The realities in ‘passion of the Christ’ Essay Example

The realities in ‘passion of the Christ’ Essay

THE REALITIES IN ‘PASSION OF THE CHRIST’

            At a time when Christians have become more modern in the matter of faith and existence, Mel Gibson’s movie, ‘Passion of the Christ’ comes as a timely reflection of a faith that is actually more real than mythological.  Beyond the Christ that most traditional Christians perceived as someone with a circle of light around his head or who could raise the dead with his voice is a picture of the same Christ painted in the most human way possible.  This movie, more than just being a chronicle of the life of the man, most refer to as Jesus, is actually a testament of how real faith actually is, and how this faith, through the years, has come to reflect the humanity that each one of us possesses.  ‘The Passion of the Christ’ is a movie that validates the tangibility and the reality of faith as is shown in the humanity portrayed in the character of Christ in the movie.  It also illustrates how man’s faith should be a result of man’s reactionary emotions and not of a misdirected and fantastical belief in the supernatural.  The movie puts more responsibility and accountability on man, instead of proposing fatalism which in turn may cause hopelessness among human beings.

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            Christ is human other than being divine, and as such, he manifests the many qualities of a human being as shown in the movie.  However, it is his reactions to human stimuli that set’s him apart from other human beings, hence, His divinity.  In the movie, there are various scenes that illustrate this human nature of Christ, not to demote Him as the representation of God on earth, but hopefully, in this modern times, to allow humans to have a more intimate relationship with Him and identify with Him in a way that most would think impossible during the time of the Pharisees and the Sadducees; when the God of Abraham was high up on the pedestal and humans were considered unworthy of such a God.  Now, with the movie, ‘Passion of the Christ’ man is given a privileged view into the human Christ, a Christ whom most viewers would recognize as being quite ordinary and tangible – a Christ who is of man.  Hopefully, the movie would achieve its purpose of giving Christians a more permissive concept of faith, a faith that is rooted most especially in the humanness of Christ and in the very real existence of reconciliation.

            “No, John, I don’t want to them to see me like this,” (MacEveety & Gibson 2004), Christ’s says in the beginning of the film when John proposed calling the other disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane after Christ admonished them for not keeping watch ‘even for an hour’.  What this particular passage illustrates is Christ’s concern for His physical appearance at that point, a characteristic that most would recognize as being very earthly or human.  There are assumptions that point out that Satan’s defeat began with Christ’s acceptance of his fate at the garden of Gethsemane; however, in the movie, Satan makes a pass at Christ and tries to convince Him that He cannot bear to suffer for the sins of man – The realities in ‘passion of the Christ’ Essay introduction. (MacEveety & Gibson 2004)  In the first place, with only Christ’s divinity considered, Satan has no place in the garden where Christ was praying, however, to show the human side of Christ, Satan was introduced this early in the film, even delivering the very meaningful lines “Who is your Father?” (MacEveety & Gibson 2004)  If the Christian concept of Satan is put into context at this point, it will become clear why he asked this question of Christ – because he felt that Christ had doubts about accepting His fate, and that Christ even had doubts about who His Father really was; Satan, in this particular scene, was also capitalizing on the humanity of Christ which he openly recognized with saying that ‘no one man‘ could carry the burden of sin – Satan was appealing to this human nature to talk Christ out of giving Himself up for the sins of man; but when Christ ignored him and instead, asked if the ‘chalice of suffering’ (MacEveety & Gibson 2004) may be taken away from Him, the divinity of Christ begins to emerge.  Aside from the act of refusing the cup of suffering being a manifestation of Christ’s humanity; that He did not want to suffer if there was any other way, His acceptance of His father’s will when He said ‘but let Your will be done, and not mine” (MacEveety & Gibson 2004) clearly illustrates not His divinity by the way, but also another human quality – humility.   When Christ crushed the serpent’s head with His foot (MacEveety & Gibson 2004) He presented a symbol that is a recurrent theme in Christian literature; the refusal to give in to the will of the cursed.  This, however, still remains within the bounds of Christ’s humanity.

This discussion of humanity is relevant in the context that the film is set in – it is made for the modern Christian.  A very subtle allusion to this is the flashback that is shown right after Christ is captured.  In the flashback, Christ as a carpenter is working on a table.  It was normal for people during that period to eat while squatting on the floor.  In this particular scene, Christ is working on a ‘tall’ table, then His mother, Mary, asks Him why the table is so tall; He then replies that the table is made for a rich man who would like to eat in a manner He later demonstrates and is recognizable to be the way a modern man would eat. (MacEveety & Gibson 2004)  Perhaps, this has nothing to do with the film, however, it can be assumed that this particular scene is a metaphor representing Christ’s ‘working’ for the ‘modern’ man; that faith is as much for the Christian of today as it is for the Christian of the past.  Mary, in the same scene, remarks ‘this (referring to the table) will never catch on’ (MacEveety & Gibson 2004)  This particular line in the scene is a validation that in fact, the scene was referring to a modern practice that was at the point of acceptance or introduction during that time.  Another allusion to the reality of modern times is the scene where Judas is pursued by children.  Right after Christ is captured, and when Judas attempted to return the 70 pieces of silver that was paid to him for betraying Christ, he ran out of the Sanhedrin and little children went after him.  He tried to shoo them away but they kept on pursuing him and their faces begin to transform into gruesome images of children; later, it turns out that the children are merely delusions of the guilty Judas. (MacEveety & Gibson 2004)  In this scene the reality of the irony between innocence and guild is given tangibility.

