Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ, was released on February 25, 2004 amid much ado. After five years the hoopla has subsided but the film remains very popular. In fact, it is the highest grossing non-English language film and the most successful R-rated film ever released  in the United States. And it is, in my opinion, a film well worth seeing.

The movie focuses almost exclusively on the final 12 hours of Christ’s life. This is, after all, a film about the passion (suffering) of Christ, not a film about his life, teaching, or even his resurrection.

The screenplay is inspired by the four canonical Gospels and draws heavily from the 14 Stations of the Cross as explained primarily within the tradition of the Catholic Church. Anyone familiar with the Catholic Church will be familiar with the stops along the way. Every Friday night during Lent practicing Catholics are encouraged to meditate on Christ’s suffering as they pass through the 14 Stations. Many Catholics know the chants by heart and have vivid memories of the priest leading the way from one station to another: At the Cross, her station keeping … Stood the mournful Mother weeping … Close to Jesus to the last.

Many people object to the film. Some people object that it is anti-Semitic. Other people object to the graphic violence, claiming that it is entirely overdone. Still others object to the film’s use of Catholic traditions and artistic license rather than remaining a documentary based strictly upon the written texts of the four Gospels.

In spite of these objections, it is my opinion that the film is well worth seeing. It may not be or do everything that everyone would want it to be or do; however, for what the film is and for what the film intends to do it does better than any film ever made about the Passion of the Christ.

As I’ve said, this isn’t a movie about the birth of Jesus, the parables of Jesus, or even about his resurrection. It is a film about an idea—an idea that it is necessary to fully comprehend the Passion (suffering) of Christ if Christianity is to make any sense at all. Gibson has communicated his idea with a single-minded urgency. Many will disagree. Some will agree, yet be horrified by the graphic treatment of the subject matter.

But make no mistake, if you see the film you will be profoundly affected. You will be, perhaps for the first time, fully confronted with what Jesus really went through in order to achieve human redemption. That alone, in my opinion, makes the film well worth seeing.