I watched the most recent re-telling of Jesus’ ministry, death, burial and resurrection. As is expected, there were many reviews that held the movie in high regard. Yet, there were others that accused the authors of seasoning it with spiritualism and New Age theology.
The movie, ‘Son of God’, had been in theaters for a week. If I had a right to form an opinion, I needed to see the thing. So, I went with my family and friends from church and watched it this afternoon.
Long story short, I would recommend this movie … with some reservations.
We are a very visual society that struggles to use our creative imaginations. This movie speaks into our new way of thinking. It adds life and color to the stories of the Bible and brings them alive on the screen.
It helped paint a clearer picture of why the Jews were so “anti-Roman.” The brutality of the Romans was brought alive in this movie making it clear why the Jews were looking for a Messiah who would free them from Roman domination.
The acting was pretty good. Usually, I am frustrated (embarrassed, really) at Christian movies that have a great message but lack the kind of stellar acting that can bring you into the story. This movie was well done.
I could keep going but let’s look at some points where I had reservations:
There were small matters that really perturbed me. Like the fact that Mary and Jesus were white, Caucasians! There is also the matter of the magi showing up at Jesus’ birth (something that didn’t happen until Jesus was probably around 2 years of age). Or, when Nicodemus came to Jesus in broad daylight when John 3 says he came at night. And then, the most unforgivable of mistakes … Jesus and His disciples sat in chairs as they observed the Last Supper. lol
Joking aside, there were other more substantive issues that I had with the movie.
There were many, many times in the movie where conversations or actions that happened at two distinct times where consolidated into one event. This happened over and over. It could be considered careless on the part of the writers. Yet, I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they wanted to get as much of the Gospels into the movie as possible – thus the need to consolidate and rewrite much of the Gospel narratives.
Yet, there were other instances where words were completely replaced. For instance, when the woman caught in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus, He is quoted in the Bible as saying: “He who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7). Yet, in the movie, Jesus said: “I’ll give my stone to the first man who tells me he has never sinned.”
Now, this may seem like a small matter but we must ask the question, “What justified changing Jesus’ words?” Apparently, the authors thought they could improve on what Jesus said. Left alone, I could overlook this one instance but it happened quite often in the movie. I was left feeling like the actual story with the actual words used in the very Word of God weren’t good enough and needed to be improved for the screen.
Another matter that concerned me was this: “What was up with Jesus’ hands?!” He loved touching people and at times, it seemed as if as He touched them, they experienced something. The most obvious expression of this phenomena was when Jesus confronted Barabbas (who apparently had momentarily escaped from jail. lol). Barabbas was acting tough around Jesus until Jesus approached him and held out his hand to Barabbas’ stomach. Jesus didn’t touch him, but something happened. Barabbas seemed shocked at what appeared to be a force field that radiated from Jesus’ hand. Whatever it was, Barabbas cowered away from Jesus’ presence.
A moment I found appalling (as someone who understands a little of Jewish culture) was when Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus. He didn’t stand outside and call for Lazarus to come back to life and exit the tomb (“Lazarus, come out!”) like the Scripture says He did (John 11:43). Instead, Jesus actually entered the tomb with Martha, did the hand thing on Lazarus (that I have already mentioned) and then kissed his head. When Jesus opened his eyes, so did Lazarus. By this time, I began to be offended by how much literary licence they were taking with the Word of God.
Then, there was the whole issue of how Jesus, as God in the flesh, was able to interact with His divine mind without violating His humanness. Better stated, how did Jesus become conscious of things that He did not previously know? For instance, in the movie, Jesus finds overwhelming comfort when Peter says that he would never deny Jesus. While Jesus embraces Peter, it seems as if a thought came to Jesus’ mind and all of a sudden, He knew of Peter’s betrayal. The same thing happened at the Last Supper when Jesus, in a moment, became aware of the fact that Judas was the betrayer. In my understanding, this is not at all how Jesus was able to perceive facts that His human mind could not have known.
I’ll end with this final thought: There was one primary emphasis that was strangely silent in this whole movie – the issue of redemption. There was no talk of human guilt or sin or God’s judgment upon sinners. In Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, this issue could have come up (see John 3:14-21).
If someone entered the movie theater without knowing why it was necessary for Jesus to die as our substitute on the cross, I am convinced that they would wonder why He ended up there. It wouldn’t have made sense to them. The cross only makes sense when we understand the issue of human guilt before a holy God and the necessity of divine judgment. The beauty of the cruel cross was that God paid the sin debt of those who would believe. In my estimation, that message wasn’t clear … or even addressed.
In fact, as Jesus hung on the cross, Jesus recounted at least half of the seven sayings that are ascribed to Him in Scripture. The one that is arguably the most powerful is when He cried out, “It is finished!” (or literally, “Paid in Full!”). This statement revealed that the payment for sin was completed, the work Jesus came to do was over and He was free to exit. Yet, this statement was only quietly said by him for no one else to hear. Simply put, the Gospel was never presented, even one time, in this movie about why Jesus came.
So, having said all of that, some may be amazed that I would still recommend this movie. Yet, my counsel would be this: Know your Bible and then as you watch the movie, eat the meat and spit out the bones. Don’t swallow it all!
There is much to be enjoyed in this movie, even in spite of its pitfalls.