When the celebration of incarnation and the holy week come around, I cannot help but wonder what the general population thinks about the spiritual significance of these events. I realize that Christians are more involved with these holidays because of their personal connection with Jesus Christ, but we must also admit there are many different levels of commitment and enthusiasm.
In the past few years, the big screen has produced several Christian-based movies, and however you feel about them, at least someone is trying to relay the life of Christ when He physically walked the Earth. I saw the movie “Risen” the other night, and after it was over, I thought about some key moments within the film. I’m encouraged whenever I see someone believing when they see a miracle, but I’m also reminded that everyone will not believe in Jesus whether they see one or not.
Jesus declared in John 20:29, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Yes, Jesus spoke divine truth and in only three years made a huge impact, but His message was generally not embraced by the masses and neither is it today. Why? Well, the most disturbing reason, which is also revealed in this movie, is that many individuals will absolutely never allow themselves to surrender their will to God.
“Risen” is based on a fictional character named “Clavius” who portrays a high-ranking Roman soldier and fierce nonbeliever that oversees the crucifixion of Christ. This account is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, but some of these events could have been possible. Nonetheless, he’s following his orders and convinced he’s doing the right thing. But a few days after Jesus is buried in a tomb, he witnesses the Messiah miraculously comforting His disciples in the upper room. He is so stunned and in a state of shock that he abandons his duties and begins to stalk the disciples, hoping to discover what in the world is going on.
There’s a scene when Pilate enters this very room where Jesus had miraculously appeared earlier and is furious because the stone has been rolled away and the body of Jesus is missing. Trying to silence the rumors that Jesus actually rose from the dead, he notices a note fastened to the wall that was written and sealed by Clavius. It said, “Do not seek me. Do not follow or wander. Persecute no one on my behalf. I have seen two things which I cannot reconcile. A man dead, without question and that same man alive again. I pursue him, the Nazarene, to find the truth.”
Pilate responds angrily, “My right hand has turned against me … how could he follow that Hebrew?”
A soldier comments, “Perhaps … it’s true.”
And then Pilate makes a very troubling statement, “Well, if it is … I’ll kill him again.” Is this not a heartbreaking example of the lost and depraved nature of mankind?
Although this story exposes our spiritual blindness, it also reveals an encouraging hope that God has provided everyone an invitation to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. We commonly use skits and plays in church to illustrate spiritual principals, and even Jesus Himself told parables, which are narratives that help explain divine truths.
I have no intention to argue about the accuracy or intentions of movies like this, but within the presentation of Jesus we can at least ask ourselves, “Is seeing believing?” You would imagine if someone actually witnessed that God and His Word were absolutely true, they would become a Jesus fanatic, but this is not necessarily so.
Humans struggle with believing because our pride fights against us being transformed into His way of thinking and living. We want to control our own lives and do not want anyone, especially God, to interfere with our desires and decisions. We find in Luke Chapter 16 where a rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus passed away. The rich man ends up in a spiritual afterlife of misery but yet has the ability to see Lazarus and Abraham in the realm of paradise. He lifts his eyes in torment and begs Abraham to please send Lazarus back to warn his family and friends about this place of endless suffering. Abraham replies that whoever refuses to accept God’s message would still not surrender their independence even if someone came back from the dead.
DR. BILLY HOLLAND lives in Central Kentucky with his wife, Cheryl, where he is a Christian author and community chaplain. Learn more at billyhollandministries.com.