Thoughts to Ponder

Discernment and The Passion of Christ.

If you would like to read a little shorter version of my review of the movie it can be found here: Review of the movie The Passion of Christ.

I have been surprised and saddened over the past couple of years at the lack of biblical discernment in the body of Christ. Not just the lay people either, but the pastors and teachers in the church. I have been at a loss to explain how or why this lack of discernment came about, but I see it often lately.

There are too many examples to list, but just so you know what I am talking about, I will list a couple. The Prayer of Jabez was very popular. Not just with people who thought it was the magic prayer that God always answers, but with church leadership who jumped on the bandwagon and taught Prayer of Jabez classes and even had prayer meetings dedicated to the prayer of Jabez. No one seemed bothered by the cards, medallions, and coins with the prayer of Jabez written on them, or by the fact that people were repeating this prayer over and over and over day in and day out as a way to get blessings from God.

There is also the church growth movement, which puts the focus on numbers and programs instead of on Christ. The 40 Days of Purpose is a million dollar program that most churches seem to have embraced, with no concerns at all.

Now comes the Passion of Christ and we hear these same pastors and teachers proclaiming that this is the best movie ever filmed. I have heard that this will cause the 3rd great awakening in America, that millions of people will be saved by seeing this movie. I have read and heard over and over how biblically accurate this movie is. In this article I want to address whether this movie is biblically accurate or not.

Now before I start, let me say, that I understand that some artistic license is needed when making a film like this. Some conversations and even scenes have to be filmed which are not contained in the Bible, so that the story will flow and make sense to those watching, so I am not bothered by the fact that there were things in the film which are not specifically found in the gospels. However, if those added scenes and conversations change the message, then I am bothered by their addition to the story.

I watched the movie with my wife and we wrote down what we observed as soon as we could so that it was fresh in our minds, but we are human and we might not remember exactly which scene a certain statement was made, so if you think we got some things out of place, it is due to an honest error, not some secret motive.

Let me also say up front that I think it is good for Christians to better understand the physical sufferings of their Lord and Savior, but the portrayal of those sufferings must be biblically sound or they can do more harm than good to the understanding of the person. They must also not mask the real objective of the suffering and death and resurrection of Christ.

I want to start by addressing what the secular world has used to criticize the movie, that is the charge of anti-semitism. Is the movie anti-Semitic? You can't answer that question without first asking if the gospel accounts are anti-Semitic. Without quoting the whole story from all four gospels, let me just recap what the story is.

Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, the Messiah (the Christ). The Jewish people on Palm Sunday, hailed Him as such and welcomed Him into Jerusalem, but less then a week later they were calling for Him to die. For the most part with only two exceptions noted in Scripture, the Jewish rulers rejected Jesus. Jesus was arrested on charges of blasphemy, which was a religious charge. He was brought before the High Priest and the other Jewish religious leaders. They looked for false testimony so that they could condemn Him. These are facts laid out in the gospels. They finally got the information they were looking for and decided that they wanted Him to die, but they needed the Roman authorities to authorize this death, because they were prohibited from doing it themselves. Don't miss that, they could not do it themselves, they needed the Roman's help.

They took Jesus before Pilate the Roman governor and asked him to have Jesus put to death. Now if telling those facts is anti-Semitic then the gospels are anti-Semitic and so is the movie. Period end of discussion. I am going to step out on a limb here (a place I seem to find myself often) and say that I believe Satan has something to do with the accusation of anti-semitism against this movie. Now you might wonder what limb I am out on, since this is a pretty common held belief in the body of Christ. It is the reason behind the motive that puts me out on the limb.

See I don't believe that Satan leveled that charge to keep the movie from being popular or to stop it from being shown. In fact I think that the opposite is true. I think that the charge has been leveled to dull the discernment of people who see the movie. I believe many people who see the movie are so intent on seeing for themselves if the movie is anti-Semitic that they miss the glaring inconsistencies that are there. The second thing is the violence of the beatings. Again people are all geared up for these horrible scenes of Christ's suffering, so much so that they fail to see the surrounding scenes and dialog for what they really are.

This brings me to another point, and that is emotions. We as believers understand that what Jesus went through He went through because of and for us, and we tend to view the beatings with emotional glasses. Yes what He endured was horrible, but were we saved by the beatings He endured? If so, then we could all pay for our own sins by also enduring the same types of beatings, but if it was much more than just the physical beatings that paid for our sins, then we must be careful not to fixate on those beatings, which I believe the movie causes people to do.

