Movies for my wife and I have been a staple in our relationship since before we were married. After the ice and snow melted over the weekend, we braved the weather and went to see the latest from Roma Downey: “Son of God.” I watched “The Bible” series when it came on last year and was excited to see this movie. We arrived early, and I made sure we had our Diet Cokes and Popcorn before entering the theater. Can you taste the butter? My keyboard is starting to get greasy!
As we watched the previews, my mind wondered a little. How would this movie be in comparison to the “Jesus Film” or “Passion of the Christ”? It may not be fair to go into a movie with that in mind, but having seen the other two several times it comes with the territory. Could this be used like “The Jesus Film” for worldwide evangelism? Is this “The Passion” but without the anti-Semitism accusations? Could I take my kids to this? I sat back, munched on my popcorn, drank my Diet Coke, and watched with eager anticipation as John opened up the narrative. For the next two-plus hours, I was well-pleased.
Manners and Customs
For the most part, the manners and customs held to the setting of first century Israel. Filming in Morocco provided the right feel. The cruelty of the Romans seemed shocking in the first scene, but after reflection, was probably more accurate than our Western reading of it allows. Throughout the movie, I felt that the portrayal of Jesus’ teaching was so natural and organic. Teaching out of lifestyle and surrounding needs models for us the type of discipleship needed today. However, there were a couple of interesting choices. First, Thomas is basically blonde with blue eyes. The culture of the day was not nearly as mixed as we are, so Mediterranean should have won the day. Second, how in the world did everyone have straight teeth? Seems odd that first century people would all have orthodontia. This stuck out to me as odd, but really did not detract from the story itself. Maybe the budget was spent on location and clothing.
The church has always struggled with dramatic licensure and Biblical accuracy. “The Son of God” does a good job of this balancing act. I really liked that they started from the beginning. Too often, the Gospel is relegated to a few cliché statements and an emotional push toward a decision. The Son of God is presented from “Let there be light” in Genesis to “I am coming soon” in Revelation. The thin red line that flows throughout scripture is well-presented in this drama.
The synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) present the Gospel in a particular way. When screenwriters take the elements of the story and remix them, preachers get fired up and pulpits usually light up! The script does this very thing in “Son of God,” but stick with me here. Is the order of the synoptic Gospels chronological, or did the three authors just write it that way? With that in mind, we must ask ourselves if the presentation of items is anti-Biblical or anti-traditional? I choose to view the whole presentation and how it shows us Jesus as son, friend, healer, miracle maker, food distributor, and crucified Lord who rose from the dead in an accurate and wonderful way.
One question comes to mind regarding the omniscience of Jesus. We believe in this attribute for God the Father. If you believe in the omniscience of Jesus, specifically after His Baptism, then this movie will disappoint you four times. Jesus looks surprised on four occasions. Why would He be surprised? Maybe the actor meant to look oddly dismayed and was just confused. To me, Jesus looked surprised. How could that be if He is omniscient? Was it the humanity that looked surprised but the divinity wasn’t? He looked surprised at the amount of people to be fed. He looked surprised they would call him king in a mob movement sort of way. He looked surprised at who would betray Him. He seemed like he received a direct message when hugging Peter and told him he would deny his Lord.
I do have a couple of issues. First, Jesus was too pretty. Read this to find out why. Moreover, when #hotjesus EVER is trending, we have a problem. Second, I appreciate dramatic license, but Nicodemus comes to terms too late in the story. Also, it is mentioned that Jesus had not come to Jerusalem before Palm Sunday. However, John 2 and 5 also say Jesus was in Jerusalem. This may not be huge, but it was obviously an oversight. Finally, Mary Magdalene is portrayed as a part of the inner circle of disciples. At times, she is considered one of the disciples. For the highly conservative, this will be a little unnerving. She is in every scene with the disciples, even the Last Supper. There was never anything weird, romantic, or discussed. She was just present at everything.
This was a beautiful film. The Gospel was clearly and accurately portrayed. We see beginning to end in just over 2 hours. When asked by Peter, Jesus responds with “We will change the world.” Message received. At the end we see the disciples looking at each other saying, “We have work to do.” This movie has the ability to impact like “The Jesus Film.” It is better than “Passion of the Christ” because it presents the fuller Gospel, especially with respect to the resurrection and final 40 days before ascension. It is rated PG-13 and is true to that rating. I do not believe children are prepared for the graphic nature presented. While the story is not unfamiliar to children, their minds are not ready. Otherwise, I fully recommend you see this film. Take a friend. Discuss over coffee after. Enjoy.