My husband is a director, and is making a short film for our Good Friday service. Since the crucifixion of the Savior of the world is a challenging moment to believably recreate, Dallas hired seasoned actors from LA and flew them to Chicago where we currently live.
Chicago. As in, forty degrees below zero for much of the winter and snow on the ground in late March — that Chicago. Thankfully, we’ve had a few warmish days that did away with the six foot snow drifts, but the chill in the air remains and so do our winter coats. And all that to say, I’m not sure our LA actors even own winter coats, and if they did, they certainly couldn’t wear them while hanging on crosses in a rock quarry-turned-Golgotha.
I visited the set with my kids yesterday, who were too cold to stay outside so they huddled in tents with space heaters. But Jesus and the thieves were dressed in loin cloths, hoisted above the piles of dirt where the breeze moved unfettered. In between takes, they’d climb down ladders so the crew could wrap them in blankets. As the day wore on and the sun began to set, the guys had a harder time focusing and staying in character. The cold was relentless. They were shaking and slurring words. They were suffering.
And the application is obvious. Jesus suffered immeasurably more and couldn’t come down. Check that — could’ve but didn’t. Seeing even a modicum of His suffering helps strip away the apathy that comes from hearing the Easter story a hundred times, and gives me fresh appreciation for Christ’s sacrifice. I’m once again in awe, moved to tears by His sacrifice, and compelled to worship the One who willingly gave his life for mine.
But that’s not the point of this post. Because The Passion of the Christ did that for me too. And so did a remarkable performance I saw when I was nineteen, depicting Christ in a way I hadn’t previously considered. And so have a few books I’ve read. The film my husband is making is beautiful and unique and will change the people lucky enough to see it.
But my big take away came near the end of the day. Fake Jesus (otherwise known as Jonathan) was on the cross, miserable and losing his ability to remain in the moment, when he said to my husband, “Tell me about Jesus.”
With his director’s hat on, Dallas described Christ’s state of mind, the agony he experienced being abandoned by the Father, his pain, his resolve. To which the actor said, “No, no. Tell me what Jesus means to you.”
That takes my breath away.
What a perfect question when trying to get into the headspace of Jesus — though we’ll never come close to comprehending His love. Or the way the cross has transformed history and the lives of those who’ve bowed at its foot. And what a perfect question when trying to endure as Christ endured. When we’re struggling. When we’re being poured out. When we have nothing left to give and when we need a reason to persevere.
Tell me what Jesus means to you.
Dallas answered without hesitation. And without the hat.
“He’s my everything. He’s my whole life. He’s the reason we’re here. And the revolutionary grace he showed 2000 years ago is still changing the world today.”
Jonathan nodded. And wept.
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a wrap.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.