What Is the Passion of Christ?

The Passion of Christ refers to the week of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It’s remembering the events of the week beginning with Palm Sunday when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem and culminating in His suffering.
Danielle Bernock
What Is the Passion of Christ?

The Passion of Christ is a subject usually discussed in the spring, during the Easter season. There is a good reason for that, which I’ll get into, but the Passion of Christ is not just for Easter alone. Christmas provides us with a wider view, and therefore another reason to discuss this important subject. To understand what the Passion of Christ is, we’ll look at three different views of it.

1. There Is Easter

The Passion of Christ is associated with Easter due to its religious celebration. The term “the Passion of Christ” in that context is referring to the week of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It’s remembering the events of the week beginning with Palm Sunday when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem and culminating in His suffering. 

This is due to the original meaning of the word passion:

  • From Late Latin passionem (nominative passio) “suffering, enduring.” 
  • From past participle stem of Latin pati “to endure, undergo, experience.” 

Although Jesus did suffer and suffer greatly, I believe that we do Him a disservice by focusing on His suffering alone. This misdirected focus can cause us to: 

  • Feel sorry for Jesus because of His suffering 
  • Feel guilty because "it’s our fault" or some variation of that sentiment
  • Neglect the resurrection 
  • Miss the “why” behind it all

However, there is more to the Passion of Christ than the celebration of Easter.

2. There Is the Movie

Another thing we think of when we ask what is the Passion of Christ, is the epic film, The Passion of the Christ (2004) by Mel Gibson. This movie depicts the extreme suffering and crucifixion of Jesus and was controversial with many people. 

There was a lot of hoopla in the media, and in some churches as well: 

  • Some said the movie was too gory 
  • Some said it wasn’t gory enough
  • Others didn’t like that the movie was being made at all

One thing that’s interesting about the movie is the lack of screen time given to depict the resurrection. It was so short that some people didn’t even notice it. I had a pastor tell me the movie left that part out. Although he was not correct, I understood how it could’ve been missed because the scene was only one and a half minutes long. The resurrection deserves more than a minute and a half. There is more to the Passion of Christ than the movie.

3. There Is the Larger View

Although the Easter view and the movie view aren’t incorrect, they need a larger view. To begin this larger view, I’d like to take a look at what the words passion and Christ actually mean.

Passion means more than just suffering. Over the years the definition has come to mean strong emotion, both good and bad. Sometimes even referred to as uncontrollable. But digging a little deeper I found that passion originally meant, “A willingness to suffer for what you love.”

 Christ is not Jesus’ last name and isn’t simply referring to a person. The word means the anointed one and identifies Jesus as the Messiah prophesied from the book of Genesis.

These definitions speak to the “why.” Why is there the Passion of Christ? The Passion of Christ is the unfailing, everlasting love of the Almighty Triune God, miraculously confined in a human body, suffering of His own volition for His beloved creation. 

In a shorter sentence, the Passion of Christ is unconditional love on display in living color:

  • God is love.” 1 John 4:8
  • “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.” John 3:16
  • “No one shows greater love than when he lays down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
  • “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 
  • “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
  • “And the angel answering, said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore also the Holy One being born will be called the Son of God.'” Luke 1:35 
  • “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).” Matthew 1:22-23

Jesus did what we could not do, and He did it all because of love. The Passion of Christ is God’s love for you and me. Merry Christmas.

© iStock/Getty Images Plus/Simon Lehmann



Originally published November 19, 2019.