Monday, April 25, 2011
The Jesus Story
Easter was the day for Jesus movies. I didn't realize how many there have been. Mel Gibson's bloodfest was on one station, Max Von Sydow was on another. Jesus Christ Superstar was on, too, as well as well as Raymond Burr looking horribly awkward as the apostle Peter.
Charlton Heston was parting the Red Sea, too, as Yul Brynner wondered if maybe he should have held back the troops.
These movies are influential. There was a recent article talking about the masses who have become Christians thanks to Cecil B. DeMille's "King of Kings" - made before the talkies, and so more easily understood by non-English speaking audiences.
And for my money, there's no movie that hits the story of Jesus better than the 1961 King of Kings, with Jeffrey Hunter and those piercing blue eyes.
My parents were devout Catholics, and I used to watch King of Kings with my whole heart - sobbing until there was a lump in my throat when they killed him. I got teary, too, when Pilate screamed "Die if you want to, you innocent puppet!" in Superstar. It all seemed so unjust, so unfair. It was.
And I now see the story of Jesus differently - as an outsider, an observer. I now find religion to be a divisive force. And something struck me. We (I'm including me here, too - this is a human we) find something particularly powerful from the story of sacrifice for our sakes. God is willing to kill His Son. Jesus, despite his last-minute doubts, dies for us. And our response to that extreme attempt to finally shake humanity out of its selfishness certainly gets our attention. But I have to conclude that it didn't work. Humanity is selfish, with generous potential that it occasionally taps.
And I find myself understanding Judas' point of view. Whether Jesus' story is fact or fiction, it raises a powerful question. Was it worth it? Were we really worth it?