The Passion of the Christ

“The Passion of the Christ” has aroused interest in the historical event on which it is based.

The act of crucifixion was common in the era. The Roman Varus crucified approximately 2,000 Jews during Jesus’ childhood. To carry it out an execution squad was always on duty in the Fortress Antonia, named for Mark Anthony. To relieve themselves of boredom they played a game called the Basilica. I have been in the preserved portion of the stone paved area known as Lithostrotos, or paved, where the game was played.

Exactly where the pre-crucifixion punishment, known as flagellum, occurred can’t be confirmed. However, a pavement stone, called an ashalar, has carved in it the game circle used in playing the game known as the Basilica, game of kings. The stone is about three feet by three feet and the circle takes up most of the surface. The game was the mocking of a pretentious king. A human being was preferred but if one wasn’t available a straw man was used.

A purple robe was put on the person, a rod for a scepter put in his hand, and a crown on his head. He was mocked and tormented in devious ways.

Dice were cast and depending where they landed in the partitioned circle and what symbol was shown on the dice determined what the person casting the dice could do the victim. The description of what was done to Christ indicates such a game was played using Him as the object of their derision and ridicule.

One of the most surprising things I have learned in my 28 trips to the Bible Land is that Calvary probably was not a hill. That concept came for an old Irish song entitled , “On A Green Hill Far Away.” Calvary may have been a hill but Scripture does not say it was. It was, however, an elevated place near by a main roadway so people passing by could see and mock the victim.

Who crucified Christ is still a question that arouses concern. Mel Gibson gave us his answer in the film itself in a most unique way. The close up scene of a man’s hands driving the spikes into Christ’s palms are of Gibson’s hands. He said it was his sins that nailed Him to the cross and he wanted to depict such as much for his own sake as for any reason. They could have been my hands. If the Bible narrative is to be believed, “There is none righteous, no not one.” None of us should hold anyone responsible other than ourselves. When we assume our own guilt we cease blaming anyone else. Hey, there it is. That is the meaning of what happened at Calvary. There was only one innocent one there and He died for the rest of us. That is the message of the movie based on Scripture.

The theme of the movie and the spiritual application of the historical event both solicit a response. That response relates to forgiveness. It involves us individually receiving His forgiveness and giving others our forgiveness. Out of gratitude for receiving forgiveness from Him we should give it to others.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean I will forget about it. It means I will never hold it against you again.