According to Merriam-Webster, "passion" comes from a Middle English noun that originally meant suffering. SUFFERING. Not extreme emotion, not physical delight, not even devotion to a cause--but suffering. And not just any suffering. The suffering meant by "passion" is at the hands of another. Being acted upon, rather than a random event or personal trial.
Suddenly the meaning of Passion Week is clear. The prophecies of the Old Testament met the barbarian cruelty of Rome and the result was Jesus' passion--in the original sense. He who knew no sin became sin for us...so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21) But why? Why would He take the entire burden of all the wrongs--public and private--of every person who ever lived on Himself? What kind of justice is that?
He was beaten to the point where he didn't even look human. He was ridiculed. He was spit at. He carried his own wooden beam on His back and shoulders, already shredded by the whips of the Romans. The religious leaders were the first to accuse, but the mob soon added fuel to the torturous fire. It was ugly. It was bloody. It was cruel beyond modern understanding. And yet, it wasn't because He deserved it; WE DID. I do.
Suffering, being acted upon by external agents--suffering, not because of His own wrongdoings--suffering because of mine.
As I write this, I am watching Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. No matter what you think of Gibson and his failings, this movie is brilliant in its realism and its message. Reading the prophecies and the letters of the New Testament becomes even more profound when the movie visuals accompany them. How can I not be moved when I see this powerful portrayal as I read from Philippians:
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who being in very nature God,
did not consider equality
with God something to be grasped,
but made Himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled Himself
and became obedient to death--
even death on a cross..."
That is PASSION.