You may recall a film a few years ago by Mel Gibson entitled The Passion of the Christ. It drew a lot of attention, especially in Christian faith communities, because it focused upon the horrible suffering, physical torture and emotional pain endured by Jesus in his last hours. Some thought the film was an important reminder of the agony Jesus endured as a final testament of his love for us. Perhaps so! Others thought the film was overly focused on the physical suffering of Jesus, not focused enough upon his life, purpose and mission.
In the church calendar, today is called Passion Sunday. Ask people what first comes to mind when the Passion of Christ is mentioned. I think the vast majority of people, including those of us in church this morning, would answer the Passion of Christ refers to that time of intense suffering Jesus experienced from his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane to his death on the cross atop Calvary's hill.
But what does passion mean? What is the true passion of Jesus? Was Jesus true passion about pain, about suffering, about physical torture, about betrayal and cruelty? Not the Jesus with whom I'm familiar. Jesus was not passionate about these things. He tolerated them. He even accepted them when necessary. But he was not passionate about them. The suffering he endured was a consequence of his passion. It was not itself the passion of Jesus!
What then is passion? Passion is a life force, a love force, an inner strength that energizes and drives us. It makes time go quickly. It makes us forget other stuff. It focuses us, gets us up each morning, eager to start the day. Passion is what motivates us, enriches us, inspires us to do what otherwise wont be done. Passion is the fire at the core of our being. A life without passion is a life unfulfilled, a life only partially human.
Jesus' true passion was not for suffering but for joy! His true passion was not for dying but for living - for life in abundance, to use his own words! His passion was not for vengeance, but for mercy! His passion was to establish God's reign on earth - a reign of peace and justice, mercy and forgiveness. He demonstrated this passion. He taught this passion. He embodied this passion. His whole life was filled with a deep compassion passion for troubled people and for all creation. Jesus radiated an energy that attracted all to himself!
Whenever we have the opportunity, we should tell people who mistakenly speak of Jesus' passion as his time of suffering and dying that the true passion of Jesus the Christ is not for suffering but for joy, not for dying but for living - Mel Gibson and a lot of church authorities still don't get it!
Do we? Do we have the passion to bring peace and justice, mercy and forgiveness to our world. Do we? We know Jesus' passion. What is our passion?