JACKSON, Tenn. – March 29, 2004 – When a group of Union University faculty and students met recently to discuss Mel Gibson’s new movie, The Passion of the Christ, much of the dialogue centered on the movie’s portrayal of Jesus as both wholly human and wholly divine.
David Burke, associate professor of theatre, appreciated the flashbacks to earlier scenes from Jesus’ life as a break from the intensity of the action.
“I thought the flashbacks were necessary to give us some sort of rest,” Burke said. “I especially love the scene where he’s making the table and then he had a moment with his mom where he splashed water in her face …it made him very human.”
Dr. James Huggins, professor of biology, also commented on the significance of the scene’s portrayal of Jesus.
“He shaped wood, but he shaped lives. He was a carpenter of men as well as wood,” Huggins said.
The students and professors also discussed the confrontation between Jesus and Satan early in the film. One student asked why it seems in this scene that Jesus is afraid, but Satan is not.
“Christ at that point, he’s totally human and totally divine,” Huggins said. “He created the human body; he knew what those nerves could do. He knew what kind of pain he was about to go through. The crucifixion I think is probably, maybe the worst death that anyone could die … I think he knew the pain that he was going to go through, physical pain, but also, not only that, he was going to carry the sins of the whole world. I think I would have been afraid. I think that we would expect him to have sweated great drops of blood.”
“I think it was very well done … very good showing, sensitive of the situation,” he added.
“Fear doesn’t keep him from being noble either, or from being courageous,” Burke said. “Courage is not lack of fear.”
Dr. Gregory Thornbury, assistant professor of Christian studies, pointed out the scriptural reference for the scene in the film.
“One of the nice things Gibson does there is that same context where you have the asp slither out of the personification of evil, Satan … The image of him crushing the serpent’s head is a clear reference to Genesis 3:15,” Thornbury said. “So at the same moment that you have Jesus truly human now, struggling with his progress to the cross, at the same time you realize that clearly he is God, he is taking the higher burden of the sin of humanity upon himself, but he intends to do it and accomplish it in power.”
Thornbury added that when he viewed the film, the audience seemed taken aback when Jesus smashed the serpent’s head.
“You don’t expect a man who is in that kind of turmoil to be that decisive, and from that point on, he really sets his face like flint,” he said. “I thought there was a very nice combination of the truly divine and truly human aspects of Christ.”
by Katie Gould ('04)