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Risen was a well scripted screenplay depicting the angst faced by the Romans in the light of the lie foisted on them by the Sanhedrin. What was Pilate to believe? He had tried to keep the fanatics calm by killing Jesus, only to hear that the body had been somehow stolen by the very cowards who had run away from the crucifixion.

The depiction of the awful conditions surrounding the crucifixion , including the probable shallow grave for victims nearby, requires an “PG-13” rating, as does the brutality of Roman soldiers putting down a rebellion among the Jews. However, in this, the truth of the scriptures is reflected, for we read of these uprisings being dealt with harshly [1]. It seems that the main character, Clavius, may have executed “Barabbas” in the field, but the name was probably common enough among Jews (meaning, son of the father). However, the use of the name among the rebels was a bit misleading if he weren’t to show up later.

Through imaginative scenes between Pilate and Clavius, a crisis is avoided in anticipation of a visit from the Emperor. Pilate demands that the body of Jesus be found. This poses a problem when Clavius examines the scene and cross examines the guards (who have been “pardoned”). Nevertheless, a body had to be found that would satisfy Pilate.

This led to a search of all recent graves to find a victim of recent crucifixion. The desecration of Jewish cemeteries falls within the expected character of Pontius Pilate [2]. The history of Pilate soon after this shows that his popularity fell. He ended up being assigned to far away “Gaul” (France) a few years later.

Not wishing to spoil the movie, I must still point out a few places where depictions of Biblical events were altered. The post resurrection appearance of Jesus at the Sea of Galilee , the delightful account of Peter diving into the water to swim ashore was omitted. Peter and the rest bring the boat in together. Afterwards, there seems to be an unwarranted passage of time before Jesus takes Peter aside and thrice asks if he is “loved.” However, the text does not specifically say “while” or “immediately,” so I can let that pass. [3]

At the end, the depiction of the ascension is conflated with the accounts in Scripture of the transfiguration and, somewhat, with the resurrection. Instead of clouds receiving Jesus into heaven, a great flash of light occurs as Jesus disappears. Along with this, Jesus’ last words to his disciples are combined with those spoken in the upper room [4]. This conflation of details does not distract from the message of the movie, but it was hardly necessary.

This film faithfully portrayed what an honest unbeliever might face in light of the evidence before him. It shows the brutal truth of death by crucifixion and the fear that was in the hearts of the disciples before the resurrection. It depicts the uncertainty among them when Jesus leaves them in the interim between the Resurrection and the Ascension .

I would recommend this movie for mature teens and up. It encourages one’s faith in the evidence left behind after the resurrection. As Paul tells the Corinthians a generation later, without this evidence, there would not be any hope for Christians. The lie of the Pharisees was so ludicrous, and this movie show that very well. [5]. I would give this movie a strong B.

Verses

  1. Acts 5:36-37 (Link)
  2. Luke 13:1 (Link)
  3. John 21:7-17 (Link)
  4. John 14:3 (Link)
  5. 1 Cor. 15:4-8; Matt. 28:12-13 (Link)

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