Light for the Last Days

Mel Gibson’s film ‘The Passion of the Christ.’

Written in 2004

How many evangelical Christian pastors would invite a traditional Roman Catholic, who sees Mary as a Co-Redemptrix with Jesus and believes that eating meat on Fridays is a mortal sin, to speak in their churches? Or a nun who has mystic visions and claims to be able to levitate in a state of ecstasy and says she lives on nothing but the Eucharistic wafer and water?  Probably not many.

Yet evangelical pastors sent their flocks out in droves to watch ‘The Passion of the Christ’ directed by Mel Gibson, a traditional Catholic who received much of his inspiration from Sister Emerich (1774-1824), a nun who wrote ‘The Dolorous Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.’  While some have described the film as ‘one of the greatest evangelistic tools in modern day history’ T.A. McMahon, in an excellent book ‘Showtime for the Sheep’ uncovers the danger behind this film and points to the way it is being used to bring yet more deception into the church.  

The book documents the stated Roman Catholic influence behind the film and the way it is being used to bring evangelical Christians further under the influence of Rome:  ‘The movie is Mel Gibson’s Catholic vision.  His scholarly resources were Jesuit priests.  ‘It reflects my beliefs – I’ve never done that before,’ Gibson told a reporter.’ (Page 55).  James Caviezel, who plays ‘Jesus’ in the film, states:  ‘This film is something that I believe was made by Mary for Her Son.’ (Page 84 quoting the Medjugorje Website).

The conservative Catholic magazine ‘Inside the Vatican’ acknowledges the ecumenical influence the film is having:  ‘For evangelicals the film has given them a glimpse inside the Catholic soul, even the traditional Catholic soul.  Many evangelicals, reflecting on what they saw in the movie, say they are beginning to ‘get’ the whole Catholic thing:  Lent … the ashes on the forehead … no meat on Friday … the sorrowful mysteries … the Stations of the Cross … the emphasis on the Eucharist … the devotion to Mary … the enormous crucifix hanging above every Catholic altar.  They may not be rushing to buy rosaries, but some of the things no longer seem so strange, so alien.’  (Page 84)

The pope is alleged to have commented after seeing the film, ‘It is as it was.’  McMahon points out the absurdity of this statement, since no one living today was there to verify what did or did not happen.  The people who were there recorded the Gospel narrative which conflicts with much of the film.  For example in the Gospels when Jesus prays in Gethsemane an Angel comes to strengthen Him.  In the film Satan comes to tempt him.  McMahon writes:  ‘Peter denies ‘Jesus’ without the cock crowing; as he calls Mary ‘Mother’ Peter kneels before her, acknowledging his guilt in denying her son;  … Mary goes to ‘Jesus’ as he falls under the weight of the cross; a flashback shows Mary running to ‘Jesus’ as a young child; … the cross with ‘Jesus’ on it appears to levitate before it is placed on the ground; as the cross is put in place, Mary alone among the followers of ‘Jesus’ is standing; Mary kisses the blood drenched foot of ‘Jesus’; … the body of ‘Jesus’ is partially draped across Mary.’  (Pages 47-8).

In the film Mary plays a key role in the events of the crucifixion, comforting and strengthening ‘Jesus’ in his suffering.  Her role is in line with the Catholic view of her as McMahon shows in the chapter, ‘Mary the Executive Producer’:  ‘The Passion advances Mary, not in an overtly Catholic, Queen of Heaven way, but showing her presence continually in her humanity – as a mother suffering along with her son.’  (Page 89).  James Caviezel credits ‘Our Lady of Medjugorje’ for enabling him to play her son:  ‘In preparation I used all that Medjugorje taught me’.  (Page 88).  

Medjugorje is a place in war torn Bosnia where Mary is claimed to have appeared and told those who saw the vision: ‘Tell the priest, tell everyone that it is you who are divided on earth.  The Muslims and the Orthodox, for the same reason as Catholics, are equal before my Son and I.  You are all my children.’  (Page 87-8).  Mary as the ‘queen of ecumenism’ is being promoted as the one who can bring together diverse religions, including Islam and Roman Catholicism.  

The mythical Mary of Roman Catholicism is exalted as Queen of Heaven, Mother of God, Eternal Virgin, Co-Redemptrix.  However this teaching and the apparitions which come in her name have nothing to do with the real Mary (Miriam), a faithful Jewish girl, who conceived the Messiah supernaturally and gave birth to Him as a virgin, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 7.14.  She then went on to have other children in the normal way by her husband Joseph.  The real Mary needed a Saviour and found one in the Son she gave birth to (Luke 3.47, John 2.5).  The mythical Mary of Roman Catholicism is a deceiving spirit which is playing a major role in the great end time deception leading to the fulfilment of Revelation 17.3-6, the woman riding the beast.

The real Mary played no significant role at all at the cross.  She is mentioned only once in the four Gospels in this connection:  ‘When Jesus therefore saw his mother and the disciple, whom he loved, standing by, he said to his mother, ‘Woman behold your son!’  Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’  And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.’  (John 19.26-7)  Far from strengthening Jesus at the cross, He shows His concern for her by making sure she is looked after by John.  In fact some commentators say Jesus actually sends her away from the cross so she does not have to watch His suffering and death, and John takes her straight away to a house he had use of nearby in Jerusalem.  Mary was among the other disciples seven weeks later in the Upper Room (Acts 1.14), but there is no further mention of her in the Book of Acts or the Epistles.  This shows that she played no special role in the life of the early church.

McMahon shows how the approval given to this film is the result of the growing reliance in evangelical circles on entertainment to communicate the message of the Gospel instead of preaching and teaching the Bible.  While the Bible is the infallible Word of God, movies about the Bible are the product of human imagination, adding to its message and using techniques which manipulate the mind in order to get its message across. McMahon shows how films become a visual translation of the Bible which leads to confusion in the uninformed viewer who may think this is what the Bible says, when in fact it is how the producer of the film interprets the message.  He goes so far as to conclude that any actor playing the role of Jesus is in fact violating the commandment not to make graven images (Exodus 20.4-5).  Some may think this is an extreme view, but it cannot be denied that an image is a visual representation of something or someone but is not that actual person or thing. Since we cannot represent God we are commanded not to make any image of Him and since the New Testament teaches that Jesus is God, we cannot truly represent Him either.

McMahon shows that the success of The Passion of the Christ and its widespread acceptance by evangelical Christians is the fruit of a process that has been going on for some time.  In 1994 an historic document was produced ‘Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT):  The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium.’  Its mission goals were Christian unity and co-evangelisation.  The document declared that ‘Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ’ and that as ‘we enter upon a Third Millennium that could be in the words of John Paul II, ‘a springtime of world missions,’ we must ‘witness together’ to win the world to Christ.  In that endeavour however ECT cautioned against ‘sheep stealing’ asserting that ‘it is neither theologically legitimate nor a prudent use of resources for one Christian community to proselytise among active adherents of another Christian community.’  In other words it’s not right for evangelicals to evangelise Roman Catholics and vice versa.’  (Page 120).

On this subject McMahon, who came to know the Lord from a Catholic background, says, ‘The gospel according to the Church of Rome is a false gospel.  Believing it cannot save anyone.  Roman Catholic dogmas such as baptismal regeneration, the Eucharist, and purgatory are a rejection of Christ’s gift of salvation – paid for in full – by Him on the cross.  To truly love Catholics means to share that truth with them not to embrace a work that denies the biblical Gospel.’  (Page 15).

Tony Pearce

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