What this scene tells the audience is that guilt is worse when viewed in contrast with the innocence of children; Judas, referring to the children, calls them ‘little satans’ which is a reflection of how people intimidated by innocence would view the blamelessness and purity of the young.  The reality shown here is how modern adults seem to want children to lose their innocence early on as possible; unappreciative of the taintlessness of children.  In this context, it is also noticeable that Christ, although an adult in the movie, has harbored a certain degree of childishness and innocence in Himself as shown by the strong connection that he has with His Mother – this is illustrated in the scene where Mary, after witnessing the arrest of her Son, walks along the temple corridor and suddenly stops; she then falls down on her knees and places a cheek on the marble floor.  In response to this, Christ, who is beneath the floor in the dungeons, looks up.  So, even without knowing that each was in each other’s presence, both felt this presence through strong mother-child connection.  (MacEveety & Gibson 2004)  Even to this day, this connection is recognized and is treasured across cultures.  A reality that proves this is the immediate endorsement of a new born infant to the mother right after delivery.  This mother-child bond is mocked by Satan when he appears among the crowd carrying a demonic child when Christ was being flagged. (MacEveety & Gibson 2004)  More than this being a mockery of the mother and child relationship, it also alludes to the comforts of sin, that whoever finds comfort in sin mocks the Divinity that is present in every human being.

The film also tackles other very human realities such as the accountability of governments as shown in how Pilate handles the matter of Christ’s condemnation. (MacEveety & Gibson 2004)   Here, the film becomes a commentary on political accountability.  It alludes to present day governments where officials are not aware of their accountability to the people or simply find means to escape from this accountability.  Then, Herod, on the other hand, adds to this allegory by sending Christ back to Pilate (MacEveety & Gibson 2004)   because he, himself, refuses to be accountable, not only to Christ, but to the people whom he serves.   Herod, in the film, is also symbolic of the inappropriate lifestyle of government officials; a lifestyle replete with luxury, hedonism, and worldly pleasures that are enjoyed at the expense of the constituents.  This political inadequacy does not only occur in government as illustrated in the film, because those representing the religious sector, Caiphas and the priests, also contributed to this issue.  When Caiphas chose to free the murderer, Barabbas instead of Christ he revealed the corruption that is present in the religious sector – that sometimes, like political governments, the church also gives in to their own interests at the expense of faith and the sanctity of religion.

Women were also given a boost by this film as shown in the reactions of Mary to the sufferings of her Son; while her eyes showed the intense pain that she felt, she was able to remain composed and keeping herself together.  This illustrates the intrinsic strength of women and how, unlike men, women can withstand intense emotional stress and turmoil.  This is illustrated further when Mary wiped off her Son’s (precious) blood from the temple floors.  (MacEveety & Gibson 2004)  At that point, she was already suffering intensely, and doing what she did would only aggravate her pain, but she did what she had to do anyway, with great grace and composure.

The film is a memorable portrayal of the sufferings of Christ, as well as an effective allegory of current day realities.  If Christ was God made Man, the film is scripture made concrete.  There are also many memorable quotes from the movie that are reminders of a good Christian life – Christ explained, in one single line, in the movie the reason for man’s existence – “That is why I was born, to give testimony to the truth”. (MacEveety & Gibson 2004) Man is born to bear witness to the truth.  He even simplified the role of a Christian God in lives of men when He said, “See mother, I make all things new” (MacEveety & Gibson 2004)  This is a validation of the promise of renewal that the scriptures talk about; a promise that is made to those who remain faithful to the teachings of Christ.  Finally, the film shows how good Christians should face challenges in life when Christ fell and rose to ‘embrace’ the cross, then a soldier remarks,”Why do you embrace your cross fool?” (MacEveety & Gibson 2004) On the contrary, modern faith calls on all Christians to ‘embrace their crosses’, figuratively speaking.  In reality, this means that one should not run away from life’s sufferings, rather one should accept these with open arms like Christ did and in the spirit of faith, trust and in recognition of a Greater Power.

The realities shown in the movie are realities that are relevant to present day.  This particular feature of the film is achieved not because of the skill of the director or the actors, but because of the timelessness of the material.  Many movies have been made and remade with the exact same subject matter and always, these movies find appeal in the audience.  While it is very easy to conclude that the reason for this consistent appeal is the entertainment value of the film, such would be totally underestimating the intellect of the audience, because other than this there are many other factors that dictate how an audience appreciates what they watch; among these are the relevance of the realities to their individual lives, the emotional weight of the film, and perhaps, even the inherent divinity of every human being.  Some say that the film is a tasteless portrayal of senseless violence and barbarism, but what these people do not see is that in reality, there are even more horrible images of violence, of poverty, and of destruction that are far more meaningless than those seen in the film.  It is not the superficiality of the film that gives it a ‘repeat value’ but its ability to awaken a deeper and more elusive part of the human psyche.  There is no point in knowing why or how the film awakens this deeper human because such would be a futile attempt to mechanize faith – and faith is a phenomenon, an abstraction that even the most advanced of sciences cannot explain.

The movie, ‘The Passion of the Christ’ is indeed a catalogue of many of the realities that each of us face nowadays; realities that are more often than not, bypassed because of their commonality or overlooked.  The film serves to open everyone’s eyes not to the limiting Christian interpretation of the film but rather to the fact that ‘faith applies’ whether to the early believer or to the modern believer because of the realities that Christ’s passion represents.  Perhaps it would be fitting to consider that while many will see the film as an exaggeration of the matter of cruelty and brutality, or a take on anti-semitism, it is over and above all, more important to view the film as a reminder that realities are individual matters, and are not a fixed set of events happening uniformly to everyone.  Furthermore, these realities can initiate certain reactions for each one and from individual points of views, however, through all these, it has to be remembered, that, in the words of Christ Himself, “When the world hates you remember that it hated me first” (MacEveety & Gibson 2004)

References

Gibson, M. (Director). The Passion of the Christ [Motion Picture]. USA: Icon Films.

 

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