A little girl, having been put to bed, asked her father to stay with her until she fell asleep because she was afraid of the dark. Her father reminded her that she was never alone since God was always with her and so she should not be afraid. "Yes Daddy" she replied, "I know all that... but right now I want someone with skin on!"
That is what Mel Gibson has done with The Passion of The Christ. He has put skin on the Gospel narrative and he has employed all of the techniques available to the modern film maker in a successful effort to produce the ultimate in realism. This reality is harsh, noble, degrading, enriching, gory and sublime. It has its heroes and it has its villains.
There are good Romans and there are bad ones. The soldiers who tortured Jesus with such apparent glee were of a breed to be found in every army. They were the dregs of the military and had been relegated to the least desirable posting in the Roman Empire. The chances are that, apart from their officers, most were conscripts from defeated armies. They were brutalized men who fed on brutality. They lusted for the blood of others, especially when the victim was or pretended to be of high station. To make another bleed was to illustrate one's own superiority and indestructibility.
There are good Jews and bad Jews. Among them were religious leaders who, because of the thinly spread resources of the Roman Empire, found themselves, though officially conquered, in positions of great authority. Elements of this leadership grew rich and worldly. "whited sepulchers" is what Jesus called them to their faces. But in their ranks were true men of God and they too had their say in this story. The power, however, was not in their hands. The mob had been selected, primed, alerted, and assembled for a purpose and the voices of reason, the voices of the Prophets, the voices of the Psalmists were not organized and thus were drowned out. The simple truth was that Jesus had challenged, insulted and even threatened these unworthy priests, tax collectors and lawyers and they would have their revenge. The only punishment that they could not independently mete out was death; and so they brought Him before the senior Roman official on a trumped up charge of sedition. Pontius Pilate needed peace, at any price. He gave in. Jesus' life was the price.
I believe this to be a great motion picture. According to my judgement it is historically accurate in substance if not in detail. I do not believe it to be essentially anti-Semitic. It is anti-Semitic only if, for whatever reason, YOU want it to be.
I do believe it to be a challenge to not only Christians but also to Jews. To some of us it is a most unwelcome challenge. So be it.
It is a challenge best summed up by Pilate... "What is Truth?"
"I" said Jesus," am THE TRUTH... No one comes to the Father except through me." ... Is that true?
This is an old challenge but rarely has it been offered with such dramatic force.
Somehow this movie is all about the Incarnation of the Word. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us," wrote John, another Jew. Mel Gibson has taken the "words" of the Gospel passion narrative and incarnated them through his art form. He has given the story flesh and its living concomitant, blood. May its impact dwell among us as the world continues to echo Pontius Pilate asking... "What is Truth?"