This last weekend was the Young Life All Staff Conference in Orlando, FL. On Saturday afternoon, while all 3,200 staff and spouses were in the main conference room, there was a video greeting: Mel Gibson himself popped up on the screen and said "Hello, Young Life!" He continued on to tell us that we were to be given a screening of his newest movie on Sunday afternoon: The Passion of the Christ.
I have never before been so profoundly impacted by a movie-the portrayal of the suffering and crucifixion Jesus endured for us has never before been so authentic. After seeing it, the Pope said "It is as it was." I wholeheartedly agree with that description. Billy Graham said "Every time I preach or speak about the Cross, the things I saw on the screen will be on my heart and mind." Ditto.
Following our screening, Jim Caviezel, the actor who portrayed Jesus, came out to speak to us. He communicated his deep commitment to Christ, our need to share that commitment with others. He shared the story of spending five weeks filming the crucifixion-having his own shoulder dislocated carrying the cross, a take that remains in the movie. Caviezel received two strikes from the bone, stone and glass encrusted whip used in the scourging of Christ when the actor wielding the whip misplaced his blows. While filming the crucifixion, lightning struck Jim....and he walked away.
Aside from the physical hardships, Mel Gibson and Jim Caviezel entered the production realizing that this may be the last movie either of them make. Gibson warned Caviezel when he took the role, "You know, you may never work again." Jim's reply? "I could go down on this ship. If this is the one that takes me out, that's fine with me."
So I hear you saying, "Great. Another movie about Jesus. So what?" Let me tell you. In the opening scene, Jesus prays at the Garden of Gethsemane. Satan comes to confront Him saying something like: "It's not worth it. The price is too steep. A human soul is not worth such a great sacrifice." With those words in His mind, Jesus steels Himself: "Father, not My will, but Yours." And so Jesus enters the last twelve hours of His life willingly to pay for my sins and yours.
Each stripe He bore, every fist to the face, the nails in His hands and feet were not His. They were mine. They were yours. This movie transported me to Golgotha, the hill Jesus was crucified on. For two hours, I felt as though I were an actual witness at what has proved to be THE PIVOTAL MOMENT in human history. It has transformed my life.
A warning to the skittish: the movie will probably receive an "R" rating. Don't let that dissuade you. There are some very violent scenes, but it is not gratuitous violence. If the sacrifice Christ made on the cross was to pay for the sins of mankind, how could a realistic portrayal get a "PG" rating?
This movie has the potential to change the world. It opens on Ash Wednesday-what an incredible way to start Lent!
The next time you are at the theater, ask for them to carry The Passion of the Christ.
Go see The Passion on February 25. Bring a box of Kleenex. Bring a friend-bring ALL your friends.
For more information on The Passion of the Christ see http://www.thepassionofthechrist.com/.
Tom Dekker is the area director for Lower Valley Young Life.