by Richard Mansel
Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” was recently released on DVD and VHS. Gibson is certainly to be commended for making a fine film with so much depth. Controversy has surrounded this film, as any Christian could have predicted. Jesus made it clear that he would divide nations, homes, and hearts with his life and message (Matthew 10:32-36).
As a religious film, it contains some inaccuracies, such as when it combines events or gets them out of order. Moreover, Gibson includes several Catholic legends which are not found in Scripture.
That said, it is a very strong, moving experience. I left the theater tingling and speechless. Around me, everyone looked stunned and many tears were being shed. Gibson has brought us the most touching depiction of Christ’s suffering in film history.
Some aspects really touched me and made me think. Visuals have a very powerful impact. Snapshots in the mind are far more tangible than that which we hear or read.
First, Satan’s presence at crucial times in Jesus’ suffering illustrated the reality of his evil intentions. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that he is actively involved in pulling us away from God. In the film, Satan watches Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and later during his suffering at the hands of his killers. During the scourging, Gibson added a thought-provoking scene. Satan appears to caress a baby before the eyes of Jesus. I think his purpose was to emphasize Jesus’ agony. Jesus begged that the cup of suffering would be removed from his mission (Matthew 26:39). Yet, he said, “not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42, NKJV). God let him endure this wrenching pain for the redemption of our sins (Romans 5:6-8). Satan wanted Christ to think that God had abandoned him, and by contrast, that Satan’s “child” was safe in his arms, being loved and caressed. Satan wanted Christ to turn on his Father in anger.
The underlying themes of the film are the inner turmoil of its characters and the power Christ had to touch people’s hearts. Judas is portrayed as a tortured soul that — after his betrayal of Christ — is haunted by demons representing his inner war of conscience. It is a disturbing reminder of the nature of Satan’s attacks.
Throughout, people who came in contact with Jesus were moved by him. Soldiers refused to participate in the arrest, physical abuse, and crucifixion because they were mesmerized with his words and actions. The message is that anyone who comes to Christ with humility will be changed.
The violence that has become so infamous is certainly brutal, but it had to be in order to be accurate. Isaiah prophesied that he would be “stricken” and “afflicted” and “led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:4-7). Jesus suffered excruciating pain on the cross. Jewish historian, Josephus, said that the crucifixion was “the most wretched of deaths.”
It is a film with a powerful message. Some are put off by the added elements, others by the thought of seeing a portrayal of Jesus and others by the subtitles. Yet, I can certainly recommend it with the aforementioned explanations.
Christ went to the cruel cross to die for our sins. Three days later, as prophesied, he was resurrected so that he could prove his divinity and defeat the last enemy, death (1 Corinthians 15:26). Over the next few weeks we will be discussing the cross and the resurrection.
by Richard Mansel