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Monday, February 29, 2016

The Offense of the Gospel

We saw Risen this last week. Overall, a good movie. Lots of positives.

If you don't know the story, it's about a Roman tribune (played by Joseph Fiennes), Pilate's right hand man, who is tasked with first terminating the Nazarene who was being crucified, then ensuring that He remained buried, then investigating to find out what happened to the body. It's a faith-based movie, so of course he finds out what you readers already know -- Jesus rose from the dead.

I liked how they avoided the more "mystical" approach and kept it more fact-based. You know, no visions or dreams to reveal the truth or some such. He interviews people, talks to the soldiers who guarded the tomb, finds out what they knew, all that kind of stuff. One review site called it "CSI: Jerusalem". And, without modern technology, obviously, he did a fairly good job of hunting down the facts. The followers of Christ were not depicted as airheads like so many other accounts do. Nor were they depicted as saints. They were shown as fallible men convinced almost against their wills of their Messiah's resurrection. You know, "Well, we saw it, so what can we say?" (Simon Peter says at one point, "I'm sorry; I don't have all the answers.") So I liked the more down to earth, factual approach. It shows disciples who, scared and scattered at the crucifixion, were changed by the event. It shows people of faith without being people without brains. Good stuff.

There were some of the expected difficulties. Not a big problem, but some stuff was shown out of sequence. For instance, Jesus tells them after His resurrection that He was going to prepare a place for them, but in the biblical/historical account, that was before the crucifixion. But since the movie was fictional, these kinds of things didn't disturb me. They weren't presenting a factual story. They were presenting a fictional story of a factual event (the Resurrection).

There was only one thing that disappointed. Oh, I know why. But, still. The disciple, Bartholomew, when interrogated by Clavius, the tribune, told him, "If Yeshua was here he'd call you brother." The running theme was love. And that's fine, but that was not Jesus's running theme. Love drove Him to call people to repent (Matt 4:17). Love took Him to the cross. Love caused Him to give His life on our behalf. This is all true. But it wasn't a "love-in" kind of situation. We aren't all brothers (John 1:12; John 8:44). Jesus claimed to be the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Jesus said, "God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged." But He went on to say, "He who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:17-18) In this movie, then, love was emphasized, but repent and believe were not.

Paul says, "We preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Cor 1:23-24) To the Galatians Paul referred to "the offense of the gospel" (Gal 5:11). Now, sure, the whole resurrection thing is tough to swallow. That, in fact, was the point of the movie. And the point of the movie, further, was that there are good reasons to buy the resurrection as fact. So why did they skip the Gospel? Because, while the resurrection is an anomaly, the Gospel is an offense. Christ, crucified on our behalf, dying for our sin ... that is an offense. The context of the Galatians 5 reference was that the Gospel ceases to be offensive when we make it about being good. Because 1) we are sinners worthy of hell, 2) Christ died on our behalf, and 3) by faith our sin can be forgiven is an offense until the Spirit opens our eyes to the Good News. And that was left out of the movie.

Like I said, overall, good stuff. I'm pretty sure God can use it. I was, of course, disturbed by Cliff Curtis as Yeshua, but only because I remember him in too many roles as a terrorist. (That's just supposed to be funny.) I was pleased that they kept us away from an overly spiritualized message. Oh, and it was indeed a lot of fun to watch the "Any luck fishing, guys? Well, throw your nets on the other side" story (John 21:1-7) played out in a movie. It was a fictional story, interspersed with biblical truth. I'd even recommend it. But if you're going to use it as a Gospel tool, be prepared to actually share the Gospel afterward. It didn't do that.


I saw this review of the movie. It is a good review ... better than mine. It expresses better than I did what I thought of the movie.


David said...

Is it the good news or the bad news that is most offensive, do you think?

Stan said...

My answer would be "Yes." They are offended by the bad news of their sin. They are offended when we say, "You can't fix it yourself." So the affront of the cross is "He died for you." "As if I needed help!" they'll say. Or, "What? Are you saying that I'm so bad that He had to die for me?" You know, some variation. Because "You can't fix this yourself" is an insult. That, I'm convinced, is why all religions except Christianity preach a "do good works" salvation. That is not offensive. "You can fix this yourself" is just fine.

Bob said...

how offensive do you suppose the Gospel is to those that claim to be christian?
how many times to we hear about how we should behave, or how we should have a more universal approach to evangelism. what about the truth of God's sovereignty? or better yet what about the treatment of the those that believe in the election of the saints. are we offended when read that God calls some and passes over others? do we take that those scriptures that oppose our noble sentiments, and suppress them. when asked the question of what Jesus do you worship? do we offend when we explain the idolatry of worshiping a false Jesus.

Stan said...

True. Truth be told, someone once said, "The most offensive words in the Bible are 'In the beginning, God.'"