This past Friday my wife and I went to see the new movie “Risen”. Although I am not a believer, I found the movie to be quite compelling. I think Joseph Fiennes, who played the lead role of Roman military tribune Clavius, deserves an Oscar nomination for best male lead. He did an absolutely fabulous job in this role.
Clavius is a tribune working for Pontius Pilate. Early in the movie, he is assigned the task of making sure the three men being crucified that day had their legs broken so they could die early. Of course those three men were Jesus and the two thieves. Later when Jesus’ body turns up missing from its tomb, Clavius is ordered by Pilate to find the corpse quickly before the disciples could start claiming Jesus had risen from the dead.
Clavius, being the loyal tribune he was, obeyed. But as the evidence unfolds, he begins to believe it might be possible that Jesus was indeed actually alive. When he ultimately finds all the apostles together in a room with Jesus in their midst, he is compelled to cast aside his doubts and embrace Jesus’ resurrection. However, this creates quite a dilemma for Clavius, given his position.
I will leave you with three main thoughts that stuck with me during the movie.
1. Joseph Fiennes is a fine actor.
2. Oftentimes people can get caught up in doing bad things while thinking they are being good. This struck me during a scene where Clavius has his men cremate fallen soldiers after a brutal battle with some Zealots. As one of the bodies was going up in flames, I had a sudden thought that that poor soldier probably died thinking he was a good man and a loyal Roman, being willing to give his life while defending the Empire. Yet, we now look back on those times and view the Roman occupation of Israel as being an evil thing. It makes me wonder how many times I have done something thinking I was doing good but will one day be seen as bad?
3. It is okay to doubt the reality of an incredible claim from the past. Clavius becomes distraught upon finding a risen Jesus. He was having a hard time believing his own eyes. He ultimately did, but it was hard accepting that which he had long believed impossible. As you may recall from the Bible, the apostles, and especially Thomas, were skeptical of Jesus’ resurrection even though the New Testament tells us that they had witnessed a number of resurrections and had even performed some themselves. At one point Jesus asks Clavius, “Are you having trouble believing your own eyes? Just think of all those who will be asked to believe, but do not see.” Yes, what about those people, of which I am one? If it took an actual physical appearance of Jesus to convince his followers he had risen from the dead, then why is it wrong for us today to require the same? Jesus did not condemn their lack of faith; he simply provided then with the proof they needed. Why must we today have to depend on supposed eyewitness testimony from centuries past? We don’t. We can ask for the same level of proof that the apostles asked for.
If you get the chance, go see this movie!