SPOILERS AHEAD!! DO NOT READ IF YOU DON'T WANT TO HAVE EVENTS OF THE MOVIE SPOILED!!!
For those of you who know me, you know I LOVE Yeshua. More than anything. So when I heard a new movie was coming out about Christ, I was... skeptical. A lot of Christians rejoiced at the news, but for me, I wondered if it would be true to the One I know so well. Faithful Christians do not have the budget to make a decent Christian movie, and Christian movies made by Hollywood seem to fall short. Even the epic, The Ten Commandments, which I ADORE, went off the rails with the fictional romance between Moses and Nefertiri.
One of my most favorite, faithful movies to Scripture, that is both accurate and deeply respectful, is the animated Prince of Egypt. The music, the actors, and the subject matter all came together and coalesced into an amazing spectacle of God's glory (of which I'm STILL waiting for the Blu-ray!)
The Son of God seemed to be nothing more than The Bible miniseries from the History Channel on the big screen, considering it was made by the same people and with the same actors. But it is not rehashed material we might have seen on TV, as they did go back and reshoot many new scenes for the movie. So be at peace in knowing this isn't simply the miniseries in theaters, there is new material.
However, because it's not the miniseries, they do not bother retelling some of the events they told previously. We all know by now they've cut the scenes with Satan. They also cut scenes of Jesus exorcising demons and healing the blind. What they did keep was important miracles, feeding the five thousand, raising Lazarus, and healing the paralytic man lowered through the roof. However, the movie was not in chronological order according to Scripture.
Miracles and events bounced around, as if it was fluid and linear, but anyone worth their Bible stories will know some miracles did not follow others according to the Scripture record. Some things were even glaringly changed, likely to tell a story rather than be faithful to the Word. Case in point, Christ told the disciples to leave without Him and He would meet them on the other side of the lake (the famous walking on water to catch up with them story - Matthew 14, Mark 6, John 6). Then He went to go pray. Likely He needed to mourn the death of John the Baptist. However, in the movie, Christ finds out about John the Baptist in Nazareth after He reads the scroll of Isaiah, but Christ was rejected in Nazareth *before* John's death and the episode with the five thousand and walking on water. I don't understand why they bounced around in the movie and had Nazareth after feeding the five thousand. That bothered me.
The movie assumes you know Scripture, or have at least a passing knowledge of Christ and His disciples. They do not explain Mary Magdalene at all, aside from a blanket statement about Christ calling many other disciples who followed Him. The only disciple He calls specifically is Simon Peter. Also, the raising of Lazarus is disjointed, because there is no foreshadow, no explaining who Martha and Lazarus are. And this brings another dig against the movie - they omitted Mary of Bethany.
Mary of Bethany is one of my "Biblical heroes". You cannot tell the story of Lazarus without the beauty of Mary of Bethany. She was the one who anointed Christ's feet with her expensive perfume - the only anointing for His burial that He received. But she doesn't even have an actress to play her, as I only saw Lazarus, Martha, & Mary Magdalene present. It was almost as if Mary Magdalene had taken her place. But she is not the same woman.
Another peeve of mine was they used Nicodemus as one of the main antagonists, seemingly against his better judgment, by the orders of the High Priest. In the movie, it was Nicodemus who challenged Christ about paying taxes to Caesar, for instance. And Joseph of Arimathea... we'll just have to guess which Pharisee he was - perhaps the one who mentioned that holding court at night with no witnesses was illegal. He wasn't named at all.
THAT SAID, here is what I loved about the movie.
First of all, it opens with old-man Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos. The Apostle John is also another of my Biblical heroes, so I was quite excited to see the movie open with Him. The Son of God was loosely based on John's Gospel, as the first words of the movie are from John 1:1-14. LOVE that. The Word became flesh. YES!!
Secondly, it doesn't begin with the virgin birth, it goes back, way back, and flashes scenes of the Garden, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samson, David, Goliath... and from John's voice talks about how He was *always* with us. LOVE!!
When we get to the virgin birth, the Star of Bethlehem shines in the shape of a cross. Nice touch.
When Christ first meets Peter, He picks up a stone, inspects it, then puts it back down. Unless one is familiar with Peter = Rock = Upon this rock, they might miss the subtle foreshadow.
Upon reading the scroll of Isaiah in Nazareth, Christ doesn't actually "read" it. He opens the scroll and then... recites it, without looking at the scroll. I loved that He knew exactly where in the book they were reading AND the words of the prophecy, as He *is* the Word of God. He wouldn't have had to read it at all. I loved that little tidbit.