I will try to start at the beginning of the movie and explain my concerns, but as I said I may list some things out of sequence by accident. If you have seen the movie or see it after reading this, I am sure you will understand what I am referring to.

The movie opens in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is praying and you see Satan standing near by. Satan is taunting Jesus. He says things like; no one man can die for the sins of all men. It is not possible for you to do this. Those are not quotes, but they are the gist of the words spoken in the scene. Are they biblical? Was Satan there trying to get Jesus to back out of dying for our sins?

First let's look at it from a logical point of view. Why was Judas betraying Jesus? Now you could say he was doing it for money, but you would be missing the point. Look at what the Bible says:

(Luke 22:3-4 NIV) [3] Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. [4] And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus.

Now I am not trying to say that Judas did not have free will or was not responsible for his actions, but I am trying to point out that Satan had a hand in what was about to happen. So, logically, why would Satan try to convince Jesus not to go through with the death, when he was at least partly responsible for the people who were coming to take Jesus to His death?

The second point is more from a biblical stand point. Is it true that Satan understood what was about to happen? Did he, as the movie tries to portray, understand that when Jesus died that He would be dying for the sins of all mankind?

We know that no one else understood, not the disciples, or anyone else. So we have to look deeper to figure out whether it is logical that Satan either did or did not understand the implications of Jesus' death. Satan certainly knew more than any human did, he knew the Scriptures, but did he understand the full implications of Jesus' death? I certainly doubt it and will attempt to show why I say that. First from the time Jesus was born, in fact before He was born, Satan had tried to destroy Him. Satan tried to destroy the Jewish people, because he knew the Messiah would come from them, but God always kept the royal line of the Messiah intact. If Satan had been able to destroy that royal line, then the Bible would have been wrong and the Messiah could not have come. When Jesus was born, Satan tried to have Him killed, but God provided and He and His earthly father and mother moved to Egypt.

Satan was not done, he tried many times to have Jesus killed, and all these attempts led up to the final attempt that the movie is about. Now here is my question. Why had Satan been trying so hard to kill the Messiah? Because he knew the Messiah would be the redeemer of mankind, but I doubt that he understood that it would happen through His death, or Satan would not have tried to kill Him. Think about that. If Satan had understood that Jesus had to die for our sins on the cross, don't you think he (Satan) would have done everything in his power to make sure Jesus died of old age? Of course he could not have thwarted God's will, but he would most certainly have tried.

(1 Corinthians 2:6-8 NIV) [6] We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. [7] No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. [8] None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Since the Bible clearly states that Satan is the ruler of this age, we can be sure that he did not understand what was about to happen or he would have done everything he could to stop it from taking place.

The movie gives the impression that Satan did understand what Jesus' death would mean and just tried to convince Jesus not to go through with it. That would be bad enough, but it gets even worse. During these conversations, if you can call them that, between Satan and Jesus in the garden, at one point Satan asks Jesus; "Who are you?" What? Who are you? So let me get this straight, Satan understood that Jesus was going to die for the sins of mankind, but didn't know who He was? Is the fact that Satan didn't know who Jesus (the Son of God) was biblical? Let's look and see for ourselves:

(Matthew 8:28-29 NIV) [28] When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. [29] "What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?"

(Mark 1:32-34 NIV) [32] That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. [33] The whole town gathered at the door, [34] and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.

So the demons knew who Jesus was, but their boss Satan didn't? Is this just hair splitting or just artistic license in the dialog? I don't think so, I think it is a very important point. First we are led to believe that Satan understood what was really happening and then we are led to believe he wasn't even sure who Jesus was. In fact the whole dialog is just a figment of someone's imagination. The Bible does not say that Satan was in the garden at all. Satan cannot be in more than one place at a time, and the last place the Bible reports him being was in Judas who was busy betraying Jesus.

During the taunting by Satan Jesus cried out to the Father, "Rise up and defend me." Who did Jesus want the Father to defend Him from? Was Jesus afraid of what man was about to do to Him? Or was He afraid of Satan and his power? Was Jesus at the mercy of anyone? This is not biblical, it is bunk and it degrades Jesus and makes Him a sniveling cowering bowl of Jell-O. Yes He was tormented in His soul in the garden, but why? Was it because He was afraid of man, or was it that He understood that for the first time ever, from eternity past, that He would be separated from the Father while the Father poured out His wrath for our sins on Him? I don't consider that a minor point.

