Consider this post as both "movie review" and "op-ed".
The recent release of two movies ("Risen" and "The Young Messiah") have prodded me to repost my blog from Eastertime last year. That post appears follows my comments on the above-mentioned films. Generally, I want to praise those recent efforts by those who have striven to bring the life of Christ to the screen with such mastery of film-making techniques and production. It is very much appreciated and I hope and trust the results will bear evangelistic fruit. There are two themes that keep popping up, however, that are problematic and remain pet peeves of mine.
One is the manner in which Mary, the Mother of God, is always sent packing ... usually on the back of a donkey ... off into the sunset ... the minute the Crucifixion is over. This is error, misses such an opportunity for even better story-telling and character development, and leaves the true "rest of the story" untold. This scenario was the case in "Risen". Mary is a prominent figure in the early history of the Church. She was present at both Pentacost and the Ascension. And so much more. (But that will be left for another day.)
The second issue is where a movie's narrative focuses on and follows the evolution of Jesus' "finding and understanding his powers" and/or gaining a knowledge of Who He Really Is. This is the theme of "The Young Messiah". Jesus was the Son of God, but not only did He come from God ... He Was God. From the beginning. Who humbled Himself to come to us in the form of a baby. And who lived our human existence in every way but sin. He Always Knew Who He Was. As did His Mother.
The details of all of that and how we know it follow below under my comments regarding the release of "Killing Jesus" last year.
My feelings regarding that film remain. As to the more recent film efforts ... well, I think one of them has vaulted into my list of all-time top ten favorites.
First, there was "Risen". The "official synopis" of the story: "Roman military tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) remains set in his ways after serving 25 years in the army. He arrives at a crossroad when he's tasked to investigate the mystery of what happened to Jesus (Cliff Curtis) following the Crucifixion. Accompanied by trusted aide Lucius (Tom Felton), his quest to disprove rumors of a risen Messiah makes him question his own beliefs and spirituality. As his journey takes him to places never dreamed of, Clavius discovers the truth that he's been seeking."
I loved it from beginning to end. (Except for the part where Mary disappears after having played a bit part during Jesus' burial and a couple of biblical bloopers which I'll get to.). It is the one that goes into my "favorites" list. It was beautifully produced and edited. It was an historically realistic period piece to the extent that when I walked out into the parking lot after the movie, I experienced a severe case of time warp ... I was still in 1st century Palestine. The story was tight. As was the dialogue. I thouht the casting superb. Some folks with whom I've discussed the movie didn't like the casting of Jesus. Not "Jesus" enough. I, however, found the "charisma" with which the character was imbued satisfying. The only real blip: The Ascension happened on Mount Olivet with 120 disciples present ... not near the Sea of Galilee with only the 11 apostles present. I don't want to tell you more ... except to say: Go see it.
The second film, "The Young Messiah". The "official synopis": "Mary (Sara Lazzaro), Joseph (Vincent Walsh) and 7-year-old Jesus (Adam Greaves-Neal) embark on a journey from Egypt to Nazareth after the young boy miraculously brings someone back to life. When King Herod (Jonathan Bailey) orders the death of the child, Roman centurion Severus (Sean Bean) starts to pursue the family across the desert. As Mary and Joseph worry about his safety, Jesus' natural curiosity allows him to understand more about the world and his remarkable powers."
The casting is wonderful, especially the casting for the young "Jesus". He is totally in sync with how I would envision him given all accounts ... both biblical and traditional. Another wonderful period piece. Again, the pitfall is this propensity for focusing on how Jesus "grew into his powers". He always had them .... from the time of his birth. And before. This film focuses on the Child Jesus exhibiting powers that he doesn't quite undersand ... who am I and from whence do My powers come ... I need Mom and Dad's help with that ... at the age of 7. The truth: during His exodus into Egypt as an infant .... pagan idols were falling at His passing. The miracles started at His Birth.
Again, go see it. For me ... because the premise is so engrained into the plotline itself ... it misses the mark and doesn't become a an all-time "favorite". Sorry ... I am a purist at heart.
Still ... for the efforts made and the overall results: Bravo.
Enjoy them both and may they enhance your journey during the Easter Season! And for my many Jewish friends .... know that I wish you all a Blessed Passover!
