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Published On: Thu, Apr 2nd, 2015

‘Killing Jesus’ is all history without the ‘moving’ religious experience

TV and movie productions of a religious theme are common during the Lenten season. One expects these to focus on a religious theme, but Killing Jesus (airing on the National Geographic Channel) is different.

The most significant characteristic that jumped out at me was that it didn’t really have a religious feel to it. As I watched the film, I felt as if I was watching a reenactment in a documentary. The focus was on the historical events, not the belief that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. From that perspective, non-Christians shouldn’t be offended by the film because its goal is not to convert anyone to Christianity, at least I didn’t see any attempt at conversion.

Haaz Sleiman as Jesus of Nazareth in National Geographic Channel's Killing Jesus.

(photo credit:  National Geographic Channels/Kent Eanes)

Haaz Sleiman as Jesus of Nazareth in National Geographic Channel’s Killing Jesus.

(photo credit: National Geographic Channels/Kent Eanes)

Not being a great fan of politics in general, Killing Jesus did a great job of depicting the political forces at work that led to the crucifixion. For visual learners like me, it’s always helpful to see “faces” to go with the names unless there’s a photo org chart available to go with the story. That said, this could be a helpful tool for young adults trying to keep the “cast of characters” straight in their heads. But again, no religious feel. Just a story from history. Immediately after it ended, I even thought, “Well, this was a good way to make some money by capitalizing on the story of Jesus.” Have I mentioned that it didn’t feel religious at all? Well, let’s move on.

The film moves at a very fast pace covering over 30 years in only 132 minutes. The greatest leaps are during the earlier years of Jesus’s life and focus on his uncertainty as a young man. Commercial interruptions might slow down this rushed sensation, but if you record it and skip the commercials, you’ll see what I mean.

There is only one scene that caught me by surprise. Watching Jesus flip over the merchants’ tables outside the temple and speak about bringing down the temple, I can see how his words and actions would have terrified the Jewish leaders.

If that scene were replayed today with a man causing a similar scene in front of a religious building, wouldn’t we believe he is a terrorist? As the leaders of the temple observed the crowd getting worked up, wouldn’t it be natural to be fearful of a riot? Oh, my! Did the film actually make the historical events easy to follow and help me understand the political context? Me? Not that I’m a total knucklehead, but political context isn’t really my thing.

So, bravo!

On a lighter note, my favorite feature of the work was the costume design. The intense colors of the fabrics worn by the wealthy and the ornate headwear were beautiful and eye-catching to non-political me. I also felt that the actors did a great job, especially if the intent was to make Jesus more “human”.

Overall, I would definitely recommend the movie to anyone who is open to a historical depiction of the events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus. Just don’t expect a moving religious experience.

Killing Jesus receives 3 out of 5 stars

Guest Author: Debbie Sage

Killing jesus key art poster

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