Viewers find ‘Passion’ film extraordinary

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE —Tears were still streaming down Stephanie Nicholson’s face as the Everett woman walked out of a private screening of "The Passion of the Christ" Monday.

She had endured more than two hours of watching Jesus suffer.

"Your heart aches so much because you can’t imagine someone going through that just for you," Nicholson, 33, said as she stood in the lobby of the Regal Mountlake 9 cinemas with her husband, Kurt, 35, who also had been moved to tears.

"It makes Jesus seem more real. It’s like I have more insight into knowing him."

The Nicholsons were among the first people in Snohomish County to see the new Mel Gibson film, which opens to the public Wednesday. Their church, Calvary Fellowship in Mountlake Terrace, rented out a 444-seat cinema for two screenings Monday for members of the congregation and their friends.

The church’s pastor, Wayne Taylor, wanted the private screenings so he could introduce the film and then lead a prayer afterward.

After the first showing, Taylor asked if anyone who wasn’t a Christian was ready to accept Jesus into their lives.

Ten people did so, he said.

"Everyone should see this," Taylor said. "You’ll never doubt God’s love for you again."

The graphically violent film "is numbing to your mind and heart," he said. "For a believer, for someone who knows Christ personally, it drains you. You feel wrung out a bit."

The violent depiction of Jesus’ suffering earned the movie an R rating, which means children under 17 must be accompanied by adults.

Taylor didn’t hesitate in taking his sons.

Riley Taylor, 16, said the violence was an integral part of the movie. "It was really necessary to see what Christ went through for us," he said. "If you see Jesus movies, they really downplay the harshness of it. But it was a brutal way to die."

As Sara Brown, 65, was leaving the theater, she was still stunned by the film.

"I’m a Christian, and I’ve read the story of the Passion many times, but this was a visual experience," the Edmonds woman said. "It’s hard to find the words to describe what I feel. It was a very moving experience. It was a real affirmation of my faith. I just hope it will bring others to that."

Nicholson said she is saddened by accusations that the movie is anti-Semitic.

"Jesus was a Jew," she said. "What the movie showed was crowds of Romans and Jews, but that’s who was living in that era."

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