by Sue Schumann Warner –
Mel Gibson (director/producer) directs Jim Caviezel.
Mel Gibson’s powerful new film, The Passion of the Christ, may be the most emotionally charged—and controversial—one to hit the big screen in years. It is clearly the most diligent to adhere to the Gospels in presenting the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ’s life, vividly portraying the depth of God’s love for us, in that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6 NIV)
Watching the movie was, for me, a powerful and life-changing event. Having seen The Passion in a pre-release screening—as did those who are quoted on these pages—at which Mr. Gibson spoke to the audience and responded to questions, I found the film to be a remarkable portrayal of the depth and power of God’s love.
It is violent, but I did not find it to be anti-Semitic, as some of the media have portrayed it.
The film simply presents the chronology of Christ’s betrayal by Judas, his arrest and questioning by the high priest, his beatings by the Roman soldiers, and his crucifixion on Calvary; but it doesn’t end there; the story is made complete by including a glimpse of the risen Christ.
I found the presence of Satan at key moments to be a powerful reminder of Christ’s struggle.
The Passion is brutal—at times, I found it hard to watch. It is not appropriate for children under 12, and is well deserving of an R rating for violence, which it will no doubt receive.
Scripture such as, “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged…they clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying ‘Hail, O king of the Jews!’ And they struck him in the face” (John 19:1-3) hit home as I saw for the first time what it meant to be flogged. It was bloody and brutal; death often resulted. As I watched Jesus’ flogging, I could only marvel that it was, “for me.”
Relief from the violence came through flashbacks of Jesus’ life: laughing with his mother, Mary as he builds a table; playing as a toddler; celebrating the Passover with the disciples, and other events that lovingly express the joyful, caring, humanity of Christ. As these scenes are woven together with the brutal beatings and Jesus’ death on the cross, Gibson creates a full-bodied, multi-dimensional look at the one who gave his life for me—and for you.
This movie is not to be missed. It will cause you to think, to re-examine your belief about Jesus Christ, and re-evaluate your relationship with him. Most of all, it will cause you to give thanks to the one who had such a great love, who “died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (I Peter 3: 18)
The impact of a film
Can a Hollywood movie lead to a conversion experience? It did for me.
In 1965, as a senior in high school, I saw George Stevens’ The Greatest Story Ever Told, with a blue-eyed Max Von Sydow portraying Jesus. Despite the distractions of being “Hollywood-ish,” with a host of stars in the cast, including Pat Boone, Shelley Winters, and John Wayne, it got me thinking about Jesus Christ. More importantly, it got me reading my Bible, trying to figure out who Jesus was.
I had grown up in the church, gone to Bible studies and Sunday school, attended prayer breakfasts and was a member of my Presbyterian church’s youth group. I knew all about Jesus, but had never met him personally—or even knew that you could.
After seeing the movie, I started reading the Gospel of Matthew—seemed logical, since it’s at the beginning of the New Testament. By the time I got to Chapter 13, and the parable of the Sower, I knew it was talking about me: I was the seed sown on rocky places “where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.” I desperately wanted to be the seed that “fell on good soil, where it produced a crop…” but I didn’t know how.
I put my Bible away and went off to college that fall—still seeking, but not knowing where the answers were.
The following spring, a year after I had seen the movie, a friend told me about Campus Crusade for Christ, and invited me to a meeting. There, I clearly heard the claims of the Gospel, that Christ died for me, for my sins, and that all I needed to do was to accept his death on the cross for me. It was the end of my search and the beginning of a new life, one where I “knew that I knew” Jesus Christ.
And it started with a movie.
The private viewing of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ had a very deep and profound affect on me both emotionally and spiritually. The depths of my emotions were touched by the full measure of what Jesus did for ME on the cross. The greater spiritual impact touched the core of my being and authenticated the truth of God’s Word and promises. This is a must-see movie that will change lives for the glory of God.
Major Ron Strickland
The Passion of The Christ is a movie you need to see. You need to see Satan walking through the crowds. You need to see the blood streaming down the body of your Savior. You need to see the nails pounded through the hands of Jesus and through the wood of the cross. You need to see the unwavering love of our Lord, and the ageless pain on his resurrected face, and you need to turn to the friend who went with you who doesn’t understand and tell him why.
IT Application Specialist
So. Calif. DHQ
From the very beginning, I was captivated. I felt as if I were right there. At times, I was full of tears watching the cruelty of the crowd, and actually had to close my eyes because of the overwhelming emotions that kept surfacing. I found myself getting very frustrated with the disciples—why couldn’t they stay awake in the Garden of Gethsemane? Why did the soldiers have to be so cruel and relentless? I realized very quickly, it was not they, but me. I did all those things. Pilate declared, ‘Do you not know that I have authority to release you, and I have authority to crucify you?’ Jesus answered, ‘You would have no authority over me, unless it had been given you from above.’ It was voluntary love on his part; he died for me. The final scene of the empty tomb, and the nail print in his hand, was a silent exultation.
Major Pam Strickland
ARC Director of Special Services
While watching the film, portraying the brutal beating and graphic violence of the crucifixion, I couldn’t help but think over and over, ‘He did this for me. Jesus suffered like this for me.’ It brought me to tears to see such a graphic portrayal of Christ’s suffering and death—the cost of my sin! At the end of the film my overwhelming thought was ‘Thank you, Jesus!’
Captain Lisa Smith
Assistant Territorial Youth Secretary
What the Army is doing…
“In order to take advantage of this film, we have sent to every leader of our Army ministry units a CD-ROM, produced by Outreach.com, featuring a trailer of the movie, a conversation with Mel Gibson and the young man who played Jesus, and support from other church leaders,” said Major Chuck Gillies, secretary for corps ministries and spiritual formation. “We also included a catalogue of resources available through Outreach.com.
“This issue of New Frontier features the opportunities that lie before us as a result of the movie. This puts ‘stamp of approval’ for Army involvement in this film and encouragement to use this media as an active corps effort at evangelism.
“We need to recognize this excellent opportunity for personal and corporate evangelistic efforts at a prime time of the church year, the time we remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. We also need to use the material developed for small group follow-up meetings, neighborhood outreach and post-showing programming to speak to the anticipated community reaction to seeing the film.
We want Salvationists and corps attenders to see the film with their neighbors, and then to spend time over the coffee table reacting and exploring the reality of Jesus in our world today.”