The Atonement in History

Our weekly church small group met Thursday, and as part of the teaching we watched a montage of the crucifixion scene from Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ.

I’ve seen it before, but this time I saw it just a few weeks after returning from Israel. And this time it was different.

This time what I watched was tangible rather than imaginative, objective rather than subject, historical rather than mythical.

It was not that the movie was shot in Jerusalem (it was not) or that it was realistic (it seemed to be). What was different was that I had a physical, objective and geographical frame of reference for what I was watching.

I know where the Antonia Fortress was, the path of the Via Dolorosa and the location of Golgotha. I know the distance, the direction and the slope of the land Jesus walked. I know all this because I was there and I saw it, and the picture of it all is firmly planted in my memory.

While pondering all these things it occurred to me how brilliant the Lord was for executing the Atonement in history. What if the Lord had chosen to play out the Atonement purely in the spiritual realm where no human could see it or verify it, and the Bible said we just had to believe it had happened? Those who so anxiously talk about “blind faith” would then have a point.

Instead, to make it verifiable, He did it in history, in one of the most famous ancient cities of the world, where many could see it, write about it and record it. He made sure the reality of the Atonement was rooted firmly in history. GS