The Passion of God

The Baby born so long ago
came to pay a debt I owed.
I owed this debt I could not pay;
He paid the debt He did not owe.
That is why on Christmas Day,
I praise the God who loved me so!
Christ His Son has paid my debt.

Many of you have seen Mel Gibson’s blockbuster film, The Passion of the Christ. While it is one of the most controversial movies ever made, it is also one of the most moving. Never before has anyone captured so well both the strength and dignity of Christ, while graphically depicting the depth of suffering He endured on our behalf. Hearts have been touched; lives have been changed. Why? What does it mean? Why should it matter?

The Passion makes no sense without the “rest of the story.” Long ago, at the dawn of creation in a magnificent garden with one man, one woman and two trees, this epic began. Genesis 2:8-9 sets the scene:

Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He placed the man He had created. And the LORD God planted all sorts of trees in the garden—beautiful trees that produced delicious fruit. At the center of the garden He placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The Creator told the man he was welcome to “freely eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” warning, “If you eat of its fruit, you will surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17). This simple commandment was both a test and a safeguard for Adam and Eve. God wanted humankind to love Him, to enjoy a close, personal relationship with their Creator. He wanted to share with us the wealth of His knowledge, but He intended to do this in the context of a relationship—as a Father teaches His children the facts of life. In order for us to truly love God, there had to be a choice involved, so here was this tree. Mankind could either obey God and leave the tree alone—trusting our Heavenly Father to reveal all in His good time—or they could take the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, having their eyes opened all at once, without the wisdom of God to put everything in perspective.

We’ve all heard what happened next: A clever snake (the devil in disguise, according to Revelation 12:9) came to Eve, telling her God was selfishly withholding divine knowledge from her, and convincing her to try the fruit from the forbidden tree. Adam sampled the fruit, as well (Gen. 3:1-6). And the rest, as they say, is history. By breaking God ’s commandment, Adam and Eve severed their fellowship with Him and barred mankind ’s access to the tree of life; death and sin entered into the world, and the perfect environment God had created was marred with struggle and decay (Gen. 3:7-24, Romans 5:12 & 8:19-22).

We may protest, “It’s not fair! One fruity chick got the hungries and ruined it for everybody!” While it’s easy to blame Adam and Eve, consider this:

The LORD looks down from heaven
on the entire human race,
He looks to see if there is even one with real understanding,
one who seeks for God.
But no, all have turned away from God;
all have become corrupt.
No one does good,
not even one!
(Psalm 14:2-3 & 53:2-3; compare also with Romans 3:10-12)

Given the choice between good and evil, all of us have chosen what is wrong. The Bible says, “For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Rom. 3:23). Every one of us, having failed God’s standard, is alienated from Him and deserves the same sentence of death Adam and Eve suffered. Ezekiel 18:4 says, “The soul who sins shall die” (NASB). Romans 6:23 adds, “For the wages of sin is death.” So each of us is responsible for our own wrongdoing, and each will be held accountable for what we have done.

In Exodus 20:3-17, God gave us the Ten Commandments—the minimum requirements for those who want to live in fellowship with our holy God. In a nutshell, they are:

  1. Do not worship any other gods.
  2. Do not make idols of any kind to worship or bow down to them.
  3. Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God.
  4. Six days a week are set apart for your daily duties and regular work, but the seventh is a day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God. On that day no one in your household may do any kind of work.
  5. Honor your father and mother.
  6. Do not murder.
  7. Do not commit adultery (have sexual relations with anyone other than your spouse).
  8. Do not steal.
  9. Do not testify falsely (lie) against your neighbor.
  10. Do not covet (envy) your neighbor’s house, wife, or anything else your neighbor owns.

None of us has a perfect record regarding these laws. For example, have you ever lied—even telling a “little white lie”? One lie is all it takes to make you a liar, and the Bible says all unforgiven liars are destined for “the lake that burns with fire and sulfur” (Rev. 21:8).

The majority of us consider ourselves “safe,” when it comes to the 6th and 7th commandments. But Jesus taught that speaking harsh words against someone is as bad as committing murder (Matthew 5:21-22). He said that merely looking with lustful intentions at someone of the opposite sex is like performing a sexual act, and we commit adultery every time we divorce and remarry (Mat. 5:27-32)!

Stealing one penny makes you a thief; wanting one thing that belongs to another person makes you covetous. And I Corinthians 6:10 says both of these sins disqualify a person from taking part in the kingdom of heaven.

Does it count if one has a “near perfect” record? No, the Bible says, “the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as the person who has broken all of God’s laws” (James 2:10).

Were God to give us the punishment we justly deserve for our sins, none of us would live to see another day. But that is what Christmas and The Passion are all about. God knew that someone had to die to pay for the guilt of our sin, so He chose His own Son to take our place and give us a new start.

The Bible says, “God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (I John 4:9-10).

God wrapped the essence of His goodness in a baby Boy and presented Him to the world that first Christmas (John 1:1-3 & 14, Colossians 1:13-18 & Philippians 2:5-11). Thirty-three years later, without one personal sin to His account, Jesus took our place on another tree and suffered an excruciating death, so that we could enjoy the restored relationship that was lost at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden. He rose from the grave to show that our access to the tree of life was restored, as well. Romans 5:12-21 summarizes it this way:

When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. …What a contrast between Adam and Christ, who was yet to come! And what a difference between our sin and God’s generous gift of forgiveness. For this one man, Adam, brought death to many through his sin. But this other man, Jesus Christ, brought forgiveness to many through God’s bountiful gift. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but we have the free gift of being accepted by God, even though we are guilty of many sins. The sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over us, but all who receive God’s wonderful, gracious gift of righteousness will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. …Because one person disobeyed God, many people became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many people will be made right in God’s sight. God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful kindness became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What a gift! Who would refuse it? If you’ve already received it, praise God! If you have not, please don’t delay—don’t let Christ’s Passion be in vain in your behalf. Nothing could be more wonderful than praying to receive God’s gift today! And nothing would please Him more than the gift of your fellowship restored to Him! May you all experience the fullness of joy that comes from knowing the Christ of Christmas and walking in the freedom He came to give! All His best to you!

© 2004, by Deborah Schaulis

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture on this page is quoted from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation.

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