Better than Bathrobes: BBC’s The Passion

With all the Palm Sunday activities at church (and one 2 year old’s birthday party), I didn’t get to watch the BBC’s The Passion until this evening.  It wasn’t the teeth-gritting experience I feared, but I am still mulling over what to think.  I will likely have to watch it again a few times.  Some initial thoughts:

  1. This is not a low-budget production at all, but very realistic and well-acted.  I do have trouble hearing Pontius Pilate (James Nesbitt) with an Irish accent, but then again we don’t know what he sounds like (April and I watched Elizabeth:  The Golden Age last night and we noticed all the actors had American accents).
  2. I don’t like the way they portray Jesus as consciously trying to fulfil the Old Testament scriptures.  I can’t put a finger on why…
  3. ‘The Kingdom of God is Within You.’  I am not sure what they mean by this.  I seem to remember this fitting quite nicely with the evangelical theology I grew up with.  Mark Goodacre seems to have less trouble with it.  Still, it seems to portray Jesus message as being something that happens ‘inside’ of a human rather than being a political message.  Can this be squared with the Lord’s Prayer that ask God send his kingdom ‘on earth’?
  4. ‘Spread my message.’  This seems to be a substitute for ‘disciple’.  Jesus tells a prostitute that she must believe in him if ‘she wants to spread my message’.  Later, Jesus tells the disciples that they must love each other if they want to ‘spread my message.’  This would appear to break down the coming of Jesus as primarily to ‘spread a message’ (presumably of love) rather than changing the world through his death.  Perhaps I’m making too much of it.
  5. Caiaphas is interpreted much more sympathetically than I have ever seen him (he genuinely feels bad for the family of a murdered pilgrim and give them money).  Of course, he wants Jesus out of the way, but here he seems to feel he is protecting the temple from the Romans rather than attempting to collude with them to stay in power.  That’s an interesting take.
  6. Mary Magdalen is not portrayed as a prostitute, which I find refreshing.  I don’t think we need to interpret her in this way.
  7. I want to look at this again, but I think I really liked the way they set up the scene for Jesus telling the story of the lost sheep.  The background appeared to be Jesus walking into the temple with a prostitute as part of the entourage.  Literary licence of course, but makes the point Jesus was trying to make much more clearly than just having Jesus preaching somewhere like many Jesus films have shown him.

Those are my first impressions.  I will watch the episodes again and perhaps post again.

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2 thoughts on “Better than Bathrobes: BBC’s The Passion

  1. The disciples don’t seem to behave like people who know that Jesus was born of a virgin.

    They also don’t seem to behave like people who have been given the power to raise the dead (Matthew 10), or like people who have been given the secret of the kingdom of God.

  2. Hi Steven,

    It’s funny that you mentioned that. I am part of a house group and we are using a bible study out of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Since the Passion was on this week, it intermixed with the study. Anyway, the bible study asked questions about what the disciples expected when they shouted ‘Hosanna’ and asked what the crowds may have thought, giving the idea that they were expecting a king to overthrow Rome. One person in the group mentioned the drama and said, you don’t get that sense that the disciples wanted any of this. She was right, I think. They just looked like they didn’t know what was going on, not a group of people who all wanted to be sitting at Jesus’ right and left (Mark 10). As I watched, I got the feeling that the disciples would have been more comfortable with a Pythonesque protest of painting on the walls.

    I’m not sure where their going. I think I read they are following Mark fairly closely. My NT prof Richard Hays used to say that Mark portrays the disciples as a group who remain ‘stupidly uncomprehending’. Maybe that’s what the drama is going for.

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