Jesus’ ministry can be divided into three phases:
At the age of 30, Jesus got baptised, went into the wilderness for 40 days where he was tempted by Satan, and after coming out victorious, he began his public ministry.
By his second year of ministry, he had already become quite popular in Jewish and Gentile circles. His teachings, miracles and unconventional ways had captured the attention of many, including social outcasts and religious leaders. Large crowds followed him, he did lots of good work and he became a relevant figure.
But in the last few weeks leading up to his crucifixion, Jesus’ ministry took a massive turn. In his last phase, we call it ‘The Passion of Christ’.
Why do we call it ‘The Passion of Christ’?
The word ‘passion’ comes from the Latin verb patior, which means ‘to undergo’ and it’s related to the word ‘passive’. During the last moments of his life, Jesus underwent much suffering. It’s interesting to note that Jesus’ popularity was marked by much action. He constantly travelled, meeting people and ministering to them; moreover, he was always teaching, for example, teaching Nicodemus in the wee hours of the night or to large crowds.
But Jesus’ passion came after much action.
Henri Nouwen once said in his book, Adam: God’s Beloved: “The great mystery of Jesus’ life is that he fulfilled his mission not in action but in passion, not by what He did but by what was done to Him, not by His own decision but by other people’s decisions concerning Him.”
A life defined by action
Our world measures one’s worth by their actions. When we meet someone for the first time, we ask about their work, educational background, or recent adventures. ‘Goal setting’ and ‘bucket lists’ are buzz words for modern adults and FOMO (Fear-of-Missing-out) junkies. We don’t understand who we are apart from our achievements.
But we forget that life is not just about our action – if it was, life would be so much easier to control! No, life has an uneven balance of action and ‘passion’. ‘Passion’, as I mentioned earlier, comes from a Latin word meaning ‘to undergo’. Whilst we want desperately to be productive and making strides in the world, often we find ourselves at the mercy of circumstances beyond our control.
In Nouwen’s Adam: God’s Beloved, he continues:
“…at Gethsemane – the Garden of Olives – all this action came to a sudden end. There Jesus was handed over by one of His own disciples to undergo suffering. That’s where his passion began. From that moment on he could no longer do anything; everything was done to Him. He was arrested, put in prison, led before Herod and Pilate, flagellated, crowned with thorns, given a cross to carry, stripped of His clothes, nailed on the cross, and ridiculed until He died. He could no longer act. He was only acted upon. It was pure passion.”
A life defined by ‘passion’
The Passion of Christ is confronting to read. The Creator and most powerful being in the universe becomes powerless and humiliated by his own creation. Jesus, who has always been active in the Trinity and the world since before time existed, was suddenly reduced into the hands of evil. Although Jesus already knew the details and circumstances of his suffering, he still obeyed the Father, allowing his passion to consume him.
Jesus’ example shows us an alternative to living our lives. Rather than pursuing superficial achievements and vying for material rewards that boosts our status, Jesus invites us to live a life of humility that is obedient to the Father, and to live a life that relinquishes our desires to control others and our circumstances.
Isn’t it ironic that the greatest accomplishment Jesus did was in his suffering and crucifixion, and subsequently, his resurrection? Without his suffering and death, he could’ve never rose from the dead, defeating sin and bringing us victory in the new creation.
Rather than avoiding the pain and life’s uncertainties, we need to go through them together with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
As the Book of First Peter chapter 5 verse 10 says, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast,” we can be encouraged by the fact that our present sufferings are temporary but our glory in Christ will be forever.
Our life shouldn’t be defined by our actions, but rather, it should be defined by our obedience to God and response to suffering.
Rachel is the children and youth pastor at Northern Life Baptist Church in Sydney. She loves volleyball, reading and a good TV drama! She has recently finished studying a Master of Divinity at Morling College and she’s continuing further studies towards another Masters. You can also find Rachel’s previous article here: https://christiantoday.com.au/news/to-be-truly-seen-as-god-sees-us.html
Rachel is a pastor, preacher and writer. Based in Sydney, she’s a fan of literature, sport and the arts. Check out her website rachellhli.wordpress.com