Unlike other movies about Jesus, which end with the crucifixion, Gibson’s rendering finishes with a risen Christ in the tomb — a scene he deemed important. “Without the resurrection, our faith is dead,” he says. “The story’s not complete without it.”

However some viewers would like to see the scene fleshed out in greater detail."

When Mel asked for feedback at the screening, I told him that I thought he needed to establish the resurrection more clearly,” says Mission America Coalition Chairman/CEO Paul Cedar. “It’s extremely subtle, and someone who doesn’t know the story would never understand that scene.”

Gibson, Cedar says, responded to his comment, saying that he hopes the scene is provocative enough to prompt people to want to know more about the “rest of the story” and show up in churches asking questions.

Miracles on the Set

Apart from a grueling schedule full of night shoots, extremely cold weather conditions affecting the health of almost the whole cast and an ever-growing budget for “The Passion of the Christ,” signs and wonders along the way — or what director Mel Gibson calls “miracles” — were evidence to him that God’s hand was covering his project.

“This was not your normal movie set,” Gibson says.

Testimonies of phenomenal events began circulating the first month of shooting in November 2002, when during the crucifixion scene, lightning struck assistant director Jan Michelini. The young man in his 20s stood up and walked away un-harmed with everyone on the set in awe.

When Gibson returned to Italy 10 months later to shoot additional footage, lightning struck again — hitting Michelini a second time as well as actor Jim Caviezel, who plays Christ in the film. Again, no one was hurt.

Gibson and his producer, Steve McEveety, recall other miracles on the set: “A case I know about was of sight regained,” Gibson says. “It’s true! And hearing! It’s weird because things have happened even with people who are just associated with people working on this movie.”

McEveety adds, “There was even a little girl (the daughter of a person connected with the crew) who had epilepsy since she was born and up to 50 epileptic fits a day. And now, she doesn’t have them anymore.”

Gibson echoes McEveety’s amazement: “They’re completely gone. It really gives you a lot of hope. It’s like, ‘Wow!’ We’re not kidding around about this stuff; it’s happening!”

Caviezel is likewise aware of the miracles and personal changes people were experiencing on the set. “There were many cast members and people who’ve been deeply moved, and some accepted the Lord during our time there,” he says. Gibson adds: “There were agnostics and Muslims on the set that came into an experience of Christ.”

"I talk with the men who play Judas [Luca Lionello] and John [Hristo Jivkov],” says Italian actor Francesco De Vito (Peter). “We talk about this movie, and we talk about faith on the set and in our life, and there is something going on with many of us. We've become very focused. It has changed us.”  —Holly McClure

Anticipating the Reaction

While it’s a sure bet that Christians across North America will see and be deeply impacted by “The Passion of the Christ,” reaction from those who do not know Christ is less predictable. Most leaders agree that non-Christians — whether they’re agnostic, atheists, Mormons, Muslims or Buddhists — will have questions about what they just watched.