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The Passion of the Christ (March 17, 2004)

The Passion of the Christ (March 17, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

The Passion of the Christ

March 17, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0042}


An e-Review Commentary
By Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker**

I have not seen Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ." It would be foolish to have an opinion about the controversies surrounding this movie if one has not seen it. Yet, I think I can make one observation in general: as an art form no movie is able to express the deepest meaning of the cross of Jesus Christ.

A movie can express a producer's interpretation of the story of what happened when Jesus was crucified. It can portray the violent aspects of a Roman crucifixion. It can also evoke deep feelings of pathos, sympathy and revulsion. For those of us who believe that Jesus' crucifixion was "for us" and for all human beings, it may even inspire our faith.

What no movie can express is the deepest meaning of the cross since its meaning is a message about God and God's relationship to the world. The cross of Jesus Christ is where divine revelation is manifest par excellence. In Jesus' suffering and death on the cross we see by faith the absolute participation of God in human existence. By entering our evil and sin, our suffering and death, God is able to reveal that God both understands our moral predicament and mortality and overcomes them. Now we know God is with us in our wickedness and wretchedness. Because it is God who is with us, we trust in the divine promises of forgiveness of sins and resurrection to eternal life. As St. Augustine said, in Jesus Christ we see that "God's mercy is God's majesty."

The deepest meaning of the cross of Jesus Christ can be understood only in the context of the church's doctrine of the Trinity. God the Father offers his love to the world in the self-offering of the incarnate Son of God for the world in the union of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. There can be no revelation of God that surpasses the revelation of the triune God in the cross of Jesus; that is why Jesus Christ is the final revelation of God.

The revelation of God in the cross of Jesus cannot be "seen" by our eyes that receive the impression of the images of a movie screen. It can only be seen by the "eyes of faith."


This commentary relates to Spiritual Formation/Faith Issues.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Whitaker is bishop of the Florida Annual Conference.