Herald JournalHerald Journal, March 21, 2005

Reviewing 'The Passion:' a year later

By Heidi Stutelberg

Area pastors reported everything from passing out to passing off the film “The Passion of the Christ.”

At least one pastor, Tom Rakow of Grace Bible Church in Silver Lake, reported being overwhelmed by the flogging scene, and passing out while he was watching it as a result.

On the other hand, at least one pastor, Bill Baldwin of Prairie Community Church in Lester Prairie, reported feeling no impact whatsoever from the film, and seeing little impact on others.

Most agreed that the film had some kind of positive impact on those who viewed it.

“Those who saw it seemed to come away with a deeper understanding of the depth of suffering that Jesus endured to take away the sins of the world,” commented Pastor Robert Hellmann of St. Paul’s in Montrose.

Pastor Robert Rupprecht of St. John’s Lutheran Church of Hollywood agreed.

“The group [from his congregation] seemed pretty much in agreement that they felt their own personal guilt of their sin caused Jesus to endure the suffering and His crucifixion,” Rupprecht said.

“It served as a good reminder of the sacrifice Christ had to pay for my sin, something that encourages me to deal with my own sin,” said Pastor Daniel Runke of Albion Evangelical Free Lutheran Church.

Grim reality

The graphic nature of the movie has been a source of controversy for some, with Gibson releasing a toned down, edited version of the film in the past few weeks.

Rakow noted that he was overwhelmed by the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah when he passed out during the flogging scene.

“For me, it was a type of sensory overload,” Rakow wrote.

For others, the movie didn’t register much at all.

“It was very brutal in its depiction of the suffering and death of Christ, which perhaps some need to see in order to experience the price he really paid for the sins of the world,” Baldwin said.

“The scourging and crucifixion was violent, but it simply told the story in a way that was quite faithful to the scriptures,” said Pastor David Sorenson of Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cokato.

An accurate picture?

A few pastors felt Mel Gibson took some artistic license with the film.

Hellmann noted “the fascinating way the figure of the devil was presented in the movie, wiping up the blood of Jesus, and Jesus falling off the bridge.” Hellmann thought that these scenes detracted from the film and its message.

Rupprecht questioned to some extent the lack of discipline that Gibson portrayed by the Roman soldiers.

Having studied Roman history, Rupprecht noted that “the Roman soldier was one of the most highly disciplined war machines ever created. For the Roman soldiers to have become as totally undone as they are portrayed in the film is hard to accept.”

Rakow submitted another example of a scene not supported by scripture, when Jesus stomped off the head of the snake in the garden.

Rakow found the Aramaic language used in the movie, to be “helpful in that it caused people to realize in a fresh way that Jesus and his disciples were not speaking Elizabethan English.”

Hellmann concluded that the Old Testament prophecy clearly stated “that Jesus, the sinless Son of God suffered the punishment that we deserved, and so redeemed us from sin and death.”

Overall, the pastors did not sense the film to be anti-Semitic and felt that “The Passion of the Christ” was an accurate account of scripture.

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