Another problem I had with the garden scenes was the mysticism. At one point a snake comes out from under the hem of Satan's robe and slithers over to Jesus who is face down on the ground. The snake is right at His face. Jesus sees the snake and stands up and stomps on it's head. Nice theatrics, but totally out of place in a true portrayal of the gospels!

After praying, Jesus walks over to where He left Peter, James and John. He finds them asleep and wakes them up. Peter looks at Jesus and asks; "Master what is wrong? Should I get the others?" To this Jesus answers, "No, I don't want them to see me this way."

Then Jesus leaves them to go back and pray some more. The disciples remark that Jesus looks afraid. Was He afraid?

(Mark 14:34 NIV) "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch."

I guess the question is what Jesus meant by sorrow? Is it the same as fear? We know from what we are told in the gospels that Jesus did not relish what was about to happen to Him. Let me quote from all four gospels. Now consider that what I am about to quote is what the Bible tells us about what happened while Jesus was praying:

(Matthew 26:39-44 NIV) [39] Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
[40] Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. [41] "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."
[42] He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."
[43] When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. [44] So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

That is the extent of what the gospel of Matthew tells us. No conversation with Satan, etc...

(Mark 14:35-42 NIV) [35] Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. [36] "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." [37] Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? [38] Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." [39] Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. [40] When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
[41] Returning the third time, he said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. [42] Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"

That is all Mark tells us.

(Luke 22:41-46 NIV) [41] He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, [42] "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." [43] An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. [44] And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
[45] When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. [46] "Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."

That is it for Luke.

(John 18:1-3 NIV) [1] When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.
[2] Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. [3] So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

John doesn't even talk about Jesus praying in the garden, but rather cuts straight to the betrayal by Judas. So all the things in the movie that happened outside of what these four gospels say is just someone's imagination. Or worse they come from a 'vision' by a nun who wrote a book in 1833. Either way, I find it hard to believe that so many people still claim that the story line follows the gospels. I guess they don't think these additions are bothersome.

My next point could be considered hair splitting, but I believe that movies should not insult your intelligence. When the crowd comes to arrest Jesus the movie shows Jesus standing before them asking who they are looking for. They say Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus replies that He is Jesus. Then Judas comes forward and kisses Jesus. Now I will be the first to admit that the gospels tell a slightly different story on this point. Matthew, Mark and Luke, all say that Judas came up and kissed Jesus. John tells that Jesus asked the crowd whom they were looking for. So the movie just combined the two different accounts, which I think is biblically correct, the problem is in the way it combined the two.

The Bible clearly states that Judas had been paid thirty pieces of silver to identify Jesus to the people arresting Him. And Jesus even comments to Judas about the kiss when it happens. Yet the way the movie portrays the scene there was no reason for Judas to bother kissing Jesus at all, since the crowd already knew who He was, because He told them. This is not really a biblical problem with the movie, but it does insult one's intelligence.

When the group of people surrounded Jesus, Peter pulled out his sword and started fighting with them. It was during this fight that the ear was cut off of the servant (according to Scripture) of the High Priest. In the movie the servant looked more like a soldier or guard, but that is a minor issue. After the ear was cut off Peter and the soldiers continued to fight, until Peter was pinned up against a tree. Then finally Jesus told Peter to put down his sword and the fighting stopped. This is not the way the gospels portray what happened. The gospels say that when they started to arrest Jesus, Peter pulled out his sword and cut off the ear of the servant, and Jesus told him to stop and healed the man. No long fight, etc... Is this just another point where artistic license was taken? Well, I guess you could say that, but it troubled me. It troubled me because in the movie you have Jesus just standing there while all the fighting is going on, not saying a word, just kind of ignoring what is happening around Him. In fact you are left to wonder if Jesus would have told Peter to put down his sword if he had been winning and not about to be harmed! No where does it mention that Jesus said He could have asked the Father and He would have put 12 legions of angels at His disposal. By not including that statement, they fail to show that no one took Jesus against His will, but rather to fulfill Scripture.

