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Christian Pastor's Review of the Passion

Pastor's Review of the Passion
2/25/04 | Rev. Steven S. Bryant

A Review of the Passion: 2/23/04

Itís late but I feel a strong need to write to my friends and family. Earlier this evening, a group of approximately 250 Presbyterians and some of their close friends gathered in a theater for a special screening of The Passion of the Christ.

Iím writing because my prayer is that very soon you will in some way feel what I am feeling right now. Standing on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee made me feel this way. Walking the same cobbled streets of Jerusalem made me feel this way. Crouching down to enter the empty tomb made me feel this way. Iím struggling to find the words and these wonít do it justice, but the feeling inside is the mixture of joy and sadness over the reality of the Sacrifice. It really happened! Itís not a myth or a fairytale. Neither is it a flannel-graph or a Sunday School coloring assignment. The sacrifice of the Incarnate One was as real as the flesh that was bruised and bloodied and torn open. I want you to see this film because I believe that God can use it to bring you even closer unto Himself.

When was the last time you felt so much love for Jesus that you wept for two hours? Whether you cry tears that run down your cheeks or cry deep down inside while appearing stoic, if you love Jesus at all, you will cry somehow. Every person I know could benefit from a little more emotional connection with Jesus. Please donít avoid this film because youíre afraid of your own reaction. Donít deprive yourself a moment of spiritual growth because of fear.

Iím writing as well, because right now there are people in this world who really donít want you to see this film. Theyíre raising flimsy objections. ďItís too graphic,Ē they whine. Well, I can honestly say this was the most graphic film Iíve ever seen. But I would bet you my bottom dollar that had we been there at Golgotha 2000 years ago, weíd say it was infinitely more gruesome. It is visceral and gut-wrenching and anything less would not be true to the Gospel.

Should your kids see it? You need to see it first, then make that decision. If you are in touch with the growing faith of your children, you will know. My 12 year old son is mature enough to see this movie. Iím not sure what his reaction will be, but I want him to see it because it will help a young boy know with greater depth what it means to call Jesus, ďmy Savior.Ē My 10 year old daughter will see it too, but when the time is right. Not now.

Others are objecting that the film is anti-Semitic. Thatís an accusation that they have the right to raise, but I find no truth in it whatsoever. If the same objectors are intellectually honest, theyíd have to raise identical objections about the whole of the New Testament. Just because someone raises an objection doesnít make them right. Just because Diane Sawyer refers to someone as a ďBible scholarĒ doesnít make them one. Too many people today want to reduce Jesus to a mild mannered non-gendered person who came to teach us how to be nice; a more user-friendly kind of Jesus who is a way, a truth, and a life, among many others of our individual choosing.

Hear this: Jesus did not die a politically correct death! The Almighty didnít need to consult with sensors before He charted the Master Plan of Redemption. He didnít seek the theological approval of a multi-cultural inter-faith focus group. And He has never once changed the details in order to satisfy His critics.

This film isnít about what the Jews did to Jesus. Nor is it about what the Roman soldiers did. Itís about what Jesus did for the whole world. ďHe became obedient to the point of death, even death upon a cross.Ē Of course, we canít expect all non-believers to understand that. Some people wonít get the point. Some donít want to get the point. But many will, and I am convinced that God will work through this faithful adaptation of the Gospel to bring millions of new people into the fold.

Hereís something else Iím convinced of: I know the Biblical account better than the critics of this movie. In my opinion, Mel Gibson has made a film that is true to the Gospel. It is not the Word of God. It is not a substitute or an alternative to sacred Scripture. Not every detail and every line of dialogue will be found in the Gospel, but you can find nothing in this film that contradicts anything Biblical. Mel Gibsonís inspired artistry gets to the heart of the Gospel: It isnít about what the Jews did to Jesus. The Gospel is about what Jesus has done for the whole world. He paid the awful gory price. Our sin whipped every inch of His sinless body. Our hatefulness and wickedness drove the spikes through His hands and feet. Our self-centeredness raised the cross, and our darkness snuffed out the Light of the World....for a little while, but not long.

Tonight, I could hear lots of weeping. Why did they weep? Because a theater full of Presbyterians knew they were seeing their truest love on the big screen. And do you know what I kept hearing in my mind, through the interminable lashing? Above the crack of the whip, the mocking masses, the laughter of drunken executioners and the soundtrack orchestra, I could hear the voice of children singing ďJesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong; they are weak but He is strong.Ē

On the way home, my sweet Iranian friend Shala, whom I had the privilege of baptizing several years ago, said in her beautiful middle-eastern accent, ďI love Him all the more, I love Him all the more.Ē

By all means, please go see this film and you too will love Him more.

Rev. Steven S. Bryant steve@fpcvicksburg.org

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