A new ad promoting organ donation is generating a lot of discussion. Some find it clever. Some find it offensive. Some find it just plain silly. I find in it a great opportunity to talk about the gospel. If you missed the ad, here it is – a short clip from the Today show including the ad:
Christians are understandably sensitive about any use of Jesus on the cross for satirical or promotional purposes. I learnt that as a young teenager – before I was a Christian – when I asked a girl out to see Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’ and was told by her parents to cease contact with her! I was utterly unaware of another satirical use of the cross in that movie.
It’s not all bad with this new organ donation ad.
Strangely, it assumes some biblical literacy that may go over the heads of many viewers. Jesus’ opening words in the ad, spoken to two Roman centurions from the cross are:
“I am here for you… literally.”
I wonder what the average Australian unbeliever makes of that line. And then as the Roman centurions get excited about the benefits of organ donation, they proclaim:
“And corneas… you’ll help blind people see… what a miracle!”
The irony is intense. Yet how many watching will grasp it? How many know the stories of Jesus giving sight to the blind let alone life to the dead?
Which of course is the great opportunity presented by this ad.
To encourage people to read the gospels and assess how the ad’s portrayal of Jesus stacks up. Would Jesus donate his organs? It’s exactly the sort of loving act he carried out on a daily basis. As the ad concludes: “I’m Jesus!” It’s kind of cool that Jesus’ name is synonymous here with life-giving. And I hope followers of Jesus would gladly sign up for organ donation.
But that’s where we can take the conversation further.
Luke’s gospel for example, as in the ad, contains two centurions. And they see in Jesus a greater donation on offer than organs for this life – organs which prolong life but themselves will also eventually fail.
We meet our first centurion early in Luke’s ministry. His servant is as good as dead but this centurion sees in Jesus complete authority over life and death. Jesus commends his faith – to see the real Jesus is to see the one who has power not just over eyes and legs and organs but life and death itself. He signs us up!
We meet our second centurion as Jesus is dying on the cross – looking up to Jesus as those in the ad – but speaking these more dramatic words:
“Surely this was a righteous man.” – Luke 23:47
This centurion glimpses an even greater donation than organs.
For why would a righteous man die – when that is the penalty for the unrighteous? It’s because Jesus is donating his righteousness to us, so we can really live. Not just longer life on earth. But life forever in Paradise.
The ad is excited by 6 or 7 people living longer in this life. And simply declares a tragic truth: “not all of us are going to the eternal paradise.”
Yet Jesus died so that not just 6 or 7 but countless people might do just that – join him in paradise. As the Centurion spoke his words, that’s exactly the donation of life Jesus offered to an unrighteous person like you and me who died alongside him:
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:43