Is The Passion Still Relevant?
Twenty-first century Aberdeen with its reputation as Scotland’s least religious city seems a world away from first century Palestine. Does it not seem bizarre or even a little creepy given the agony and horror of crucifixion that crowds still are drawn to remember and even celebrate Jesus’ death on the cross? Who else but Jesus Christ could still draw the crowds in large numbers two thousand years after it looked as if his life had ended in pain and failure at the hands of Roman soldiers in Jerusalem?
Even today Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are regarded as great and influential philosophers who all pre-date Jesus life, yet it is hard to imagine a dramatic re-telling of their lives or teaching appealing to more than a handful of spectators if it was attempted in Aberdeen. So, what’s so different or special about Jesus’ story that it still seems to resonate and appeal to people half a world and twenty centuries away from where it all reached a climax in Jerusalem?
At the core of all of Christianity’s claims about Jesus is the belief that Jesus still counts today because He still goes on making a difference to ordinary people’s lives here and now. The same brave and ballsy guy who railed against the hypocrisy of the religious leaders in his day and who refused to play ball when Roman governor Pontius Pilate tried in vain to save his life still casts an elusive shadow when today’s church strays out of reach from the people it is there to serve or when politicians send armies into war with God supposedly on their side. Time and time again in the pages of the Gospels Jesus made a difference to people’s lives when they had no expectation that their life could veer away from the paths they had always known. After he encountered Jesus, an ordinary fisherman named Simon would discover that he had an amazing destiny in front of him. A woman caught in adultery and about to be stoned to death by a baying crowd was rescued and offered total forgiveness and a new way forward. Blind men could see and lame men could walk, a cheat and a liar like Zacchaeus the tax collector suddenly stopped caring about embezzling money for himself and was ready to give his ill-gotten fortune away. Jesus changes lives and thousands still make this same claim today in irreligious Aberdeen.
Beyond the drama and spectacle in a story of betrayal, injustice, suffering and death people are still attracted to Jesus and the hope that twenty centuries later He is alive and able, irrespective of age, gender, status, sexual orientation, colour, creed or personal history, to change lives and bring hope, life, love, forgiveness, simplicity and a future into our complicated and often broken modern lives.
His was one life given – for all.