RISEN – A REVIEW by Jacques Erasmus
There’s an old saying: “All that glitters is not gold.”
It’s a reminder that appearances are not everything and often do not reveal the true nature of a thing. To be honest, that’s often how I feel when Hollywood tries to put the Bible on the big screen. It may glitter but it certainly isn’t gold!
After watching Noah and seeing the trailer of Exodus: God’s and King’s, two movies that failed entirely in biblical accuracy, my expectation was not that high for the new movie Risen, but I was pleasantly surprised and emotionally moved by it.
The resurrection is at the very heart of the message of the gospel. The Apostle Paul emphasized this when he said: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile” (1 Corinthians 15:17). As a Christian and one who loves movies, I would say that this movie ‘glitters’ as a friend to that message, though it is not ‘gold’.
The movie looks at the story of the resurrection from the perspective of a sceptic. Like a detective mystery set in ancient times, the movie centres around a Roman soldier named Clavius and his aide, a young and zealous soldier named Lucius, as they are tasked by Pontius Pilate to investigate the whereabouts of Jesus’ body.
Since the story depicted in the movie is about a fictional Roman tribune encountering the risen Christ, there is a lot of subject-matter in the movie which is not in Scripture, thus not ‘gold’. However, when he interviews and encounters individuals mentioned in Scripture, it is as if he encounters the events recorded in the last three chapters of John.
Clavius also often spends time with Pilate or elsewhere in fictional scenes which may or may not have happened, though the fictional events are definitely within the realm of possibility. However, when Clavius encounters the Disciples for the first time, he basically stumbles upon the second manifestation of the risen Lord wherein Thomas is able to see and touch Christ’s hands and side. (John 20:26-28)
A WORD OF CAUTION
Whenever we encounter extra-Biblical dialogues in movies we need to tread carefully.
The same goes with this movie.
Of course Jesus words in Scripture are not the only words Jesus spoke while on earth, Scripture tells us so (John 21:25). But, when thinking or imagining words He might have said, we begin to contemplate words which are not in the text, and I think this can be dangerous as it undermines Sola Scriptura. In other words, do not take these extra-Biblical words as authoritative or accurate in any way.
However, this movie did a good job of reducing the number of times Jesus (the actor) actually speaks, and most of the time he speaks he is saying that which is found in Scripture. There is one scene though, where this representation of Jesus is talking to Clavius, and it is here that extra-Biblical dialogue is introduced. Yet, it is introduced in an evangelistic fashion, which fits perfectly with the nature of this movie as being a ‘glittering’ friend to the message of the gospel.
The part that I did struggle with at first was the portrayal of the elite Roman sentry that stood guard at the tomb. They are portrayed as being two soldiers without sleep and who were drunk. This they said was the reason they “slumbered.”
What I appreciated though about their portrayal is that, later, one of them, telling the truth now, said they saw a bright light. He tells it in such a way that it shows him seeking understanding, even asking Clavius to explain it to him.
I also appreciate, in the portrayal Caiaphas, the deviousness of Caiaphas and how they devised the lie about the disciples taking the body of Jesus.
Overall, the directors did a good job and they were sensitive to material actually found in Scripture. This places the movie in contrast to most others faith based movies. Remain discerning though, while watching it and do not allow the movie to influence your perception of the true Christ, rather let the Scriptures themselves influence your understanding of Christ. View it as a reminder of the Gospel and a depiction of a heart-warming testimony about a sinner in rebellion against God being called to share in the riches of Christ.