for release Friday April 9, 2004
by Melodie Davis
Easter Thoughts Upon Watching “The Green Mile”
In watching the movie, “The Green Mile” recently, I was made to think that Jesus’ trek to the “green hill far away” began with a walk similar to the penitentiary “green mile” in the movie. The movie, set in Louisiana in 1935 on death row, was a place known to guards and inmates alike as “the green mile” because of the shiny green linoleum that led from the cells to the electric chair.
Everybody else is writing about “The Passion of the Christ” movie this Easter and here I am writing about a five-year-old movie, but bear with me. The two movies actually have themes in common and “Passion” has made it okay to talk about Jesus in the media and other circles besides “church” or “religion.”
In “The Green Mile,” one inmate has magical or supernatural powers (one would expect such in a Steven King novel/movie) and the inmate brings a pet mouse back to life for a sweet old (if a little crazy) condemned man, hinting that there is life beyond the Chair for repentant criminals. The inmate feels the pain of everyone so intensely he is compelled to help them, complete with starburst-like fireflies coming out of his mouth upon a healing. I would have liked the movie more, I think, if Stephen King hadn’t made the supernatural seem so “weird.”
On one discussion board about “The Green Mile,” one person said, “If you want to see a movie that really portrays the essence of a man who was given a gift by God, felt the pain of the world constantly, did miracles and was willing to die in innocence, it’s “The Green Mile.” You could not get closer to the life of Christ than this film.
Another bulletin board poster wrote, “Stephen King’s character John Coffey [J.C.—get it?] is brilliant. And then you have the guards who must fulfill the Pontius Pilot role [killing Coffey] so reluctantly because they know the truth.”
But as I thought about the resurrection theme, I also wondered if it is appropriate to think about Jesus living the life of a condemned person, like those on death row, since he knew that he would end up being executed by the state. As young as eight days old, when Jesus was taken to the temple to be blessed by the elderly prophet Simeon. Simeon tells Mary and Joseph, “And a sword will pierce your own soul, too” (Luke 2:35). It is a theme that was pointed in Isaiah in the Old Testament: “He was pierced for our transgression … and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 54:5). Jesus starts hinting at his execution overtly in his last week on earth. If one looks at the overall sweep of the Old and New Testament you see that God’s plan is centered on his son, Jesus, for saving humanity after Adam and Eve ruined Paradise by exercising free choice.
According to at least some biblical scholars, it is clear that the timing of Jesus’ death is planned during the Passover observances to make it very obvious to the whole world that Jesus is the sacrificial lamb. Even the hour of death points to that role. The tradition in Old Testament times was for the high priest to kill the lamb at the 9th hour of the day (three in the afternoon) which is when we observe Christ’s death on Good Friday. You will recall that in the Jewish tradition, the lamb was used during Old Testament times to cover the sins of humanity. So Jesus is the Passover lamb.
Now, if all of this is too gory (like the Passion movie) for you and too simplistic (how can people even believe this stuff about God?), again, bear with me. Some people feared that the Passion movie would be anti-Semitic, but as one biblical scholar, John Piper, senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis; put it sharply, “If you ask who killed Jesus, God did.” If you feel that is too “abusive” or sadistic, we must be clear that if we believe Jesus and God were one, then it was also God who suffered deep emotional and physical pain as he gave up his life through his son Jesus on the cross. God suffered all of it with Jesus.
But that was not the end of God’s plan. If it ended there, we would have a lot more questions to ask. The end is really the beginning—the whole point of the plot (and only given an afterthought in Gibson’s “Passion,” I understand). Suffering and death are demolished for Jesus and for all of us who believe, through the resurrection.
Now, like me with Stephen King’s movie, you might wish I’d leave out the hard-to-believe weird stuff. Yes, it takes a leap of faith to believe in the resurrection. But the Christian religion is a fraud without the resurrection. If you believe in God at all, wouldn’t you rather you stake your life on believing that God Almighty has something in mind for our immortal souls after our brief span of time on this earth is done?
What do you think? Send responses or post them directly at the Another Way page of our website, http://www.thirdway.com/aw/conversation.asp
Write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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