A Look at The Passion of the Christ
by Linda Krueger
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Well, we finally saw Mel Gibson's movie. For a while there I wasn't so sure we'd make it, and to be honest with you, I wasn't so sure that I wanted to see it. Why? No, not because of some of the ridiculous controversies that have been raging, but because I didn't know if I wanted to see what must have happened to Jesus - with my own eyes. But now that we have seen the movie, I'm glad we did.
First let me say that several years ago the Lord really brought home the reality of what Jesus willingly endured on my behalf. When I was going through some of the most painful times of my life I was complaining to God. I wanted to know why I had to go through so much pain and suffering. I must have sounded like a spoiled two year old, and I think God had had enough of my whining. He began to show me through His Word exactly what happened to Jesus, the extent of His pain and suffering inflicted upon Him unjustly but done willingly on my behalf. (Psalm 22; Isaiah 52:13 - Isaiah 53:12; also the Gospel accounts of Christ's torture and crucifixion.) The revelation that God brought to me during this time was tremendous and very sobering. Because of this, I wasn't completely unprepared to see the brutality shown on the screen. I didn't like it, but I was expecting it. And I did a lot of peeking through my fingers.
I'd like to speak about a couple of issues that have surrounded this movie since its inception. First is the allegation that the movie is anti-Semitic. Prior to seeing the movie I was hoping that these claims were not true, for a number of reasons, not the least being that if the Scriptures were being followed in making this movie then there should be no anti-Semitism. After all, Jesus is Jewish - the Jewish Messiah for the whole world. All of His disciples were Jewish. Yes, there were some in the religious ruling class of that time who were rotten to the core and conspired to have Jesus murdered, but I do not believe that they were representative of the majority of the Jewish population. I had heard that this movie portrayed the Jews as hook-nosed, money grubbers - caricatures of the stereotypical anti-Semitic view of Jews. This concern alone actually drove me to see the movie.
So, how were the Jews portrayed in The Passion? Beautifully. Yes, they looked ethnic, but the actors could have been cast as one of many Mediterranean peoples. As for the issue of groveling for coins in the Temple like some money-hungry maniac, the only one who was shown picking money up off of the floor was Judas, and even then he wasn't frantic while doing so. In all honesty, as a Jewish believer in the Messiah, I have seen and experienced real anti-Semitism before, but I did not see it in this movie whatsoever.
If someone wanted to split hairs and look for something to gripe about, I do think that the Roman soldiers were portrayed in a much worse light. These men came across as drunken brutes who seemed to find pleasure in ravaging people with instruments of torture. Where were the cries of outrage over that? Nowhere. But if you stop to think about it, if that was your job - carrying out brutal tortures and executions - you'd probably get as drunk as you could as quickly as you could just so you could keep your job, and your life. A Roman soldier would be killed for disobeying orders, so it seems that their choices would be death, insanity or heavy drinking. Again, I think that Mr. Gibson was very honest in his portrayal of these men.
Another thing that was portrayed in brutal honesty were the injuries Jesus suffered, beginning in the garden. His body was so overburdened by the emotional turmoil He experienced while praying that He began bleeding through His pores. When Jesus was arrested the physical abuse began. By the time He began His walk to the hill with the cross, the flesh on His body had been flayed open; His scalp was punctured with spiky thorns; His blood was flowing freely. One thing that Mr. Gibson omitted from the brutality Jesus suffered was the ripping out of His beard. So add to the gruesome portrayal of Christ's sufferings a face that was torn open and bleeding freely and you'll have an even better picture of what He went through. It staggers the mind.
I have also heard allegations that this movie is too Catholic. While Mr. Gibson is a Catholic and his background may have colored some of what he did, he cannot be faulted for things that the Catholic church may have taken from Scripture and elevated in their practices. That does not negate the fact that he was true to Scripture. As with any historical retelling, the writer must fill in some blanks with plausible possibilities. I feel that this is exactly what Mr. Gibson has done.
I believe that the only reason that The Passion of the Christ has come under such heavy scrutiny and condemnation is because it shows the very unpleasant truth about the treatment Jesus chose to endure on behalf of fallen mankind. This movie forces people to look at themselves and their relationship with God. There is no middle ground. You're either with God or not. You either believe that Jesus went through hell on earth - and to hell and back - on your behalf or you don't.
In Matthew 10:34 - 38, Jesus tells us, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to part asunder a man from his father, and a daughter from her mother, and a newly married wife from her mother-in-law - and a man's foes will be they of his own household. He who loves [and takes more pleasure in] father or mother more than [in] Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves [and takes more pleasure in] son or daughter more than [in] Me is not worthy of Me; and he who does not take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conforming wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also] is not worthy of Me.”
In John 15:20, He says, “Remember that I told you, `A servant is not greater than his master [is not superior to him].' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”
Although one of Jesus' names is the Prince of Peace, He tells us quite clearly that His first coming was to bring the division that His Word causes. Each of us has a very important decision to make while we are in this time between Jesus' appearances - this time of division that the Cross of Christ brings. Which side of the Cross are you on? Are you with God or not? These are the explosive questions that Mel Gibson has unleashed in the world today and I believe that Mr. Gibson is being attacked because he is forcing people to take a look at the brutal reality of life - the sacrifice that Christ made for us. Mr. Gibson has placed the reality of the Cross before his career and relationships in order to spread the Gospel. He is being publicly attacked for standing up for Christ. We should all be as staunch in our faith as Mr. Gibson.
It's interesting. As I sit here typing this article, I just heard a little news bite. Apparently the Monty Python film The Life of Brian is going to be re-released in theaters. It's now being called the “antidote” to The Passion of The Christ. Oh, how far have we fallen that we need an antidote for the God of the Universe? God save us from ourselves!
I think that one other reason The Passion is stirring so much controversy is because it is forcing us to look at the brutality of life. In the United States during the past hundred years we have sanitized life. Death comes and is taken care of by medical professionals and undertakers. Even in the church we have sanitized the passion of Christ. We have become numb and take for granted the price that was paid for our souls. Mr. Gibson needs to be thanked for waking up the body of believers, so that we could take hold of a deeper understanding of God's truth.
If you haven't yet seen The Passion do yourself a favor and see it. Then you can decide for yourself - which side of the cross are you on? It really is an important question - the most important question you'll ever be asked.
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I saw this movie, and now wish I hadn't! It was a well crafted piece of man's imagination. If anyone wants to understand what jesus endured for us, do some historical research on the methods the anchient romans used to torture, before they cricified someone. After doing so, you will realize that this moveie falls far short of the actual torture. Jesus was beaten and tortured beyond recognition, even by those who knew him best.