March 5, 2004

The Passion of Christ is not about Anti-Semitism, it’s about love!

By Joe Ortiz

I, like so many throughout the country, went to see The Passion, Mel Gibson’s movie about Christ’s last 12 hours leading up to His death. I walked away feeling so many great and deep emotions; however, I did not walk away with any anti-Semitic feelings, whatsoever!

Those who see this profoundly developed piece of cinematic art will feel its impact with varying emotions, and they will pick out certain parts that touched them more than others. Three things touched my heart. First of all, I did not go to see this movie to critique it for its biblical accuracy as many doctors of doctrine plan to do. Nor did I go see it to find out if I could find any anti-Semitic inferences. Being a student and a writer of theological matters, I went to see if the Holy Sprit would be revealing something new, or deliver to me a more profound message about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ that I may not be aware of.

While there were many lines in the movie that are not included in any of the gospels, I can see where Gibson used these as a means to segue and or transition the audience from one scene to another. I never believed from the outset this movie was going to be a verse by verse narrative of the Gospel. Had Gibson altered the Gospel, he would have been discredited for his accuracy way before the movie was released. I will add that the visuals and acting were superb, by all the actors, considering the dialogue was in both the Aramaic and Latin. As a cinematic effort, The Passion far exceeds any movies of this genre.

Speaking of visuals, this movie is definitely not for the faint-hearted. The blood and gore realism, especially where Christ is scourged for almost 15 non-stop minutes, gives new meaning to the verse, “By His stripes we are healed.” This is the part of the movie that will be talked about most

There were three specific scenes that deeply touched my heart the most, and even brought tears to my eyes. The first part was when Peter denied Christ three different times, as Jesus had told him he would. In the movie, after Peter had definitely denied Christ three times, Peter weeps bitterly and mutters the line “I’m not worthy.” This is one of the instances where Gibson takes license by putting a line in the movie that is not in any of the Gospels. But here I believe Gibson trying to convey a unique message in this scene (maybe about his own feelings about God), bringing the point home that many of us who been under great stress and danger have actually denied Christ, only to later repent and receive His forgiveness knowing full well we definitely are not worthy.

The other scene that grabbed me was when the first giant nail was hammered into Christ’s hand. It is a well known fact that it was Mel Gibson’s actual hand that was used in that scene. Gibson, who has confessed his motivation for making the film was in great part due to his admitted past indiscretions, and the subsequent grace he admits he experienced from his faith in God. Gibson pounded more than a nail in that scene. He was profoundly pounding the fact to the audience that the gospels clearly proclaim that all of humanity is responsible for His murder, not just Romans and Jews!

The most profound scene in the movie (for me, at least) was when Jesus cried out one of His last words before He succumbed, which was, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The biblically uninformed may hang their entire reason to not believe in the miracle that was performed by the death of Christ solely on these words. Many unbelievers claim this verse alone proves that even God turned His back on Jesus, and that He really didn’t die very bravely or nobly, but actually died an ignominious death.

While many people’s spirituality will be affected after seeing this movie, most unbelievers (and some believers, as well) will still walk away believing that Christ most certainly was a great prophet and yes He suffered greatly for sharing his beliefs of love and forgiveness. Many viewers of what some are calling a gratuitously gory movie may even feel a certain degree of remorse for a while, maybe even some sorrow and empathy for the way Jesus was crucified, and say, “Boy, that was so gory and what a painful way to die.” Unfortunately, they will have missed the point.

Even many believing and highly educated theologians will also miss the point. They are so zealous trying to gain points with God through their religious activities, they are unable to stop and explain to the uninformed what this plea truly stands for. Was Jesus crying out because he felt He was unfairly and painfully scourged and crucified? Granted, crucifixion is recognized by medical professionals as being possibly the most heinous and painful way to die. But, did God really abandon Jesus on the cross?

What we (all humanity) need to understand is that in Jesus’ last human cry from the cross, a fact that most people fail to understand (including Christians) is, that Jesus’ true suffering came not so much from the excruciatingly painful ordeal He experienced, but the pain He had to endure as He became sin itself! This reality is symbolically presented to us in the gospel and through the scene where the sponge of water the soldier placed on Jesus’ lips actually contained gall. Gall stands for extreme wickedness, productive of evil fruit, bile), another word for sin. This scene (in both the movie and the Gospels) tells us that at the exact time of His death, Jesus was actually drinking all the sins of mankind! If we can for the moment think about the worst sin we have ever committed, multiply that a thousand fold, and then multiply all the sins of every person who has ever lived throughout History, and then heap all of that putridity on one person (who had never sinned before), then physical death was nothing compared to what Christ was feeling at that exact moment. For the first and only time in His fleshly existence, Jesus was separated from God because God and sin cannot co-exist. Now, through Christ’s death, and especially His resurrection, those who believe can now have true fellowship with God! This is the point that Gibson’s film failed to deliver.

Yes, Gibson pounded the point home very clearly and in an extremely graphic manner, the painfully excruciating death which Christ experienced. This alone is enough to make some people focus on their spirituality, whether they are Christian or Jew. However, and more importantly, this movie is definitely not anti-Semitic. For those (Christians and or Jews) who want to patronizingly harbor doctrinal and religious differences, even to the point of inciting religious wars, you will forever fail to understand what Gibson’s accounts of the gospel was trying to convey to the masses.

No, my friends, this is not an anti-Semitic movie, where non-believers or the uniformed can use to foster religious wars. This was merely a movie that showed (in an extremely graphic manner) the physical aspect of the death of Christ. If we (Christians, Jew, or otherwise) can accept the reality that the true passion of Christ was not so much the physical pain he endured, but the fact that He (God in the flesh) took upon Himself all of the sins of mankind, in order to set us free to spend eternal life with Him.

Joe Ortiz has the distinction of being the first Mexican American in US history to host a talk show on an English-language commercial radio station. He began a 20 broadcasting career at KABC TALK RADIO in Los Angeles. He currently lives in Palm Desert and is the author of a soon to be released nook, entitled The End Times Passover. [Website TimesPassover]

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