When I received a recent email about the upcoming film "The Passion of the Christ", I opened it quickly, starving for more news about the movie. The lead actor, James Caviezel, who played the part of Jesus was asking for prayer in the wake of several spiritual attacks and physical threats of death against him and the producer, Mel Gibson. Satan is in a rage over the power this work has been anointed with. The Spirit brought a verse to my mind: Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing (Psalms 2:1)? The enemy is dragging out all of his resources in an attempt to derail this film. However, every weapon formed against it will utterly fail. He forgets he has already been defeated.
The film was screened by a large group of professional elites in Washington, DC recently and one of the individuals in the audience was the famous commentator Paul Harvey (and now for the rest of the story...). Harvey said the film cast a deep air of conviction over the room and recalled that there was deep sobbing and weeping among those who viewed it. Even as I read his review, a deep sense of expectancy rose in my heart. Could it finally be that after almost 14 years I would be so blessed to see the last 12 hours of my SAVIOUR's earthly life told in such brutal honesty?
He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and aquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him, and we esteemed him not. Isaiah 53:3
For me, this is a very special reminder of the intense love of God which swept into my life April 1990, just a few days before Resurrection Sunday. It was the Passion of the Christ for DL Foster. I have always considered it a theophanic manifestion, if you will. An encounter with the Divine which left me completely and utterly changed for all time. You may know my testimony, but please indulge me once again.
The night was falling fast in Columbus, Georgia and I was sinking deeper in the quicksand of sin, sinking to rise no more. Somehow in my heart I knew I was going down for the last time and there would be no recovery. Years and years as a homosexual man had burned away all of my sensitivities. The thoughts of suicide had seeded themselves and were maturing quickly. I hated my life and what I had become. I saw no way out except that my life would end. Death seemed to be a good thing, because I no longer wanted to look at myself go through the motions of life with no hope for change.
I don't know what made me turn on the television that night. I really didn't want to look at it. It was reactionary, perhaps a habit that I had become so accustomed to that I simply did what I had always done when I was tired and depressed. Yet, looking back I can believe that it was time. A point in destiny. A date to meet the man whose passion for me caused him to endure the terrible brutality heaped upon him.
The TV screen came into focus and my eyes immediately fell upon a troubling scene. It was brutal to me. Thousands of people lined a stone road which had an increasing incline as it wound its way through the city. The people, it appeared were in a frenzy. An evil frame of mind which one can only imagine the extent of. But I also saw the object of their evil desires. It was a lonely figure coming slowly up the arduous road. As I watched alarmed, he approached me under a barrage of insults. Some screamed at him. Others threw rocks at him. Still others reached out as it they wanted to take him and tear him to shreds with their bare hands. But still he moved on. And I continued to watch, mesmerized.
He was not alone. On his back he struggled under a heavy wooden cross. It was twice his body size. One would think that to see such suffering, people would be compassionate. But not this crowd. The cross seemed to enrage them the more. Still he struggled on, never saying a word, never lifting his eyes. In my intellect I didn't know who he was. It had been so long since I'd thought about God or church or Jesus that I drew blanks as to his identity. But even in my own pain and the desire to end my life, I became engrossed in his dilemma. I heard my mind ask a single, silent, fearful question. What did he do to make these people hate him so much?
Surely, he has born our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. Isaiah 53:4
Then a strange then happened. The "scene" froze. Everyone and everything. Nothing moved except him. That was when it struck home. As I looked, his eyes rose up to meet mine. I saw him and it was like looking into the eyes of someone who has always known you. The blood from a crown of thorns pressed hastily into his head trickled down different parts of his face. He said to me, "I did all of this just for you." Then he lowered his head again and continued on up the hill with his cross, on his way to PROVE what he had just said.
When I came to myself I looked again at the crowd. This time I recognized a familiar face: it was my own. I also realized it was Jesus who has spoken to me.
I began to sob and weep (like they are doing now in the screenings). I could not believe that he could or would love me after all that I had done. What did his words mean? Did he really love me enough to suffer the insanity of man and the affliction of God? He did. He truly did.
Eventually, in the same room I had carried on numerous male sexual affairs, I fell on my face before this Man. I asked him to forgive me and cleanse me of my sin and the years of rebellion. During the time I lay there it seemed the heavens were opened and the glory of God came in. I got up knowing that no matter what happened, I would always love him and I knew that he would always love me. In a word, I was changed.
That's why this film has excited me beyond words. I feel like He is coming and I will be able to see him and share in his suffering in a small way. I never knew the name of the picture I saw. And until this time have never seen anything close to it's raw passion on a TV or movie screen. But I can hear him now, in my ear saying "Darryl I still love you and I'll never leave you nor forsake you". Perhaps this is a sweet birthday present to me from Jesus.
People still cynically say that homosexuals cannot change. They don't know this Jesus I know. I say that I met Jesus and all things have become new. And in his presence I am reduced to nothing and simultaneously sit in heavenly places with him. Isn't that what the passion of Jesus was all about? He loved us so much that he HAD to die to set us free from all our prisons no matter what name was on it.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: The chastisement of our peace was upon him and with his stripes we are healed. He was taken from prison and from judgement and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
I hope that you will commit your life to Him all over again. To be renewed in the love of God which is so rich and deep it cannot be explained. If you have been wavering, stand up now and reach for Him. No matter what you are going through or about to go through, I want to reccomend Jesus and his passion for you. Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love, says the Lord (Jer 31:3).
And thanks Mel Gibson. The Holy Ghost truly was working through you to give me this precious and invaluable birthday gift.