Movie Connection

Word Sunday

The Apostle


Peter’s Confession About Jesus

(Mt 16:13-20)
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The Challenges Faced by A Spiritual Leader


The Apostle, directed by and starring Robert Duvall, is a thought-provoking film that explores the themes of faith, redemption, and the challenges faced by a spiritual leader.

Drawing inspiration from the biblical passage of Matthew 16:13-20, the movie delves into the concept of confessing one’s belief in Christ and the transformative power of such a confession.

We’ll first examine the parallels between The Apostle and Peter’s confession of Christ, shedding light on the profound implications of faith and personal revelation.

Then we will look at a few major differences.

NOTE: Rather than presenting a Catholic viewpoint, The Apostle’s Pentecostal preaching and fellowship (which embraces Southern Gothic fundamentalist Christianity), may take a while to get used to. Sonny uses voice, body language, and gestures to convey the Gospel message with intensity and conviction. He leads worship with uplifting gospel songs, creating an atmosphere of praise and adoration.

Search for Identity and Purpose

In Matthew 16:13-20, Jesus poses a crucial question to his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” This inquiry prompts introspection and forces the disciples to examine their own beliefs and understanding of Jesus’ identity.

Similarly, in The Apostle, the character played by Robert Duvall, Sonny Dewey, embarks on a spiritual journey to discover his true identity and purpose. After he learns that his wife Jessie (Farrah Fawcett) is having an affair, he beats her lover into a coma and flees the state of Texas where he opens a new church with the help of a retired reverend (John Beasley). While battling personal demons and injecting new life into his congregation, Sonny dates a radio station worker (Miranda Richardson) and searches for peace in his new life.

Through his experiences and encounters, Sonny grapples with his faith, ultimately leading to a profound confession of belief in God and the transformative power of forgiveness.

The Confession of Faith

Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, serves as a pivotal moment in the biblical narrative. It demonstrates Peter’s unwavering faith and understanding of Jesus’ divinity.

In a parallel manner, Sonny’s confession of faith in The Apostle showcases his personal revelation and transformation. After a series of struggles, Sonny confesses his faith in Christ to his congregation in a powerful climax to the film.

The scene, inspired by Matthew 16:13-20, is emotionally charged and deeply moving. The Apostle delves into the implications of confession, and the impact it can have on a person’s life. As Sonny begins to confess his faith, his congregation reacts with awe, and the moment is filled with an electric atmosphere. In the end, Sonny is redeemed, and his life is changed forever.

The Apostle is a powerful piece of art that explores the depth and nuance of faith, and the power of confession. As Sonny declares his belief in Christ, we are reminded of the transformative potential of faith, and the courage it takes to stand up for one’s beliefs. We are also reminded of the importance of having a faith community to support and encourage us, even during the toughest times.

The Impact of Personal Revelation

In Matthew 16:17, Jesus acknowledges that Peter’s confession is not derived from human knowledge but from a revelation from God. This personal revelation not only solidifies Peter’s faith but also serves as the foundation for the early Christian community.

In The Apostle, Sonny’s personal revelation not only transforms his own life but also impacts the lives of those around him. His confession of faith ignites a spiritual revival, inspiring others to reevaluate their own beliefs and experiences.

Both Peter and Sonny face significant challenges as spiritual leaders. Peter, as the appointed leader of the early Christian church, must navigate the complexities of spreading Jesus’ teachings and facing opposition from various quarters. 

Similarly, Sonny faces personal and external challenges, including the consequences of his past actions and the resistance he encounters in establishing his own church. 

Both characters exhibit resilience and a steadfast commitment to their calling, despite the obstacles they face.

Similarities between the Apostle Peter and Sonny Dewey

1. Strong Faith: Both Sonny Dewey and the Apostle Peter are portrayed as individuals with unwavering faith in their respective beliefs.

2. Transformation: Both characters undergo a significant transformation in their lives. Sonny Dewey experiences a spiritual awakening and seeks redemption, while the Apostle Peter goes from being a fisherman to becoming one of Jesus’ closest disciples.

3. Leadership: Both Sonny Dewey and the Apostle Peter demonstrate leadership qualities. Sonny establishes his own church and becomes a charismatic preacher, while Peter becomes a key figure in the early Christian movement.

Major Differences

1. Historical and Biblical Context

– Peter’s confession takes place during the time of Jesus’ ministry, where he poses the question to his disciples directly.

– The Apostle is set in a contemporary context, exploring the personal journey of Sonny Dewey, a charismatic preacher, as he grapples with his faith and seeks redemption.

2. Characters and Personal Journeys

– Peter is one of Jesus’ closest disciples, chosen to be the foundation of the early Christian church.

– Sonny Dewey, portrayed by Robert Duvall, is a flawed and complex individual who faces personal struggles and seeks spiritual transformation. Case in point: Peter never hits anyone in the head and puts them in a coma.

3. Nature of the Confession

– Peter’s confession is a response to Jesus’ question, affirming his belief in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God.

– Sonny’s confession, on the other hand, is a personal revelation that emerges from his own spiritual journey and experiences.

4. Religious Context

– Peter’s confession plays a significant role in the establishment of the early Christian faith, emphasizing the divinity of Jesus and the foundation of the church.

– The Apostle explores themes of personal faith, redemption, and the challenges faced by a spiritual leader, without directly addressing the broader religious context.


The Apostle

21st Sunday of Year A

While these films may not be explicitly labeled as “Christian” movies, they do not exclude Christian themes or values. Not all scenes are suitable for worship or parish educational situations.

1. “Calvary” (2014): This drama follows a good-hearted priest who grapples with the challenges of his faith and the sins of his community. It delves into themes of forgiveness, personal redemption, and the complexities of religious devotion.

2. “First Reformed” (2017): Directed by Paul Schrader, this thought-provoking film centers around a troubled pastor who undergoes a spiritual crisis. It explores themes of faith, environmentalism, and the struggle to find purpose and meaning.

3. “The Mission” (1986): Set in the 18th century, this historical drama examines the clash between Jesuit missionaries and colonial powers in South America. It delves into themes of faith, sacrifice, and the complexities of religious conversion.

4. “Chariots of Fire” (1981): This Academy Award-winning film tells the story of two athletes, one a devout Christian, preparing for the 1924 Olympics. It explores themes of faith, determination, and the pursuit of one’s passions in the face of societal expectations.

5. “Of Gods and Men” (2010): Based on a true story, this French film centers on a group of Trappist monks in Algeria facing a moral and spiritual crisis during a time of political conflict. It delves into themes of faith, sacrifice, and the challenge of living out one’s religious beliefs.