The Passion

Photo courtesy of Aztlan Communications Network

Under a certain amount of duress, I drove with Kathy to Tacoma to see The Passion today, while my Mom watched the kids. Receiving free tickets, and even being chauffered to the movie theater by my Dad, it was all accomplished with very little inconvenience or pain to me. Except, perhaps, the pain of watching.

Don’t get me wrong. I thought the movie was very well done, extremely effective and reasonably true to the Biblical accounts of the Gospels. I found the scriptural quotations to be well-chosen and believe the overall presentation was closely representative of the actual event. But it was a difficult and draining experience to view the portrayal of Jesus’ agony up to the moment of his death, in such graphic detail.

I’m glad that I went, for some values of ‘glad’.

(This is a programmer joke — 2+2=5 for some values of 2 and 5. Admittedly, not a very funny joke, but, hey, I’m a programmer, not a comedian.)

What I mean is that I felt responsible to see the movie and I’m proud that I went through with it, but it did not, technically, make me ‘glad’. I went to see it because I think for the next month or two it will be one of the most effective ways to engage a non-believer in a discussion about Jesus; indeed, I tried it out on a WalMart checkout clerk on the way home and found the conversation to be very easy and natural.

My wife says that I am too negative in this posting and that I fail to inspire my potential reader to rush out and see The Passion. Perhaps so. Frankly, to quote an obscure line from “Knight’s Tale”, going to this movie is “something each man must decide for himself.” I will probably not allow my children to see this movie, but I would encourage my brother to do so, if he hasn’t already. If you love God, seeing this movie will probably deepen your understanding of the sacrifice that Jesus made as He died in your place. If you don’t love God, and you reject His Son, then going to this movie may not help you particularly, unless the Holy Spirit uses it to touch your heart and change your mind.

I was very moved by the scene in which Mary manages to connect with Jesus as he makes his way along the Via Dolorosa. Rather than speak of his suffering, or even express his love for her, the actor playing Jesus says, “See, I am making all things new!” (As far as I know, Jesus does not actually say this until quoted in Revelation 21:5.) Gibson communicates Jesus’ sense of purpose and submission to God’s plan very accurately, using flashback scenes to carefully underscore the fact that Jesus gave up His life; it was not taken from Him. Even as His mangled body is crushed beneath the weight of the cross, Jesus’ unswerving commitment to fulfilling the will of the Father blazes forth in this majestic moment.

There was nothing in the movie that surprised me, particularly, except a few ‘jump’ scenes (as when Jesus stomps on the snake’s head or when a Roman soldier knocks an offered cup of water out of a woman’s hand). I’ve seen the Puyallup Passion Play several times, where considerable effort is made to realistically portray the beating and crucifixion of Jesus. And of course I’ve studied all four of the gospels fairly carefully and read a number of commentaries that explain various cultural customs and practices more clearly.

I was impressed by the way that Gibson used Satan to actually present the essence of the Gospel, in the opening scenes of the film. Satan, trying to discourage Jesus, tries to tell him that there is no way one man can bear the sin of all people. Through this backhanded device, the viewer can clearly understand that Jesus’ intent is to bear the sin of all men in His own body, according to the will of God the Father.

There was, perhaps, a bit more reverence of Mary than seems appropriate to me, but from a Catholic perspective, it was fairly restrained.

I strongly identified with the thief on the cross who asks Jesus to remember him, when he comes into his kingdom; the power of God never ceases to amaze me as revealed in that scene. In the midst of the darkest moment of all of Creation, as the Son of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords is being brutally tortured to death by His own rebellious creatures, God reaches out and uses that opportunity to snatch a soul from Satan’s grasp.

Truly, he makes all things new.

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