On this Eastertide I strongly recommend the movie Risen, now in theaters.
According to distributor Sony Pictures Risen “follows the epic Biblical story of the resurrection, as told through the eyes of a non-believer. Clavius, a powerful Roman Military Tribune, and his aide Lucius, are tasked with solving the mystery of what happened to Yahshua in the weeks following the crucifixion, in order to disprove the rumors of a risen Messiah and prevent an uprising in Jerusalem.”
Actually, the search only lasts a few days, because as Clavius, excellently played by Joseph Fiennes, points out, an identifiable body wouldn’t last longer than that.
The movie begins with Yahshua, played with a subtle happiness by Cliff Curtis (Fear the Walking Dead), still hanging on the cross. The film quickly becomes a procedural mystery as Clavius searches to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of the body. As he meets people who knew Yahshua, Clavius’ questions begin to change and he focuses on the message of the man.
The changes Clavius experiences symbolize the changes among some of us who study the message of Yahshua.
While the movie is historically, biblically, and theologically sound, the fanciful fictional scenes are immensely entertaining. For example:
The Zealot Barabbas tracked down and killed by the Romans less than two days after being pardoned by Pontius Pilate.
A Roman soldier saying his superior officer, the centurion, “wasn’t himself,” a day after witnessing the death of Yahshua.
When Clavius interrogates Yahshua’s follower, Bartholomew, who is giddy with the joy of Yahshua, the apostle appears as though, as scripture says, “he’s drunk on new wine.” As he leaves the Roman garrison, Bartholomew, played by Stephen Hagan, waves goodbye happily.
After being cut by a Roman solder, Simon throws the sword away and offers water and food to his former enemy.
Directed and co-written by Kevin Reynolds (The Count of Monte Cristo, Waterworld) the production values of the $20 million motion picture are first rate. The locations, costumes, props, and historical accuracy are all excellent. And everyone speaks in a slightly British accent, as we’ve come to expect from movies like this. (I’m only slightly kidding.)
The tone of the film could be described as playful or lighthearted, different than most Biblical releases. But as a follower of Yahshua, I found the tone reflects the joy and love of Yahshua.
When we encounter him, we are changed, the characters tell us, as they project the pure happiness of Yahshua. They love, because God loves us.
Juxtapose this with God’s Not Dead 2. While I’ve not seen it, the preview I sat through was enough.
“I would rather stand with God and be judged by the world, than stand with the world and be judged by God,” said a public school teacher being criticized for talking about Jesus in her classroom.
“If we sit by and do nothing, the pressure that we’re feeling today will mean persecution tomorrow. We’re at war,” said a Christian in response to the criticism.
Christians in God’s Not Dead 2 are striving to change their culture.
In Risen, Yahshua and his followers are outside the culture, striving to change people’s hearts.
A follower of Yahshua tells the ruling authority, “you’ve already lost,” when facing the prospect of stopping the followers of Yahshua.
Bartholomew throws up his hands, drops to his knees, and is prepared to die for Yahshua.
The Christians in God’s Not Dead 2 appear prepared to demand the government comport to their views.
Risen is the rare sort of movie, and story, that keeps you thinking hours, days, weeks later.
We intend to buy the movie and watch it again and again.
God’s Not Dead 2 has a message that unfortunately we hear again and again – a message that clearly isn’t the message of Yahshua.