Church isn’t the only place people go to learn about Jesus. At the beginning of Lent, 15 years ago, many devout evangelical Christians did not go to church to have ashes marked on their foreheads.
Rather, they thronged to theaters to watch a decidedly Catholic film to begin the Lenten season.
That film was Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” which would go on to gross over US$600 million globally. It brought to screen a vivid portrayal of the last few hours of the life of Jesus and even today many can readily recall the brutality of those depictions. The film also stirred up a number of cultural clashes and raised questions about Christian anti-Semitism and what seemed to be a glorification of violence.
This wasn’t the only film to bring Jesus to cinema in such a powerful way. There have, in fact, been hundreds of films about Jesus produced around the world for over 100 years.
These films have prompted devotion and missionary outreach, just as they have challenged viewers’ assumptions of who the figure of Jesus really was.