Taking Up One’s Cross to Follow Jesus
Sacrifice and the Cost of Discipleship
The movie “Silence” directed by Martin Scorsese takes audiences on a profound journey into the depths of faith, sacrifice, and the cost of discipleship. While not a direct adaptation of Matthew 16:21-27, the film’s narrative and themes resonate closely with the biblical passage.
This essay will explore the connections between “Silence” and Matthew 16:21-27, highlighting the challenges faced by two Jesuit priests and the profound implications of taking up one’s cross in the pursuit of faith.
Silence is the kind of film that cuts at everyone’s self-perceptions, including my own. I haven’t been able to shake it, because I need to remember — now, frankly, more than ever — that I am not able nor responsible to save the world, let alone myself. How the world changes is a giant, cosmic mystery. To grow too far from that and become hardened in my own belief is a danger: I grow complacent and deaf, too willing to push others away.
In Silence, nobody is Christ but Christ himself. Everyone else is a Peter or a Judas, a faltering rejecter, for whom there may be hope anyway. What Scorsese has accomplished in adapting Endō’s novel is a close reminder that the path to redemption lies through suffering, and that it may not be I who must save the world so much as I am the one who needs saving.Alissa Wilkinson | VOX Movies
The Call to Discipleship
Matthew 16:21-27 begins with Jesus foretelling his suffering, death, and resurrection, while also calling his disciples to take up their own crosses and follow him.
In “Silence,” the character of Father Rodrigues, a Jesuit priest, is faced with a similar call as he travels to Japan in search of his missing mentor, Father Ferreira. Rodrigues faces the daunting task of spreading Christianity in a hostile environment where believers are persecuted and forced to renounce their faith.
In both the biblical passage and the film, the characters grapple with doubt and temptation. Father Rodrigues, portrayed brilliantly by Andrew Garfield, experiences a crisis of faith as he witnesses the suffering of his fellow Christians. He questions God’s silence and wrestles with the moral dilemma of renouncing his own faith to save others. Similarly, Jesus’ disciples in Matthew 16 are challenged to remain steadfast in their belief despite the imminent suffering and persecution that awaits them.
The Power of Silence
One of the central themes in both the movie and the biblical passage is the power of silence. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus commands his disciples not to reveal his true identity, exemplifying the importance of inner contemplation and discernment.
In “Silence,” silence becomes a metaphor for the spiritual journey of the characters. Rodrigues learns that sometimes silence can be a profound expression of faith, as it allows for a deeper connection with God and a better understanding of one’s purpose.
Sacrifice for the Greater Good
Matthew 16:24 states, “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'”
In “Silence,” the characters face the ultimate test of sacrifice. They are forced to choose whether to renounce their faith and save themselves or remain steadfast in their belief, even if it leads to their own suffering and death. This call to self-denial and sacrificing personal desires for the greater good is a prominent theme that resonates throughout the film.
Matthew 16:23 contains Jesus’ rebuke of Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” In “Silence,” the character of Kichijiro embodies the struggle of Judas, as he repeatedly betrays his fellow Christians. This parallel highlights the complexities of human nature and the constant battle between personal desires and the call to serve a higher purpose.
While the movie “Silence” shares thematic elements with Matthew 16:21-27, there are also notable differences between the two.
1. Setting and Context:
Matthew 16:21-27 takes place during the time of Jesus’ ministry, where he speaks to his disciples about his impending suffering, death, and resurrection. In contrast, “Silence” is set in 17th-century Japan, during a time of intense persecution of Christians. The film explores the challenges faced by Jesuit priests as they try to spread Christianity in a hostile environment.
2. Characters and Narrative:
In Matthew 16:21-27, the central focus is on Jesus and his disciples, particularly Peter. Jesus foretells his fate, and Peter rebukes him before Jesus responds with the call to take up one’s cross and follow him. “Silence,” on the other hand, focuses on the character of Father Rodrigues, a Jesuit priest, as he faces the challenges of faith, doubt, and moral dilemmas in his mission to find his missing mentor.
3. Themes of Doubt and Silence:
While both Matthew 16:21-27 and “Silence” delve into themes of doubt and silence, they approach them differently. In the biblical passage, Jesus rebukes Peter for his lack of understanding and encourages his disciples to embrace the cost of discipleship. In the movie, doubt and silence are explored through Father Rodrigues’ personal struggle, as he grapples with the silence of God in the face of suffering and the moral dilemma of renouncing his faith.
4. Interpretation of Sacrifice:
Matthew 16:21-27 emphasizes the call to self-denial and taking up one’s cross to follow Jesus. The movie “Silence” also addresses the concept of sacrifice, but in a different context. The characters in the film are faced with the choice of renouncing their faith to save themselves and others. The movie explores the complexities of this decision and raises questions about the nature of sacrifice and the cost of discipleship.
22nd Sunday of Year A
22nd 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.
THEMES: sacrifice, selflessness, and the cost of discipleship
1. “The Mission” (1986) – This historical drama tells the story of Jesuit missionaries in 18th-century South America who face the challenge of spreading their faith amidst political turmoil and personal sacrifice.
2. “Of Gods and Men” (2010) – Based on a true story, this French film follows a group of Trappist monks living in Algeria during the civil war of the 1990s. They face difficult choices and the ultimate question of whether to stay true to their calling, even in the face of danger.
3. “Calvary” (2014) – Set in modern-day Ireland, this darkly comedic drama centers around a priest who, after being threatened during a confession, must confront his own mortality and the challenges of his faith.
4. “The Hiding Place” (1975) – Based on the autobiography of Corrie ten Boom, this film tells the true story of a Dutch Christian woman who, along with her family, helps hide Jews during World War II. It portrays the sacrifices made in the pursuit of protecting others and living out one’s faith.
5. “Les Misérables” (2012) – Based on Victor Hugo’s novel, this musical explores themes of redemption and sacrifice. Characters like Jean Valjean and Javert grapple with their own crosses and the choices they make in the pursuit of justice.
6. “Hacksaw Ridge” (2016) – Inspired by a true story, this film portrays the life of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who serves as a medic during World War II. Doss’s unwavering commitment to saving lives while refusing to bear arms showcases his personal cross and the strength of his convictions.
7. “Schindler’s List” (1993) – Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece tells the true story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who risked his life to save over a thousand Jewish people during the Holocaust. Schindler’s journey is one of sacrifice, as he takes up the burden of saving lives in the face of immense danger.