

Personal Reflections/Writing

  1. What specific incidents in my life have I been disobedient? Is there a pattern in these? Was it pride that kept me from being obedient? What concrete things can I do to root out my pride?
  2. Write a page about the Christian virtue of obedience. Be sure to include some Scripture passages. Cite example of saints living out obedience.

Resolution Idea

Mediate on one of the Bible passages below. How does it speak to me and my life?

Biblical texts on obedience (see a concordance) essential passages: 1Sam 15:22; Jn 5:19; 8:29; Rm 5:19, Flp 2:8; Heb 5:8; 10:6.

Our Faith in Action Study Guides to The Passion of Christ

Our Faith in Action: About the program
Christ Confronts Evil in The Passion of Christ
Mary Witness to Suffering in The Passion of Christ
Obedience to the Father in The Passion of Christ
What is Truth? The Passion of Christ
Christ's Self-Giving Love in The Passion of Christ

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Faith in Action. "Obedience to the Father in The Passion of the Christ." Our Faith in Action (February, 2004).

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