Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12)
One of the wonderful things about art is its subtle ambiguities. The smile of the Mona Lisa. A poet’s turn of phrase. The haunting refrain of a piece of music. Or a stunning visual metaphor in a movie. It is precisely the ambiguity of these words, sounds, and sights that creates multiple interpretations.
Toward the end of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ comes the one scene that took me completely off-guard. Since I had read the book before going to see the movie, I knew the story line. The central characters were identifiable. Even the subtler references to persons and events not detailed in the movie were easy to pick up. But one jolted me.
With Jesus lifted up on the cross, there is a distant and strange new camera angle. It is not a panorama of the hillside. It is not the crowd through Jesus’ eyes. It is a glimpse from what I first thought was outer space! It seemed that we were looking in on Earth from Mars or the moon. I was disoriented and raced in my mind to figure out what was happening.
Then it appeared that something other than a line of sight was closing in on the scene at Golgotha. The camera was focusing, but it was following something. It is a crystal sphere of some sort, I thought. No, it is the first drop of a rainstorm that is about to pelt the ground. It was neither!
It was a single tear. Falling from millions of miles away. Landing at the base of the cross. Initiating a shudder on Planet Earth that rattled temple and courtroom, marketplace and home, the living and the dead. It was a tear from the eye of God Almighty – seeing and caring and grieving from his throne.
I have no idea if my interpretation is the director’s intent. You may have seen the very same moment in the film and viewed it altogether differently. But my take on it is right – for me.
It is not simply art that is filled with enigmatic phrases and metaphors. Life itself is a series of snapshots set in a narrative for which God alone has total context. Thus we have put ourselves in his place to see and read, interpret and conclude, judge and pronounce. Perhaps we have not thought enough about the humility appropriate to our station as frail mortals.
And I can imagine that conceit giving birth to a tear in God’s eye.
God sets himself against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5)