But the obvious focus next to Christ is on Mary as the mother of Jesus. A couple of scenes were very moving. As Jesus falls on the way to the cross, he remembers his mother comforting him after he fell on a street as a little boy. Again, the first time he saw Mary as he was carrying the cross renewed his strength to continue carrying his cross to Calvary.
They were conscious of God’s second commandment
Do Protestants know that for many Roman Catholics, Mary is Co-Redemptrix, that is, together with Jesus, she participated in the redemption of the world? The petition to the Pope to declare Mary as Co-Redemptrix, Co-Mediatrix, and Advocate (titles that should be solely placed upon Christ) says that “at the foot of the cross of our Savior, Mary’s intense sufferings united with those of her Son.”
A typical comment from an evangelical pastor about The Passion as a great evangelistic opportunity would go like this: “Here’s a chance for us to use a modern-day technique to communicate the truth of the Bible.”
Protestants would argue that using movies and pictures of Jesus as a teaching tool is not unbiblical since they are not worshipping the images. This is exactly the Roman Catholic argument that the Protestant Reformation firmly opposed: that we can use pictures of Christ as “books for the people” to help those who could not read in their worship of God. Together with all the Reformers, John Calvin fought against the use of images, saying, “Any use of images leads to idolatry.” 13 The Apostle Peter saw Christ in the flesh, yet he says that “we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention” (2 Pet. 1:17-19).
Be ready in season and out of season
It is true that we live in a highly visual culture, but does this mean that we should abandon preaching in favor of using movies or dramatic presentations? In the Middle Ages, the church used Passion plays, statues, relics, and icons instead of preaching and teaching as the tools for presenting the gospel. This is what was repulsive to the Reformers. God has ordained preaching as the means of sending out the gospel (Rom. -17). The apostle Paul instructed Timothy (and all pastors) to “Preach the word! Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). Because preaching is ordained by God, it is effective: “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. ).
Even though the Greek and Roman world in the first four centuries of Christianity had a highly developed culture of arts and drama, the early church did not use any visual methods in their gospel presentation. This is the reason why there are no representations of any of the characters in the New Testament.
But since Jesus is also human, aren’t we allowed to make representations of his humanity? By no means! Christ is not just fully man, but also fully God, because “he is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:19), and “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). How are we, finite creatures, able to represent Christ, the divine, infinite Creator, in man-made images? Perhaps this is why the movie Ben Hur was very restrained in imaging Christ-it never showed his face-only his hands, his back, and his shadow.