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:
- 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).
- 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…
- ‘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’?
- ‘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.
- 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.
- Mary Magdalen is not portrayed as a prostitute, which I find refreshing. I don’t think we need to interpret her in this way.
- 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.