Friday, April 3, 2015

A Question for Mel Gibson, producer of "The Passion of the Christ"

Someday I’d like to ask Mel Gibson a question. It pertains to two scenes in the movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” which seem to have a connection.

Almost every Good Friday, since the film’s release in 2004, I have viewed the movie. And every time when I get to a particular scene my eyes are riveted on one person and an action that is hard to overlook.

Here’s the scene: It is near the end of the film, Jesus is about to get spikes hammered into his wrists and feet, securing him to two wooden beams. As the camera pans the crowd it stops at two women who have lowered themselves to the ground, intently looking at Jesus. The film's cinematographer then focuses on the tear-stained face of Mary, his mother, and her hands which have grabbed fistfuls of dirt and stone. As the camera zooms in, her anguish and piercing pain are almost palpable. When the cross is lifted up with her son attached, she raises to her feet, still clenching the rocks. And there, while standing, with her eyes on Jesus, slowly her fingers move, releasing a flow of dirt and stones back to the ground.

It’s then I recall an earlier scene from the movie: this one is of Mary Magdalene, the one caught in adultery, who is about to be stoned by her accusers. They have brought her to the temple in an effort to entrap Jesus with his own words. As she lies on the ground the camera follows her stretched out arm and hand as she cautiously moves her fingers along the dirt toward Jesus' feet. If I recall right, all this is done in silence until Jesus says these words directed to the prideful Pharisees: “He who is without sin . . . cast the first stone.”

Two different scenes, but with one common denominator: stones. For the Pharisees the stones were weapons used to humiliate and destroy a life, unlike God's mercy, which forgives and restores. For Mary, Jesus' mother, the stones defused her pain as each blow of the hammer struck her son. Or, perhaps reveal her own struggle with vengeance and forgiveness. And for Mary Magdalene, the stones that were meant to kill, brought her Jesus and life. 

Both scenes get to me emotionally and trigger tears as I recognize I am at times like all three of them: full of pride and quick to accuse like the Pharisee; desperate for mercy and restoration like Mary Magdalene; and like Mary, consumed with pain and anger, plus toying with vengeance, choose instead to forgive. 

I realize these scenes are secondary to the more important story – that of Jesus, the Son of God, and His death on a cross. Never do I want to minimize His love and perfect blood sacrifice which paid the debt required for my and everyone's sin. I simply wanted to tell you how this movie impacts me every Easter and encourage you to watch it sometime this weekend. 

But it’s also true I want to ask Mel Gibson a question. I may never have the opportunity but if by chance he reads this post here it is: Was it your intent to connect these scenes by using dirt and rocks to artistically convey, without using a single word, the power of forgiveness?

If it is, you succeeded. 

P.S. If you could ask Mel Gibson a question what would it be? Just curious.