Thoughts to Ponder

Review of the movie The Passion of Christ.

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?

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?

(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. I believe that if Satan had understood, he would have tried his best to make sure Jesus died of old age. Of course he could not stop God's will and it was God's will that Jesus die for our sins.

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? Was that what Jesus did not want the other disciples to see, that He was 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. Jesus had no reason to fear anyone or anything. He did not relish the idea of what was ahead of Him, but He knew it was His Father's will.

(John 10:17-18 (NIV) [17] "The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life-only to take it up again. [18] No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."

When the group of people who came to arrest Jesus surrounded Him, Peter pulled out his sword and started fighting with them. It was during this fight that the ear was cut off of the servant of the High Priest. 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... This scene 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.

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 portrayed as having been tormented by demons. The movie seems to try to make the case that this torment is what drove Judas to hang himself. The Scriptures make no mention of demons, or anything like that. Just that he felt remorse and hanged himself.

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. 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 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 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 (the palace) 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. This is not to be found in Scripture.

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 21:1-5.

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.

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!

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.

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. 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.

E-Mail Ralph

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

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March 2004