You'd think a movie telling the life story of Jesus Christ would actually make someone like me happy that Jesus is getting some more PR in Hollywood, right? Dead wrong.
I have vowed not watch this movie just as I have with Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (*a collective gasp is heard from the evangelical community* "Did he really not see it? How is that possible? I thought he was Christian?") Here are my reasons.
1)It's biblically inaccurate. Just from the trailer I saw Jesus saying and doing things he just flat out never said or did in the Bible. Since when did Jesus invite Peter to "change the world" with Him? Since when was the paralytic man healed outside of someone's home and not dropped through a roof by his 4 friends? When did Jesus tell a huge crowd of people that their hunger for righteousness would be fulfilled through Him? If the two and a half minutes of trailer I saw was already packed with many inaccuracies, I am dreadfully afraid of what the entire movie will be like.
2)Jesus' Character cannot be portrayed. The unfortunate thing about the Bible is that it isn't written as a screenplay. It leaves much to be interpreted as to how Jesus carried himself (was he generally outgoing and talkative or did he mostly keep to himself? Did he walk with his chest out or did he try not to attract too much attention?) and how he said things (his tone, inflection, use of sarcasm (if any), emphasis, as well as many cultural things that are simply lost in translation.) All Jesus seems to do in this movie is stroll around smirking performing miracles with all the flair of cheap parlor tricks as the crowd "oohs" and "aahs". From the trailer, it seems like Jesus is some upstart young talent out to make a name for himself in the local business, gathering followers to "change the world" with the total end result being he seems like an arrogant, self-reliant, and self determined corporate suit. Actually, I think I saw that movie already: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2357129/
3)Jesus looks too good. Yet another fair-skinned hipster Jesus who seems to look nothing like the people around him. Can't have Jesus looking like he was actually born in the Middle East now can we (lest we simple minded Americans think him a terrorist...)? But hey, at least they made Peter believable. Is 53:2 describes Jesus' appearance to us as this: "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him."
4)It turns Jesus' name into a brand and the Gospel into a commodity. The bottom line is that the only reason you make a Hollywood Blockbuster like this is to make money. Jesus is a household name nowadays and if you can capitalize on on the "Jesus fans" out there willing to shell out money to see a movie about him you can make a quick buck. You don't have to care about biblical accuracy or the gospel or even know who Jesus is to make money off His name nowadays. I did find it a bit ironic the trailer showed Jesus flipping over the tables of the money changers in the Temple courts...
5)Would Jesus see this movie? No seriously, would he approve of this? Would you even bring Jesus with you to sit right next to you as you watched it? Does this movie serve to honor Christ and glorify God, pointing people to the love of God the Father? Would any of the Gospel writers consider this retelling of Christ's life as "inspired" by the Holy Spirit? I didn't think so.
6)It renders the Bible as just a fictional story for our entertainment. Without even having seen the movie, I am certain there are parts of the Bible that didn't make the final cut either because they were too boring (Jesus retreating to pray on the mountain alone? Yawn.) or too challenging ("I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me", "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.", "And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell", etc. Basically anything with life transforming power). "Jesus, I want you to entertain me so that I may never be bored and that means you need to stop making me uncomfortable. I want palatable, feel good Jesus who says nice things please!"
7)It is absolutely worthless as an evangelism tool because it preaches the wrong Jesus. If this movie is all the exposure of Jesus someone gets in a lifetime then they are going to walk away believing Jesus was someone completely different than who he actually is. Even if by dumb luck someone sees this movie and decides to give their life to Christ because of it (by dumb luck I mean miraculous intervention by the Holy Spirit), they are going to spend more time correcting misconceptions of who Jesus is when they actually get to meet Him. I've seen it happen too many times where people are introduced to either "Fire and Brimstone Jesus" or "Feel Good Jesus" and decide to follow "him" all the while not realizing who they are following is an impostor who pales in comparison to the Real Jesus. Coincidentally it is the same reason I oppose Street Preachers and the use of tracts. It's quite an awful bait and switch. Better luck sticking with inviting your friends to Bible study (worked for me!). Some would argue that it doesn't matter so long as in the end they are saved but its akin to choosing to either go 50 rounds with Mike Tyson to get into Heaven or eating chocolate cake. Doesn't matter so long as you are in heaven, right?
8)Jesus Christ Doesn't Need Better Marketing. For a little over 2000 years people have been coming to trust in Jesus through the written Word of God because in it contains the power of God. There is absolutely no need to dress up the gospel to make it all fancy, dramatic, and suspenseful to reach a wider audience and spread Jesus. What this movie exemplifies is Christianity in American cultural captivity, the kind of Christianity that tries to keep people in the pews by keeping them entertained with flashing lights, live music, and feel good sermons. You don't need the Holy Spirit to have successful American Christianity or to make money. However, if you want to reach people's hearts and transform lives, then you absolutely cannot add to or subtract from God's Word "for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." Anything else is just trying to sell you something.
9)It's rather ignorant of the cultural context of Jesus' time. It feels almost very little to no thought was put into getting the historical or cultural contexts right. I mean sure, you got the Romans and High priests in there, but a lot of it seems so stereotypical or made up. Of course I would expect anything made by the History Channel to contain actual history anymore, but they aren't even trying to cover it up anymore.
10) It shows crucifixion, but not the Cross. I'm sure the movie will do well in depicting the historical circumstances surrounding Jesus' death but what it misses is the meaning behind it. I'm going to let David Well explain this one:
There is a distinction between the crucifixion and the cross. The former was a particularly barbaric way of carrying out an execution, and it was the method of execution that Jesus endured. The latter, as the New Testament speaks of it, has to do with the mysterious exchange that took place in Christ’s death, an exchange of our sin for his righteousness. It was there that our judgment fell on the One who is also our Judge. Indeed, he who had made all of creation was dishonored in the very creation he had made. And yet, through this dark moment, this fierce judgment, through this dishonor, there now shines the light of God’s triumph over sin, death, and the Devil. And in this moment, this moment of Jesus’s judgment-death, God was revealed in his holy-love as nowhere else. -(God in the Whirlwind)Sadly, if you aren't already a believer, seeing this film might cause you to actually understand less about Christ than you did already.
That's my list. I'm sure I can think of more things, but this will do for now. Now, what I definitely would see is if someone took a Gospel (let's say Mark) and turned it into a screenplay, following it to the letter, word for word, without adding details, but being both culturally and biblically accurate as an educational tool to help people understand Jesus better and his cultural context. Until then, I'm just going to keep doing skits and acting out Bible studies in small group (which tends to be way more fun and effective than any movie anyway).