For many years, now, Compassion has spoken through many "Compassion Artists," such as Michael W. Smith, Shaun Groves, Geoff Moore, Danny Oertli, and many more. Recently, they began a new partnership with new voices for a different, for them, medium: feature films. Namely, Son of God.
Son of God opened in theaters across the nation on February 28. Prior to its opening, many voices were raised--voices belonging to people who had not yet seen the movie. A few were glad to see such a movie coming to theaters and produced by producers who are known: Mark Burnett, for such TV programs as Survivor; and Roma Downey, best known for her role in the former TV series Touched by an Angel. The producers also brought a series to the History channel, in 2013, titled The Bible.
But most of the voices I "heard" or read were negative. Hostile. Condemning. Many people vowed that they would never watch this movie. I even read one or two articles condemning Burnett and Downey through a catalog of their prior sins; no one raised the possibility that those sins (if they were real) might have been confessed and forgiven. I finally had to ask God to help me quiet every voice, positive or negative, in order to hear His, should He choose to speak. It occurred to me that I would not want anyone publishing a list of my many sins, which are all forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, in whose name these hostile voices claimed to speak. I know some of those people, and I know them to be good, committed, Christ-following folks.
On opening night, I watched the movie. In several places, I wished for more accurate biblical wording; e.g., when Jesus first climbs into Peter's boat and calls Peter to go fishing for me, Peter asks, "What are we going to do?" And Jesus answers, "Change the world." I thought of a couple of different answers He could have given, both lifted right out of scripture: 1) seek and save those who are lost, or 2) give those who will believe an abundant life. Living water.
In a few places, I could not help shaking my head as Jesus spoke words in an entirely different context from what is given in scripture. For example, in the Bible, Jesus prophesied to His disciples that not one stone of the temple would be left standing. In the movie, He stopped in His walk to address a child with that prophecy, and in a manner that suggested it was funny. Mostly, though, the artistic license taken simply did not match my own visual images of how things looked, where He stood when teaching--it was all done differently from what I imagine, when I'm reading the Bible. Was it wrong? Well...not necessarily; it just didn't fit my mental pictures.
Yes, I wish Hollywood types would be more biblically accurate in script and settings, and I don't think any actor playing the role of Jesus of Nazareth should be filmed with the camera up close in his face. Asking an actor, who may or may not know Christ personally, to reflect His love, His heart, His soul, His grief through his eyes--well, that's just asking a lot.
But other places brought goose bumps to my flesh. Jesus, being flogged, having the crown of thorns pushed down on His head, stumbling time and again under the load of the cross He was forced to carry, until Simon of Cyrene was pulled in to take over. As my flesh crawled, I remembered that the real Jesus of Nazareth, the real Son of God, really did suffer terrible agonies, bled real blood, was nailed with real spikes through His hands and feet to a cross, where he suffocated and died. I cried, inwardly, for Mary, the mother of Jesus, who suffered her own agony as she watched her son, born of her own flesh, undergoing the torture.
The most powerful moments for me, though, came in the last ten minutes, or so, of the film. John the Beloved, the last remaining apostle and now in exile on Patmos, is waiting for Death to come (although he did not appear to be nearly dying). And then Christ Jesus, the Beginning and the End, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty" (Rev. 1:8), appears with words of hope, of assurance that death, sorrow, tears and pain will end, and that He is coming soon.
I don't remember when the song began, whether CeeLo's rendition of "Mary, Did You Know?" played in the background while John and Jesus spoke, or if it began after that, as scene after scene from the movie flashed on the screen. Yes, the producers were condemned by some voices for including this song by Ceelo in this movie, but I found it moving. In fact, I thought it was near perfect--and don't press me to tell why I say "near" perfect, because I don't have a reason.
Those last minutes of the movie and inclusion of this song moved me, touched my heart, encouraged me. However you want to say it. And I wasn't alone; of the three filmings I attended (on behalf of Compassion International), two audiences applauded at the end, and one little woman in her late-70s, maybe, or older, could not speak, when she walked up to me. She merely closed her eyes, softly clapping her hands together under her chin, and I hugged her.
Despite all the skeptics (including me), all the nay-sayers, and all the condemners, many people found hope, affirmation, strengthening of their faith. And I know many of those whose voices I finally had to still in my head will believe that any Christian who liked the film was "deceived." I don't believe that. I hope no one was. But I don't believe this movie was the work of the devil.
Was the movie the "epic" the producers claimed? Not in my opinion. I remember Cecil B. DeMille's Ten Commandments; that was an epic. The Robe was epic, if I remember correctly. Other films I've seen in the distant past were epics. So was Son of God a great movie? Again, not in my opinion. I would call it "good" and give it two and a half stars.