Jesus In Hollywood: Just A Man?

“If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” (John 9:33)

Lately I’ve noticed how the mass media often “likes” to tell us time and time again that Jesus is just a man and definitely not divine. Of course usually they “remind” us of this usually during Easter time. Being a movie buff myself (I watch about 100 movies a year on average), I want to discuss the ways pop culture wants to make Jesus into jsut a man through the moving picture. But I also want to offer a glimmer of hope that can be seen in those movies.

Jesus is the central character in at least two infamous movies. In Norman Jewison’s musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” (1973), Jesus was depicted as a coward while Judas was depicted as the strongest and most determined disciple. Mary had a love relationship with Jesus. In the famous song “I Don’t Know How To Love Him,” Mary sang “I don’t know how to love him / I don’t know why he moves me / He’s a man, he’s just a man / And I’ve had so many men before, in very many ways, he’s just one more.” In Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988), Jesus was again a coward, and Satan was his guardian angel. Jesus hallucinated while hung on the cross and thought he escpaed and went on to live a normal life.

Both of these movies ended in Jesus’ death and has no mention of Jesus’ resurrection. While both of these movies offered bent versions of the gospel and of who Jesus is, I think there are at least some honest elements in them. For example, in one scene in “Jesus Christ Superstar”, after a miracle Jesus performed, the crowd questioned “How did he do that?”, and I think it is a question that people can’t resolve either. These movies are actually a good discussion starter about who Jesus really is.

I actually am more concerned about other more subtle reductions of Jesus in the movies. In the movie “Millions” (2004) which is targeted toward kids, in one scene the Apostle Peter appeared to the main character and explained that the feeding of 5000 was possible because everyone was unwilling to share the food they brought, but when the kid offered JEsus five loaves and two fish, everyone took out their lunch and ate it. In the Oscar-nominated “Chocolat” (2000), the young pastor preached an Easter sermon saying, “Today I don’t want to talk about Jesus’ transformation, but I want to focus on his humanity, how he loves people and tolerates differences…” and again reducing Jesus to a human, and avoiding the word “resurrection” by substituting in the word “transformation.”

Fortunately, Jesus is not always under attack. Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” (2004) is familiar to us as a powerful depiction of Jesus with a wonderful scene about resurrection. In “Chronicles of Naria” (2005), the lion is the Christ figure, and the scene in which he was beaten and abused and killed really really touched me, and it has a scene in which the lion was resurrected.

In the Easter season, I want to let everyone know that Christ is risen, and he’s definitely more than just a man.

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3 thoughts on “Jesus In Hollywood: Just A Man?

  1. This attack on Jesus’ deity you’re mentioning has started even during His lifetime. In fact, it was Jesus’ own claim of deity that earned him the spot on that cross. But we know better than to be surprised, for Paul said in 1Cor 1:18 that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” It is impossible for a person to believe in Jesus’ deity apart from the effective transforming work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Without this removal of a heart of stone and giving of a heart of flesh by God, everyone has been given to a depraved mind, as describe in Rom 1:29-32. True christians have been blessed with the heart of flesh, others have not, though both are equally undeserving.

    But Satan is a smart opponent. I believe that these attacks in the entertainment industry is just a decoy, distracting the christian from focusing on the real important vital attacks: those within the faith community, the church. Afterall, who would want to get spiritual truths from a movie? Most people know better than to take movies as the truths of life. They, however, expect spiritual truths coming from the pulpit. When a preacher preaches, the average believer lowers his guards. I think it’s the wolves in sheep clothing that can do more damage. Ever since the Second Great Awakening, Satan has slowly and unexpectantly marched into the church with his subtle lies while the church has arrogantly marched out into the world with its gradually watered down gospel, with the hope of widening the supposedly narrow gate. What are the results today, after so many years of the church being on this downgrade? Sermons are no longer Christ-centered. The gospel has been sugarcoated and watered down. The whole counsel of God is no longer preached, only the lovy side of God is emphasized. Man-centerdness is at the root of messages and christian literature. God’s sovereignty is a thing of the past, and the doctrines of grace have become a total mystery. It’s no longer about what Christ has done, but it’s all about what the saved need to do (saved by grace, but stay in by works). Moralism and religiosity have replaced the perfect righteousness of Christ and His all-finished work on the cross.

    Satan has definitely done a good job in attacking from within. Compare the view of God the reformers and men such as Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, Charles Spurgeon, and Martyn Lloyd Jones had with that of today’s popular pastors and christian writers/thinkers. Christ’s deity may still be somewhat intact, but it no longer means what it’s supposed to mean. And it is this subtleness that mars the gospel and weakens and paralyzes the christian.

  2. I am afraid the upcoming movie “Da Vinci Code” will dwarf the movies you mentioned with its blatant attack on the deity of Christ Jesus, the authority of the Scripture and the Christian faith. :(

  3. To me, Da Vinci Code is just more of the same of what Jesus Christ Superstar started. The basic ideas are the same that Judas is innocent and Mary is in love with Jesus. I remember when “The Last Temptation of Christ” came out, they made it like that movie is the most evil thing. I also signed a petition to boycott that movie. Looking back, that movie is quite tame. In fact, the devil has not really had any new tricks.

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