Debriefing After The Passion of the Christ
A Discussion Guide for Groups of Two or More
by Rick Richardson
|After watching Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ, it can be very helpful to talk it over with others. Here are some questions to consider.
What are your overall reactions to The Passion of the Christ?
Whether you liked the film or not, it is probably like no
other movie you have ever seen. You may want to talk about
your reactions. These questions are meant to help you do that.
Use this first set of questions if you plan to meet only once
or all three if you'd like to talk more.
In a few words, what was most striking to you about The
Passion of the Christ?
In what ways did the movie fulfill your expectations,
and in what ways did the movie surprise you?
How did you respond to the promotional campaign and hype
surrounding this movie?
What did you think of the artistic quality of the film?
How did you respond to the film being in Aramaic and Latin?
Did you think the movie was anti-Semitic or that it might
engender anti-Semitism? Why or why not?
What did you think of the violence and brutality, and
why do you think Gibson chose to make a movie with this
kind of focus?
- In what ways might you want to pursue learning more about
the life and death of Jesus and its relevance to your life?
How did you respond to the characters in the
Possibly the most engaging dimension of the movie was seeing
the suffering of Jesus through the eyes of the different people
What character in the movie most stood out to you, and
What struck you about the women and their experiences — Mary,
Pilate's wife, Veronica with her veil, and others?
What struck you about the experiences of the men surrounding
Jesus — Judas, Peter, John, Pilate, Simon of Cyrene
(who carried Jesus' cross), Caiaphas, and some of the Jewish
One of the intriguing additions to Gibson's portrayal
of Jesus' suffering and death was the character of Satan.
Here are some comments from Mel Gibson on that character:
"Satan is portrayed as a human character
who has very beautiful features, but is also distorted.
Evil can look very attractive. But evil cannot create.
It can only counterfeit and twist" (interview with
Bill Hybels at Willow Creek Church, January 20, 2004).
How did you respond to this character? What do you think
of Gibson's take on evil?
- Is there a character in the movie that you most identify
with, and what does that tell you about yourself?
What did Jesus' suffering and death mean?
The heart of the movie is the extended treatment of the last
twelve hours of Jesus' life, encompassing his suffering and
death — his "passion." Let's talk about the
passion of the Christ.
From what you know, in what ways is Gibson's depiction
of the suffering and death of Jesus historical and in what
ways does Gibson exercise artistic license?
Why did Jesus suffer and die such a horrible death? What's
Mel Gibson has often talked about his understanding of
the passion. Here's a quote:
"Who killed Jesus Christ? The big answer
is that we all did. I'll be first in the culpability stakes.
. . Jesus Christ was crucified for all men of all creeds
for all time. And he died for all of us" (interview
with Diane Sawyer on PrimeTime America, February
How do you respond to this?
Mel Gibson's left hand makes a cameo appearance in the
movie. In the crucifixion scene, Gibson holds the first
nail that is driven into Jesus' hand. How does knowing
that affect your response to Gibson's conviction that we
all had a hand in causing Jesus' suffering and death?
What most struck you about how Jesus responded to his
Gibson has honestly shared his past struggles with addictions
to alcohol, drugs, and suicidal thoughts. The forgiveness
and new start that the cross promises were very relevant
in helping him turn his life around. How might the suffering
and death of Jesus be relevant to your life?
At the end of the film, there is a very short scene that
portrays the resurrection of Jesus. How was that scene
meaningful (or not) to you?
How has this film and discussing it together affected
Where do you want to go next with these issues and questions
about Jesus and his life and death?
Editor's note — These questions
are most useful for "debriefing" with others after
viewing The Passion of the Christ. It is very important
to discuss the film itself with others, but we agree with the New
York Times' film reviewer that the movie stops short
of explaining the meaning of Jesus' suffering — so
for that subject we recommend our six-part Bible-study guide, "Why
Did Jesus Suffer?" and also a classic book by John
Cross of Christ.