by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

Watching movies about Christ Jesus has long been one of my traditions at Easter time. These viewings fuel my own passion for examining what Jesus’ sacrifice and triumph meant to humanity, then and now. Recently the season sparked my interest in watching again “The Passion of the Christ.”

I have friends who have never watched Mel Gibson’s movie. Although I was not the first in line, I knew I had to watch this film. The only reason I hesitated initially was my squeamishness when confronted with graphic violence onscreen. But after reading an editorial’s question, “[Can I not watch 126 minutes with him?” — I went.

Our expectation has a direct effect on results in any situation, including watching a movie. My view of Jesus as Master, Way-shower, Teacher and Exemplar is uppermost in my thought when I watch any movie on his life. So, my expectations for watching “The Passion of the Christ” were from the perspective of a student. Open and eager for learning, I anticipated lessons and expected to be taught — and was.

For me, the part of Jesus’ story known as the Passion is as much a classroom as is the entire life and ministry of Jesus. And, of course, class doesn’t end with the crucifixion. It continues with lessons learned from the resurrection and 40 days later with the ascension. While Gibson’s movie didn’t tell Jesus’ whole life story — I’m not sure any movie does — there was never a moment when Jesus appeared to be a helpless victim. To the contrary, there was never a moment when Jesus wasn’t continuing to teach and heal, even during what must have been the most difficult hours of his life. A life lesson in itself!

The Passion illustrates his most profound lesson to be teachings on love.

A love that could forgive those who falsely accused and tortured him, even as he hung on the cross. How many times have I felt defeated or thought about revenge when a friend or foe did something to deliberately hurt me?

A love that could express compassion toward his grieving mother while he himself was suffering. How many times have I been too self-absorbed to help another in need?

A love that could offer comfort and heal others, not only while suffering himself, but also in the midst of his enemies. How many times has a sense of inadequacy stopped me from sharing a hopeful message or fear kept me from saying what I know is true, because criticism or laughter might follow?

As I watch the various replications of Jesus’ life story, I’m reminded I still have much to learn about what it truly means to “drink of his cup” and “partake of his bread.” But more and more, I’m realizing that these metaphors speak of striving to follow his example and understand the truth he taught and practiced.

And so I continue to ponder his instructions, such as:

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you” (Matthew 5:44) … “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1) … “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein” (Luke 18:17) … “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12) … “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also” (John 14:12).

I’m beginning to understand divine service to mean following, in earnest measure, the example of our Master. Clearly, Jesus illustrated the meaning of his transforming words with healing and regenerative works. We can do no less in our discipleship.

At this holy season, I’m once again humbled by Christ Jesus’ life example, and I’m rededicating my life to being a better steward of my faith, knowing, as James reminds us, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). It seems the least I can do to show my love and gratitude to the Master is to do my best to be a faithful student of good works as much as good words.

Mary Baker Eddy perfectly expressed what’s in my heart this glorious Easter and always with this statement: “For the body of Christ, for the life that we commemorate and would emulate, for the bread of heaven whereof if a man eat ‘he shall live forever,’ for the cup red with loving restitution, redemption, and inspiration, we give thanks.”