After Jesus makes Peter drop his sword they (the soldiers) put Jesus in chains and immediately start abusing Him, by punching Him in the face, etc... In the gospels on the other hand, the first time we hear of Jesus being struck is in front of the High Priest:

(Matthew 26:62-68 NIV) [62] Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, "Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?" [63] But Jesus remained silent.
The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God."
[64] "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."
[65] Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. [66] What do you think?"
"He is worthy of death," they answered.
[67] Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him [68] and said, "Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?"

You may not see why I think this matters, so I will tell you. First it could be considered, again, just artistic license, but I think it portrays the wrong image. The Jews wanted Jesus dead, that is for certain, but they had laws and customs that they had to follow. He was being arrested and taken before the High Priest to answer to those charges. These soldiers belonged to the Temple, they were not Roman soldiers. They could not just go about abusing anyone they pleased, they were more like Police Officers, charged with bringing Jesus in to stand trial before the High Priest.

I view this scene of them abusing Jesus as just gratuitous violence. And it doesn't stop there, they chain Him, although the Scriptures do not say He was bound at this time. The Scriptures only mention that He was bound when they took Him to Pilate. Please verify that for yourself by going to God's word.

While on their way to the High Priest these guards decided to throw Jesus off a bridge. He fell to within a couple of inches of the ground, but did not hit the ground because the slack on the chains ran out. He is in pain and moaning, but looked up and sees Judas hiding under the bridge, then they pull Him back up and continue on their way to the High Priest. Not biblical, just more mysticism.

Judas is having troubles. He realizes that he has condemned innocent blood (biblical) and tries to give the money back to the Pharisees, and when they refuse he throws the money into the Temple (still biblical). Then the movies shows Judas sitting by a well and a child stops to see if he is okay. Judas has cuts and blood on his face and looks horrible. The child tells him that he is cursed and slaps him and then other children appear and also abuse Judas. They are demons, or so they appear; their skin is pale white and their eyes are clouded over. They torment Judas and chase him out into the wilderness where they finally leave him. He finds a dead animal with a rope around it's neck and uses the rope to hang himself. Is this all biblical? Well the part about Judas hanging himself is, although I would argue that hanging in biblical times meant impaling on a stake instead of hanging by the neck, but that is just my interpretation and does not really impact this movie. What do the gospels tell us about Judas after the betrayal kiss?

(Matthew 27:3-5 NIV) [3] When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. [4] "I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood."
"What is that to us?" they replied. "That's your responsibility."
[5] So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

That's it. Not only is that it, but that is the only gospel that even deals with the subject. In the book of Acts, Luke tells us that Judas fell headlong into the potters field and his intestines spilled out. As I said earlier hanging in biblical times was actually what we call impaling so the account in Luke could be exactly the same as that in Matthew's gospel. No mention of demons, no mention of children abusing him, or anything like that. Just that he felt remorse and hanged himself.

There is much Catholic dogma portrayed in the movie too. It really gets going when Jesus is arrested and taken before the High Priest. Mary, Jesus' mother knows something is wrong, then the disciple John appears at her home, which, by the way, she appears to share with Mary Magdalene, and tells her that Jesus has been arrested. This appears no where in Scripture. The first we hear of Mary after Jesus' arrest is when we are told she was standing near the cross with John. But that does not deter the movie from giving her a predominate role from the arrest forward.

John, Mary and Mary Magdalene are at the courtyard of the High Priest witnessing the trial of Jesus. Now according to Scripture John was there and even helped Peter get into the courtyard, but no where is either Mary mentioned. In the movie Mary is credited as saying, "It has begun, Lord." I guess we are to assume that she has understanding of what is happening, even though His closest disciples did not understand.

Peter denies Jesus three times, which of course is biblical, but what isn't biblical is that after he denies Jesus, he sees Mary and goes to her, kneels and calls her 'Mother.' What the Bible tells us is that Jesus looked at Peter and Peter remembered the prophecy Jesus made about him denying Jesus. Then Peter went outside and wept bitterly. This added part about Mary is just to promote the Catholic dogma about Mary.

Another scene later has John also calling Mary, 'Mother.'

Jesus is being held under the courtyard and Mary kneels down to the stones and then the camera slowly moves through the stones to the dungeon where Jesus is and He looks up towards Mary. More mysticism.

