Last Temptation of Christ

April 30, 2012

Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ provides the audience with one of the most humanistic approaches to Jesus on film.  This is due to many factors, including the noticeable exclusion of famous bible passages such as “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”  However, it isn’t just relatable, unfamiliar dialogue that brings Willem Dafoe’s Jesus to a relatable level on par with those of us that watch the film.  Nor is it the emphasis on the idea that God has possessed Jesus, which is meant to strongly show the audience that Jesus was a man before the presence of God forcibly took control of him.  What makes this Jesus so compelling, and ultimately human, are his mistakes.


The familiar and even cliché quote, “To ere is human; to forgive, divine” comes to mind when watching the controversial flick.  For me, this is primarily due to the fact that Dafoe as Jesus certainly personifies the first half of the statement.  He makes plenty of mistakes as God intervenes in his life and prepares him for his role in life.  He struggles with his inability to fully comprehend the situation he is in, and like any other human being, makes a misstep here and there until he finally reaches his destination on the cross.

One major mistake can be seen when Judas threatens to kill Jesus for being complicit in the Roman domination of the Jews.  Jesus is willing to accept his own murder due to the stress of his predicament, and even tells Judas to go through with the murder as the knife is pressed against his throat.  Once Judas allows him to live and joins him on his mission, Jesus corrects this misjudgment on his own life and perseveres through the trials of his existence.  By not pushing aside his duty and trudging onward, he steps back onto the path he had previously strayed.

The final mistake Jesus makes is perhaps the greatest one presented in the film.  When on the cross, Satan offers the life that Jesus wanted instead of the agony and suffering of crucifixion.  And because Jesus is not aware of Satan’s trickery, he seems at peace and able to go along with the idea.  This leads to the disaster seen at the film’s climax, with Jesus recognizing his error, and ultimately correcting that action with the ultimate sacrifice and total compliance with God’s plan.  While this notion that Jesus was imperfect may (and very well did) upset many people of the Christian faith, it portrays him as a man that anyone in the audience could relate to on a very basic level.  It is the heart of the film, showing the viewer that no matter what happens, it is possible to move past mistakes, and that where one ends his or her journey matters.  No one is free from error; that is what makes each and every one of us human.

-Chris Lombardo

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