What is the passion of Christ?
The passion of Christ includes the time period from the night prior to the crucifixion of Jesus until His death upon the cross. In the Roman Catholic tradition, much emphasis has been placed on this time period to emphasize the sufferings of Jesus leading up to His death as the ultimate sacrifice for sin. This time period is traditionally marked by His time in the Garden of Gethsemane and includes His prayers, betrayal by Judas Iscariot, abandonment and denial by His disciples, arrest, trials, beatings, and period of time on the cross.
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Prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: John 18 mentions Jesus praying in the garden; Matthew and Luke detail the events of these prayers. Jesus prayed three times while His disciples were to keep watch, but instead fell asleep (Luke 22:39-46). Jesus' prayers were so intense that His sweat "became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44). Some interpret this as literal blood (such as occurs with the condition of hematidrosis), while others interpret this as meaning He was dripping with sweat. Either interpretation speaks to the intensity of His prayers.
His Betrayal: Judas Iscariot arrived at the garden with a crowd of those who sought to arrest Jesus. Though Judas had been one of His closest followers, he handed Jesus over to His betrayers with a kiss, a customary Jewish greeting (Luke 22:48).
Abandoned/Denied by Disciples: The Gospels record that all of Jesus' followers fled when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:50). John and Peter followed at a distance to the high priest's home where Jesus was put on trial. Peter denied knowing Jesus three times while in the high priest's courtyard, which fulfilled Jesus' earlier prediction (Luke 22:54-62).
His Arrest: Matthew 26:50 records, "Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him." His arrest took place at the hands of the Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus and His claims to be the Messiah.
His Trials: The Gospels record seven different trials that took place at the hands of both the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman authorities that occupied Israel at the time. Though Jesus had done nothing deserving of death, He was condemned to crucifixion. Pilate washed his hands to demonstrate his innocence of Jesus' blood, though he consented to the wishes of the Jewish leaders and crowd.
His Beatings/Sufferings: Luke summarized the treatment of Jesus during this night by stating, "Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, 'Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?' And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him" (Luke 22:63-65). In addition, Jesus was flogged using a whip with braided pieces of either bone or perhaps lead balls, leaving many bleeding wounds that remained open when He was nailed to the cross to die.
The Cross: Roman crucifixion involved three nails, with one in each wrist (or hand) and one through both ankles to secure the person's feet. The Bible records that Jesus was crucified with two criminals, one on each side of Him (Luke 23:32-33). Jesus gave seven specific recorded sayings at the cross before His death, a death later confirmed by Roman soldiers piercing His side.
The passion of Christ has been so important to the Christian faith that many traditions, books, and films have been based on it. Most notably, Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ sought to display the true violent nature of Christ's suffering, offering one example of how brutally He was treated. Those who study Christ's passion often find a deeper love for the One who gave His life as a sacrifice for all, to give the opportunity for those who believe to have eternal life (John 3:16).
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