Jesus is finally taken to Pilate. Pilate by all historical accounts was a ruthless ruler who did not care much for human life, yet in the movie he seems to be almost afraid of the Jews. The Bible does say that he saw how upset the crowd was and that he was getting no where. I am sure he wanted to prevent a riot, but to say he was afraid of the Jews and imply he would do anything they asked is wrong. The movie also portrays the Roman soldiers as a bunch of undisciplined rough necks who are very unprofessional. It makes one wonder how they managed to conquer the known world and hang onto power for so long.

Pilate decides to send Jesus to Herod and so we see Herod in all his glory. Let me just say, the way Herod was portrayed makes me wonder why John the Baptist had to die. The whole reason John got put in prison was because he spoke out about Herod taking his brother Phillip's wife. Now the Herod of the movie does not seem like the kind of guy who would care about his brother's wife. His son, maybe but not his wife. Ah, but I guess that was just artistic license.

Jesus of course is sent back to Pilate, who can't find any reason to put Him to death. Yet the Jewish leaders and people demand that He be crucified. Pilate tries to release Jesus, but the crowd demands the release of Barabbas instead. So Barabbas is brought out for the people to see. Barabbas is a real piece of work. The Scriptures tell us that he was part of the insurrection and a murderer, but the movie makes him into more of a mad man. Not that most of the people in the movie aren't also portrayed as low brows.

So Pilate turns Jesus over to the soldiers to be beaten. Before I deal with that, let me back track a moment. When the High Priest and the elders brought Jesus to Pilate, we are told, that they refused to enter the palace, because to do so would have meant that they were unclean and could not participate in the festival, so Pilate came out to them. Now remember that, it is important when speaking of the beating scene. Here is where it says they did not enter:

(John 18:28-29 NIV) [28] Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. [29] So Pilate came out to them and asked, "What charges are you bringing against this man?"

But in the movie when the soldiers take Jesus into the Praetorium to be flogged the Pharisees and the elders and the crowd all go with them and witness the beating. That is not biblical, since what is biblical is that they did not want to be ceremonially unclean and refused to go in!! More artistic license.

The beating scene seems to take forever. It is brutal as flogging certainly was. But it is way over the top. No human being could endure what this movie shows Jesus enduring. Again, my problem with this is that it is meant to give people an emotional experience, but that emotional experience seems to blind people to what the real sacrifice was that Jesus made.

I also have a problem with how the scene played out. First Jesus is beaten with rods of wood. He is chained to a stone pillar and standing when they start but is beaten down to His knees and then all the way down. The two soldiers beating Him are tired, it must have been hard work, so they stop. Jesus looks over at His mother and then struggles to His feet. He makes it up to a standing position and then proudly straightens His back as if to say, 'you did not break my will.' Of course this upsets the Roman thugs, I have a hard time calling them soldiers, they were too undisciplined to be soldiers in what was the worlds best army at the time.

The soldier thugs then grab cat-o-nine-tails, which had stones and glass tied to the ends and start to beat Jesus all over again. They even get to the point where they decide that His back is ripped enough and unchain one hand so that they can turn Him over and lash the front of His body.

This is a good point to quote what the gospels say about the flogging:

(Matthew 27:26-31 NIV) [26] Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
[27] Then the governor's soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. [28] They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, [29] and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. "Hail, king of the Jews!" they said. [30] They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. [31] After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Matthew talks about the crown of thorns, and about some of the abuse; hitting on the head and the mocking, but notice it does not describe the flogging, but does mention it.

(Mark 15:15-20 NIV) [15] Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
[16] The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. [17] They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. [18] And they began to call out to him, "Hail, king of the Jews!" [19] Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. [20] And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

Mark does mention the flogging but does not describe it.

(Luke 23:23-26 NIV) [23] But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. [24] So Pilate decided to grant their demand. [25] He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.
[26] As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.

Luke does not mention the flogging at all.

(John 19:1-3 NIV) [1] Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. [2] The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe [3] and went up to him again and again, saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!" And they struck him in the face.

(John 19:16-18 NIV) [16] Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. [17] Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). [18] Here they crucified him, and with him two others-one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

John mentions the flogging but does not describe it either.

What is going on? A large part of the movie takes place during the flogging. In fact when you hear people talk about the movie, one of the most common remarks is that they now understand better what Jesus went through and it has made them feel closer to Him. They came out emotionally charged because of these very scenes. If the flogging and physical abuse are so powerful spiritually, then why didn't the Holy Spirit have the writers of the gospels describe it in detail for us? I won't answer that question, but is something you should think about and answer for yourself.

