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Too Violent a Sacrifice?

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A crucified Christ: Too much violence, or too much to consider?

Our family has the Good Friday tradition of watching Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, the well-documented, spectacular account of Christ’s crucifixion.  Although intense and tear-provoking, we want to be reminded, at least once per year, of the incredible price paid for our sins — the whips, the jeering, the nails, the blood — all required for our atonement.

So, once again this year, my husband and I sat down with our two teenagers, 16 and 13.  No popcorn, no movie-candy, just four believers willing to be exposed to the traumatic death of our precious Christ, the One whose death saved us from eternal suffering in hell and separation from God.

But it always astounds me the number of comments I get from fellow believers with regard to our tradition.  Comments like “Oh … I can’t watch that movie.  It’s too gory,” or “oh … I watched that movie once; that was good enough for me,” or “you let your kids watch it?  It’s way too violent!”

“Really,” I say to all those comments, “too violent?”

  • Our children watch the deadly intense wizardry violence of the most recent Harry Potter movies;
  • Our teenagers indulge in the blood-sucking fantasy of the Twilight series;
  • They are allowed to engage in all sorts of pre-meditated, simulated violence and murder on Xbox and Playstation;

Yet we’re afraid to help them face the reality of the crucifixion; the single most important event in all of history?

And forget our teenagers for a moment, what about the countless adults I know who “can’t” watch it, saying it’s too hard to watch?

  • You can’t watch Christ’s suffering, but you can watch Showtime’s Spartacus or HBO’s The Sopranos or Russell Crow’s Gladiator — all graphically violent, yet vividly accurate according to the documented accounts of that day?
  • You can’t endure Mary’s sorrowful heart as she watches her Son fulfill God’s plan, but you can waste countless hours indulging in the triviality of the Real Housewives?

Oh my, believers, let’s “step up to the plate” and be honest with ourselves.  The real-life display of the Roman crucifixion — a brutal torture willingly accepted by our precious Lord — is something we should be re-living because it keeps fresh in our minds the cost of our sin.  Someone had to die for our petty selfishness, our infidelity, our deceit, and our hypocrisy, and Christ “stepped up to the plate” on our behalf.

I KNOW that watching someone get ripped to shreds at the Roman whipping post is painfully intense, but Isaiah 53 foretold that Christ would indeed be beaten in that way; and in fact, He was beaten beyond recognition.  I KNOW that dragging a splintered cross up the Via Dolorosa while soldiers punched Him and crowds spit on Him and fans deserted Him is not part of our typical movie night, but Christ dragged that cross all the way up to Calvary’s hill … for us.  I KNOW that actually watching five-inch spikes being pounded into His hands and feet is disturbing, but imagine how He felt — and yet He allowed it so we wouldn’t have to die in sin and shame.

The cruelty of the soldiers, the deceit of the Sanhedrin, and the corrupt nature in which His trial was conducted is merely a demonstration of mankind’s depravity, the reason Christ was compelled to hang on the cross in the first place.  Shouldn’t we be willing to observe these atrocities in order that our minds may be properly prepared to meet Him face to face each day?  Don’t be afraid, believer; be strong.  Allow the reality of the crucifixion to weigh heavily on your heart so that you’ll be changed from the inside out, knowing that “by His stripes you are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

CWA friend and member Julie Tate is a wife, mother, speaker, and Bible study author/teacher. Find out more about her ministry at