On Sunday, February 29th, 2004, I saw Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. It is powerful, ironic, Biblically faithful, evocative, sublime, realistic, credible, tender, bloody, compassionate, and violent. It is a movie for our times.
Mel Gibson reached the pinnacle of his cinemagraphic career doing secular action films such as “Mad Max” and the “Lethal Weapon” series. He has learned his craft well. All these years of experience has found expression in the photography, audio, music, acting, and casting of this movie. In terms of quality, this film is top of its class.
The movie is rated R for Restricted for a reason, and Mr. Gibson has made no bones about it. Parents should preview this film before making a decision about allowing their children to see it. And remember, it will be available in the coming years on DVD and videotape, so as children mature, there will be ample opportunity to expose them to it.
It is violent and bloody, as is crucifixion as practiced by the Roman Empire during Jesus’ time on earth. It is one thing to read in the Bible the rather dry summary of Jesus’ suffering at the hands of the Romans, it is quite another to see it portrayed in graphic, blow by blow detail on the big screen.
It is tender and compassionate, as it portrays Mary mother of God and Mary Magdalene as they react to the bloody terror unfolding before them. The movie cuts to highlights of Jesus’ ministry and life with his mother several times, to break up the intense brutality. There is one scene where Mary attempts to comfort and refresh her son while being driven to His crucifixion by His Roman executioners, only to have the cup of water she offered Him kicked cruelly away. In another scene, Mary flashes back to an incident where Jesus falls down as a toddler, and she rushes to his side to scoop him up and comfort him. The torment she experiences at not being able to do this for her adult son in the worst trial of His life is written all over her face. Every mother who witnesses this will be able to identify.
It is ironic because there is a cut of Jesus riding on an ass into Jerusalem as residents lay palm branches before Him interwoven with scenes of a mob shouting, “Crucify Him!” It is ironic because it shows Jesus during one of his sermons teaching that we should love our enemies while He is being tortured. As Jesus is nailed to the cross, he screams, “Father, forgive them! They know not what they do!” To me, this last is good and sufficient reason to believe He was the Son of God.
It is evocative and sublime. People will react to it differently. The man sitting next to me in the theater sobbed quietly. I myself was on the verge of tears, but held them back because it would have made it difficult to follow the subtitles on screen. I loved my Lord and Savior with all my heart, all my soul, and all my strength before the film, and I love Him the same after. I was quite literally stunned by the film. I have wept more during secular films I’ve recently seen than this one, and I don’t know why. Perhaps I will come to understand in time.
I have heard many people who I have come to respect recommend this movie: Dr. James Dobson, D. James Kennedy, and Chuck Swindol among them. I heard of Billy Graham’s comment, “This movie contains a 1000 sermons.” I would like to add my name to this list.
The movie is subtitled because the dialogue is all in dead languages of Jesus’ time. Mr. Gibson did this because he wanted to make the film as realistic and as credible as possible. For those of us who are familiar with the story line, it is easy to keep pace with the dramatic action on screen and read the subtitles at the same time.
The movie portrays Jesus as both divine and human. During the scene where He prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asks His Father that the cup of suffering might pass Him by. His divinity is obvious when he heals the ear of one of the Temple Guards sent to arrest Him, as well as when He is depicted arising in the tomb after His resurrection.
There are some critics who accuse this movie of being anti-Semitic. Nothing could be further from the truth. So, who crucified Jesus? As far as I’m concerned, we are all guilty, beginning with me. I have heard Mr. Gibson admit as much about him self.
Please, leave your children at home and go see this R rated movie.
In God We Trust...