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A stumbling block
March 9, 2011 - Jodelle Greiner
Ash Wednesday is upon us, opening another Lenten season.
I remember when the movie, “The Passion of the Christ” (2004) came out. I never saw it, but some people were vocal in their disapproval of the film, asking why Mel Gibson put all that effort and expense into making a movie about Jesus’ suffering and death, instead of focusing on his teaching and preaching. And those people didn’t go away when the movie left theaters; they still raise those questions, especially around Lent, Good Friday and Easter.
Why focus on the brutality of the crucifixion, they ask, when Jesus preached about loving your neighbor and giving to the poor?
Yes, those are worthy causes, and Jesus’ teachings are much easier to think about than the image of someone being nailed to a wooden cross, but I think the objections go deeper than that.
Following Jesus’ teachings is a relatively easy thing to do. Give to the poor, check. Try to be a more polite, understanding person — okay, that’s a little more difficult, but, yeah, we should all do that and the world will be a better place — so, yes, check.
But doing these things doesn’t really require anything of a person other than opening their wallet. It doesn’t require them to think deeply; it doesn’t require them to take a long look at themselves.
If a person thinks about Jesus’ crucifixion and death just as a horrific way to die, but they have no understanding, then yes, His agony and death are pointless to think about.
But if a person looks on Jesus’ suffering and death and delves deeper, accepting that there was a reason, and that reason was Jesus came to earth with the purpose of suffering and dying to pay for our sins, then there is a point to His death. To accept that requires them to look at their own life and accept they are a sinner in need of saving. This forces them to admit they need help, they must depend on someone else and a lot of people are too independent to acknowledge that. It’s much easier to be the one giving the hand-out than the one taking it.
This, I think, is the reason why people want to focus on Jesus’ teachings and not His crucifixion and death, they don’t want to acknowledge they need help from anyone, they want to be in charge.
1 Corinthians 1:22-25: "For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength."
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