“You are my friends, and the greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them.” The film, ‘The Passion of the Christ’ directed by Mel Gibson began with blackness, with only these words on the screen. It was a touching and dramatic beginning, directing the focus of the audience not to anything else, but this endless love of Christ, which was his sacrifice of his life. There is no greater love than this.
The movie progressed, with scenes of Jesus praying at Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives, and his disciples falling asleep. The immediate image of Jesus is this torn, frail, and desperate man, who is soiled with the burdens of much suffering and restlessness. He prays to God, asking this cup to be taken away, but only according to the will of the Father. At the same time, Satan, in the form of a woman, tempts Jesus with words of His insufficiencies as a man, saying to give up because it is impossible to continue His commission to bring salvation to the world.
This scene is the most realistic and touching out of all the scenes, because it showed our Lord Jesus Christ as human (veretheos, verehomo), and that the cross that He carried was not just the physical abuse and torture portrayed throughout the rest of the movie, but that it was a spiritual cross. It is that Jesus Christ carried the spiritual cross that was so heavy, that it was almost unbearable. But with faith, the Lord overcame, and carried with obedience to the will of the Father.
As viewers, this image of Jesus carrying this spiritual cross, the sins, disobedience, and ignorance of all mankind, is something that we must reflect upon. When we see the life of Christ, many times, we focus on the physical cross, and how he physically died hung on the tree. Of course that is true, but more than that, we must see Jesus even before, when He already chose to take this path of suffering and death. During His prayer at Gethsemane, Jesus chose the path of the cross, emptying Himself of everything, even life. He revealed the greatest faith and love, by obeying and drinking from this cup. It was this cross that the Lord carried, and it is this obedience that allowed Him to continue, even giving His flesh and blood to the world.
The movie showed the cross of Jesus, everything from the beatings to the crucifixion itself. Though graphic to some extent unimaginable, it clearly represented the pain of the cross. As Jesus’ life was shown on screen, up till His death, we can see the excruciating pain that He had to bear. As He carried the cross on the road, so vividly displayed is the difficulty of this path, with Jesus constantly stumbling and falling to the ground. Physically, He was torn and brutalized, and the movie made this very clear.
Even the mental cross was so great, with the Pharisees constantly saying words of blasphemy and insult to Jesus. As well as the Roman soldiers mocking Him and pushing His physical body to the limit. For the Lord to take this great cross, it was with constant suffering and pain that no one in the world ever imagined.
Watching this film, constantly embedded in our minds is the sacrifice and suffering of the Lord. The 2 hours of film give us a clear picture, maybe too clear, of the cross. But the message of this suffering was clearly conveyed, and the point made that the cross of the Lord was the greatest suffering.
However, the film should’ve emphasized more on this spiritual aspect of the cross. Jesus was the one facing death, and death is where you are completely empty, even of life itself. To go obediently to death is to empty yourself completely, giving everything that you own and possess. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." [Mark 10. 45 NIV] Jesus carried the cross until the death. The life of Jesus was this cross from the beginning; He was the one who gave everything to the world.
In that situation of death, when most people would run and flee, Jesus went silently and obediently on the path of the cross. He did not shake to the left or to the right, but followed the will of God in carrying this great cross for the world. Though he was the sinless one, He paid the price for our atonement and salvation, and through that, He gave us authority as sons and daughters of God. This cross of the Lord is love.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” [1John 3. 16-18 NIV]
Jesus carried the cross already even before He carried the physical cross. He dedicated His life to the will of God, and obediently followed putting us sinners above himself. The Lord came and emptied everything that He had, and suffered the life brought forth by our sins. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” [John 1. 11 NIV] This is the cross of Jesus, and because of this cross, we have been given life. This aspect of the cross is more touching, and it embeds a deeper gratitude for the life that Jesus Christ lived.
Artistically-wise, Mel Gibson skillfully directed the film, with flashbacks of Jesus’ past, even His childhood. Matching with the movie as it flowed, it gave the background that the audience needed. For example, there was a scene where Jesus was being crucified, and it would quickly switch to another scene of Jesus at the table with His disciples, giving the bread as His flesh, and wine as His blood. Another good touch was that it was in the native tongue of that area and time, allowing us to view in a more realistic aspect.
Though the emphasis of the film was on the cross of Jesus, it was a breath of fresh air to see the resurrection, even though it was just a short glimpse. It would have been better to expand on the resurrection more. But also, to show the life of the disciples and the people in Jerusalem, who witnessed the death of Christ, and how through that death, they gained life. This is the message of the Gospel, it is the cross and resurrection, it is the life through love.
Compared to many Christian movies, this was the most artistic and descriptive depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus. However, it would not be good for children to watch, though the message is powerful and essential. Personally, the film was too graphic when it comes to the physical beating and suffering of Jesus, and may not be enjoyable for those who do not view violence well. However, it opened the love of Christ to a level that many have not felt before. Though the impact of the cross can be displayed in other methods, graphic scenes of violence did push the seriousness of this death.
”The Passion of the Christ” was an important reminder of the cross and the sacrifice of the Lord, especially at a time when many of faith so lightly portray the cross. It allowed us to see once again the pain and suffering of the Lord for us, that it was this unconditional love and forgiveness. And because of that love of the cross, we have gained the life that we now live. Therefore we should never take the cross of Jesus lightly, but hold that most precious. As Apostle Paul says, may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. [Galatians 6. 14]
As Christians, it is important to remember that cross, and know our life is gained because of that love. Then let us be the ones to resemble the image of the Lord, who carried the cross for our brothers and sisters in Christ, even giving His life for another. There is truly no greater love than to give what we value the most to those we love, even those we do not love. The Lord, on the cross, prayed a prayer of forgiveness for those who have sinned against Him. Let us resemble this image of love and forgiveness, and reveal to the world the true life through the cross.