Recently, I saw the remake of Ben Hur with my wife. I thought it was a decent movie - maybe a C. I depise the current cinematographic technique of jerking the camera around. I suppose directors think it lends "realism" to the film, but to me, it lends seizures. I looked away any time the cameraman decided to get in the chariot with Judah or act like a meandering fly when Judah spoke privately with his wife.
But one thing I found interesting was the film's portrayal of Christ. Unknown to me, and probably most other followers of Christ, Christ was a hippie who urged people to make love, not war, and was most likely crucified for this radical view. Yep. He was a hand-wringing leftist Who sent this life-changing question echoing through the ages: "Can't we all get along?"
I always find the Hollywood take on Christ pretty ridiculous. But then, Roma Downey made this movie, and I would identify her as part of the "woo woo" pantheist crowd, who believe everything is God, God is in everything, therefore, WE are God.
Let's examine an example of this ridiculousness from the movie. Jesus carries His cross to His execution site. He is bound, beaten, and bloody. The soldiers whip Him, and the crowd buffets Him, and He is reviled from all sides. Finally, He falls from exhaustion. Judah, remembering the kindness of Jesus when he was in a similar predicament, seeks to give water to Jesus. The soldiers strike Judah and prevent him from giving the water. Judah grabs a rock and is about to brain the nearest soldier when Jesus stops him. "No!" says He, "I give my life of my own free will!"
Prior to that statement there was not even the slightest inkling of Christ's true message, nothing of His deity, nothing of Him foretelling His death (let alone His resurrection), not even a shade of difference between Him and the average 1960's cloud-brained goof planting daisies in rifle barrels.
Now imagine a typical hippie loser, say Obama's good friend, domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, being strapped into the electric chair for his crimes. He's surrounded by armed guards, and the audience anticipates justice approaching with relish. Suddenly, one of Bill's followers attempts to attack the guard strapping him in, but Bill shouts his rebuke. "No!" says Bill, "I give my life of my own free will!"
Does that scenario sound the slightest bit ridiculous to you? I can envision the guards and the audience trying unsuccessfully to stifle their laughter. Does Billy-boy not see the gaurds man-handling him, or the straps on his arms and legs, or his follower about to be choked out with a nightstick? Call me crazy, but I think a better time to make a statement about giving your life of your own free will is perhaps before you're hog-tied.
Now let's examine when and where Christ actually said words similar to this in John, chapters 9 and 10. The scene is the synagogue at Jerusalem some weeks before passover. The Pharisees have just dismissed an older couple from questioning and now glare at their son who stands before them ready for a second round of interrogation. His crime: being healed of his congenital blindness by Jesus on the Sabbath.
This Jesus-fellow irked the Jewish leadership to no end. He performed miracles willy-nilly without regard to protocol, class, and most importantly, political and religious authority. And not just entertaining parlor miracles...no, He healed the insignificant wretch standing before them, restored withered limbs, even raised the dead. The man infuriated them. The people were starting to follow Him. If they weren't careful, they'd soon lose their high positions to this hick handyman from Nazareth.
"Give glory to God, not to Jesus!" shouted the inquisitor. "We know this Jesus is a sinner! He has no respect for the Sabbath!"
"Whether He is a sinner or not, I don't know. What I do know is that I was blind, but this man made me see."
"Get out of here, you sonuvabitch!"
The man leaves, and some of the Pharisees follow him - perhaps hoping he will lead them to Jesus.
And he does.
"Do you believe in the Son of God?" Jesus asks the formerly blind man.
"Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?"
"You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you."
"Lord, I believe!" And he worships Jesus as God...right. in. front. of. the. Pharisees.
Ooooh, buddy...the Pharisees want to kill this rotten blasphemer Who calls Himself the Son of God. Their hands twitch with fury...but the people...the Pharisees cannot deny He has performed an incredible miracle. What will the people do if they move against Him? The people think He's a prophet sent from God. But don't they hear what He says? He says He is God! Don't they listen? He's a blasphemer! Where's a good stone when you need it? Shhh! What's He saying now? Probably one of those inpenetrable parables of His...
"I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father..."
There He goes again...claiming some kind of familial relationship to God! This filthy sinner needs to die! He needs to die, die, die!
And it is at this moment, Jesus chooses to make His statement, perhaps directly to the murderous Pharisees:
"...My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father."
Can you believe that? He's claiming that He has power over His own life and death, that He can be killed and then resurrect Himself, because God, His Father, commanded it.
Christ said those kind of things all the time, and it's up to each individual to decide the ultimate question: Was He telling the truth? Either He was or He wasn't; there is no in between. Either He is God and due our full love and devotion or He was insane or something worse, because no good, sane man says these kind of things.
So which is it? Is He lying or telling the truth? Is He mentally ill or some smooth con-man, or is He God? Is He good and loving or is He deluded or evil?
Who is Jesus Christ?