We live in an age where what used to be boring black and white images are now transformed into livid colours. No longer are we content with still photography but videos. Seeing the power of making things come alive, the Christian world has been quick not to be left behind. What we have today are not just Scriptures being read but dramatized with background music, and where appropriate, people shouting, thunder sounding, murmurings, hammering of nails onto wood, etc. For instance, in 1979, ‘The Jesus Film’ was produced, through the sponsorship of Campus Crusade.
Two years later in 1981, the then president of Campus Crusade, Bill Bright (now known as CRU) commisioned it as a project, where sights and sounds of the entire gospel of Luke to which the film closely adhered, was translated into several languages and dialects. This has been most welcomed from all quarters – making Scriptures come alive. It was a huge success. As the years progressed on, film-makers jumped on the bandwagon. But in an effort to make it as livid as possible, together with the aid of advanced technology, we have been seeing constantly (both in lengthy films and short video clips), where events have been deleted, changed, added and exaggerated. In otherwords, distorted.
Year after year on Good Friday, we hear of the sufferings that our Lord went through – the excruciating physical pain He endured, even as He was whipped, nailed on the cross and having a crown of thorns pressed onto His skull (Matt. 27:26ff). When the Scriptures made mentioned of His agony in the garden of Gethsemene, resulting in sweating tears of blood, coupled with the insulting sarcasm of mockery to ‘Come down from the cross and save yourself’ (Mark 15:30), it must have hurt Him emotionally deeply. Some have suggested that He also suffered spiritually as well, when the sin of the whole world crushed upon His sinless self. (Isa. 53:5).
The sufferings that our Lord went through are set forth in all clarity in the Bible. However, having heard all these truths (many of us times without number), would we fall into the danger of ‘breeding contempt’ in what is too familiar?
Perhaps, because of such possibilities of being overly familiar with what we hear week in and week out, with extra dosages during passion week, we can be thankful for movies and music videos that helps to make the sufferings of our Lord ‘come alive.’ Yet on the other hand, drammatising what indeed our Lord went through is one thing. But trying to work out one’s emotions, as for instance, through unnecessary gory is quite another.
After all, not everything need to be presented with ‘thunder and lightning’ to make something come alive. There are times when plain old black and white conjurs up effectively what is meant to be portrait. As a case in point, like many of you, I was ‘moved’ by not a few of the black and white photos and videos shown during the recent death of Singapore’s founding father. One of the articles that moved me immeasurably were a slew of pictures taken during the poignant send-off – all appropriately captured in black and white – in 2015.
This Good Friday, may the simple message of the cross, and the remembrance of the sufferings of our Lord in what He went through for us draw us in adoration of Him, without the need to drum up any emotions.
Elder Richard Lai