RISEN: Drunken Guards with Crooked Teeth, and, “Yes, I realize that…”

Philippians 4:21-23

Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.

23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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We just returned from seeing Sony Pictures Entertainment, “the epic Biblical story of the Resurrection, as told through the eyes of a non-believer. Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), a powerful Roman military tribune, and his aide, Lucius (Tom Felton), are tasked with solving the mystery of what happened to Jesus in the weeks following the crucifixion, in order to disprove the rumors of a risen Messiah and prevent an uprising in Jerusalem.”

Ever since the TV mini-series AD, and Diane’s comment about the actors’ perfect teeth, I watch for such incongruities: people in Jesus’ day surely didn’t have teeth whitened and straightened or veneered by Hollywood’s finest dentists! Some of this film’s actors’ teeth were white and straight, but many were not. More important, the Jesus character was played by a very Jewish-looking person. Some of the characters were quite engaging: especially Bartholomew and Peter to name but two. Pilate, Jesus, and Clavius were also very well portrayed.

The basic theme of the movie as stated above was well done, and quite believable. Clavius’ supposed encounters with Jesus are certainly extra-biblical. The telescoping of some of Jesus’ sayings together with the out-of-context placement was not distracting to me. The musical score was solid. The costuming and sets were very believable. If I were a movie critic I would likely give this 4.5 stars out of a possible 5. It is on par with The Passion of the Christ, Luther, and several steps above War Room or Blind Side (Movies that I would recommend but not rate as highly as RISEN).

The historical reality behind the film RISEN is that Jesus Christ truly rose from the dead. He is not on call for our convenience, but present in every time and place. He is the One who works miracles in people’s lives, and has conquered death by his sacrificial death and his resurrection from the grave. He has given us the Great Commission which charges us to tell the world of his salvation, so that whoever believes in him will have eternal life. His impact in people’s lives changes them forever. Clavius shows all this to be true.

Yes, I know Clavius is a fictional character who has no place in the Biblical account of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But he is every man. As such he signifies what happens when we encounter the risen Christ and begin to take seriously the historical reality of his resurrection. Yes, I know the Jewish leader may not have gone into Pilate’s palace. Yes, I know that Mary Magdalene was not necessarily a “woman of the streets” as she is called in the movie. Yes, I now they did not cover the entire waterfront of theological implications regarding Jesus’ death: our need for a Savior on account of our sin and estrangement from God. Those things are the subject of entire books of the Bible (the four Gospels most notably).

Still I found the film engaging, well done, honoring Christ who rose from the dead and called people to follow him and promised them eternal life. I’m very glad this movie was made and hope that others of like quality and veracity will follow. The clear message I would offer anyone who asked about the movie and how he or she should react would be much like Paul’s closing words of this letter to the Philippians: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

1 comment
  1. Sue said:

    Pat and I saw it Sunday afternoon. We also enjoyed it.

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