WHAT TO SEE: Paul, Apostle of Christ
Nero probably didn’t fiddle while Rome burned, but history does record that Nero blamed the disaster on the Christians and launched a brutal persecution. That’s where “Paul, Apostle of Christ” begins — at a time when the faithful are in hiding, the lions are well fed, and the burning bodies of martyrs light the streets.
The Acts of the Apostles ends with Paul preaching openly while under a rather generous house arrest, but this film is set a few years later, with Paul (James Faulkner) confined to Mamertine Prison, Rome’s version of death row. Through bribery, Luke (Jim Caviezel) is spirited in to visit Paul, partly to bring solace and partly to record Paul’s memoirs. Meanwhile, Aquila and Priscilla (John Lynch and Joanne Whalley), who had ministered with Paul and returned to Rome to help lead the Church there, try to hold together an underground Christian community whose members are divided over whether to revolt, to continue their clandestine presence in Rome, or to flee to the safety of Ephesus.
Prison prefect Mauritius (Olivier Martinez) isn’t a fan of Nero and doesn’t see the gentle, aging Paul as a threat to the Roman Empire, so he follows the emperor’s orders without enthusiasm. After repeated prayers and sacrifices to Roman gods fail to heal his dying young daughter, Mauritius in desperation turns to Luke, the Christian physician.
Ultimately, however, this film isn’t about miraculous healings or winning converts. It’s about perseverance in faith in the direst of circumstances, as Paul wrote from his Roman cell: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).
Life is short, heaven eternal. We would do well to apply to our own sufferings the words of Paul in one scene as he reassures Christian prisoners about to be fed to the lions: “It will be a moment of pain, but only a moment… and then we shall be home in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ forever.”
GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.