Caussey's Corner

Caussey’s Corner: A Look Back at The Passion of the Christ

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Two thousand years ago, Rome ruled the western world. The Empire stretched from Britannia in the west to Egypt in the south, the Caucasus Mountains and Mesopotamia in the east to the Great Baltic Sea in the north. Her legions took command in the ancient cities of the civilized world. Cyrene, Landinium, Corduba, Ephesus, Memphis, and Jerusalem had their gates guarded by Imperial troops, and the laws of Caesar were enforced. Enforced with a punishment that was torturous and many times fatal to the recipient if not obeyed.

Around 30 A.D. the Roman providence of Palestine was a hotbed of turmoil. An obscure Jewish carpenter named Jesus of Nazareth began to proclaim his coming as the Messiah and heralding the appearance of the new “Kingdom of God.”

Mel Gibson, the producer and financial supporter, had presented a film, “The Passion of the Christ” in a way that runs contrary to the way filmmakers have traditionally portrayed Christ and His death on the Cross of Calvary.

Gibson, at considerable professional and personal financial risk, put his own $30 million into the production of this masterpiece that depicts the reenactment of the final 12 hours in the life of Jesus. A devout Catholic, Gibson has been accused of being anti-Semitic in the way that the movie portrays the last few hours in the life of our Lord.

Caussey's Corner: A Look Back at The Passion of the Christ

Photo: @wolfewithane via Twenty20

“The Passion of the Christ” was shot in late 2002 and early 2003 in Rome’s famed Cine and in the southern Italian city of Matera. Gibson and his colleagues worked over two years on the movie script. The crucifixion itself was shot high on a desolate hill in early winter, oftentimes in cold, gusty winds.

James Caviezel, who played Jesus in the movie, was able to conclude the film despite numerous personal perils. He was struck by lightning while on the cross and dislocated his right shoulder when the cross fell on him. During the scourging scene, he was accidentally hit by the actors playing his torturers and received a 14-inch scar on his back. The second time he was accidentally hit, he fell so hard that he pulled both hands from the shackles that held him to the whipping block. After the wind was knocked out of his body, he lay on the stone-cold courtyard unable to move for some time before passing out.

Usually, I attend movie screenings with the other film critics in Dallas at a special theater presentation. However, movies that depict a religious or patriotic flavor are often met with skepticism or loud criticism by some of the critics from major media outlets. In order to curtail this happening, I decided to attend the movie along with the general public.

The movie crowd seemed to be pretty well balanced along ethnic, age, and gender lines. There were numerous families in the audience, and some that knew each other, as there were some quiet, personal conversation before the movie began.

Caussey's Corner: A Look Back at The Passion of the Christ

Photo: @south_nostalghia via Twenty20

The film opens with Jesus and his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane and concludes with the stone being rolled away from the tomb where the body of Christ once resided.

Sometimes it is hard to describe in words what is seen by the eyes and taken in by the ears. Through this film, for the first time I began to realize what the Son of God went through for the redemption of the world’s sin.

Sitting there in the cool darkness, I journeyed back to an era lost in memory to all but a few devoted writers. I could smell the city of Jerusalem and all the animals, foods, and sweat of her people. I grew angry with the Sanhedrin, the governing senate comprised of Pharisees and Jewish priests who conspired to put Jesus to death. I felt the fear of the 12 disciples when they abandoned Jesus, and grew to despise the disciple Judas Iscariot, a member of Jesus’ inner circle, who gave his Lord “the kiss of death,” identifying him as the one to be arrested.

I wept openly as our Lord was beaten to near unconsciousness. I covered my eyes as blood and flesh appeared to descend on the audience from the hundreds of open wounds on his back and stomach, caused by a whip that had leather straps with metal spurs attached to the ends. I wanted to stand and shout, “No more, no more,” while soldiers spat at and cursed Him as they placed a crown of thorns on his bruised head. I closed my own eyes after I had looked into his, his right eye swollen nearly shut from a leather strap used by one of Herod’s guard on him.

Caussey's Corner: A Look Back at The Passion of the Christ

Photo: envato elements

Don’t watch “The Passion of the Christ” this Easter unless you want your life impacted and maybe changed forever. You will shudder, cry, and plead for the punishment to stop. You will see a passion that only a Heavenly Father can understand. You will witness pain and suffering beyond belief or human experience. You could come to know a love that only a God can share.

When the movie concluded, the audience just sat there. Only the dying epilogues of soft cries could be heard. I was so stunned I didn’t know what to do or to say. The audience appeared to have become one enormous, suffering body. Finally, with the credits nearly concluded, we exited the theatre. Again I heard not a word. We passed two long lines of people waiting for their turn to see the movie. The waiting crowd searched our faces for some understanding of what might be expected. My expression was frozen in painful time.

As I got in my car, I heard the words in my mind spoken by Jesus on the cross. It gave me the peace that I so desperately needed. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Thank you, Jesus!

Durhl Caussey is a syndicated columnist for Texas Hill Country. He may be reached at this website or [email protected].

Author’s Note: This article appeared in my syndicated column Easter of 2004, and was published by all my small weekly and bi-weekly newspapers. While large newspapers in Texas and across the country refused to publish the column. The movie grossed over $600 Million in the first year, but few movie critics liked it or wrote positive reviews.