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FIRST-PERSON: Get ready for The Passion

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Are you ready for Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of The Christ”? Is it, as some have charged, anti-Semitic? After signing a statement of confidentiality, I viewed the film at the Global Pastor’s Network “Beyond All Limits II” conference in Orlando, Fla. I cannot reveal the contents of the film, but I can tell you this much: It is one of the most powerful portrayals of the Gospel message I have ever seen.

The Passion of the Christ is rated “R” for violence and gore. English is subtitled because Jewish characters speak Aramaic while Roman characters speak Latin. In other words, this is a movie the average moviegoer would not normally care to see.

Make plans nevertheless to see this movie when it is released on more than 2,000 screens on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25. But be prepared first.

How many of these questions can you answer to your own satisfaction?

Why did Jesus die?

What was the relationship between Mary and her Son?

What was the relationship between Jesus and His Father in heaven?

What is the passion of Christ (is that word “passion” being used the way most people use it today)?

If you struggled with any of these questions, you will not fully understand what Gibson is trying to express. In fact, you might even come away thinking his artistic license was pushed too far in some scenes.

Reacquaint yourself with the answers to those questions. Read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John’s accounts of Jesus Christ’s final hours on earth. Read carefully and thoughtfully. If you still cannot answer all of these questions, take them to your pastor or Bible study teacher.

Pastors and Bible study teachers: When was the last time you taught about the significance and meaning of the events leading up to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion? Last Easter? That is a long time ago. When was the last time you took your congregation or Bible class through the basics of the Christian faith apart from felt needs and ethical niceties? I recommend you do so now before the film is released. A prime evangelistic opportunity is close at hand.

Is the film anti-Semitic?

In short, no, it is not.

The most-publicized controversy about Gibson’s film is that it stirs up anti-Semitic sentiments. After seeing the film it is amazing that such a charge is being made.

It is a sad aspect of Christian history that Jews have been persecuted and killed in the name of Christ. I am ashamed to admit that during the Holocaust the Nazis called Jews “Christ killers” and used this as one of many excuses to round them up in concentration camps.

However, those who persecute Jews in the name of Christ do not know the true Jesus of the Bible. The true Jesus came to save all men, starting with the Jews. In fact, even while hanging on the cross, Jesus prayed for his Jewish and Roman persecutors and asked God to forgive them. There were many Jews who strongly disagreed with the trial and persecution of Jesus. A prominent Jew risked his standing and safety to provide the embalming spices and the grave for Jesus’ burial.

To accuse this film of anti-Semitism is as narrow-minded and agenda-driven in one direction as justifying Jewish persecution based on Jesus’ death is in another direction.

Before viewing the film Christians also should pray. Pray that the images flickering on the screen would make the death of Jesus real in a new way. Pray that zeal would flare up to take the message of salvation to people who do not know it. Pray about someone who should see the movie, and make it easy for that person to get a ticket.

Do not be put off by the controversies. Instead, learn how to respond to the issues in a way that shows the same love Jesus demonstrated to His executioners and the thief hanging on the cross next to Him.

Remember that people’s minds are naturally set against God. Objections to the Gospel are raised to mask hearts that yearn for God. Ask objectors to answer these questions: What if the Gospel is true? What if Jesus really was the Messiah? What if He really was God in the flesh? What if He really is the only way to heaven?

This film will present prime, widespread opportunities to ask these questions and share the Gospel. The questions will come your way. The true answers are in the Bible.

Are you ready?
Brent Thompson is associate director of communications at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Thompson practiced law in Alaska and Texas before coming to seminary and has taught government and politics at the college level. For information on using The Passion in outreach, resources are available on the Web from LifeWay Christian Resources at www.lifeway.com/passion.

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  • Brent Thompson