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Summary: Part One of “The Passion of the Christ – Curious? Find out more!” Message Series

The Scandalous Cross: A Curse or a Blessing

Part One of “The Passion of the Christ – Curious? Find out more!” Series at Grace International Baptist Church, Vancouver, BC

Mel Gibson’s new movie The Passion of the Christ opened to about 3,000 screens this past Wednesday. Some here may have already seen this. Some here may want to find out more about the events that led to the Passion or try to understand it more. Some here, I am sure, are motivated now to know a bit more about the person called Jesus. I am quite sure the movie, though I have not seen it yet, does not even attempt to answer all the questions we have about Christ and His passion. It only presents Gibson’s artistic view of the final 12 hours of Jesus and what a $25 million dollar budget could do. Perhaps for some of you that’s what brought you to church, because you want to fill in the gaps. I trust that today you will leave here be a little more informed and inspired about the real story behind the Passion of the Christ.

I guess by now you’d have noticed the Passion of the Christ has got all sorts of reviews and reactions. Some negative and some positive but all are agreed the movie is violent and gory and a truly excruciating experience to watch. Let me share with you what I have come across as Gibson’s movie is reviewed across this continent.

Some in the media are, as reuters.com noted “slamming it for excessive violence, questioning its spiritual message and wondering aloud if it is anti-Semitic.”

This past Wednesday morning, I heard on radio on 106.5 FM, of one person who came out of the theater laughing. He said he had to keep his hand over his mouth to keep from laughing out loud. He also said it is the most preposterous thing he has ever seen.

This was the New York Post critic Lou Lumenick’s reaction to the film "an impressive, ultra-violent -- and deeply troubling -- take on Jesus’ final hours." At the same time, the same paper, New York Post, as was noted by reuters.com “ran a front-page story saying that audience reaction was extremely positive with viewers weeping and declaring they would never be the same.”

Because of the unrelenting violence of the cross, depicted in the movie, many film critics are uneasy. One even used terms such as “a work of fundamentalist pornography” as voiced by The Toronto Star review of the movie.

Roger Ebert – film critic in Chicago said: “What Gibson has provided for me, for the first time in my life, is a visceral idea of what the Passion consisted of. That his film is superficial in terms of the surrounding message — that we get only a few passing references to the teachings of Jesus — is, I suppose, not the point. ... Is the film ’good’ or ’great?’ I imagine each person’s reaction (visceral, theological, artistic) will differ. I was moved by the depth of feeling, by the skill of the actors and technicians, by their desire to see this project through no matter what."

Scott D. Campbell writing in The Globe and Mail (2/26/04) had this to say:

I have been following the controversy over Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ with interest, so I was anxious to read Rick Groen’s review of the film (The Greatest Gory Ever Told -- Feb. 25). Mr. Gibson’s stated goal was to provide an accurate film depiction of the last days of Christ’s life based on the Biblical account. That is why Mr. Groen’s criticisms of the film seem so strange.

Most of the things on Mr. Groen’s "wish list" didn’t happen according to the Biblical account. He faults Mr. Gibson for the manner in which he depicts Jesus as being divine -- which is how the Bible portrays Him. He faults Mr. Gibson for portraying Christ’s beatings and Crucifixion as violent and gory -- which is no doubt accurate. He faults Mr. Gibson for not portraying Christ as weak and vacillating and struggling with His identity -- which is not the Christ of the Bible.

After reading the review, I came to the conclusion that, as with most works of literature adapted to the big screen, if you don’t like the book you probably won’t like the movie either.

I think that’s the fairest assumption to make, people who don’t like the message of the Bible that God is love, will, in most parts, not approve of the movie. Contrast that to well-known Christians such as Billy Graham who said, “I was moved to tears” or James Dobson who remarked, “It is deeply moving, powerful and disturbing. A film that must be seen,” or Chuck Swindoll who responded, “I just love Christ so much more after the film.”

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