Every year on Good Friday, Mars Hill Church in Seattle gathers "in funeral-like fashion" to remember the literal suffering and bloody murder of Jesus Christ.
This year is no exception as the well-known church of nearly 10,000 weekly attendees prepares to debut a new film on the crucifixion of Christ.
Like Mel Gibson's famous "The Passion of the Christ," the roughly 30-minute film does not skimp on blood and intensity. But unlike "The Passion," Mars Hill's "Good Friday" places greater emphasis on the theological weight of the event, according to Nick Bogardus, media relations director for the church.
"Whereas The Passion may have tried to tell the story with chronological and historical accuracy, we're trying to make the theological weight of the event – the substitutionary death of the Son of God in our place for our sins – as vivid as possible," he said.
Bogardus said he hopes people "would be led to worship at the fact that God's Son died in our place for our sins – at the will of the Father (Acts 2:23) and of His own accord (John 10:18)."
A horror-like Good Friday film at Mars Hill is nothing new. The church has created and shown a solemn and bloody film in previous years. But this year the project took up more professional talent – including the production designer for the TV show "24" and the makeup artist who worked on "The Passion" and "No Country for Old Men" – and was produced on the "Spartacus" set at Universal Studios.
The script was written by the church's creative director, Jesse Bryan, who just finished his first feature for Hollywood. And according to preaching and teaching pastor Mark Driscoll, the dialogue in the film is "basically a word-for-word summary of the four gospels rolled into one, with a bit of creative license."
The film, which was three months in the making, will be shown on Mars Hill's nine campuses and also streamed on the Internet for free.
"On Good Friday we remember that the cross is something done by us: we murdered God," said Driscoll on the church blog. "Then on Easter Sunday we remember that the cross is something done for us: God died in our place to forgive our sins."
On Sunday, Mars Hill will feature footage from a recent trip Driscoll took to Israel.
Attendees will be shown the place where Jesus prayed before his death, where he was held for trial, where he was crucified, and where he rose from death.
"I am really excited to weave video footage in with preaching to show that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are actual, historical, and factual events," Driscoll said.
In the run-up to this weekend's anticipated services, the teaching pastor reminded the congregation of who Jesus is.
"Jesus lived the perfect life," he said. "He died a substitutionary death, and he rises to give the gift of righteousness."
"Come to Jesus, receiving his death for our sin, his righteousness for our unrighteousness," Driscoll preached. "Let him do a work for us; let him do a work in us so that by grace he might do a work through us that wouldn't contribute to our righteousness but would be an outflowing of his, gifted to us."
Easter services will also be streamed online.
On the Web: http://www.marshillchurch.org/