Summary: Jesus was tempted just like we are.
Back in 1988, director Martin Scorsese made a film that caused a furor in this country from coast to coast. It was a film about Jesus, and people were demonstrating against it and picketing and threatening to blow up theaters if they showed it. The name of the film was The Last Temptation of Christ. Maybe some of you have seen it. I couldn’t see it when it first came out because the theaters in Memphis refused to show it.
The film was based on the book of the same name, and when I couldn’t see the picture, I went out and got the book. I liked it. It had some good stuff in it.
After a few years, the furor died down and the film became available on video. So we rented it and watched it to see what all the fuss was about. The film is different. It depicts Jesus as a tortured, frightened man who’s been hearing voices all his life. He feels guilty for everything; he’s afraid of everything and everybody; he earns his living making crosses for the Romans to crucify his fellow Jews and feels guilty about that; and his best friend’s name is Judas.
This Jesus has no concept of being the Messiah. He knows nothing of a virgin birth. Even his mother questions him when he tells her that the voice he’s hearing is God. She wonders if the voice isn’t Satan.
Well, this poor Jesus finally makes his way out into the desert, to try to rid himself of these voices that have been torturing him. After coming across John, who he doesn’t know and who is apparently many years older than he is, Jesus is baptized and goes off to be by himself in the desert. Out there, he’s subjected to temptations by Satan, though they’re different from the traditional ones we read about in the Bible. But Jesus comes through them like a champ, and then he finally realizes that he’s the Messiah.
From that point on his ministry begins, and goes pretty much like it does in the Bible. He’s loved by some and hated by some. He’s betrayed. He’s brought before Pilate. Ultimately he’s crucified, and that’s where the story that caused so much uproar really begins.
Jesus is hanging on the cross, in agony, hearing the cries and yells of the crowd, when he looks down and sees a young girl squatting in front of the cross. The voices of the crowd fade away, all the background noise disappears, and Jesus is aware of only this girl. He asks who she is, and she replies that she’s his guardian angel, sent by God. She goes on to tell Jesus that God loves him, that God is very proud of him, and that God feels he’s suffered enough. He can come down from the cross now.
She removes the nails from his hands and feet, and together they walk away. Jesus asks her, "I don’t have to die?" And she says, "No, you don’t." He asks, "I’m not the Messiah?" And she says, "No, you’re not." When Jesus turns around, she tells him not to look back there, and she takes him by the hand and leads him away.
As they walk along, they see a wedding party; Jesus asks who’s getting married, and the girl says, "You are." As the party gets closer, we see that it’s Mary Magdalene, all decked out in wedding finery. So she and Jesus get married, and the next thing you know, Mary Magdalene is pregnant. One day when Jesus is gone, she’s killed by something we can’t see. When Jesus comes back and is heartbroken, the same girl that was at the cross tells him that God killed Mary. Without missing a beat, she sends Jesus to see Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters.
Well, to make a long story short, Jesus ends up with Mary and Martha and six kids; he’s happy and content, he thinks; and he grows old and finally reaches the time of his death. While he’s on his death bed, the door opens up and in come three of his former disciples, including Judas, who proceeds to read Jesus the riot act for not dying on the cross like he was supposed to. All three men tell Jesus that he has no right to be here with a home and women and children; that he was supposed to die on the cross; that he was indeed the Messiah; and that it’s his fault everything is in such bad shape.
When the girl speaks in the voice of Satan and says, "I told you we would meet again," Jesus realizes that his friends are right, and he crawls from his home back out to Golgotha, where he cries and prays for God to forgive him. He tells God that he wants to be the Messiah; he wants to be God’s son; he wants to die on the cross; he wants to make everything right. So the scene shifts and we’re back at the cross of years before. Jesus is hanging there and when he realizes that he’s back where he belongs, he smiles and says, "It is accomplished." Then he dies, and the movie ends.