The Cross & the Pen: "Jesus Wept"
- Wednesday, March 03, 2004
Several years ago I asked the Lord to reveal His heart to me. That’s a bit of a scary request, I know…but I was sincere. Several things took place immediately thereafter, including my being introduced to a four-tape film set titled “The Gospel According to Matthew.” In it, actor Bruce Marchiano – who plays Jesus – showed viewers a side to the Messiah as we’d never witnessed before.
Dubbed “the smiling Jesus,” Bruce’s performance was widely acclaimed. Personally I didn’t care what the rest of the world thought. What mattered to me was that my view of Jesus changed. Jesus…bursting into laughter. Jesus …teaching by using a few playful shenanigans to make His point. Jesus…weeping for those who could not see who He was…and is…and shall always be.
Well, I can’t tell you how excited I was when Bruce Marchiano’s newest book (after "Matthew" he went on to be a best-selling author), “Jesus Wept” (Howard Publishing) landed on my desk. I set up a time for us to chat about his writing, his screen work, and about…Jesus!
Wanna listen in?
Eva: There were two or three things in the movie that touched me more than the rest. The first is when you, as Jesus, looked at young Matthew and without saying any words, said, “Follow me.” The second was at the end when you repeat the words, “Lo I will be with you always, even to the end of the age. ...” I actually began to weep.
Bruce: Oh, that can hurt a guy. One look at my face, huh? (Laughing)
Eva: No, no, no. That’s not what I mean. (Laughing with him.)
Bruce: I’m just joking with you. ...
Eva: I know. (More laughter) Okay, the third thing was at the very, very end of the video when you are walking toward the Sea of Galilee. You turn around … wonderful music is swelling behind you. ...
Bruce: That was good music.
Eva: ... and you are laughing ... and you say something. Now, Bruce this will be the most important question I ask in this interview. ...
Bruce: (Teasing in his voice) What am I saying?
Eva: What are you saying?
Bruce: (More teasing) I never answer that question and I never will. (Bela Lugosi laughter) I’m so mean! Actually, I don’t remember what I said.
Bruce: Yeah…to be honest. I’ve been asked that about a million times, and I really don’t know what I said. I’m sorry to say, it had nothing to do with ... it wasn’t spiritual. The director played a game with me. He just let the camera roll, and I was running out of space to walk so I turned around and said something like “Stop playing games with me.” He was very clever because he wanted to get that second smile. But, I could feel the moment. I could feel the wind blowing ... and the joy of it all.
Eva: Well, let’s talk about your latest book, “Jesus Wept.”
Bruce: Mmmm ...
Eva: Bruce, I remember where I was when each one of my books was conceived or someone brought the idea to me. What birthed the concept for “Jesus Wept?”
Bruce: 9/11. It wasn’t immediately thereafter ... it was toward the end of 2001. But what really spawned the whole thing was the post 9/11 judgmental rhetoric. I was horrified at people being told God is punishing us and this is what we get for allowing homosexuality. I was just horrified by what I call self-righteous ... I don’t even know what you call it. If there’s one thing ... you know, Jesus was really cool two thousand years ago. Are you recording this or just writing notes?
Eva: I’m recording this.
Bruce: Okay, you can write that down: Jesus was really cool two thousand years ago. The one thing that He railed about was self-righteous hypocrisy. There’s nothing more self-righteous than a sinner saved by grace saying, “God is judging YOU. YOU’RE the problem and I’m not.” Here’s the world at its most vulnerable ... they need Jesus. Here’s a gaping door to reach them because their hearts have been rendered raw and instead they get slapped with their mistakes. Completely the opposite of the heart of God. ...
Bruce: And I thought: people just need to know the heart of God in these moments of human pain and struggle.
Eva: As I said earlier, for millions of people your portrayal of Jesus brought Him into a new light. I know for myself and I’ve heard others say that because of that we begin to see Him as one who embraced a full body of experiences and emotions. Have you ever wondered what His favorite food might have been?
Bruce: Undoubtedly ice cream and chocolate cake. No two ways about it.
Eva: (Laughing) I have a theory that along the way He stopped and said, “What I wouldn’t give for a Mallomar ... sadly they haven’t been invented yet. ...”
Bruce: Yeah ... yeah ... chocolate chip cookies dipped in melted ice cream. That would have been His favorite.
Eva: Absolutely His favorite. (Sobering) What is it about the character of Jesus that allows Him to weep with us?
Bruce: You know, that’s really who He is. A minute ago you said something like, “God has a heart for people.” And, my thought is that God is a heart for His people. If you look through history, it’s God’s heart bleeding for His people. That’s the entire Bible in a nutshell. God doing everything He can to woo His people and His heart bleeding for their pain. The irony about it is that if there is anything unknown about Him, it’s that right there.
Eva: I think so.
Bruce: If there’s anything we’ve done through religion, it’s that we’ve surgically removed the heart from God.
Eva: When did it occur to you that when we weep, Jesus weeps with us?
