A new ad by the Church of England depicting a former drug user playing the role of Jesus in a re-enactment of the Passion Play before Easter is looking to send a message that faith and hope triumph over struggle.
"From bereavement to addiction, from homelessness to imprisonment, Easter is a reminder that suffering doesn't have the last word and that love is more powerful than the grave. Each of the stories is a testimony to the fact that love wins," said the Rev. Arun Arora, director of communications for the CofE.
"As the Church across the globe celebrates Easter day we wanted to make a film that highlighted the stories of individuals who have come through suffering to the Easter joy of faith in Jesus."
As a press release points out, the ad is based on the text of Psalm 22, with several characters struggling on their way through life asking questions such as "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" a reference to Christ's Words on the Cross.
As the Telegraph reported, the role of Jesus in the short film is played by 46-year-old Rob Jones, a former drug addict who spent time in prison before turning his life around. In the ad, he is made to wear a crown of syringes, similar to the crown of thorns that Jesus is said to have worn.
"I haven't died but I feel like I've been resurrected away from a life of crime and trouble to peace, love, understanding, calmness," Jones said.
The CofE statement said that Jones had been on the streets since a young boy, losing his older brother to suicide, and living in woods, streets, under car parks and behind shopping centers, falling into a drug addiction.
"He found himself on the streets of Halifax after a failed relationship and intrigued by an open church on a Saturday, he walked into the Ebenezer Methodist church — and the rest as they say, is history," the statement explained.
"He came to faith at the Saturday Gathering and has slowly been rebuilding his life. And after years of being estranged from his family, he celebrated his 46th birthday in January with his mother at the Saturday Gathering Place."
The other characters briefly depicted in the film include other drug addicts, former prisoners, and a local white witch who has since joined the CofE.
"Our brief to the filmmaker was to reflect the doubt and forsakenness that life throws at you and to track the journey from grim reality and to bleed into the colour of joy. We are delighted with the result which reflects the journey into joy," Arora added.
Back in November, another short ad for the Lord's Prayer by the CofE was banned by U.K. cinemas in order to avoid offending people of other faiths or of no faith.
"This advert is about as offensive as a carol service or church service on Christmas Day," the Most Rev. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said at the time.
"Let the public judge for themselves rather than be censored or dictated to," he added.