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Sunday, April 20, 2014

He Is Risen

So I watched The Passion of the Christ last night for the first time in a decade. In 2005 (The Nicsperiment is old enough to wear deodorant), I explored my opinion of that film in a comparison to the film, Godspell. To sum up the feelings of that post, I essentially said "Yay, Godspell" and "Boo, Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ." I would like to reverse that opinion. In the ten years since my initial viewing of The Passion of the Christ, I have experienced quite a bit of joy and surprise, but also more pain, loneliness, and depression than I ever thought possible. Thus, a film about a bunch of hippies dancing around New York City doesn't appeal to me like it used to. However, during last night's viewing of The Passion of the Christ, around five minutes in, I began to cry, and I continued to do so well into the end credits. I believe that I allowed the 2004 furor around the film effect my initial viewing. I felt numb as I watched in 2004 because I had been told by people who's opinions I thought were important that the film was simply a celebration of violence. Watching in 2014, with ten additional years of life experience, a son of my own, and no echo chamber influencing my opinion, I found The Passion of the Christ to be profoundly moving, or, to quote Sean Connery at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, "I found Illumination."
I don't think this is the kind of film that one should be forced to watch so that they can "see what Jesus did for you so you can feel bad about yourself." I think that is ridiculous, and honestly, I felt that opinion from certain individuals around me, which in turn negatively affected my viewing. This is not the type of film to watch Christ as some sort of other "who did a bunch of stuff for you, and you should appreciate it, you lazy bum." This is a film that displays Christ as a human who suffered, not as some unidentifiable alien, but as one of us--as we do.
One of my favorite films, Ingmar Bergman's Winter Light, highlights the most heartbreaking elements of The Passion of the Christ. Winter Light deals with a pastor who is experiencing a crisis of faith. In the film's final minutes (an hour and twelve minutes into the entire film, which I have posted below), when it appears that the pastor's soon to begin sermon will be unattended, the pastor's crippled assistant has a brief talk with him. The assistant reveals that he has been reading the Gospels, and that, while he thinks Christ's physical suffering had to have been a terrible burden, he finds it to be barely greater than his own. Instead, he finds far more awful, the emotional torment that Christ suffers. Jesus' friends cannot stay awake with him in his time of need, they have little understanding of all he has told them, and they abandon him to death. He receives abuse and rebuke from the same people who welcomed him as a king, only days before. But most gruesomely, before his final moments, as he is dying on the cross, Jesus cries out to God, "Father, Father, why have you forsaken me?" My goodness gracious, how many times have I felt this way in this last decade? A hundred times? A thousand? And yet, every time I think He has, I experience a resurrection. Christ felt the same thing. He felt abandoned by God, just as we do. The Passion of the Christ shows Jesus' skin flayed off, but it also shows his heart and spirit broken. In this way, I feel that Gibson's film allows us to see both sides of Christ's pain, and allows us to see his humanity in a fashion never before seen in cinema.
So no offense to the dancing hippies, or to Victor Garber, one of the greatest actors in Hollywood, but in my humble opinion, The Passion of the Christ is the greatest film about Jesus ever made, even as it only portrays the final days of Jesus' life. It paints the full picture of Christ's love and connection to us, and for the last couple of days, it has been a revelation to me.
He is risen.

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