Editor's Note: While Vertical Thought does not normally run reviews of movies, The Passion of the Christ has generated such interest that we thought it good to run this article. While we do not believe everyone needs to view this movie or that everyone will have the same reaction to it if they choose to see it, Ashley's experience reflects vertical thinking that merits our consideration.
Where do I even begin? How do I describe the two hours that I spent watching The Passion of the Christ ? Let me start by informing you of my mind-set at the time and of all of the different scenarios and thoughts that were running through my head. For the past several weeks I have heard commentators and critics talk about this movie and I have heard very positive reviews as well as extremely negative ones. I went to this movie expecting the best and the worst. I was also going in to the movie with the mission of observing whether or not it showed any signs of anti-Semitism, since this has been a major concern. I did note that this film was made from a Catholic point of view. There is more emphasis put on Mary than needed to be and I was a bit disappointed in the lack of emphasis on the relationship between God the Father and Christ the Son.
I arrived at the theater over an hour early and stood in the line that was designated for the 7 p.m. showing. Everything seemed to be in slow motion, and I caught myself watching each person who walked by, noticing every emotion on his or her face. Most people brought friends and made it an "event." They were talking casually before the show. It seemed that nobody was nervous about what they were about to witness except for me but, of course, I know there were others. I watched individuals come out of the previous showing, and there were some with tears streaming down their faces and others who were just stone-faced, looking like their world was just turned upside down. Seeing those emotions sparked the emotions in me, and I began to cry even before the movie started.
Quickly regaining composure, the doors opened for us and I walked in and found a comfy seat in between the front and the middle. I sat right next to a very sweet woman who shared her popcorn with me (thankfully, because I was pretty hungry). My nerves were soon running rampant again, and I was ready for the movie to begin. I said a quiet prayer asking God to be with the showing and with each person who was about to view this.
It began. There was no humor, no ice-breaker to start the scene. It began on a serious and very real note. I don't want to give too much away for those who have not seen the movie, but I just want to outline the parts that really affected me. It began with Jesus praying to God the Father and foreshadowing what was to come. The movie grabbed me from the beginning, and I could already feel the pain and sense what was about to take place.
As the movie progressed, Jesus was captured by the Romans and tortured beyond anything I could ever imagine. The critics had explained in many interviews and reviews that this was one of the most graphic, violent films ever produced and that was an understatement. The Romans surrounded Jesus and tied Him to a post. Then they began whipping Him repeatedly all over His back and legs-making gashes into His flesh. As if regular whips weren't enough, they switched them out and used whips with shards of glass on the tips. Once His back was beyond repair, they turned Him over so that they could whip His front. Viewers saw each rip of the flesh and heard each cry of pain from each blow of the whip.
After a while, I could not see any flesh anymore-only large gashes and red blood. What was even worse was the reactions of the ones who were whipping Him. They took a lot of pride in what they were doing and were even laughing at the sight of the blood and pain. It was very hard to watch this gruesome beating, but I forced my eyes to stay open because I needed to see it.that was the least that I could do.
The beatings continued and were varied from whippings to kicking, and pushing a crown of thorns into His head and skull. If this wasn't enough, they made Him carry His cross for what seemed like several miles. He fell down several times but never ceased to get right back up again. The part that was the hardest to watch for me was when they hammered the nails through His hands into the post. You could see every part of it and see His blood squirting out. He looked absolutely awful and like He was in incredible pain throughout most of the entire movie.
I went to this movie expecting to cry throughout but to my surprise I was in too much shock and pain to even muster a tear. I felt the pain and guilt of Jesus' sacrifice deep down inside of me-to the bone. I felt myself in a state of continuous aching. I felt emotional pain deeper than I have ever felt. No death of a father, grandfather or close friend can compare. I have watched a friend dying and I have experienced an extreme loss of a loved one, but the pain that Jesus endured was beyond anything I could ever imagine.
Of course, I recognized that this was only a movie and that the man on the screen was Jim Caviezel and not Christ. Even though those amazing gashes were only makeup, this movie definitely helped me put into perspective the amount of pain and suffering that Christ went through for each and every one of us. While watching this two hour movie of Christ's last 12 hours, I couldn't help but feel a deep feeling of guilt and extreme unworthiness. It absolutely tore me up when Christ was on the cross and said, "Father please forgive them, they know not what they do." That statement struck hard.
After all of that pain and suffering that Jesus had just endured, He still showed such amazing love. He loved each person who swung that torturous whip to create each bloody, deep gash on His body. He loved all of the men and women who cheered on the events and loved all of those who cursed His name-"for they know not what they do."
Hope via the Passover
You may be thinking that this movie only encompasses pain and suffering. For the most part that is true. But contrary to what critics say about the movie not giving any hope, I saw it differently. I caught amazing hope when Christ thought back to the Passover supper with His disciples-when He washed each of their feet with nice pure water. He humbly got down on His knees and did something that only a servant of that time would do. "A servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him" (John 13:16 John 13:16Truly, truly, I say to you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
American King James Version×).
Then, Christ gave them the bread to represent His body, and they drank wine to represent His blood that would be shed for each of us. These were the moments that I cried. These tears were out of joy because of the sacrifice that He made, and I felt absolutely honored to understand this. He knew exactly what He was going to do and wanted each of us to remember Him as our sacrificial Lamb through His blood and His body. Those images will stick with me as I observe my first Passover this year. Having seen the movie, I believe the Passover will have an even stronger meaning for me than I had imagined.
In no way did Christ deserve that terrible, gruesome, violent death, but it was a part of God's plan that Jesus was willing to endure so that we may have eternal life through forgiveness of our sins. He died for each and every one of us. He died for me personally. The movie was a good tool for me in understanding Christ's sacrifice and for putting into perspective the extent of pain that Jesus endured. But, in no way will any man on this earth understand that pain. Only God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son know what He went through. Jesus felt each whip, each hit, every blow to His precious, sinless body, and He did it voluntarily. How many of us would endure that kind of pain for one another? It would be extremely hard for me to even imagine going through that pain.
Who killed Christ?
There were Romans, Jews and gentiles who were physically responsible for the tortures that were placed upon Him. And there were Romans, Jews and gentiles who were physically by His side. But we all killed Jesus. To fully understand the crucifixion and why He laid His life down for us, it is imperative that each of us realize that we are personally responsible for His death.
Each person who has ever taken a single breath on this earth is guilty. Not one race or culture of people is individually responsible and that is something that needs to be understood. To blame one group of people is simply ignorance of the true meaning of the event. Christ's death and resurrection were part of God's plan; therefore, whoever physically had a hand in the crucifixion was intended to.
This film is overwhelmingly painful to watch, but is absolutely beautiful at the same time. At the end of the movie, Christ rose on the third day. The hope that I am left with from this movie is that Christ will return again and rid us of this disastrous world that we live in and give us a gift of an amazing Kingdom. There is more hope than we can even fathom; it is just too far out of our reach. My hope for this movie is that we will reach out and bring that hope closer to our hearts and embrace it.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
American King James Version×).
If you would like to learn more about who Jesus was and His expectations of those who wish to follow Him, request the free Bible study aid booklet, Jesus Christ: The Real Story.