Mel Gibson’s Passion movie

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Backstory: Herod wants a miracle


Herod's interview with the prisoner called Jesus of Nazareth can be found in Luke's Gospel. Read it for yourself in Luke 23:6-12.

In Jesus Christ Superstar, Herod sings, "Prove to me that you're no fool – walk across my swimming pool."

One of Jesus' biographers, John (who wrote John's Gospel), claimed that Jesus did so many miracles that you could never write enough books to fit them all in. Jesus had a big reputation for the miraculous, and King Herod was clearly aware of it.

But what Herod was after wasn't really the miraculous. He wanted a magic trick – a power you command. The miracles of Jesus, it seems, were something else entirely. They were about a power that commands you. He always maintained that he was only able to join in with the powerful activity of the God he called "Father".

When a Roman centurion seemed to show extraordinary faith in Jesus' power to heal, he explained his belief in military terms. "It's obvious," he said. "I don't have the power to make 100 men do anything, but I can get them to march in perfect sync to my command, because I am under the authority of the Roman Empire. The power of that entire state is in my voice, as long as I speak for them."

Jesus, it seems, was "under authority," too, and, what's more, the Bible claims the power of the entire cosmos (and beyond) was in his voice whenever he spoke. This is something, it also claims, he's been doing since the beginning of time.

When you look at it that way, John's claim that Jesus did more miracles than you could ever write about seems a little less extravagant, and Herod's request for a trick sounds like asking the person responsible for creating dogs – "Ah, but can you do balloon animals?"

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About this module

Find out the back story and what happens next in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ movie. What impact did it have on you?

‘The Passion’, for all its intensity, marks only a few hours in the life Jesus. Each of the flashbacks in the movie are windows onto some of the context, that made the execution of one man an event which continues to shape history.

This module was written by Mark Stafford.

Categories: Creativity, Reviews, Sound & vision,


Module contents

arrow The Passion of the Christ

arrow Backstory: caught in adultery

arrow Backstory: the story of Veronica

arrow Backstory: Herod wants a miracle

arrow Backstory: the last supper

arrow Backstory: the humanity of Jesus

arrow Backstory: Jesus and the Devil

arrow What happened next

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