Wednesday, March 27, 2013


What is the one scene in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” you can’t bear to watch? Yes, it’s the beating part, or to be precise, the “scourging” part. That scene - not only because of its gory, barbarous display but also because of its length - is difficult to stay on.

I was watching it again last night with the Young Adults in our church at ANCF. I suddenly remembered, quite too late, this was the scene I had difficulty watching the first time I saw this movie. In the middle of it, I decided to take a leak. Inside the lavatory, which was at the back end of our small sanctuary, I heard the repeating "whisssp!" accompanied by hurtful moanings. I went back in time to catch the remaining part of the scourging.

A Scourge, which in Roman times called “the flagellum” is a whip or a lash, designed to inflict the most painful and severe punishment because of its flesh-tearing effect. It contains three cords - with balls of lead on each of them. In "The Passion of the Christ", the scourge we see contained pointed, sharp edged leads which added more sickly, gut-wrenching effect to the viewers like me.

I eased on my chair in time to see a Roman soldier swung his flagellum so hard, the sharp, edged end of the leads obligingly clawed deep in the right side of the Christ. The soldier mockingly pulled it back with all force, ripping a chunk of flesh out. My insides knotted, twisted, and squirmed. So this is what they say the “visceral effect”?

But there is another, more profound reason why this scourging scene is so hard to watch. The Christ in the movie, Jim Caviezel poignantly says, “People turn their eyes away when they see it, and what they're seeing is their own sin. It is not wanting to deal, at times, with their own sin. It's that hard to look at. But this film forces you to see yourself, not the way you want to see yourself, but as God sees you”[1].

That’s very true. Every whip, every sharp lead clawing onto the flesh of Christ, and every chunk of flesh ripping out of it, is a view into the real nature of our own sins. We see the cold cruelty and barbarous destructiveness of our sins. Every whip of sin rips the heart of God because every sin is a deliberate act of defiance, of rebellion against Him. Sin is a direct and deliberate statement to God saying, “I don’t need you to direct my affairs”.

In the film, and this is true in the actual historical event, we see Jesus Christ suffered immensely for our sins. He bore our sins with every stinging whip of the flagellum. But this is only half the truth. Jesus did not suffer alone. The Father suffered as well. Tim Keller says that while the Son suffered immensely, displayed in words, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” the Father suffered together with Him. Jesus suffered “fatherlessness” while the Father suffered “sonlessness”. In other words, both the Son and the Father suffered during the crucifixion of Christ.

But is His suffering worth it? Yes, because in His suffering, he looked at us and for Him, that made all worth it. Keller says, “In Isaiah we are told, ‘The results of his suffering he shall see, and shall be satisfied (Isaiah 53:11)’. This is a stupendous thought. Jesus suffered infinitely more than any human soul in eternal hell, yet he looks at us and says, ‘it was worth it’. What could make us feel more loved and valued than that?”[2]

Truthfully, it all boils down to God’s love to us. He bore our sins, suffered immensely for it, all because of His love to us. With this, the famous passage is infinitely true, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)[3].

[1] Jim Caviezel who plays Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ” described what he went through during a shot while he was hanged on the cross: “And let me tell you, I was on that cross. Many people who looked up there, I may be playing Christ, but a lot of times I felt like Satan. I had obscenities wanting to come out of me. It was so cold it was like knives coming through me. I had hypothermia. I don't know whether you've dealt with that, but on one day of hypothermia I was so cold I could barely get the lines out. My mouth was shaking uncontrollably. My arms and legs went numb. I was suffocating on that cross. In the mean time, you watch people have coffee and laugh. They were very indifferent about what I was going through.”

[2] Time Keller, THE IMPORTANCE OF HELL,, New York City.

[3] Taken from the New American Standard Bible.


  1. Thanks Pastor. I never expected someone would still be reading here. I continue writing on my Facebook page. though I've not been posting lately. Thanks for reading.


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