When I saw an early cut last summer of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion,” as it was known then, I knew it was going to be an important film.
Frankly, the movie had more impact on me than any film I had ever seen. I was left speechless. A day has not gone by since that I haven’t thought of the movie, drawn lessons from it, been inspired by it.
Since then I have gone to see the final cut twice. Each time I see it, there are new lessons, new inspirations to draw from it.
I’m glad to see I’m not alone.
The film is causing people to think, to return to their faith and, in some cases, to discover God and His purpose in their lives.
It is having a positive effect on our culture and is causing Hollywood to rethink the way it makes movies.
But the film is not without precedent entirely.
Back in 1927, another film shook the world. It was Cecil B. DeMille’s “King of Kings.”
Like “The Passion of the Christ,” it faced enormous opposition when it was released, sparking fears of anti-Semitism that, fortunately, were never realized.
In fact, it had quite the opposite effect – and, I suspect, so, too, will “The Passion of the Christ.”
“In spite of excellent reviews … what was harder to comprehend and cope with was the organized opposition of certain Jewish groups to the filmed history of the greatest Jew who ever lived,” wrote DeMille.
Thirty-two years after its release, “King of Kings” had been seen by an estimated 800 million people. Because it was a silent film, it was used by missionaries around the world to reach people who spoke no English. Again, I suspect, the Aramaic and Latin languages used in “The Passion of the Christ” will lend itself to the same purpose.
DeMille also recounted a dramatic way the film was actually used to save hundreds of Jewish children from the Nazi gas chambers.
A year after the film was released, H.E. Wallner saw it in Germany and committed his life to ministry. In 1939, he was pastor of a church in Prague when Adolf Hilter’s troops marched into Czechoslovakia. A member of his church, a Jewish doctor and recent convert to Christianity, was sent to a concentration camp.
He was severely beaten and abused – so badly one of his arms needed to be amputated. One night, an officer slammed his head against a stone wall, according to an account by DeMille. With blood pouring down the doctor’s face, the officer mocked him: “Take a look at yourself. Now you look like your Jewish Christ.”
“Lord, never in my life have I received such honor – to resemble You,” said the doctor.
Later that night, the officer was haunted by what he had done and by the words of the doctor. He sought help in a nearby church – Wallner’s church.
After praying with the officer, Wallner said: “Perhaps God let you kill that good man to bring you to the foot of the cross, where you can help others.”
The German officer returned to the concentration camp, and, with the help of Wallner and the Czech underground, assisted in the escape of hundreds of Jews.
Wallner told DeMille in 1957: “If it had not been for ‘The King of Kings,’ I would not be a Lutheran pastor, and 350 Jewish children would have died in the ditches.”
Some have ridiculed Gibson for suggesting the Holy Spirit guided him in the making of his film, but DeMille made a similar comment: “If I felt that this film was my work, it would be intolerably vain and presumptuous to quote such stories from the hundreds like them that I could quote,” he wrote. “But all we did in ‘The King of Kings,’ all I have striven to do in any of my biblical pictures, was to translate into another medium, the medium of sight and sound, the words of the Bible.”
I believe that is exactly what Mel Gibson has done in “The Passion of the Christ.” And the reaction to it speaks for itself.
Editor’s note: Coinciding with the release of Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ,” WorldNetDaily has issued one of the most extraordinary editions of its monthly Whistleblower magazine ever produced, titled “THE DAY JESUS DIED.”