Some more mystical happenings take place during the flogging scene. Satan is seen holding what I guess is suppose to be his child. This child, if you can call it that, is really a 'little person' who is bald and has hairy arms and back and a ghastly face. I can only assume that this person was suppose to represent the anti-christ.

Near the end of the beating scene, Claudia, wife of Pontius Pilate, is seen handing Mary towels which she uses to mop up Jesus' blood. Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene mop up Jesus' blood after the beating. During this scene Mary Magdalene has a flash back, supposedly of when she first met Jesus. She flashes back to the story told in John 8 of the adulteress woman. The Catholic church has long held the belief that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. They hold this belief with no Scriptural basis. What do we know from Scripture about Mary Magdalene when she met Jesus?

(Mark 16:9 NIV) When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.

She had been demon possessed, but that is all we know about her and her background before she came to know the Lord. Now I find it a little hard to believe, after reading the other stories of demon possessed people in the gospels that with seven demons, Mary Magdalene would have been the woman caught in adultery. Again this is nothing more than an insertion of Catholic dogma.

In another of the many flashbacks in the movie, Jesus remembers speaking to His disciples and He tells them; "You know that I am the way the truth and the life." What could I possibly have a problem with in that statement, after all Jesus did say that, right? Well not exactly. Here is what really took place:

(John 14:1-7 NIV) [1] "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. [2] In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. [3] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. [4] You know the way to the place where I am going."
[5] Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"
[6] Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. [7] If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."

So what is the difference, you ask, well, the movie makes it seem that Jesus is saying that the disciples understand this, but in reality if read in context it actually shows that they didn't know or understand. These are not minor issues, it is changing Scripture to suit the movie makers liking.

There is much more, during the walk to Golgotha and while at Golgotha, but I don't want this article to look like I am just piling on, however, there are a couple more important points I want to make.

Jesus was led out to be crucified along with two other criminals. We see them carrying the cross section of their crosses but Jesus is made to carry the full cross. Also because of the beatings, Jesus is hardly able to walk much less carry His cross. So He stumbles many times and when He does the soldiers beat Him some more. I guess these low brows can't figure out that He is almost dead already, they must think He is just lazy and that beating Him some more will help. Again I view this as just gratuitous violence aimed at eliciting an emotional response from the audience.

On His third stumble and fall, Mary has a flashback to when He was a child and fell and she ran to Him. So she runs to Him again and He says, "See Mother, I make all things new again." Where did that come from? I can only assume it was taken from Revelation 21:

(Revelation 21:1-5 (NIV) [1] Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. [2] I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. [3] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. [4] He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
[5] He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

It was also during the walk to Golgotha or maybe at Golgotha, I forget which, when Jesus cries out, in the movie, "Father I am your servant the son of your handmaiden." This is another example of Catholic dogma in the movie. No where in Scripture is it recorded that Jesus said anything like this. He refers to Himself as God's Son. Now He also refers to Himself as the son of man, but literally translated that just means human being. In fact when Mary and Jesus' brothers came to take Him home, because they thought He had lost His mind, He said this:

(Mark 3:31-35 NIV) [31] Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. [32] A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you."
[33] "Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked.
[34] Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! [35] Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."

Am I again splitting hairs or is this stuff important? If every Christian knew the Bible it would not matter too much, but the sad fact is that most Christians, and I guess that must include pastors, don't have a clue what the Bible actually says. Therefore, they are easily fooled and misled.

We do not see the two thieves again until everyone is at Golgotha. When we do see them, we see something very interesting, they were not bloody and beaten like Jesus was. Again a deliberate stressing of the beating and physical suffering Jesus endured. Jesus has His hands and feet nailed to the cross, but if you look closely at the thieves, their feet are just tied to their crosses. This could just be a mistake in the filming that we were not to see, but I tend to think it was to make a difference between Jesus and the thieves.

The abuse continues even at the cross as one soldier pulls Jesus' arm out of the socket, or breaks it. It is hard to tell from the movie which it is that happens, but from Scripture we know that none of His bones were broken.

More mysticism is shown as the thief who insults Jesus, has his eyes pecked out by a crow.

