By JASON REYNOLDS
Tennessee Christian News
A lot of people I’ve spoken to have expressed excitement about watching “Killing Jesus,” which premiers Palm Sunday, March 29, on the National Geographic Channel. The movie will air at 7 p.m. CT.
I had the chance to preview the film recently. One disclaimer I will give is that I have never read the book that inspired the movie, so I was a newcomer to this specific telling of Jesus’ story.
The cast includes Kelsey Grammer (“Partners,” “Boss”) as King Herod the Great; Stephen Moyer (“True Blood”) as Pontius Pilate; Haaz Sleiman (“The Visitor”) as Jesus; Rufus Sewell (“Hercules”) as Caiaphas; and John Rhys Davies (“Indiana Jones”) as Annas, a high priest.
I have positives and negatives to share. I’ll list the positives first.
The cinematography, scenery and costumes are beautiful and realistic. The cast look like Middle Easterners instead of Westerners trying to imitate the region’s inhabitants.
Even more importantly, the movie succeeds at its makers’ stated goals of showing the politics and motives that caused people to want to crucify Jesus.
That’s where the positives end.
In my mind, this movie is not quite, well, biblical. It has the right characters and overall plot, but while watching it I noticed that some things were missing — like angels, and more importantly, Jesus’ divinity.
Sleiman, the actor who plays Jesus, said this in a press release:” I didn’t want to go in the direction of making Jesus otherworldly. I thought it was more important to focus on his humanity and how he related to other people.”
I believe the actor went too far to the extreme of making Jesus worldly. Jesus was fully God and fully man, but Sleiman’s take on Jesus makes him a man who needs John the Baptist to prompt Him to take action.
The New Testament tells us that an angel warned Joseph to take the baby Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod. The movie skips the angel and gives powers of political prognostication to Joseph, who declares it’s time to get out of town while the getting is good.
I had read another review of the film that pointed out some discrepancies in Jesus’ baptism. I agree with that review that the Jesus in “Killing Jesus” appears confused about His identity when meeting John the Baptist. John has the inside track on Jesus’ identity because he heard voices in the desert. Jesus reacts with surprise and skepticism. “God, speaking about me?” Jesus asks John. John seems to know more about Jesus’ mission than the actual Messiah does.
I could keep nit-picking, but won’t. I generally like a book better than a movie adaptation. Having not read the book by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, I cannot comment on how closely it may or may not follow the Bible.
A press release for the film ends with this statement: “Through collusion, conspiracy and influence, Jesus is eventually arrested, in part due to the betrayal of one of his disciples, and crucified. He is buried in an unguarded tomb, and when mourners return several days later to anoint his body, the body is missing. To this day, the body of Jesus of Nazareth has never been found.”
Well, yeah, Jesus ascended to Heaven.
Share the Gospel
A movie like this can serve as a jumping-off point to discuss your faith with others. People are going to be talking about “Killing Jesus” this coming week. A Christian can watch the movie tonight to be ready to engage in a discussion with non-Christian friends about what the movie got right and what it missed out on regarding Jesus’ divinity.