by Bonnie Anderson and Dan Webster
Hollywood seems to be fascinated by telling stories of Jesus through Roman soldiers. The latest offering is ‘Risen’ from the faith-oriented arm of Sony Pictures.
It tells the story of Jesus from the crucifixion to the ascension.
Now, you have to overlook some things to get the good parts. Why the producers think all Romans need to be British actors is puzzling. The biggest disappointment is it perpetuates the myth Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. She wasn’t. A pope even said so.
But it helps the writers get the Roman Tribune (Joseph Fiennes), who’s desperately searching for the stolen corpse, to find the upper room where the apostles are hiding. The Tribune supervised the crucifixion and burial. When the tomb is empty Pilate is obsessed with finding the body of the Nazarene.
So when the Tribune breaks down the door and sees the face of the man he watched die there’s a palpable sense of complete disbelief. But Jesus looks him in the eye, calls him brother and says, “There are no enemies here.” It’s enough to turn his heart and his head away from his loyalty to Caesar and Pilate. The good thing here is they’ve cast a dark-complected actor, Cliff Curtis, a Maori from New Zealand who has the kindest eyes.
What follows is him tagging along with Peter and the apostles. He’s in the boat when Jesus tells them to cast the net on the other side. He witnesses Jesus healing a leper. He’s welcomed into the community of the ragtag group following the Messiah.
And that’s the point of the story; how community and encountering the risen Jesus changes lives. The Tribune may represent non-believers and believers alike who meet the one who says, “There are no enemies here.”
In this current climate of political and religious discourse in the country, don’t miss the subtle subtext to beware whenever government and religious leaders collude.
Bonnie Anderson is a very active lay leader in her parish, diocese and in the wider Episcopal Church. She is an experienced community organizer and lives in suburban Detroit. Dan Webster is an Episcopal priest in Baltimore, Maryland and a former broadcast news executive. But don’t expect only east coast urban perspectives here. As it turns out, they both grew up in Southern California. They blog about films and faith at Faith Reels