NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–As arguments over who is responsible for Jesus’ death on the cross resonate from the media all the way to the Vatican, the American Tract Society has produced two tracts to answer the popular question.
The controversy arose in recent months after some Jewish leaders took issue with Mel Gibson’s upcoming film “The Passion of The Christ,” for blaming Jews for the crucifixion of Christ. Though Gibson defended the film by saying it closely followed the biblical account and is not intended to incriminate Jews, the project has been met with some fierce denunciations as anti-Semitic.
Also part of the issue: whether Pope John Paul II actually approved the film as originally reported in the media. A senior Vatican official said in December the pope had viewed the film and said simply, “It is as it was.” But the official has since denied the pope ever said those words.
The ATS tracts seek to explain Jesus’ reason for dying on the cross — something far deeper than any blame that may befall a particular ethnic group.
Noting the importance of an individual’s last words, the tract called “The Passion of The Christ” by evangelist Greg Laurie traces Jesus’ last words as He hung on the cross. Jesus asked God to forgive those who crucified Him because “they do not know what they are doing.” Then He pardoned the thief and, crying out in pain over His Father’s absence, took on the full penalty of humanity’s sins.
Jesus’ final words were, “It is finished,” indicating at once, the tract says, humanity’s sins and guilt were brought to an end, the price of redemption was paid and the work the Father had given the Son to do was accomplished.
The second tract, called “The Passion — Who Crucified Jesus?” by Hollywood-based cultural analyst David Bruce says the Bible names God as the one responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus.
“The Bible clearly teaches that Christ’s crucifixion was in God’s plan even before ‘the foundation of the world.’ Hundreds of years earlier, Isaiah foretold of this event in chapter 53. ‘… Smitten by God, and afflicted. … He was wounded for our transgressions … the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all’ (Isaiah 53:4-6),” the tract says.
The tract then explains that “in a sense, Jesus was crucified because of US! [all sinners].” It quotes from Romans 3:23, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and from Romans 6:23, that “the wages of sin is death,” explaining that God sent His Son to pay the penalty once and for all.
“The Passion movie demonstrates vividly the price that Jesus paid for our sins,” the tract says.
ATS hopes the tracts, which present the full Gospel message, will be effective tools in reaching a culture immersed in Hollywood’s movies.
“More and more Christians are using these movie tracts as tools to introduce the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Dan Southern, president of ATS, said. “Folks are handing them out at movie theaters and — really — anywhere, and we are hearing back from many people who are reading the tracts and relating and responding to the message.”
ATS often addresses contemporary issues from modern films. The 178-year-old publisher recently has produced tracts based on movies such as “Finding Nemo,” “The Matrix,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings.” So far the tracts have drawn no controversy from movie producers or directors, ATS reports.
To view the tracts or order them online, visit www.atstracts.org. To order by mail, write to ATS, P.O. Box 462008, Garland, TX 75046.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: ‘WHO CRUCIFIED JESUS?’ For information on using The Passion in outreach, resources are available on the Web from LifeWay Christian Resources at www.lifeway.com/passion.