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Revive Israel Ministries
Praying for the "Passion"
© February 2004 by Asher Intrater

This is the week before the grand opening of the "Passion" by Mel Gibson. I write this as a Jew, in Israel, who believes in Yeshua (Jesus) and like most others, have not yet seen the movie. In any case, this is a critical time to pray.

I must admit that the potential for the movie agrees with many things that I have already been praying for in my heart over the last few years:

  • In many areas of the world, Catholic type churches are the dominant form of Christianity. Often those churches are the greatest obstacles to the spread of the gospel. Yet the millions of people in those churches are a potentially ripe field for evangelism. Particularly in the Middle East, the Greek and Armenian Orthodox churches are the only Christian structures that Muslims have access to, and have penetrated to a depth that no protestant churches have even come close to. Let us pray that this movie will touch many with a true love of Jesus.
  • The Hollywood movie industry has poured tons of spiritual garbage - violence, adultery and occultism - into the airwaves around the world. The power of that particular media is awesome, and has been used mostly for evil. Let us pray for a revolution within the entertainment and mass media industry. The effective communication techniques of a Hollywood-level produced movie could be used to touch hundreds of millions of people, who could be attracted first to its artistry, and then to its message. In addition, the electronic media can pass the movie into third world nations that are otherwise closed to the gospel.
  • The central message of the suffering of the Messiah on the cross is found on every page of the New Covenant, and in every teaching of the Law and the Prophets as well. Much modern preaching has sidestepped the meaning of the cross. A raw portrayal of the crucifixion could do much to revitalize even what are thought to be the most dynamic churches. In our own circles of Messianic Judaism, the message of the cross has particularly been avoided, and the result has been a widespread drop in the life of God in our midst. After all, "the message of the cross is the power of God" - I Corinthians 1:18.
  • And even in Israel, and to Jewish people in general, a movie like this has the potential to reach people who would never go to a church or a Messianic congregation. (Try inviting an unsaved friend to a church or to a movie theater... ) The movie will be controversial. But controversy can also draw people's attention and cause them to think. God doesn't seem to be bothered much by controversy, anyway. How come there have been no controversies about movies showing homosexuality, drug use, and murder? Here comes a movie about the torture of Yeshua, and everyone is upset.

Is It Anti-Semitic?
Many in Jewish circles have raised the question as to whether the movie is anti-Semitic. This week the largest Hebrew newspaper in Israel ran a half page article with photo about Gibson's interview for ABC. The headline ran: "I am not anti-Semitic." The Israeli paper reported that when asked, "Who killed Jesus?" Gibson answered, "We all did. I would be the first to take the blame." The Israeli reporter did not understand the response and wrote that Gibson was avoiding the question. But still, that's a powerful quote from Gibson.

The fact that the sins of all mankind were responsible for the crucifixion of Yeshua is of course the correct answer. If a so-called Christian blames the crucifixion on the Jews, then he has apparently not recognized his own sin, and therefore invalidates his own faith. If a Jew thinks of the gospel as anti-Semitic, then he also will not deal with his own need for repentance and atonement.

Abraham Foxman, head of B'nai Brith's Anti-defamation League, was reported to have said, "Gibson is not anti-Semitic, but the film has the potential to stir up anti-Semitism." I would expand that statement this way: "Gibson's film is not anti-Semitic. The gospel story is not anti-Semitic. The problem is that many people interpret the gospel as anti-Semitic." The irony is that the Gentiles who are anti-Semitic and the Jews who fear anti-Semitism, both interpret the gospel the same way - incorrectly. When Jewish leaders say the gospel is anti-Semitic they are reinforcing the same incorrect interpretation of those who hate the Jews.

One element in removing the anti-Semitic interpretation of the gospel is to acknowledge the fact that Jesus is Jewish. How can the story be against Jews when the main hero is Himself Jewish? The priests who rejected Him were Jewish, but so were the disciples who received Him.

Was it anti-Semitic that the eleven brothers of Joseph wanted to kill him because of jealousy? Was it anti-Semitic that the Levites with Korach were swallowed directly into hell when they attacked Moses? Was it anti-Semitic that King Saul and his soldiers attacked the young David? Was it anti-Semitic that the prophets and priests in Jeremiah's generation had him arrested and thrown into a pit?

The Name "Passion"
The name "Passion" does not mean passion in the sense of feeling or desire, but rather the older root word meaning to suffer (like a patient in a hospital). There were public drama presentations of the crucifixion of Yeshua during the Middle Ages, which were called "Passion" Plays. Those passion plays represented the Jews in an evil light, denied the Jewishness of Yeshua, and were often used as opportunities to persecute Jews after the presentation. Unfortunately, it is that evil association which brings up fears of anti-Semitism.

A more correct name (although admittedly less "flashy") would have been: "The suffering of the Messiah," a name with the same meaning, but which would have communicated better, at least to Jewish people. Let us pray that in the Hebrew translation of the film that the right words would be used to communicate the story in its proper context. Let us pray that the film would not be wrongly interpreted as anti-Semitic.

Extra Portion

I do believe that the Jewish people have an extra portion of guilt and responsibility in the crucifixion of Yeshua. That is not a matter of anti-Semitism - quite the contrary - but of the chosen calling of Jews. The Jews were the nation of priests and prophets. The good guys in the story and the bad guys in the story were all Jewish. The gospel is to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. Salvation is to the Jew first and also the Gentile. As the blessings, authority and calling were to the Jew first, then so are the responsibility, guilt, and punishment.

The Jewish nation is seen as the "older brother" in the family of nations. The chosen brother gets an extra portion, both of the good and of the bad. The Jews have a special responsibility in rejecting the Messiah, because they also have a special authority in receiving the Messiah. We were those who cried, "His blood be upon us" in the courtyard, but we will also be those who will call out, "Blessed is He who comes" at the Second Coming. Those who once shouted, "Crucify Him," will also soon cry, "Crown Him."

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