19. Understanding the Death of Jesus: The Film of Mel Gibson?

The Koran declares: “But they did not kill him; they did not crucify him, this only appeared to them to be so… they certainly did not kill him, but Allah removed him towards him” (Sura “An-risa, the Women,” s. 4, 157-158). And yet, we can ask ourselves: what lies behind the lively interest manifested in Arabic countries for the film of Mel Gibson on the Passion of Christ (2004)?

The President of the Palestinian Authority Yasser Arafat spoke of it as “moving and historic,”[1] and the counselor of Arafat in media matters Nabil Abu Rudeina, who saw the film at the same time as Arafat, declared: “The Palestinians are still submitted to the same type of suffering that ‘Issa (Jesus) suffered at the time of the crucifixion.”[2] Ahmad Ali, the editor of the daily Qatar news Al-Watan, praises the “welcoming politics” of the Qatar Prince, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa, in these terms: “The projection of the film [of Mel Gibson] in Qatar is a step forward in the politics of cultural welcoming and religious tolerance in our land. Nevertheless, we desire to hear the other point of view, that of the Minister of Islamic Affairs…because the silence of this Minister regarding the showing of the film in Qatar could be interpreted as an accepting of the erroneous [Christian] version of the crucifixion of ‘Issa (Jesus).”[3]

The interest in the film of Mel Gibson comes from the fact that we see the Devil-Iblis, well personified in the film, lose his power because of the blood shed by Al-Massih. The Devil-Iblis, “Prince of this world,” holds people in the chain of evil: he attacks them at the same time from the exterior (injustices, diseases, misfortunes) and from the interior: he incites people in turn to destroy others or destroy themselves. The Devil-Iblis doesn’t succeed in seducing Jesus (‘Issa) who remains innocent, and so he concentrates all the evil of the world against him. Jesus (‘Issa) turns this evil into an offered suffering: he gives his life up to the last drop of his blood. And thus, he has frustrated the Devil-Iblis, and he has broken the chain of evil.

Faced with the innocence of Jesus (and of his mother), everyone watching understands that he is not as innocent as he pretends to be. “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7, 20). Maryam indicates to us how to proceed: she has stayed standing near her son during the offering, and in her immaculate radiance each can participate in this work of liberation from evil, within oneself and in society.

The blood shed by Jesus is not without connection to the sacrifice of Abraham’s son (little matters which son), which did not take place and which Aid al-Kebir recalls. Jesus has shed his blood so that human blood may no longer be shed. It is by a morbid reverse that some make the blood of the “unsubmitted” flow as an act of worship offered to God. The blood of Jesus purifies the world. Those who exalt violence and death continue the work of Shaytan, all the while pretending to purify the world! The true “martyr” (shayd) is the one who gives his life for others, not the one who loses his life after having tried to kill as many “enemies of God” as he could.In the film, we also see one of the condemned find the road of pardon by looking at the Mother standing near the cross. There is no evil so great that we cannot come out of it by turning toward her, Maryam the very pure.



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[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), 21 March 2004.

[2] Official Information Service of the National Palestinian Authority, 21 March 2004.

[3] Al-Watan (Qatar), 22 March 2004.