The Passion of the Christ

By: Dr. Ted Baehr; ©2004
With Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ set to open in a few days, the pre-release controversy continues to grow. Here is reaction from someone who has seen the movie.


The Passion of the Christ
A MovieGuide® Review

The Passion of the Christ is not your average Passion Play, although it covers the time period from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Resurrection. Going beyond most Passion Plays, it highlights in stark, dark, intense terms the spiritual warfare raging around Jesus Christ during His Passion in a concrete way.

The first scene has Jesus weeping in the Garden of Gethsemane, as Satan, an androgynous figure accompanied by a snake, tries to tempt Jesus and turn him away from his destiny on the cross. When Jesus arises, he stomps on the head of the serpent. Quickly, Judas leads the temple guards into the garden to arrest Jesus. From that point, the brutal treatment of the Mes­siah is shown in stark detail, up to the Cross and beyond.

When the screening of this movie ended, people started crying out, “Thank you, Jesus!” “I love the cross!” “I’m sorry Jesus!” Worship continued for about two hours after the movie was over.

Thus, it is more than clear that the movie will transform and convict those within the Body of Christ. In fact, there are signs of revival and a deepening of faith whenever anyone sees The Passion of the Christ. Deacon Keith A. Fournier, founder of Catholic Way, said in his commentary on the movie:

“I really did not know what to expect. I was thrilled to have been invited to a private viewing of Mel Gibson’s film The Passion…. This was not simply a movie; it was an encounter, unlike anything I have ever experienced.

“In addition to being a masterpiece of filmmaking and an artistic triumph, The Passion evoked more deep reflection, sorrow and emotional reaction within me than anything since my wedding, my ordination or the birth of my children. Frankly, I will never be the same. When the film concluded, this invitation-only gathering of ‘movers and shakers’ in Washington, D.C. was shaking indeed, but this time from sobbing. I am not sure there was a dry eye in the place. The crowd that had been glad-handing before the film was now eerily silent. No one could speak because words were woefully inadequate. We had experienced a kind of art that is a rarity in life, the kind that makes heaven touch earth.”

“A law professor whom I admire sat in front of me. He raised his hand and said, ‘After watching this film, I do not understand how anyone can insinuate that it even remotely presents that the Jews killed Jesus. It doesn’t.’ He continued, ‘It made me realize that my sins killed Jesus.’ I agree. There is not a scintilla of anti-Semitism to be found anywhere in this powerful film. If there were, I would be among the first to decry it. It faithfully tells the Gospel story in a dramatically beautiful, sensitive, and profoundly engaging way.

“Those who are alleging otherwise have either not seen the film or have another agenda behind their protestations. This is not a ‘Christian’ film, in the sense that it will appeal only to those who identify themselves as followers of Jesus Christ. It is a deeply human, beautiful story that will deeply touch all men and women. It is a profound work of art.”

Even so, moviegoers will have to bring some knowledge of the Gospel to comprehend the movie. The film was shot in Aramaic and Latin, even though the lingua franca of the day was Greek in spite of the ascent of the Roman Empire, and the Pharisees most likely would have used Hebrew, while the rest of the inhabitants spoke various other languages (including Ara­maic). Regardless of the subtitles and the languages, Mel shot the movie almost as a silent movie, using images to relate the greatest story ever told.

The Passion of the Christ is an artistic masterpiece. The pacing and style have a foreign feel, and the violence is intense. Those who watch it will understand, perhaps for the first time, the price that Jesus paid to forgive us our sins. This is real grace, not cheap grace.

The Passion of the Christ is a must-see movie, beautifully directed, powerfully acted, with terrific sound. It could be argued that some of the violence could have been toned down and that the gleeful torturers are over the top. On the other hand, the violence and the glee of the Romans who were scourging Jesus highlight the demonic quality of the battle Jesus was fighting.

What a joy it is to know that His shed blood has redeemed us!

© baehr, 2003. This update is published by the Christian Film & Television Commission ( You’ll find subscription information for Dr. Ted Baehr’s MOVIEGUIDE® eNewsletter on our MOVIEGUIDE® website.

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