Yesterday evening we took a small group from the church to see the movie “Son of God.” I knew very little about the movie or the series upon which it was based. I was asked by a few friends to give an impression of the movie after seeing it.
Overall, I would say that the movie was mediocre at best. It had some wonderful and powerful moments (including a retelling of the calling of Matthew the tax-collector). But inevitably anyone who has seen other Jesus movies will probably consider this to be an inferior version.
I did not catch any outright heresies or fundamentally false teaching which I have seen in other movies.
That being said there were many questionable decisions made with this presentation of Jesus. When we read any one of the 4 gospels we are not reading a straightforward “history.” We are reading an interpretation of the events and they have been given to us in a very specific way in order to evoke a response in us. St. John tells us “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31). He is quite straightforward with His intentions. Jesus Christ changed His life, and he wants to share this with us.
The folks who put together this new Jesus movie have made a bit of a mess. They have taken parts of each of the 4 gospels and basically run them through a blender and given us a scrambled gospel as a result.
Here are a few problems with the movie:
Joseph is young when Jesus is born.
Mary Magdalene is forced into nearly every scene. This is either a nod to The DaVinci Code or an attempt to make Jesus more female-friendly. She even appears exiting the room where the mystical, last supper has been held.
When Christ asks “Who do you say that I am,” He does not continue with the punchline. He does not tell the disciples that He is going up to Jerusalem to be betrayed into the hands of men.
During the raising of Lazarus, there is no context to their relationship. Jesus is simply interrupted on the road and goes to the tomb of Lazarus. He also enters the tomb and kisses Lazarus on the head in order to raise him from the dead. This of course is not according to the New Testament and it misses the Scriptural idea that the dead shall hear the voice of God and shall arise.
Jesus, speaking about John the baptist, calls him “the greatest teacher I ever knew.” In a way that makes it seem like Jesus was a disciple of John but this is not so according to the New Testament. Jesus never mentions these words and I don’t think He ever would.
The primary concern of the Jewish authorities and the High priest always seems to be that Jesus will mess with the passover festival or that Jesus will cause the Romans to shut the Holy Temple. This is mentioned several times throughout the movie. There is a problem however, it is never mentioned, even once, in the whole of the 4 gospels! In a way, the filmmakers are ascribing far nobler intentions to the Jewish authorities and this is both against Scripture and against the writers of the gospels who are crystal clear. The Jewish authorities want Jesus dead because He is a direct threat to their corruption of the faith. To put it even more scripturally, the Jewish authorities were the enemies of God as we see in the writings of many of the O.T. prophets. The crucifixion of Jesus is the fulfillment and the completion of their enmity with God.
When Nicodemus visits Jesus he comes during the day and when he asks about being “born again” the movie version of Jesus replies that one must be “reborn in the spirit.” The problem here is that Jesus says that one must be born “of water and Spirit”. I have no doubt that there is a theological reason behind this omission.
During the last supper we see that there is a meal that simultaneously becomes communion. The gospels seem to indicate that first there was a meal which was followed by the institution of communion.
Not only is Judas present to receive communion, but he is hand fed bread by the Lord. Jesus says that whoever eats this bread will betray Him and then He forces the bread into Judas’s mouth (Judas later spits it out). This is strange and in a way it predestines Judas to betray Christ.
When Christ is questioned by Pilate He mentions that His servants could fight for Him. This makes it seem like He is a rebel and threat to the authorities. In truth Our Lord Jesus said that if He had wanted to He could command legions of Angels to defend Him.
I found it interesting that Christ kissed the cross as He took it up to carry it.
After Peter runs to the empty tomb, he runs back to the room where the disciples are huddled together and begins distributing communion to them. It is at this point that Jesus appears. If I did not know any better I would think that their experience of the Risen Lord was merely a mystical, symbolic experience because of the communion. In actuality, Peter and the others remain doubtful until Christ appears to them. They would not understand communion properly until they had seen the resurrection.
Near the end of the movie, Jesus tells the disciples to go out and preach the gospel but He never mentions baptizing all nations. The watering down of the faith seems to be a theme throughout the movie. In fact, for a movie that wants to communicate the gospel, it does a horrible job of doing so. It makes Jesus out to be a smiley teacher but rarely helps us understand who it is that Jesus actually is and why it is that Jesus must die upon a cross.
Finally, we begin the credits with the classical Christian hymn “Mary did you know?” Some people believe that this is merely a rhetorical question, but as far as Orthodox Christians are concerned the “Woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” is fully aware of the identity and purpose of her beloved Son.
The deficiencies in the movie could make for a profitable group discussion, as we experienced firsthand. It is not the worst Jesus movie ever made, but there are certainly others that are more beautiful, more literal or just plain better.