Killing Jesus, a film based on the book written by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, premiered on March 29, Palm Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on National Geographic Channel. It was seen by 3.7 million viewers.
There are praiseworthy qualities of the movie. The dramatic film recreated the first century period in detail with realistic costumes and sets. The political intrigue surrounding Jesus’ death is explored in an interesting way. In a day when so many find it difficult to show Christian love to Middle Eastern people, it was touching to see Lebanese born Haaz Sleiman play Jesus saying, “We will love our enemies!”
However, O’Reilly and Dugard set out to tell the story of the events that led to the killing of Jesus from a naturalistic viewpoint without the supernatural.
“Martin Dugard and I are both Roman Catholics who were educated in religious schools. But we are also historical investigators and are interested primarily in telling the truth about important people, not converting anyone to a spiritual cause,” O’Reilly explains.
In Killing Jesus the Lord amazes his followers with his healing ability, where no healing is done. The followers of Jesus seem ready to interpret even the slightest unusual event that occurs around Jesus as miraculous. To the viewer, the “miracles” seem mundane.
Ironically for a film premiering on Easter, the film does not include the resurrection of Jesus. The naturalistic bias of the filmmakers removes one of the prime evidences for the resurrection, the Roman guards at the tomb.
In a final scene between Pontius Pilate and his wife Claudia, the couple has a conversation about the tomb:
Pilot: “He [the Jewish high priest] wants the tomb guarded by Roman soldiers.”
Claudia: “He, of all people, worries the Nazarene will return from the dead?”
Pilot: “He claims concern that followers of Jesus will take the body and make it appear that he has risen.”
Claudia: “Which do you believe?”
Pilot: “I believe that guarding that tomb is a waste of Roman soldiers efforts.”
Killing Jesus has a fatal flaw because under the guise of historical research it is really a naturalistic spin on the Gospel. The film implies that Jesus was not who He claimed to be and that the deeds of Jesus, as put down by the Gospel authors, may not have happened. Even worse, it implies that the resurrection didn’t happen but may have been a hoax.
Paul spoke of the fatal flaw of omitting the resurrection from the Gospel by appealing to the historical record. “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (I Cor. 15:17).
A Gospel message without the resurrection is fatally flawed.