Producers of “Son of God” film reached out to Jewish leaders to “make sure we told this movie sensitively.” Film launches nationwide today.

sonofGodUPDATE:  There are obviously strong feelings about this film, negative and positive. Having not seen it yet, I can’t say if you’re right or wrong. The film-makers say they shot many additional scenes for this version. The final cut could confirm all your worst fears, or might surprise you.

One thing I think is important: This is an enormous cultural discussion starter. If there are  theological mistakes in the film, let’s discuss that with people. If there are parts of the film that do a good job portraying Christ, let’s discuss those, too. I see this film as an opportunity to get into conversations with people about who Jesus is, what He really said, what He really did. Let’s get people discussing what the Bible says. The film can be a tool. But the Bible is the standard.

That said, I’m surprised and somewhat disappointed to see the enormous cynicism some of you have before you’ve seen the final cut of the film. Let’s walk by faith. Let’s ask the Lord to do a great and mighty thing. The truth of the Gospel doesn’t rise or fall based on this film, or any other. But let’s not be so defensive and defeated, my friends. Let’s use this film to do what we should be doing anyway — talking with people about Jesus.

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ORIGINAL POST: Today, the motion picture “Son of God” opens in 3,000 theaters nationwide. It is a powerful drama and highly controversial, and it may prove to be the most important film of the year.

My family and I are looking forward to seeing it this weekend. I hope that you’ll take your family as well, whether you’re Jewish or Gentile and regardless of your spiritual or religious background.

It is said the story of Jesus — with all of its human, religious and political drama — is the “greatest story ever told.” 

Unfortunately, it has not always been told well. 

The Gospel-writers and the Apostle Paul told it best, of course, because they lived it, first hand.

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you,unless you believed in vain,” the Apostle Paul once wrote. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”

Tragically, though, some films, novels, and plays about the life of Jesus over the years have been — or have been perceived to be — anti-Semitic, or at the very least deeply insensitive.

This grieves me since the story of Jesus is, at its core, a very Jewish story. Mary and Joseph were Jewish. Jesus was Jewish. His earliest disciples were Jewish. They all lived and ministered the Biblical land of Israel. They repeatedly visited the Temple in Jerusalem. They celebrated Passover and all the Jewish holidays. They studied the Jewish Scriptures. They were captivated by the Jewish prophecies. The worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The longed for the restoration of Israel, and so forth.

Yes, the Bible records that some Jewish leaders at the time were fiercely opposed to Him. Yet many other Jews, including some Pharisees, embraced and followed Him.

My hope is that “Son of God” captures these nuances, as well as the political drama of the Roman empire wanting to crush the man the masses saw as the “King of the Jews.” As soon as I see it, I’ll let you know my perceptions.

In the meantime, I find it noteworthy — and commendable — that the film’s producers actively reached out to Jewish leaders to understand their concerns about past films about Jesus.

“We knew when we were shooting The Bible series that as the Jesus narrative began to unfold, that we had something spectacular,” Roma Downey, one of the film’s co-producers (she also played Mary) told NBC’s Today Show. 

Her husband, Mark Burnett added: “We had huge hopes that America, one nation under God, would embrace the Bible series.”

“Downey also talked about how she and Burnett even reached out to the Anti-Defamation League to make sure they presented the story in a way that was sensitive to the Jewish community,” noted The Hollywood Reporter.

We have worked across denominations and reached out to the Jewish community through [national director] Abe Foxman at the ADL to make sure that we told this movie sensitively, setting up political and historic context, presenting the story in a way that really just emphasized the love of Jesus, and Mr. Foxman gave us a great endorsement from the ADL,” Downey explained.

As soon as you’ve seen it, please post your comments and reactions on my “Epicenter Team” page on Facebook. I’d love to know what you think.

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>> Read the review of the film from MovieGuide

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