from John Meacham's Newsweek article, page two
"...he (Gibson) said the wounds of Christ
healed his wounds. And I think the film expresses that." - James
The country—first-century Judea, the early 21st's Israel—is
part of the Roman Empire. The prefect, Pontius Pilate, is Caesar's
ranking representative in the province, a place riven with fierce
religious disputes. Jesus comes from Galilee, a kind of backwater;
as a Jewish healer and teacher, he has attracted great notice in the
years, months and days leading up to this hour.
His popularity seemed to be surging among at least some of the thousands
of pilgrims gathered in the city for Passover. Crowds cheered him,
proclaiming him the Messiah, which to first-century Jewish ears meant
he was the "king of the Jews" who heralded the coming of
the Kingdom of God, a time in which the yoke of Roman rule would be
thrown off, ushering in an age of light for Israel. Hungry for liberation
and deliverance, some of those in the teeming city were apparently
flocking to Jesus,
threatening to upset the delicate balance of power in Jerusalem.
priests responsible for the Temple had an understanding with the Romans:
the Jewish establishment would do what it could to keep the peace,
or else Pilate would strike. And so the high priest, Caiaphas, dispatches
a party to arrest Jesus. Guided by Judas, they find him in Gethsemane.
In the language of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, there
is this exchange: "Whom do you seek?" Jesus asks. "Jesus
of Nazareth." The answer comes quickly. "I am he."
begins the final chapter of the most influential story in Western
history. For Christians, the Passion—from the Latin passus,
the word means "having suffered" or "having undergone"—is
the very heart of their faith. Down the ages, however, when read without
critical perspective and a proper sense of history, the Christian
narratives have sometimes been contorted to lay the responsibility
for Jesus' execution at the feet of the Jewish people, a contortion
that has long fueled the fires of anti-Semitism.
Into this perennially explosive debate comes a controversial movie
directed by Mel Gibson, "The Passion of the Christ,"
a powerful and troubling work about Jesus' last hours.
"The Holy Ghost was working through me on this film," Gibson
has said. The movie, which was scheduled for release on Ash
Wednesday, has provoked a pitched battle between those
who think the film unfairly blames the Jewish people for Jesus' death
and those who are instead focused on Gibson's emotional depiction
of Jesus' torment. "It is as it was," the aged Pope John
Paul II is said to have remarked after seeing the film, and Billy
Graham was so moved by a screening that he wept. One can see why these
supremely gifted pastors were impressed, for Gibson obviously reveres
the Christ of faith, and much of his movie is a literal-minded rendering
of the most dramatic passages scattered through the four Gospels.
Gibson is an ultraconservative Roman Catholic, a traditionalist who
does not acknowledge many of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council
(1962-1965). He favors the Latin mass, does not eat meat on Fridays
and adheres to an unusually strict interpretation of Scripture and
doctrine—a hard-line creed he grew up with and rediscovered
about a dozen years ago.
"He began meditating on the passion and the death of Jesus,"
James Caviezel, the actor who plays Jesus in "The Passion,"
told Newsweek. "In doing so, he said the wounds of Christ healed
his wounds. And I think the film expresses that."
on arrow to read page three