Whatever anyone thinks about the film "The Passion of the Christ," it has catapulted the story of all stories, about the King of all kings, to the front of our attention. Which is where that story belongs.
What the story shows, but some viewers feel the movie doesn't, is a message of love so unstoppable that heaps upon heaps of hatred could not quench it. A love so pure, so unwaveringly drawn from the Father, that it couldn't help but transform the worst defeat into the greatest victory. A love so unselfish that, even in the midst of agony, it flowed with assuring comfort to a panicky criminal, also being crucified. A love so universal that thousands of years later hearts everywhere are still being warmed and quickened and remade by it.
Here is a time when mind-numbing violence did not lure the attacked into responding in kind to the attacker. A time when the message of peace was so woven through every word and action that the Prince of Peace prevailed. Even to the point of Jesus' caring for the guard in the garden of Gethsemane - the guard that had come to arrest him. Although one of the disciples slumped into violence, slashing off the guard's ear, Jesus did not. He responded as the Prince of Peace, as the Great Physician. He responded with healing, touching the man's ear and restoring him to wholeness. In so doing, he not only enlarged a record of healing, he left a legacy of the authority of Christly peace to outface violence, a peace that is measurelessly powerful.
Here is an instance where even death itself was not the last word, the final fact. No. Life was and is the irresistible truth of being. Over the years thousands had been crucified. That was nothing unique. It is also not where the real story ends. The resurrection and ascension follow, spelling Jesus' victory over death and the tomb, and hinting unending possibilities for all who drink in his message.
The book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, a 19th- and early 20th-century follower of Christ Jesus, includes a chapter titled "Atonement and Eucharist." Many readers find it among the most moving dissertations they've ever read on the life, ministry, sacrifice, and triumph of Jesus. The chapter includes a passage that clearly illumines the story of Jesus, but somehow also seems to have direct application to his followers.
"Love must triumph over hate. Truth and Life must seal the victory over error and death, before the thorns can be laid aside for a crown, the benediction follow, 'Well done, good and faithful servant,' and the supremacy of Spirit be demonstrated" (Science and Health, pages 43-44).
We're all on a path, on a journey of sorts. The story of Jesus, of his unimaginable adversities and unparalleled triumphs, is an invaluable reference point to guide us forward as we learn how to love, how to live, how to embody peace, even how to heal. But the Master's story is also more than that. It is much more than just a vivid example from history. The living Christ - the Spirit of love that Jesus so completely exemplified - comes from the Father to yearning hearts today.
As we allow this living Christ to stir us, we find we're empowered to take at least a few more steps along the path of his healing example. An early follower of Jesus offered this prayer of gratitude, "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ" (II Cor. 2:14). As we advance, however slowly, we find the triumph happens, and really does outweigh all else.
According to the grace of God which is given unto me,
as a wise masterbuilder,
I have laid the foundation,
and another buildeth thereon.
But let every man take heed
how he buildeth thereupon.
For other foundation can
no man lay than that is laid,
which is Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 3:10