The movie gets it all wrong in another place during the crucifixion scene. Look at the following passage:

(Matthew 27:45-46 NIV) [45] From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. [46] About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"-which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Notice that darkness came over the land from the sixth hour until the ninth hour. The sixth hour is noon and the ninth hour is 3 in the afternoon, the time of the evening sacrifice. Immediately after Jesus said this, He gave up His spirit and died.

(Matthew 27:50-51 NIV) [50] And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
[51] At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.

In the movie it would have been easy to miss the curtain in the Temple being torn, but this is a very important fact. The significance of the curtain being torn from top to bottom should not be overlooked. The curtain separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies and he could only do so once a year with a blood sacrifice. But when Jesus died the curtain was torn by God from top to bottom, signifying that Jesus' death had opened the way for man to come to the Father. This is no minor point in the story, it is what the whole story is really about!

Here is something else you did not see in the movie:

(Matthew 27:54 NIV) When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely he was the Son of God!"

Why? Why not use this passage to show that those around the cross, especially the hardened Roman soldiers, understood that this truly was a special man, and even said that He must have been the Son of God? I guess it just wasn't important in this movie, it might have overshadowed the suffering, which is the central theme of the movie.

In the movie, the earthquake starts as the sky starts to get dark, like a storm is coming. In the movie this is also when the soldiers decide to break the legs of the three men. But again this is not biblical. I have already shown that the darkness started at noon, not when the earthquake happened. And this is not when the soldiers decided to break the legs of the men. Here is when and why they broke the legs:

(John 19:31-33 NIV) [31] Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. [32] The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. [33] But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

The soldiers were not afraid of a coming storm, the Jews asked for the legs to be broken.

Here is another thing from the movie that bothered me. We read in John the following:

(John 19:30 NIV) When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Yet in the movie that is not what Jesus said, what He said in the movie is, "It is accomplished." I know most of you won't think that is different, but if you understand Catholic doctrine there is a difference. Jesus said our redemption was finished, but according to Catholic doctrine is it not fully finished until we pay for our sins in purgatory. Yes there is a difference, to them Jesus accomplished His part and now we must accomplish ours, but biblically Jesus finished the whole job on the cross.

The Bible tells us how Jesus' body was removed from the cross:

(Mark 15:42-47 NIV) [42] It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, [43] Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. [44] Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. [45] When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. [46] So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. [47] Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

Yet the movie distorts this too. In the movie we see two Roman soldiers lowering the body into the arms of Mary. Then we see a shot of what is more Catholic dogma, represented by Michelangelo's Pieta. Which is the lifeless body of Christ on the lap of Mary. Again you might be asking what difference any of this makes. Well as I said near the beginning of my review most of the pastors I have heard or read who talk about the movie claim it follows the gospel accounts or is faithful to the gospel accounts, etc... But it isn't! I can understand some artistic license when the Bible is not clear about something, but when the Bible clearly tells what happened and yet it is changed for the movie, that is not artistic license, and it is NOT being faithful to the gospel accounts. That is important!

I did not time it but I have read that the resurrection scene was all of 12 seconds. I know it was short.

Let me make one last point, which to be honest is probably the most important point about this movie. As I stated earlier I have heard what a great evangelistic tool this movie is and how people expect thousands of people to come to know Christ through it. I have to ask how? How are people going to come to know Christ, when the gospel was not presented in the movie? Well, actually I guess it was presented; by Satan in the garden. That was the only point where the fact that Jesus was dying for our sins was mentioned, and it was mentioned there as an impossibility. The only other possible reference was when Jesus told the disciples that they knew He was the way the truth and the life and that no one could come to the Father except through Him. But that is hardly the full gospel message and it is even misquoted as I have shown.

Now let me be quick to state that God can use anything and I mean anything to speak to people's hearts and convict them of their sins. So of course it is possible, if it is God's will to do so, that thousands of people will come to know Christ through this movie, even though it does not correctly present the gospel. I, however, think it is a shame when Christians think a movie which so badly butchers the gospels, is the best evangelistic tool since the Bible itself.

If you have read this far and have not yet written me a nasty e-mail, I would like to tell you that I do not make these observations about the movie flippantly. I have prayed about what I have written and asked God to guide me. If you disagree with me, fine feel free to let me know how unhappy you are with me, but please go to the Bible and read the four gospels for yourself and see what they really say. Don't let emotions blind you to the truth. Pray for discernment and wisdom and God will give it to you.

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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March 2004