By Gail Reid
Special to The InterimEvery Christian should see Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of The Christ. Not because it’s the most authentic portrayal of Jesus Christ’s last 12 hours, but because it synthesizes into two intense hours God’s plan to save the world at cosmic cost.
Passion plays have been popular for centuries, but this movie brings us up close to the dirt, the blood and the chaotic darkness of the event that we remember on Good Friday and during communion. You find yourself trying to step back from the movie because it’s so “in your face.” If you’re a Christian, you know the story … but this is different; you know the hero, personally. You know the reason why it happened – why it had to happen.Throughout the entire movie, the Christian viewer struggles with the horrible visual details of Christ’s suffering, yet with the full knowledge that it was planned before the foundation of the world. We view an evil and dark world where the best in each of us fails under pressure. The faithful and passionate love of Peter for his master crumbles easily under the force of the mob; the reasoned arguments of Pilate buckle selfishly under the call to “crucify him!” The Pharisees’ concern for purity and righteousness blinds them to the hope of Israel that they seek. Even Mary struggles as a mother with her longing to stop what God has ordained.
We too want to stop it – it’s too hard to even watch. Inside us there’s a “Yes!” response when Peter slices off the ear of an arresting soldier. Everything in us wants to fight back! We want a way out – for Jesus to stop it. We look at his bloody visage in horror, ashamed. With the unbelieving thief, we long for Jesus to come off the cross and show them who He really is. When He whispers, “Forgive them for they know not what they do” our whole being shouts, “Why?”
Right from the first scene, we are reminded of God’s salvation plan. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus whispers in his fear, “Your will be done, Father – not mine.” When Satan tempts him, saying that no man can bear the sin of the world, Jesus responds by crushing the head of Satan’s serpent with his foot. And we remember the prophecy that the seed of Eve will crush the serpent’s head. In a flashback, we hear Jesus tell his disciples, “This is my body, given for you.”
In each scene, Jesus is always in control of not being in control – He allows God’s plan to unfold, without using his power to fight back. He is silent before King Herod, when a small miracle could save him. Before Pilate, He says evenly, “You have no power but what my Father in Heaven gives you.” There is no blame laid on the Jews, on the Romans, on the disciples, on the crowds, on us.
If we ever thought there might have been another way for God to deal with sin, this movie removes it. This is John 3:16 in all its horror, blood, violence and hatred. God loved the world so much that He sent his Son … to save it! This is the cost of loving a sin-filled world. This is the cost of creating humans with free will. This is the cost of loving you and me.