Saturday, January 17, 2009


Early this morning, I began to think about one of the scenes from Martin Scorsese's film, "The Last Temptation of Christ," the one where Jesus asks Judas to betray him, a betrayal that will result in Jesus' crucifixion.

An outraged disciple, Judas (played by Harvey Keitel): "If you were me, could you betray your master?"

A subdued teacher, Jesus (played by Willem Defoe): "No. That's why God gave me the easier job."

While looking for the above scene with the subdued Jesus, I ended up listening to an earlier scene where Jesus is talking with Judas, and Judas says bluntly,

"I don't believe you."

Was that a conceit by Martin Scorsese?

Martin Scorsese's 1988 film is based on a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, who also wrote "Zorba the Greek." "The Last Temptation of Christ" is an extraordinary meditation on Kazantzakis' book. The story is not based on the Gospels. It rings true to me. In Gene Siskel's words, "This Jesus is more than a standard misunderstood God we see in most biblical films. This Jesus knows that it is harder to be a good man than to be God."

I don't call myself a Christian or anything else, but each time I re-watch "The Last Temptation of Christ," I meditate on how difficult it can be to discern the right action in complex situations where no clear answers are forthcoming.

"I pray that I can be a kinder person."
(Bob Dylan, from CHRONICLES, VOL 1.)


Zhoen said...

Tony Robinson does a very interesting take on Judas in Tales of the Madhouse. The rest of the segments are pretty much Crap Christianity, but his is amazing.

Anonymous said...

There's an interview with Chris Hedges posted here that you might like. This is the part I think is relevant:

"Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said, 'You make a moral choice, you act, and then you ask for forgiveness.' That’s a wise statement. You make the choice, because you can’t sit around hemming and hawing forever. You ask forgiveness, because, to quote Paul, 'We look through a glass darkly.' What appears moral and good in our eyes may not appear good and moral in the eyes of others, even our friends. No act is absolutely moral or good, because we don’t live in a utopia where we have those absolutes."

Dale said...


am said...

Zhoen -- Thanks for the link. I'll look for that.

ThomasLB -- Yes. I did like the interview, which prompted me to listen a speech he gave at Maryknoll and to listen to what he had to say about Gaza in a 2-part YouTube video.

R.L. Bourges said...

I'll definitely be back to follow the links. For now, I carry away Siskel's 'harder to be a good man than to be God', with a nod and a thanks to you, am.

word verification says: storpizi( but I prefer my pizza home made.)