Should You See the Passion

By now most of you have probably heard about Mel Gibson’s new movie, The Passion of the Christ. The media have been giving it a lot of attention, labeling it “controversial” and citing claims by Jewish groups that the movie is anti-Semitic. Local news stations have mentioned churches renting out whole theatres so that their members can attend private screenings. Movie reviewers have warned about the blood and gore.

Given all this hubbub, I decided to see the movie for myself. Only then could I recommend it to someone else, or persuade others not to go. It is not my normal practice to attend R-rated movies. I balk at gratuitous violence, and would rather not pay good money to hear cuss words and profanity, or see racy sex scenes. Feeding on those kinds of words and images will do a Christian no good. But the Passion promised to be a faithful account of the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life. For anybody in Hollywood to take the Bible seriously is a rare event and, given the subject matter of the movie, is something I’m sure a lot of us will have a hard time passing up.

Now to the movie. Let me begin by saying that if you have not been moved by your own reading and reflection of the Gospel accounts, then for you this will be just another foreign-language drama film. There is not a scrap of English dialogue in the whole movie. All the lines are spoken in Aramaic or Latin, and you must read along with the subtitles at the bottom of the screen. But like I said, if you have dwelt at all on the events of Christ’s life, then the violence portrayed in this movie will get to you, and I mean that in a positive way. The movie is so well done, so close to reality, that you will find yourself immersed in Jesus’ time and place. You will, momentarily, find yourself among the crowd, looking on, and wondering how they could do that to our Lord and Savior. Of course, is not just them—it’s me, and you, and all the other sinners.

Let me put it another way. If we were to show the movie’s crucifixion scene during the Lord’s supper one Sunday morning (not that I am suggesting we really do that, mind you), I can almost guarantee that none of us would be thinking about what’s for lunch as we pass the communion plates around.

This movie is no substitute for reading the Gospels. It is not a literal, word-for-word telling of Christ’s final hours. There are extra characters, dialogue, and scenes to make the movie “work.” For the most part, however, it stays very close to the overall theme of the Biblical texts. From a historical point of view, there are two fairly important slip-ups. Jesus is portrayed carrying the whole cross. The thieves, on the other hand, are portrayed accurately bearing only the crossbeam. Also, the movie shows the nails being driven through the palms of the hands, and not through the wrists. It is almost as if Gibson thought that tradition was more important on these points than historical fact.

As for the movie being anti-Semitic, then it is also anti-Roman and anti-everyone, given that Christ died for all of us as sinners (Rom. 5:8). Of course, certain groups may try to deny the truth of the Gospel accounts, but as Paul said, these things were “not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26).

Should every Christian attend the Passion? Certainly not. I strongly recommend against young teens and pre-teens seeing this movie. Viewers need to have a certain maturity to see past the special effects and make-up, and to really appreciate why Jesus suffered in the manner portrayed with such agonizing detail in this movie. Keeping in mind that it is just a movie, and that it is for adults only, then I recommend that you see the Passion.

© 2004 – 2010, Trevor Major. All rights reserved.

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