Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Power of Passion

(first published on Obey the Muse, April 20, 2014)

When I first agreed to guest post today, I didn't realize that it was Easter Sunday. I had a completely different topic planned. Then I started thinking about Easter and about Resurrection Day, musing about how much power there is in the telling of a story.

The Bible is full of stories. Jesus was a master storyteller. There has been a lot of controversy about the way the Bible is portrayed in movies these days. If you haven't heard the great debate over the film "Noah," you must be living under a rock. (In which case you probably aren't reading this post.) It brought me back to "The Passion of the Christ." Remember all the controversy about that film?

Before it was released I was part of a church leadership team invited to see an early cut of the film. The drive to the event was almost a party atmosphere. How exciting! We were getting to see "The Passion of the Christ" before anyone else! We felt so special. Like the chosen ones. There were banners and posters and materials we could take home. Oh, to be a VIP was wonderful!

photo by n. pierson
In the beautiful auditorium of Pacific Academy, a posh Christian school, there was a constant buzz of excited voices. We had excellent seats and couldn't wait for the film to begin. After the introduction, the lights went down and the room grew quiet.

photo by n. pierson
Suddenly we weren't moviegoers. The silence was palpable. The air was thick with emotion. I'm not sure when the tears started to flow down my cheeks, but I couldn't stop them. They slowly made a path down my face and there was no use trying to wipe them away. I was desperately trying to regain mastery over my emotions but it was useless.

It wasn't the brutality as much as the humanity of the film that gripped my heart and seemed to rip it out of my body. The love between Jesus and his mother, and her agony as he was arrested, tortured, and executed was haunting. The early scenes of their loving relationship called to me, a young mother myself. 

As the torture scene began I found myself sickened and had a hard time watching, yet I could barely look away. The leering Roman soldiers took turns riping the flesh off Jesus' body and Mary looked on in horror and despair.

Suddenly I had the most visceral physical experience. I began to cry much harder and hyperventilate. I couldn't take it any more. Struggling past the people in my row, I staggered up the aisle and into the ladies room. Finding myself alone, I let out the waves of emotion and cried violently.

What a strange feeling. I had never felt so overcome, so unable to control myself. It was like everything about the heart of God came into focus for me in that ugly, brutal scene. It wasn't a sanitized, Sunday School version of events. It was a harsh, painful, bloody sacrifice, done because of great love. To be able to see Jesus' love for his mother, his friends, and all people was mesmerizing. Watching his mother's love for him was heart breaking, and it helped me see the sacrifice God made in sending and sacrificing His own Son.

Most of all in my spirit I realized that this was done for me. This awful, brutal, bloody sacrifice is what makes all of humanity VIPs. My whole adult life so far I had tried to be a perfect wife, mother, and Christian. But all of my efforts really meant nothing. We are saved by grace, not by our works. "The Passion of the Christ" brought that point home in all its heartbreaking beauty. 

That is the power of story.

All Pictures are Copyright 2004 by Icon Distribution, INC. The Passion of the Christ
All rights reserved. Still photographs taken on film location by Ken Duncan and Philippe Antonello.

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