Feeling passion at the Passion

Tim Thornborough | April 17th 2019

What should we feel about Easter?

It’s a question I grappled with as I read through the gospel passion narratives preparing to write a book for children.

A Very Happy Easter

A Very Happy Easter

£3.99 £3.39

Fresh retelling of the Easter Story for young children, with opportunities to join in with facial expressions!

It turns out there is a huge amount of emotion pouring off these pages.

  • There’s joy as Jesus arrives in Jerusalem

  • There’s foreboding as the week continues, and the opposition to the Lord Jesus hots up.

  • There’s palpable warmth and excitement as Jesus spends intimate moments with his friends at the last supper.

  • There's fear, anger, rage and bewilderment as the Lord is arrested, tried and convicted.

  • There’s disbelief, horror, and heartbreaking sadness among his disciples and family, as he is scourged, beaten and then dies on the cross.

  • And then there is astonishment, disbelief, fear, and ultimately joy and wonder as the Risen Lord is revealed at the tomb, on the road and in the upper room.

What is remarkable about the passion narratives, however, is how little passion there is in them. The writing is crisp, succinct, straightforward. There are few if any stylistic flourishes that writers use to induce feelings in their readers. The gospels do not linger on the suffering of Christ, to make us feel sorry or horrified. They simply state it. “Pilate took him and had him flogged” (John 19:1). The mockery that follows is likewise told in plain descriptive words. And when the “big moment comes”, there is no brutalising description of the details, in all four gospels it just says: “they crucified him”.

My temptation as a writer would have been to paint in detail the cruelty, pain and injustice of this execution of an innocent man—to have my readers outraged and moved by the scene. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John do not.

It was my sin that took him there; it was his love for me that held him there to the end

Pointing to the bigger picture

Of course, we see a lot of emotion in the reactions to the cross. The gospel writers want us to see clearly the drama of the moment, but they do not want us to focus our empathy for the suffering of the man on the cross. They want us to look at the bigger picture. It's one of the things I had against the film The Passion of the Christ, and the kind of sermons and Christian conversation that try to move us by winding up our emotions. They focus on details that, while true, are not part of the way the Gospels are written. The scriptures want us to look beyond the nails and the blood and the physical agony, and see what a movie can never show. The momentous galactic transaction that was taking place invisible to our eyes as sin was dealt with, the devil defeated and death destroyed.

What should we feel about Easter?

We should feel passionate about the passion. But we need to make sure our tears and joy are focussed on the right things.

  • We should be shedding tears for our sin that took him there. Every moment of wonder and joy we have in reading the gospel stories gets focussed to this point. He was brilliant, beautiful and glorious in his teaching, healing and miracles. He was blameless, righteous and pure, and yet he gave himself over to shame and suffering and death for the sins of the world. It was me that put him there.

  • We should stand in silent astonishment that a sinner like me could receive such grace from our amazing saviour. Although it was my sin that took him there; it was his love for me that held him there to the end. What a saviour!

  • We should be leaping for joy for the salvation he won. And now he freely gives new life to anyone who turns to him. He pours his healing death and resurrection life into those who respond to the gospel message—and sends us out to joyfully tell others about how the grace of God has found us.

We should be passionate about the passion. Both in our personal devotion to the Lord, and in our telling others the good news of Easter.

A Very Happy Easter by Tim Thornborough is a fresh retelling of the Easter Story for young children, with opportunities to join in with facial expressions. Buy today to get it in time for Easter weekend

Tim Thornborough

Tim Thornborough is the founder and Publishing Director of The Good Book Company. He is series editor of Explore Bible-reading notes, and has contributed to many books published by the Good Book Company and others. He is married to Kathy and has three adult daughters.

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