“… He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
My wife and I attended a screening of Mel Gibson’s upcoming movie, “The Passion of the Christ” with an overflow audience of mostly pastors at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.
Gibson was on hand and spoke following the movie, responding to questions from Christian author Lee Strobel and Saddleback pastor, Rick Warren.
The message was: “Christ crucified.”
I’m confident that never before in film history has this subject been more honestly and painfully depicted. Many wept. The 90-minute movie, in rough-cut format, was an uncompromising depiction of the monumental price paid by our Lord that we may be saved.
Only when we realize how excruciating, humiliating and forsaken Jesus’ suffering was can we understand how depraved and in need of Him we are.
“As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside … There is none who does good, no, not one.’” (Romans 3:10-12)
Without Jesus covering our sin, there would be nothing between us and eternally agonizing damnation.
“… the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” (Romans 1:18)
Someone had to pay that enormous price for our offense against God. Us, or Jesus.
If you haven’t been to your knees lately to thank Him, this movie will help you assume that posture. Every scourging lash of the whip, every blow of fist and club, every piercing nail, every excruciating breath drawn during His suffering is graphically and ultra-realistically portrayed.
And each punishing blow is what you and I have earned as fallen sinners.
In every unbearably painful moment we should realize the suffering should be ours, not His. Not just for 12 hours, but for eternity. If that doesn’t stir your gratitude and love for your Savior, what will?
“Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” (Psalm 100:4)
The film appears to be a blend of the four Gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ last hours from Gethsemane to resurrection. Most movies have good guys and bad guys. “The Passion of the Christ” has one good guy, fully God, fully man. The rest are bad, fallen sinners, some who followed Jesus, others who rejected Him.
In a previous column I wrote that it was my prayer Gibson wouldn’t water down the Gospel in response to complaints from liberal theologians and non-believing Jewish critics, who alleged the film would incite anti-Semitism.
Now it is abundantly clear there is nothing remotely anti-Semitic about the movie. It’s equally clear Mr. Gibson has not toned down the message one jot or tittle. A segment previously reported deleted remains in the version we saw. It’s the passage from the Gospel of Matthew in which an assembled Jewish crowd urged Pontius Pilate to crucify Jesus, yelling: “His blood be on us and on our children.”
As Christians know, Jesus’ followers that day were virtually all Jewish. He was a Jew. His brother, His mother and her husband were Jews. His disciples were Jews. The movie faithfully depicts the Jewishness of them all, as well ass that of a dissenting protester on the Sanhedrin, who objected to the late-night kangaroo court.
“The Passion of the Christ” is not a Christian vs. Jew movie. It’s the story of His sacrifice and the roles played by believers and nonbelievers. To any unbiased eye, there’s nothing anti-Semitic about it. It is a truthful portrayal.
It’s imperative for us also to remember that despite the roles played by non-believing Jews and pagan Roman authorities, the Lord willingly and sacrificially gave His life. He would not be killed without His cooperation.
“You could have no power at all against me unless it had been given you from above.” (John 19:11)
Gibson and other speakers urged the audience to use the movie to evangelize this Easter. The film will be released Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25. Hollywood isn’t crazy about the idea. But Mr. Gibson wisely has taken the message to the people who can evangelize for Christ—believers.
His prayer is that we spread the word so God’s Word can reach those who need to hear it. I urge you to persuade your church to do just that. Our church has plans already.
For unbelievers, the film may be long on “how,” but not so keen on “why.” That’s where believers’ roles come in.
Non-Christians may applaud the movie because in one sense it has a common Hollywood theme: A good man suffers at the hands of evil-doers, but prevails. If that’s all non-Christians understand, they may as well watch Indiana Jones.
Every believer should take a nonbeliever to this movie. Then answer their questions. What’s clear to Christians will likely be mysterious to nonbelievers: Why did Christ have to suffer so? Why did He have to die?
“Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15)
The cross’ message is not merely that we are saved. It is why we are saved, and from what. Otherwise, the meaning is lost.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
To learn how to reach others visit thepassiontickets.com, thepassionoutreach.com or passionmaterials.com.
Most of all, pray this film will bring Jesus’ message to lost souls.
Mark Landsbaum, a former Los Angeles Times staff writer, is an evangelical Christian, freelance writer and author from Diamond Bar, Calif.