The Passion of The Christ has caused a lot of discussions. Some people accuse the film to be anti-Semitic or that it has the potential to incite hatred and violence towards Jews. Other people object mainly to Mel Gibson’s gruesome depiction of Jesus Christ’s last 12 hours on earth in his latest film: The Passion Of The Christ. Though these are of importance, we should not allow Christ’s main message to drown and be set aside in favor of our discussions of religion, politics, film-comparisons, film-critiques and censorship. We should take this opportunity to remember what it was that Jesus Christ died for. Perhaps we can re-think and re-learn the message He may have been trying to tell us two thousand years ago.
I would have preferred this paper to discuss only the main teaching of Christ and how it relates to us today; however I feel that I should address the two most popular discussions regarding the film before I can continue on. Was it anti-Semitic? I don’t believe the film was anti-Semitic. The Jews had to make a decision then and they did it no differently to how we, as a society, conduct our affairs today. In the latter part of this document, I argue that there is no reason for non-Jews to blame the Jews for what had happened. Was the gore and violence of the film appropriate? Yes. I think that the gore and violence of the film was important in illustrating the sacrifice that Jesus had to make, and was willing to take, so that we would understand what he had been trying to tell us all along. The pain and suffering he had endured shows the amount of strength that is required to love – completely and truly.
Regardless of what your religious beliefs are, or whether you have a religion or not, let me first ask you to assume, just for this paper, to forget religion. Forget the notion that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Forget the notion that he was sent here by a Divine Power. Let us just assume that he was a mortal man, made of flesh and blood, just like you and me. He saw the world differently however. He interpreted information, his experiences and his emotions differently to how most of us process our internal and external environments. As a result, he gained immense wisdom and knowledge beyond the comprehension of most of us. He tried to tell us something. He tried to share with us what he knew.
The main teachings of Jesus Christ revolve around the core idea of LOVE. Love everything. Love everybody. Even your enemies! If they hit you on one cheek, turn the other cheek. Like Buddha’s message: Do NOT do unto others what you would NOT like others do unto you. Be compassionate towards all beings. That was what they taught: LOVE.
He believed that it is the only philosophy that will allow us all to achieve harmony and happiness in our universe and in our lives. No amount of hate should be allowed every day and in every way that we conduct ourselves. No matter what happens, we must not hate or wish malicious thoughts towards anything or anybody.
To spread that message, he spoke about it when he could, where he could. People flocked to the mountains and in the temples where he preached. A lot of his ideas fascinated people. They were new, bizarre and sometimes his ideas went against basic human instincts and the prevailing beliefs that people had at the time. He was a leader, like a shepherd guiding his herd of sheep. He led with utmost integrity.
We have had a lot of leaders in the past, now and we will continue to follow them in the future. They tell us one thing but they do not have the strength and courage it takes to refuse to do another. They contradict themselves and their ideals.
Is it only our leaders, celebrities and other prominent members of our society – whom we read about in the papers – who are at fault? No. Their faults are our faults. How is that? Because we still believe that it is OK to hate or express negative emotions towards others whom we feel have done us wrong or will do us wrong. We, as people, still exhibit little signs of compassion, consideration, thoughtfulness and understanding towards other people and other beings.
We experience negative emotions towards other people when they mock us, when they ridicule us, when they bully us, when they humiliate us, when they deny us justice or fairness, when they torture us, when they kill or threaten to kill our loved ones, or when they deny us anything else that we consider to be our ‘human rights’.
“Of course”, we say. “That’s natural!”
That is exactly my point! Jesus Christ had to endure all that and yet he had gone through his last twelve hours without displaying any signs of anger, hatred, disappointment, greed or fear. In fact, during his crucifixion, he still asked that his enemies be forgiven for they knew not what they were doing. Who among us has the courage, strength and wisdom to be able to accept our predicaments like that?
Jesus Christ has shown us that we must love even our enemies, be wise enough to increase our capacity to understand and show compassion towards all beings…regardless of what happens.
The Jews at the time had to make a decision: to kill Jesus or not. What would have been the right thing for them to do? They did not know. If you were a common person in the streets of Jerusalem at that time and you were asked what you would like to happen to Jesus, what would you have said? For a lot of people, the information they had of Jesus Christ was very sketchy. He was whispered to be The Messiah. He had many controversial ideas but he seemed very wise and he had helped ease the misery of a lot of people. At the same time, Jesus was also accused of being a liar, a madman, a witch and a blasphemer. He had made Lazarus come back to life, walked on water and he had turned water into wine. Would you have believed those miracles? If they were not true, why would people have made them up? If they were true then definitely, Jesus was no ordinary man. And if he had powers like that, what else was he capable of doing? What if he was the Devil in disguise? Maybe it was right that he be killed while his threat could still be subdued. There were so many people chanting for his death. Surely their reasoning would not have been baseless.
It was not an easy decision for any person or any group of people to make. Even Pontius Pilate who was in a position to have all the information in the land to make a decision, was torn what to do with Jesus. Pilate was like the President of the United States, with all the advisers, intelligence agencies and reporters at his disposal. Yet, he did not know what he was supposed to do.
The decision came to pass to crucify Jesus. The High Priests were threatened of him. Pontius Pilate weighed his decision and allowed the people to make the choice for him. Those who were most vocal and more aggressive in their belief that Jesus Christ ought to die, got their way that day. There may have been people who probably felt strongly against it but they were not willing or able to do anything to stop it. Others were not there probably because they allowed themselves to be in a position where they knew too little information to have an opinion at a time when it was crucial that they did. Sadly, many may not just have cared.
Think of all current issues we face. There are some of us who choose FOR or AGAINST a motion. Others do not choose, however, by not choosing, they have also made a choice. As one global voice, we are all divided in our opinions towards most of these issues. And only with hindsight, can we truly assess the impact of the choices we have made. It is the same dilemma that the Jews faced then.
Should we look outside ourselves to see whom we can blame for the killing of Jesus? No. The Jews killed Jesus, a fellow Jew, but how different are we when we kill or hurt our own? How different are we when we allow others to suffer because it was not our problem or because we did not yet know enough about the problem?
Added with our inability to be wiser than we are to accept and feel compassion towards all beings, it was our ‘human nature’ to hate and inflict pain and suffering on others that crucified Jesus Christ. That ‘human nature’ still remains unchanged even after two thousand years. What Jerusalem was then is what the world is now. And it will be that way forever…until we change.