In order to accurately understand Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, it is important to understand the portrayal of his enemy, Satan. The first scene in which Satan appears in the film is when Jesus is praying the Garden of Gethsemane. Whenever Jesus is praying for God to spare him for “traps they set for him,” Satan appears in the background. Although this doesn’t appear in the biblical source, it serves to represent Jesus’ struggle with accepting his fate and his overall temptation not to go through with his crucifixion. He then tempts Jesus statings
Who is your father? Who are you?
A snake is then used to represent a physical presence of Satan when Jesus is at the most vulnerable moment in the film and over his life. Below is a representation of Satan’s presence looking over Jesus and the snake that is literally squashed when Jesus stomps on him. This is significant in a couple ways. First, the snake is a classic representation of Satan due to the story of the Garden of Eden where Satan took the form of a snake. So this scene is referencing that aspect. And second, when Jesus stomps the snake, that represents the over message and theme of the movie that Jesus is defeating Satan. As the movie was made in mind with Mel Gibson’s religious views, these two pictures help represent them.
In discussing the appearance of Satan, it appears that Satan exhibits neither masculine nor feminine qualities. This is represent the fact that he is not a man. The bugs and maggots in his nose also convey this. An interesting fact is that Mel Gibson cast a women to play Satan to help strongly differentiate Satan from being seen as a man, but rather a non-human being.
The second time Satan appears in the film in when Judas is being tormented by demons. Satan is depicted in the background while the demons who appear as children torture and taunt him. The scene is depicted without dialogue but it is implied that through his tormenting that Judas is led to hang himself due to his torture by Satan. This rope with is on a dead donkey is covered in maggots, which further strengthen the influence by Satan on Judas death as Satan was depicted with maggots in his nose earlier. It is implied Satan gave Judas the reasoning, the temptation and the means for him to commit suicide. This scene is important because it shows that Satan does have to power to make individuals give up and it worked on Judas as opposed to it not working on Jesus in the first scene. This also strengthens Jesus’s strength and resistance to temptation which is important to the film and shows that Judas wasn’t as strong mentally as Jesus.
One last section to discuss when discussing the role of Satan in the film is the last scene in the film. Whenever Jesus dies, Satan is shown screaming and looking upwards. This represents the main theme of the film that Jesus was greater than Satan and “conquered” him in a sense. As Jesus dies, Satan is shown screaming, looking upward and parts of him flying off, showing his own defeat.