Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ is being touted by religious leaders and organisations as ‘one of the greatest evangelistic tools in modern-day history’.There are, however, some things you won’t learn from it, even though it claims to be a faithful rendering of the biblical accounts.
It will not teach you the gospel
The Bible says, ‘It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching [not dramatising] to save them that believe’ (1 Corinthians 1:21). Is not the Bible sufficient to give us the account of Christ’s death? Is it not the record that God has given of his Son (1 John 5:11)?
Believers walk by faith, not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). The truth regarding the Lord Jesus Christ, and how God has redeemed and justified sinners by his sovereign grace, is not revealed through man-made imagery (which is idolatry) but through the gospel revealed in God’s Word (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
It cannot show you the true sufferings of Christ
The movie is rated ‘R’ because it portrays torture and abuse. But the key question is this: When the Bible speaks of the sufferings of Christ for sinners, is it referring to his physical sufferings? The answer is ‘no’.
Painful as these sufferings were, that is not what caused him to cry out, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ No! The prophet Isaiah wrote of ‘the travail of his soul’.
The physical sufferings, inflicted on our Lord by wicked men, were not the important thing – as the film would have us believe.
His true suffering was about God justly pouring out his wrath upon his Son – as the Substitute and Sin-Bearer for his elect. It was about the just one dying for the unjust, that God the Father might be just in justifying (declaring righteous) those for whom Christ died (Romans 3:26).
By his death, the Lord Jesus has put away, once for all, the sins of his people (Romans 5:9,10).
It does not explain why the Lord laid down his life
If the film did tell us this, there would be no debate as to whether the Jews or Romans killed him! Whose fault was it that Christ died? It was ultimately God’s responsibility. Isaiah declares, ‘It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin he shall see his seed’ (Isaiah 53:10).
Acts 2:23 agrees: ‘Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain’. God slew his Son, but used ‘wicked hands’ to represent the sins of those for whom he died.
If Christ laid down his life for me, it was my sins that nailed him to the cross.
I could not provide the perfect righteousness that God requires for my acceptance – but Jesus did. I deserved the wrath of God, but God in mercy determined that his wrath should fall instead upon a substitute, his Son.
This demonstrates that salvation is by grace – obtained by Christ’s righteous life and sacrificial death alone. By Jesus’ death, God has justified, sanctified and redeemed every sinner for whom Christ died (1 Corinthians 1:30).