“You are looking for something you will never find”–Mary Magdalene to Clavius
There has been a huge market in Christian movies like God’s Not Dead, Fireproof, and War Room. Even the Narnia movies could count. One I’ve seen recently that I like is the just-released-to-DVD Risen.
Risen tells about what happened after Jesus was crucified. What’s interesting is that the movie isn’t done from the viewpoint of a follower of Jesus, like the Apostles or even Mary Magdalene. Instead, the protagonist is Clavius, a soldier who was present at the Crucifixion (he’s not actually in the gospels. There is a soldier mentioned in the accounts, but it’s the one who pierced Jesus’s side. It’s not said in the movie whether this is the same soldier or a different one.) The Sanhedrin are concerned that Jesus might indeed fulfill his prophecy that he would rise from the dead. Considering all the miracles he performed during his ministry, they have reason to be concerned. While the Jews did want to be free of Roman rule, they knew the danger of uprising. This is why the crucifixion happened, in my theory. Jesus was not what they thought the Messiah would be. He was too kind, not a person who would rise up an army and use His godly powers to make the Romans quiver in their armor. They knew the Romans outmanned them and had better weaponry. They wouldn’t stand a chance. Pilate was also concerned because he wanted to keep his position of power. After all, when Jesus was just a baby, Herod had ordered all Jews below the age of two to be killed to stop Jesus before he could even begin an insurrection. That failed, obviously, because now he had condemned the same man, one he deemed innocent and had only done so to placate the crowd.
I like how the movie sets up Clavius as a protagonist. He’s not presented as a villain. Like the rest of his people, he pays tribute to the Roman pantheon–Mars in particular (Kudos to the writers for knowing that some Romans didn’t worship the entire pantheon and had favorite gods that they looked to) He regards the Jewish god with indifference, and thinks little about this “Yeshua” trouble-maker (Note: Jesus’s name was actually “Yeshua” in the original text, not Jesus) However, Pilate is his commanding officer, so it would be best to see to it that Jesus does not rise from the grave. I love what Mary Magdalene tells him when he interrogates her. “You are looking for something you will not find.”
I think using a non-believer as the focus was a great idea. Jesus did indeed converse with those not “of his flock” as well as Jews. There are two instances in the gospels, one was a centurion who was well-respected by the Jews who had a servant who was ill. He did not even want Jesus in his house! To this day, Catholics say his prayer at the Eucharistic Celebration at Mass. (“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. But only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.”) There was also a woman whose daughter was possessed. The apostles in this case do not even want to bother with the woman, and Jesus initially doesn’t either. But when she persists, Jesus is moved and heals her daughter, even though the daughter isn’t even with her mother.
Despite his position, the movie does a good job of helping us to sympathize with Clavius. Clavius actually seems to abhor violence. He does not wish to carry out these orders, but only does so because it is required of him. Throughout his search, he meets others whose lives were changed by Jesus, and not just the apostles and Mary Magdalene.
In my opinion, this is one of the better Christian movies out there. It doesn’t feel like blatant propaganda as God’s Not Dead does (I’ll review that in the future, I assure you.) My only complaint is that it’s kind of on the slow side. It’s worth a look, though.