Jesus is difficult to portray. Frankly, it’s a difficult role. Jesus is often mysterious, and his motivation is difficult. If you are portraying a divine Jesus, then how could you know his motivation? Perhaps you might want to be as otherworldly as possible, and so make him to be as disconnected from personal motivation as possible. The result is to make a Jesus that is saintly, but not really comprehensible.
Or you might make Jesus a very human man. After all, it isn’t heresy to declare Jesus human. And it shouldn’t cause waves to say that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are (yeah, right, even though it says just that in the Scripture located in Hebrews 4). The problem with this Jesus is to interpret him as too human is to make him too modern. Jesus WAS human, but he probably didn’t have existential doubt. Jesus was an ancient Jewish rabbi, not an American rock star.
In overviewing different Jesus’ in film it is clear that Jesus is hard to get right. How can we make him both charismatic and enigmatic; both caring and angry; both mystic and down-to-earth? Not only that, but Jesus is the second most popular person in the United States—how can one draw on that, but still match the “Jesus” they have in their heads?
In the next episodes, I’ll look at some films and rate how Jesus is portrayed in each. Then I’ll draw some conclusions at how I’d like to see Jesus portrayed.