by David Sisler

“The Passion of Christ” is an incredible movie, personally paid for by producer Mel Gibson. Early in the production Mr. Gibson said he felt the driving force of the Holy Spirit as he worked on the film. To have not made the movie, he said, would have been to disobey God.

Mel Gibson is a Roman Catholic and there are a couple of scenes which are drawn from his background, but as a viewer with a solid Protestant background, there was nothing in the movie that distracted from the telling of the last 12 hours, leading to the death, of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The movie is incredibly moving. I wept openly during many of the scenes as did most of the audience. Many people could be heard sobbing loudly during the showing which I attended. At one point, during the scourging of Christ, I wanted to shout out, “Stop it! That’s enough! You’re killing him!” And at each blow of the hammers against the nails, I flinched, feeling in my heart what our Lord felt in his hands and in his feet – and that for my sins! And yours!

The film is also incredibly violent. We have sanitized the cross. For most Americans (indeed, for most people around the world) the cross is a beautiful piece of jewelry or an ornament to grace an altar or a communion table. The cross was in reality a brutal means of torture and execution. It was designed to humiliate the victim and draw out death as long as possible – often the victim suffered for a week, going totally mad before actually dying. During the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 Roman crosses lined the road going into Jerusalem. One story from history says that they ran out of trees from crucifying so many Jews.

A. O. Scott, a film critic for The New York Times flays Mel Gibson’s movie. He says, “This film means to make literal an event that the Gospels often treat with circumspection and that tends to be thought about somewhat abstractly.”

The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was a literal event. It is meant to be taken as a literal event. It is not a metaphor or an allegory. It happened. It is true that the Gospels do not go into very much detail about the crucifixion. Everyone who read the words of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John would have seen a crucifixion or would have known from very immediate history what a crucifixion was. There was no need for detail. Mr. Scott, it seems you have missed the point, but the pounding of nails through human flesh, the dislocating of joints, the starvation, the thirst, the broken bones, and the ultimate suffocation was hardly an abstract idea.

A note about movie reviewers, movie violence, and anti-Semitism.

First, movie reviewers lie – or deliberately mislead. Many of the reviews I have read say that the scene in which Jesus is scourged lasts 45 minutes, giving the deliberate perception that for 45 minutes, audiences are forced to watch Jesus whipped and beaten. There is a measure of truth in what they say – a very small measure. From beginning to end, the scourging scene may last 45 minutes, but Jesus is on screen being whipped for less than ten minutes. The remainder of the time is devoted to various flashbacks from his life.

Second, movie reviewers lie – or deliberately mislead. Many of the reviews I have read say that film is anti-Semitic. If “The Passion of the Christ” is anti-Semitic, then so are the Gospels of the New Testament from which the film is closely drawn.

According to the Gospels, Caiaphas, the high priest, and his followers instigated the crucifixion of Jesus because of jealously, fear, and hate. At one point the high priest, fearing a repression by the Roman government (a fear he shared in common with Pontius Pilate) said, “It is necessary that one man die for the nation.” They found witnesses to lie against Jesus at an illegal trial. They incited the crowd to call for the murder of the Teacher from Nazareth. They goaded and manipulated Pilate into ordering the execution of Jesus rather than granting his release. And, led by the Jewish religious leaders, a cry did go up of, “Let his blood be on us and on our children.”

If the Bible is God’s Word – and I believe that it is – then Mel Gibson’s film accurately tells the story of the involvement of the Jewish leaders and some – not all – Jewish people. Anti-Semitism is calculated to incite bigotry and violence against Jews. This film is not anti-Semitic.

The simple answer to the question of who killed Jesus is the Roman soldiers, under the direction of the Roman government. The instigation was from the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. But the ultimate responsibility for his death belongs firmly to David Sisler. And to you, my readers, and to every man, woman and child ever born or yet to be born on this planet. It was our sin that nailed him to the tree. Without the shedding of blood, the Bible says, there is no remission of sins. And the only suitable sacrifice was the blood of God’s only Son.

“The Passion of the Christ” will bring in a lot of money. I hope it tops the list of the best grossing movie of all time! But the critics will say it is only because churches have bought out theaters. You bet your booties, Granny! This film unashamedly and unabashedly tells the story of the Son of God dying for our sins.

Never has anything like this hit the screens of the metroplex. “The Last Temptation of Christ” lied and distorted the story and was praised by reviewers. When this blasphemous film was released, where were the non-stop talk shows reviewing and condemning it? Good movies like “King of Kings” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told” have been fairly faithful recreations, but they were calculated to be a soft-sell, a soft-peddling of the story, calculated to offend no one.

Mr. Scott proves the point I offer in the above paragraph: “Mr. Gibson has departed radically from the tone and spirit of earlier American movies about Jesus, which have tended to be palatable (if often extremely long) Sunday school homilies designed to soothe the audience.”

Jesus said his message was offensive, and divisive – he came, he told us to divide, to bring a sword, not to be a stained-glass figure that could easily be ignored. So church people should see the movie. Good googilee moogilee, if the Hollywood crowd did a film that openly promoted homosexuality and homosexuals bought out the theaters, the liberal media would say nothing about it, except about how courageous it was, and how much money it made. But let the church support something and our dollars are dismissed because we spend them in the name of God!

Roger Ebert, film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, and a former Roman Catholic altar boy wrote, “For we altar boys, this [Lenten services] was not necessarily a deep spiritual experience. Christ suffered, Christ died, Christ rose again, we were redeemed, and let’s hope we can get home in time to watch the Illinois basketball game on TV. What Gibson has provided for me, for the first time in my life, is a visceral idea of what the Passion consisted of.”

One more thing. Many critics of the film have decried “The Passion of the Christ” for not talking about the love of God. After all, they say, the message of Christ was one of love. One preacher on a television interview show, while finding much fault and giving almost no praise to the film, made direct reference to John 3:16 saying, “That is the message of Jesus, and it was no where in this movie.”

Well, let’s look at it: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Even though he obviously missed the point of John 3:16, the preacher was on the right path. God loved. God gave. So that no one would perish, he gave his only son to die on the cross. And henceforth, whosoever will accept that death as the personal payment for their sins and receive that Son as their Lord and Savior will have eternal life. The cross of Jesus Christ is the ratification of love, and without the cross there is no love and we are all dead in our sins.

“The Passion of the Christ” does not end with the death of the Son of God. Jesus rises from the grave, and with his face firmly set, he leaves the tomb. The music that plays in the background is not harp music, not a palatable, Sunday school piece that would have satisfied A. O. Scott. It is martial music. It is battle music. And the risen Son of the Living God marches out of the tomb to continue the war against hell for the souls of men.

“The Passion of Christ” is, finally, only a movie. The death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus and his victory over sin, death, the grave, and hell are real. And here you write your own review. Is his victory your victory?


Copyright 2004 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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