The Thing I Like About …

… Passion of the Christ:  the scene with his mother.

Passion of the Christ (2004) tells the story of the last days of Jesus; one of those days is an afternoon wherein Jesus has built a table.  At that time, people sat on the floor around low tables, but Jesus has built a taller table.  His mother asks him how people are supposed to sit around the table.  Jesus looks at her for a moment, and laughs, and says he doesn’t know, and she laughs, and the scene changes.

This scene shows not only his humanity, but also the love between him and his mother.  It is an ordinary day, and he’s doing ordinary things, and his experiment seems to have gone awry.  He’s made a tall table because he sees things a little differently than most people, and he laughs because sharing his vision with others might prove more difficult than building a tall table.  And he laughs because his mother is laughing.  And they laugh because they’re ordinary people having a happy afternoon together.

I’m not a Christian in the conventional sense, and my appreciation for Jesus’ advice has never required that he be any kind of divine being.  But I have had the opportunity to listen to that advice, and to the story of his crucifixion, and what struck me most in the film – what really tore my heart out – was watching Mary watch him suffer, and to be able to do about it absolutely nothing.

For me, the movie became about the love between a mother and her child – the unconditional kind, where the child could never do anything that would take that love away.  It’s about the love that breaks a mother’s heart when she knows her child is hurting.  It’s about being willing to trade places with him, and having the worst torture of all be that she cannot save him, even with her own life.

For me, the movie is about how important that love is, and how much better everything would be in this world if we could feel that love for others – you know, all that stuff Jesus talks about.  And I think it’s the part that people forget about the quickest – either they’re debating whether Jesus was God, or whether or not he existed, or whether or not he was really born at Christmastime – and they forget that “Christmas spirit” that even non-Christians seem to want to feel (perhaps under another name) all year round.

For me, the “moral of the story” is to laugh with your mother, and to love your children more than your own life.  That’s the Christmas spirit for me, and it really doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas at all.

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