Mel Gibson's The Passion is receiving so much attention that another movie about the life of Christ-one that may even prove more satisfying-risks being overlooked. The Gospel of John has an inspired script: the fourth Gospel, word for word, straight out of the Bible. The movie shows what is being described, as actors recite the dialogue and a narrator reads the text.
This may not sound like a successful premise for a movie, but it works. Simply listening to three hours of the Bible is exhilarating in itself, and watching its narrative played out visually actually gives added insight into the text. We see how much of our Lord's miracles and ministry centered around the Temple, underscoring John's theme that He is our sacrifice. When Jesus takes off His outer garment to wash the disciples' feet, we see the parallel a few scenes later, when He serves His people by dying on the Cross. And we see the vehement opposition Jesus provoked.
And for good reason. Both the Book and the movie leave no doubt about who Jesus is. Jesus boldly proclaims His preexistence and His deity. He insists that He is the only way to salvation, and that no one has the Father who does not have Him. Salvation is a gift of God, by grace through faith. This movie, bound by its text, leaves no room for the humanistic, the political, or the New Age christs that keep showing up in pop culture.
Visual Bible International produced the film, and one might wish that it had used a more substantive translation than the Good News Bible. (Maybe Visual Bible should look into the English Standard Version.) But the movie still immerses viewers in Scripture. Although Mr. Gibson's upcoming film, by all accounts, is powerful and, as visual images can be, emotionally moving, we should remember that faith comes by the hearing of the Word.