FRANKLIN, Tenn. (BP)–“As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus” (Luke 23:26).
Something rather amazing happens to television around Easter: The networks “get religion” and resurrect a number of Easter classics.
As a kid, I remember watching the Passion story where Christ was pictured nearly crushed under the weight of his cross. He staggered as he tried to ascend a cold, stone stairway to the place of crucifixion, Golgotha.
It was a powerful scene.
The crowd wailed in anguish.
The mother of Jesus and his disciples were held back by the heavily armed Roman soldiers who remained unmoved by this display of human misery.
Suddenly, the dirt and tearstained face of Jesus looked up at the camera. It was as if his eyes penetrated my TV set and locked their focus directly on me.
At that moment, the Hoover Dam couldn’t prevent my tears from flowing. I felt helpless as the crown of thorns pressed down upon Jesus’ head, further into his blood-soaked brow.
Just when it looked like Jesus couldn’t muster the strength to take another step, I watched as Simon of Cyrene stepped in to shoulder the cross for Christ.
I remember thinking, “Simon, what a man!”
So, well, so loving to come to the aid of Jesus.
I sat thinking how much I wanted a heart like Simon.
Years later, while reading the account of the crucifixion in Luke 23, I paused at verse 26. We’re told that a man was passing through town that day. Luke reports that “they seized Simon from Cyrene … and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.”
I thought he volunteered?
Why, in the television movie …
Turning to Mark 15:21, I learned Simon “was passing by” and “they forced him to carry the cross.”
And, like Mark’s account, Matthew 27:32 records that “they forced him to carry the cross.”
All of a sudden, I was forced to rethink my understanding of Simon’s role during the crucifixion.
Why didn’t Simon offer?
In fact, why did he resist carrying the cross?
Why wasn’t Hollywood accurate when reenacting the story?
And — more importantly — what else might I be accepting as true just because I saw it on TV? Or in a movie?
How about you? Have you ever gotten the story mixed up because of what you’ve seen on television? Take, for example, the Christmas story. Many of the TV Christmas specials present a view of the manger scene with Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus surrounded by animals, the shepherds, the Magi and occasionally an angel hovering overhead.
Guess what? Contrary to this warm, fuzzy Kodak moment, a careful reading of the text indicates the shepherds and the Magi were not at the manger at the same time. Sorry to burst your holiday bubble.
Or take that delightful animated movie, “The Prince of Egypt.” Dreamworks Pictures worked hard to follow the biblical account. Even so, their version portrays a young Moses “accidentally” killing an Egyptian, prompting Moses to make a hasty exodus from the palace.
Look what the Scriptures say in Exodus 2:12: “Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” This was no accident.
Again, consider Hollywood’s view of history.
In spite of a massive budget, the producers of the popular film “Titanic,” according to some responsible critics who read the actual ship logs, ostensively rewrote history. The film made the point that the rich first-class passengers were morally less upright in their behavior than those second- and third-class passengers. While people rushed to get into lifeboats, according to the film, the wealthy bribed their way onto a lifeboat. The ships logs do not support this view. In reality, the women and children got the first seats.
While television documentaries frequently do a commendable job of presenting history without homogenizing the facts, far too often a producer’s bias is presented as fact.
Someone once said if you repeat a lie often enough, it begins to sound like the truth. When it comes to our TV diet, that, my friend, is precisely why you and I must know the truth — not some Hollywood version of it.
DeMoss is a specialist in youth and entertainment cultures based in Franklin, Tenn. This article is adapted from his new book, “TV The Great Escape: Life-Changing Stories from Those Who Dared to Take Control,” published by Crossway Books. (c)2001 by Bob DeMoss. Used by permission.