Jim and I celebrated Valentine’s Day one day after the 14th. We had a wonderful dinner at a favorite restaurant and then attended an early premier of the new movie Risen. Whatever you have planned for your Easter season, make sure you add a family trip to see this movie!
Risen is the story of the resurrection of Jesus, seen from the eyes of a non-biblical Roman soldier. Those involved in the production of the movie worked hard to be accurate to the biblical account while allowing the audience to view the familiar details in the Bible from a new perspective. The theatre was filled with people who could “get the word out” and use their ministry platforms to help promote the film. I enjoyed seeing the enthusiastic response from those who attended.
The film credits rolled past, reminding us of just how many people were involved in this project. Then we were introduced to Joseph Fiennes, who plays the Roman soldier, and three others who had written and produced Risen. They were asked about their favorite lines or scenes from the movie. Joseph Fiennes said he had two, and I smiled as he spoke about my favorite moments from the movie.
The first moment has no dialog. It is simply a stunned Roman soldier looking at the face of the man he had seen hanging, dead on the cross. The second moment occurs later in the movie as the soldier confesses to Jesus that he had been at Calvary, to supervise. Jesus smiles saying, “I know,” with forgiveness written on his face. The Roman soldier has a personal encounter with Christ, confesses what he has done, and receives the forgiveness the Christ had died to provide.
The power of this movie rests on the fact that the story is shown from the eyes of a Roman soldier instead of the eyes of Jesus’ disciples—the familiar story from a different perspective. The soldier has to decide to turn from the false god he worships and the life that he had planned to build for himself. The movie is honest about his struggle and clear about his choices. He chooses Jesus and receives the peace he had previously been working hard to earn. The movie is about coming to faith in Christ and realizing that the crucifixion was God’s provision for the salvation of anyone who would place their faith in his Son. Each of us is like the Roman soldier, confronted with the reality of the resurrection, but struggling to accept what can’t be understood. All of us need faith to receive the eternal life that was provided and then proven by Christ that first Easter.
Risen is not as graphic as The Passion of Christ. I could only watch that movie once. This movie does not hide the fact that Jesus suffered, but neither does it emphasize the suffering. Risen is about Jesus’ resurrection and the events that followed. I wouldn’t suggest it for the very young, but I would encourage everyone over the age of six or seven to see this film. It is an excellent movie, produced with the same standards as any other major Hollywood film.
I am teaching Acts, chapter 26, this week as Paul is defending himself before King Agrippa. His Jewish brothers want him to be killed just like they had negotiated the death of Jesus. Paul tells Agrippa (vv 6–8), “And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?”
I’ve been considering that question this week. Why do people struggle to believe in the resurrection? Most people have an easier time believing that God can create the earth, the skies, and our children, but they struggle to trust He can raise his Son from the dead. The Pharisees and the Sadducees fought over the truth of the resurrection too, causing Paul to ask, “Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?”
Our culture encourages children to believe in an Easter bunny, and then expects them to grow out of that belief as they mature. Unfortunately, many people feel the same way about the biblical account of Easter. Risen does a wonderful job illustrating the struggle to believe and the joy of discovering faith in Christ.
Who do you know that struggles to believe that God can raise people from the dead? Risen will speak to their doubts and hopefully Jesus will speak to their hearts as they watch. Enjoy the movie and, before it concludes, pray for those in the theater who might be meeting the risen Christ for the first time!