Bruce: In making “Matthew,” I had to invest my life in an understanding of Him. What an actor does is he tries to understand the heart of the person he’s playing. I sought His heart instead of me always telling Him about mine, which He knows about it anyway. So I began this search for what is inside of His heart. I was blown away. There was one day in particular on the set ... without going into the details ... I gained a cutting edge understanding of the compassion and His heartbreak for lost people. When I say lost, there are people who are lost eternally and those who are born again but still fumbling around.
Eva: Was this the scene, “Woe to you Bethsaida?”
Bruce: Exactly ... yeah! That’s when I learned that God weeps for people’s pain.
Eva: It was interesting to me when I read [in “In the Footsteps of Jesus”] about the day you shot that scene because I’d had my own experience while at the ruins of Bethsaida during my trip to Israel. I actually thought I heard someone calling His name ... but instead of Jesus, I heard “Yeshua!” It was there that I realized that in His time and by His people, He was called Yeshua. I got so excited because that was a part of Him I hadn’t caught hold of yet.
Bruce: Yeah, you’ve got to grip those little things.
Eva: One of the things I thought of while reading “Jesus Wept,” was that as He stood before the grave of Lazarus ... and weeps ... He then said, “Father, I thank you. ...”
Bruce: That’s interesting because I’m working on a new book right now called “The Character of a Man.” It’s really a look at Jesus as a role model of masculinity. One whole chapter is on His humility. I end the chapter with that as a climatic story, that here is the Son of the Living God and in terms of who He is ... and His life ... He’s sleeping in the bushes ... (laughs) ... and He continually says “Thanks.” I mean, He was continually going through hell ... not just on the cross, but every day of His life ... and here He is in the middle of human tragedy in a situation where we tend to raise our fists against God and He’s just thankful as a man. We look at a scripture like that and we tend to see it as Him saying “grace,” but it’s not. It’s Him literally giving thanks.
Bruce: It’s beyond understanding. It’s so shockingly breathtaking to understand ... yeah. ...
Eva: Well, Brave Soul, you address an age-old issue in “Jesus Wept.” “If it hurts God when we hurt, why does He allow terrible things to happen?”
Bruce: Because there’s one thing He just doesn’t interfere with ... and I’m sure it comes out of His love and respect for us ... and that’s human will.
Eva: Right. One of my favorite lines from your book ... and I’m paraphrasing it just a bit .... is “what a terrible price is paid for the privilege of making choices.”
Bruce: Yeah, it’s just beyond ... I liken it to a dad and a mom with a teenage kid. ...
Eva: (Laughing) Been there, done that. ...
Bruce: Yeah, well, I haven’t (Laughs, too.), but you can sit there and beg your child to make good choices, but ultimately they make their own choices. And there’s a consequence to that choice. A good parent does the same thing as God ... no controlling the choices.
Eva: The one thing He can’t control is our will.
Bruce: Exactly. And, you know, there is the enemy’s greatest trick ... when God gets blamed for what we do. But God won’t interfere. He has that much love for us ... that much respect for us. ...
Eva: You ask a question that many Jews in Jesus’ day surely asked and many Christians and Jews continue to ask today. What kind of person could this Jesus be?
Bruce: How do you nutshell that in a phrase? Jesus was human selflessness to the nth degree. Here’s a man who has all the resources in the universe and He does one thing with it every day: He gives it away. That’s shocking. That’s such shocking, contrary to human nature behavior. What a bar raised in front of people’s own self. It’s a shock to the human conscience. It would be like Bill Gates giving everything away and taking a job in a car wash. People would say, “What kind of a guy would make that kind of choice.” Multiply that a billion times and you’ve got Jesus. He’s the only guy that has any rights to everything and He’s the only guy who doesn’t assert His rights to anything. He’s so shocking! Even in the face of people spitting in His face, He smiles and says, “I love you.”
Eva: It always blew my mind is that the first words recorded from the cross were, “Father forgive them.”
Bruce: It’s beyond comprehension.
Eva: It is! So many times I hear people say, “I’m not apologizing first.” And, I think, but there hangs Jesus. ...
Bruce: And He just keeps giving. It’s so contrary to human nature. It must have just baffled them.
Eva: Wow! He must have been God!
Bruce: Yeah! Baffled the people.
Eva: Bruce, will you pray for those who are weeping.
Bruce: Lord, we thank you so much; we thank you for your heart. If there’s one thing people don’t know it’s your heart. They know your activities and all the clichés, but they don’t know your heart. Lord, as much as Eva Marie and I know ... we don’t even know anything. So, Lord God, we submit ourselves and others that they will know your heart, Lord God. People who are in pain ... the answer to that is your words, “come to me ... come to me.” We ask you Lord that by the goodness of your Holy Spirit you will draw all men to you ... that you will use every bit of pain, Lord God, that you would draw people to you, Lord God. We lay this article at your feet, that people in pain will find it ... and that people in pain will find you. We give you our lives, Lord God, that you would be glorified. In your precious, name, Jesus. Amen.
For more information about Bruce Marchiano's ministry, click here.
Award-winning national speaker, Eva Marie Everson's work includes “Intimate Moments with God and Intimate Encounters with God” (Cook). She is the author of “Shadow of Dreams,” “Summon the Shadows” and “Shadow of Light.” (Barbour Fiction) She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at www.EvaMarieEverson.com
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