I've often wondered if Christ's parables were based on actual events, actual scenarios, and apparently, I'm not the only one. Christ tells the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican in front of Matthew the tax collector's table, and we are made to believe the humble Publican was likely Matthew, who'd turned his face from Heaven, asking God to have mercy. LOVE that perspective. John MacArthur has made mention in his book, "The Jesus You Can't Ignore" that Matthew was likely fed up and convicted about what he was doing. When Christ called Him to follow, there was no hesitation at all. The movie also portrayed this about the Apostle Matthew. It was wonderful to see.
The crucifixion scene was shown, and they pulled no punches with Christ's wounds, however, not to the extent of The Passion of the Christ. While Gibson's movie focused on the gore, Son of God focused on the determination of Christ to be crucified. He said the very words assured to send Him to death before the Pharisees - claiming to be God as "I AM", and He didn't mince words with Pilate. But the scene I ADORED, that I've *never* seen any other film of Jesus Christ do... The bloodied, wounded Yeshua of Nazareth was hauled to His feet after falling through the streets of Jerusalem - then embraced and kissed His cross.
In that moment, tears. I couldn't stop them. Through that cross, I am His. In effect, by kissing that cross, He was kissing ME. So poignant, so powerful, and whoever thought of that in the script or even if it was impromptu by the actor, WELL DONE. With that one, amazing scene, they captured the essence, the grace, and the absolute LOVE of Almighty God to save His children. Along with that, when the cross was finally upon Golgotha's hill, our Lord *crawled* to it, determined to be nailed upon it. This reminded me of a musing by Bruce Marchiano (who also played Christ in The Gospel According to Matthew) in his book "In the Footsteps of Jesus", which mentioned the resolve of Jesus to do whatever it took to be crucified. In that, my heart warmed again for the One I know as my Beloved.
They were faithful to the earthquake that hit after Christ's death, as well as the gathering wind and clouds. However, the eclipse wasn't shone, and the Temple Veil simply fell rather than being rent. The movie goes beyond the crucifixion, which I was happy to see, as I always felt let down by The Passion of the Christ that Gibson didn't dive deeper into the Resurrection. It is the Resurrection, after all, that gave validation to all of Christ's claims.
We do not see the "redemption of Peter", which is a bummer, because I think it would have tied everything together from the beginning to the end of Christ's ministry, telling Peter (and the gang) to (again) toss their nets for a catch. Jesus asked Peter three times "Do you love Me?" to atone for the three times he denied the Lord. Considering Peter lamented that the Lord was "gone" and he couldn't ask for forgiveness (before the Resurrection), I'm surprised that scene wasn't there.
What really took me off guard and pleasantly surprised me, is we finally return to the aged Apostle John in his cave upon the Isle of Patmos. He's contemplating all he'd seen in life, and then we hear... the words of Christ from Revelation 1 speaking behind him. What?! We get Revelation goodness in this movie too?? YES!!
It is sweet indeed to see the venerable John reunited with Christ, and you know what's coming, but they stop short of full disclosure on Revelation (obviously), but allude to Christ's return. YES! So disappointing, however, that John just says, "Amen" instead of "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" That would have been the perfect ending to this movie.
While the Son of God has its flaws, I must say I'm pleasantly surprised by this movie. The Gospel message is presented somewhat, they did mention Christ having authority to forgive sin, that He is the Way, the Truth, the Life, and that those who believe on Him shall never die, HOWEVER, there is no specific talk of repentance, so a glaring omission there.
With it's flaws, it will likely upset purists and theologians, because bouncing from story to story in a disjointed way didn't really need to be done. Christians have raised brows because it's been endorsed by the likes of Joel Osteen and Oprah Winfrey, and Roma Downey's questionable ties to the New Age movement made me nervous. But... even so... with these dings against it, there is no doubt in my mind that God will use this movie in a mighty and powerful way to reach those who need to be reached. I thoroughly enjoyed it, mostly for the "little touches" they included, such as referencing the Old Testament stories and subtle nods to more mature Christians who recognize what that kiss by our Savior upon the wood of the cross actually means.
All in all, I enjoyed this movie and would see it again. In fact, I'll likely buy it when it comes out on Blu-ray. The end credits were shown along with scenes from the miniseries, to CeeLo Green singing, "Mary, Did You Know?" And while some Christians raised a brow at this music choice, this is actually one of my *favorite* renditions of the song. CeeLo Green might not be a model Christian, but let us not forget that Christ came to call sinners to repentance.
Never in my life have I experienced what I did in that theater when the final credit rolled. It was almost... holy. No one spoke. Everyone was silent and left quietly. Even my children and I, who had been talking and giggling before the movie, *whispered* on the way out of the theater, even after the house lights had been turned up. Oh yeah.
God was there.