By Judy Brandon
I have yet to see “The Passion of the Christ” although I fully intend to go. The story was one that I have known about since I was a child. Further, I have really known Christ since I was a child. The news and views of this movie has filled the papers and occupied the airwaves. But with all the discussion in the media and the pundits trying to get their best quips in, what really does it mean that Jesus died for others?
This last week, I read an account of a story that a minister gave that is the best example I’ve heard of a sacrificial death. I don’t know how true it is — maybe it is not even true. But the story just might clear up the confusion that some have about Christ’s sacrificial death.
The story goes that in the 1860s there was a gang of desperados in the Southwest. These bandits would take little communities on the prairie by surprise. After they stole from the citizens, looted the community, and killed some of the town’s people, they would set the town on fire, literally burning up the community. Then they would vanish in the night. By the time the town’s people got word to the authorities, the mean thieves and murderers were long gone.
It happened over and over again. Finally in frustration and fear, some settlers in Kansas got together, formed a posse and set out to find the murdering brigands. When all the men in the band of heathens were finally captured, the folks in charge decided to execute the whole group. They lined them up ready to shoot. Suddenly as the men raised their guns, one of the members of the gang who had been hiding in the brushwood, dashed up in front of the group and cried: “Hold your fire! Stop!” Then the man said: “There’s a man here in this group that you are going to shoot. He is a husband and a father. Let me take his place. I’m guilty!”
After some discussion, the men in charge decided to take the man up on his proposition. They let the man with the family go and the other man took his place on the firing line. The execution proceeded and the man with a family walked away free. Some time later the man who had been saved came back to the scene of the execution, claimed the body from the prairie grave, and took it back to a country cemetery for a decent burial. The man placed a huge rock at the head of the grave and wrote in black paint: “He died for me.”
That’s simple, but that is what happened with Jesus. One guilty man died in place of another. It came to me one day: If Jesus had never come, I would never have had a way to know God. He took my place and he took the penalty for me. That’s what I realized as a little girl and am still trying to fully comprehend as a grown woman. God must love me that much, that he would give his only son to die for me.
“The Passion of the Christ” movie has caused some controversy. But the message is compelling and the story is accurate on the most important part: Christ died and took the place for all of us.
Judy Brandon is an instructor at Clovis Community College. Contact her at: