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April 19, 2014- 5:57pm
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The Passion of Christ

Now that all the pre-release hype is over and Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of The Christ” is currently showing in theaters, many are wondering what the response will be. I was privileged to see the film before it was released to the general public in a Monday night Pastor’s preview sponsored by Vicky Branton’s Education Value Entertainment, Inc. group at the Westwood Theater in Lafayette. Our congratulations and thanks go to Vicky for putting together such a tremendous event that completely sold out the 600-seat theater with over 100 churches being represented. As for my own experience, I can say that the film totally lived up to expectations. I thought it very appropriate that at the end of the movie, not a person moved for several minutes while lengthy credits rolled up the screen. In fact, at that moment my thoughts were, “I hope no one says a word just yet, so that the special sanctity of this moment is not spoiled.” I felt that anything spoken at that moment would have been anti-climactic and only detracted from the uniqueness of the experience. I did not “watch” the film, I “experienced” it! Afterward, my own mind was buzzing from one scene to another trying to assimilate all it had received. My wife had a similar experience, and when we finally did leave the theater, we drove home in virtual silence. It wasn’t until the next morning that we were able to speak openly about our feelings.

Having seen a number of other movies on the same subject, I was thankful during this movie that it faithfully followed the facts as revealed in Scripture — unlike other Hollywood versions. I was also thankful that, unlike other Christian-made versions, this movie had professional actors and technology that gave it much more of a sense of realism than players on a stage quoting rehearsed lines.

After the movie and after having time to think about how I felt, I realized that one of the things that came across most powerfully to me was the fact that Jesus willingly and purposely went through the whole experience. For instance, when He was at the whipping post, the Roman soldiers beat Him until He lay prostrate on the ground with no strength left in Him and with His hands still shackled to the top of the post. Then with an effort that was simply inexplicable, He began to get up off the ground! I wanted to shout, “No! Stay down. If you get up, they’ll start all over again!” And that’s exactly what happened. It was as if Jesus was defying man and satan, desiring to take all the punishment that could be heaped upon Him. My wife and I wondered how He ever made it to the top of the hill where He was crucified. With the punishment that was meted out, it would seem he logically would have died somewhere along the way. Then I remembered His words, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:17-18a) Though there were many spots between the Garden of Gethsemane and Golgotha where Jesus could have given up, He did not. He pressed on with what had to be supernatural strength to reach the time and place where He could rightly say, “It is finished!” Interestingly, Mel Gibson’s caption at that point in the movie, read, “It is accomplished.” That caught me off guard at first, being raised on the King James Version, but the more I thought about it, the word “accomplished” gives rise to the idea that a mission has been completed. Had the word “finished” been used, some may have thought Jesus was just relieved that the suffering was over, or that He was stating the obvious, that His life was over. That was also correct, but the more important truth was that His mission was accomplished. His Father’s will had been done.

Some may think that Mel Gibson went a bit overboard in portraying the physical condition of Jesus on the cross after the beatings He had endured. We have become accustomed to seeing Jesus portrayed as the thieves were in this movie, with a few marks here and there. But we must remember, Isaiah prophesied, “His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man, and his form marred beyond human likeness.” (Is. 52:14b) I would have to believe that Gibson’s depiction of Jesus’ condition was closer to the truth than what we are used to seeing on film.

While watching the movie, I became a bit concerned about the emphasis I saw on Jesus’ mother Mary — she was seen following Jesus in almost every scene. I feared that Gibson had veered from a Scriptural view of Mary and reverted to a denominational portrait. But on further consideration, I realized that Mary was not depicted outside a Scriptural interpretation. She was simply shown in the movie as a grieving mother who was greatly concerned about her child — a very humble portrayal.

One scene that involved Mary had me puzzled at first. With no words spoken, Claudia, Pilate’s wife, came to Mary and gave her a bundle of linen sheets — apparently showing compassion so that Mary could bind up the wounds of Jesus after Pilate released Him. But Pilate did not release Him as he had said he would. Mary took the cloths and began wiping up Jesus’ blood that was splattered all around the whipping post. This scene, not in Scripture, but a part of a nun’s vision recorded in writings Gibson had studied, had me perplexed. Then I realized, that by her actions, Mary was stating that she would not leave that “precious” blood to be a part of such an unworthy place full of hate and disregard.

Some have been puzzled about the grotesque-looking baby being held by “satan” during the scourging scene. With this scene Gibson seems to be saying that “satan” was mocking Jesus and His relationship with His mother. Satan was taunting Him, saying that His mother, who had protected Him during His childhood years, could do nothing for Him now. For many years artists in the Catholic church have portrayed Mary and Jesus in paintings as “mother and child” or “Madonna and Christ.” The irony is that at that point, Jesus did not expect or want protection from His mother or anyone else. He knew that He alone must bear the burden of the sins of the world.

One thing that viewers of this film cannot escape is the ability of Jesus to forgive in spite of how He was treated. In view of that, some have predicted this movie may bring many to Christ. I believe the greater impact will be on believers, who will be graphically reminded of how great a love Jesus has for us, and how great a price He paid for our salvation. If that brings revival to the Church, then many people may indeed be brought to a saving relationship with Jesus.

One thing I know is that I will never be the same. The morning after I had seen the movie, I heard Ray Boltz’s song “The Hammer” on the radio. Immediately my mind pulled up scenes I had viewed the night before. It has been more than a week now since I saw the film, and it is still happening. I don’t believe I will ever escape the impact of “The Passion of The Christ.”

---Dean St. Cyr

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