Introduction• The Passion of Christ is the story of Jesus Christs arrest, trial and suffering. It ends with his execution by crucifixion. The Passion is an episode in a longer story and cannot be properly understood without the story of the Resurrection.• The word Passion comes from the Latin word for suffering.• The crucifixion of Jesus is accepted by many scholars as an actual historical event. It is recorded in the writings of Paul, the Gospels, Josephus, and the Roman historian Tacitus. Scholars differ about the historical accuracy of the details, the context and the meaning of the event.• Most versions of the Passion begin with the events in the Garden of Gethsemane. Some also include the Last Supper, while some writers begin the story as early as Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem to the applause of the crowds.• The Passion is a story about injustice, doubt, fear, pain and, ultimately, degrading death. It tells how God experienced these things in the same way as ordinary human beings.
• The most iconic image of the Passion is the crucifix - Christ in his last agony on the cross - found in statues and paintings, in glass, stone and wooden images in churches, and in jewellery.• The Passion appears in many forms of art. It is set to music, used as a drama and is the subject of innumerable paintings.• Spiritually, the Passion is the perfect example of suffering, which is one of the pervasive themes of the Christian religion.• Suffering is not the only theme of the Passion, although some Christians believe that Christs suffering and the wounds that he suffered play a great part in redeeming humanity from sin.• Another theme is incarnation - the death of Jesus shows humanity that God had become truly human and that he was willing to undergo every human suffering, right up to the final agony of death. Another is obedience - despite initial, and very human, reluctance and fear, Jesus demonstrates his total acquiescence to Gods wishes.• But the final theme is victory - the victory of Christ over death - and this is why the Passion story is inseparable from the story of the Resurrection.
The story of the Passion• The elements of the Passion story are these:• The Last Supper• The agony in the Garden of Gethsemane• The arrest of Jesus after his betrayal by Judas• The examination and condemnation of Jesus by the Jews• The trial before Pilate during which Jesus is sentenced to be whipped and crucified• The crucifixion of Jesus
The Last Supper• Jesus and the disciples share a last meal together either during Passover (Synoptic Gospels) or on the eve of Passover (Johns Gospel).• Wine and bread The Last Supper was a Passover meal• During the meal Jesus blesses and breaks bread, which he gives to the disciples saying "Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me".• After the meal Jesus blesses some wine and gives it to the disciples saying "Drink ye all of this; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me".• This event is the foundation of the Christian sacrament of the Eucharist, which includes services such as Holy Communion, Mass, The Lords Supper. Although different Christian denominations have many different ways of celebrating the Eucharist, and understand it in different ways, they all developed from the Last Supper.• During the meal Jesus predicts that he will be betrayed by one of those sharing the meal with him, and that another of the disciples will disown him.
The agony in the Garden• After supper Jesus goes with the disciples to spend the night in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.• Jesus asks God if he can escape his fate..."Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."• Despite this prayer he willingly submits to Gods will and continues to prepare himself. God sends an angel to give Jesus strength for the ordeal.• Jesus continues to pray and his distress is such that his sweat was like drops of blood.• The disciples who Jesus asked to wait with him fell asleep; even his closest friends left him to suffer alone.
Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested• A group of armed men, sent by the Jewish authorities, arrives in the Garden to arrest Jesus.• Judas betrays Jesus by identifying him with a kiss - the signal he had arranged beforehand.• Peter, one of the disciples, takes a sword and cuts off the ear of one of the arresting party. The disciple believes that he is trying to protect Jesus, but by doing so he abandons Jesus teaching against violence.• Jesus forbids further violence and heals the injured man.• The disciples run away and Jesus is taken away.
Jesus is tried by Jewish officials• Jesus is questioned in front of a group of Jewish religious leaders. The Gospels give different accounts of this, and of who is present.• Caiaphas, the Chief Priest of the Temple wanted to destroy Jesus before he caused a rebellion that would bring down the comfortable world of the Temple and enraging the Roman authorities.• During questioning Jesus says enough for the Romans to see him as a rebel, and the Jews to regard him as a blasphemer.• The trial of Jesus before the Jewish authorities is a source of much controversy, and has been used in the past to justify anti-Semitism.• Modern Christians do not blame the Jews for the death of Jesus.• The Jewish authorities had several reasons for being angry with Jesus:• Jesus had challenged their authority - earlier in the week Jesus had gone to the Temple and protested against the moneychangers, as a symbolic denunciation of all the injustices the Temple stood for.• Jesus was reinterpreting Jewish Law• Jesus was breaking the laws concerning the Sabbath• Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, a claim which the authorities thought blasphemous• The claim to be Messiah suggested that Jesus was preparing some sort of rebellion - probably against the Roman colonial government. Such a revolt would endanger the relationship between Roman and Jewish authorities. (In those days the Messiah was expected to be a royal figure who would defeat the enemies of God and cleanse or rebuild the temple, and perhaps also bring Gods justice to the world.)
The crucifixion• Jesus is whipped and then, to mock the claim that he is King of the Jews, given a crown of thorns and dressed in a purple robe. Jesus carries his cross to the place of crucifixion, helped by Simon of Cyrene.• The crucifixion takes place at a location called Calvary or Golgotha.• Jesus is stripped and nailed to the Cross. Above his head is placed a sign that says King of the Jews. Two criminals are crucified alongside him.• After some hours the soldiers check that Jesus is dead by stabbing him in the side. Blood and water gush out.• Jesus body is taken down and buried.
Seven Last Words• The Seven Last Words refer to Jesus final seven utterances spoken from the Cross:• Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34)• I tell you this; today you shall be with me in Paradise (Luke 23:43) - Jesus said this to one of the criminals crucified with him• Mother, there is your son. Son, there is your mother (John 19:26)• My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mark 15:34)• I thirst (John 19:28)• It is finished (John 19:30)• Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46)
Date of the Crucifixion• The actual date of the Crucifixion is not known, but the evidence narrows it down to dates with the following properties:• A Friday• In Spring• At full moon• On either the first day of Passover (Synoptic Gospels) or the eve of Passover (John)• Between 25 and 35 AD• The 11th edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica gave the date as 18th March in 29 AD.• Other dates that have been suggested include 7th April 30, 3rd April 33 and 30th April 28 AD, but some recent articles have argued that 18 March 29 AD is the most likely date.
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