Now to last year's post in it's entirety where you'l find my discussion as to the Truth relative to Jesus knowing that he was God...
Of course, Jesus always knew who He was. He was, after all, God. This is something we as humans seem to forget and/or are somehow unable to grasp by virtue of our limited minds. That's understandable. The manner by which this reality of Jesus' All-Knowing Divine Nature was subverted in the dramatization of "Killing Jesus" has gnawed at me every minute of every day since I saw the movie last weekend.
The number of historical, theological, and semantic errors in "Killing Jesus" was staggering and distressing. For those of us of faith, the movie was, in two words, regressive and heretical. One of the foremost ideas put forth was that Jesus, as a result of equal parts delusion, ego-centered zealousness, and revelation from John the Baptist, somehow discovered along the way that he was special, on some sort of a mission, sent from God. Such an idea denies Jesus' Divinity, nullifies the doctrine of the Holy Trinity - God in Three Persons - and leaves us with nothing better than the image of a self-idealized, revolutionary prophet on a political mission who's flying by the flap of his robe and a lot of on the job training.
History matters. Scripture written, preserved, and translated across centuries matters. (This I know full well, having had the opportunity to myself translate the New Testament directly from the Greek some thirty odd years ago. While there are some words and phrases that will always be subject to debate and interpretation ... those ideas and semantics that "Killing Jesus" sought to open up to debate and interpretation are, no matter what version of the Bible one adheres to, well settled and critical to the essence of faith.
In determining if Jesus knew who he was ... one only need refer to the Gospel according to John ... from the beginning. For me ... it still remains the most powerful portion of my translation experience and gives us all we really need to know about Jesus ... as God and Man ... to know who He was and from whence He came.
"In the beginning was the Word;
And the Word was with God,
And the Word was God.
He was present to God in the beginning.
Through him all things came into being,
and apart from him nothing came to be.
Whatever came to be in him found life,
life for the Light of Men.
The light shines in the Darkness,
a darkness that did not overcome it."
"He was in the world,
and through him the world was made,
yet the world did not know who he was.
To his own he came,
yet his own did not accept him.
Any who did accept him
He empowered to become children of God."
"The Word became fleshand dwelt amongst us,
and we have seen His glory:
The glory of an only Son coming from the Father,
filled with enduring love."
First, it lets us know that "the Word" of God is not print on pages in a book, but rather Jesus, the God-Man.
Secondly, how could Jesus, as God and the second person of the Holy Trinity, possibly not know that he was God? Part of his humbling himself was to confine His Majesty in a baby's body ... in swaddling clothes. From "the beginning", Jesus knew who he was and why he came to us on Earth. The Virgin Mary, His Blessed Mother, was the first product of God's gift of salvation. Tradition (and here I refer to Mary of Agreda's Mystical City of God) has it that at the time of the Holy Birth, Mary was attended by the Archangels St. Michael and St. Gabriel and that before she was able to receive and nurture Him as Mother, she first prostrated herself before Jesus - the infant - to pay homage to Him as her personal savior.
Mary also knew who Jesus was, why he came, and what she was in store for and would have to witness. She was given that knowledge so as to be fully informed when giving her "fiat" at the time of the Annunciation. Her sorrow and agony would be joined to His during the ultimate sacrifice of the Crucifixion.
Christ's co-existence as Divine Preeminance and Man-God is further set forth in Colossians 1:15-20.
"He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creatures. In him everything in heaven and earth was created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominations, principalities or powers; all were created through him, and for him He is before all else that is. In him everything continues in being. It is he who is at the head of the body, the church; He who is the beginning, the first-born of the dead, so that primacy may be his in everything. It pleased God to make absolute fullness reside in him and, by means of him, to reconcile everything in his person, both on earth and in the heavens, making peace, through the blood on His Cross."
Oh, yes, Jesus knew who He was and what He was about as he came to be amongst us and lived a life ... from His first breath - focused on "His Father's Business". (That does not negate the fact that, at times, he willingly suspended that knowledge and the comfort derived from it to better enter into our human experience or, at the end, to perfect the sacrifice He offered on our behalf to the Father.) To present otherwise, as was done in "Killing Jesus" is pure heresy.
And oh, by the way ... Jesus didn't have a younger brother called James ... a brother with whom he had to consult regarding His Life's mission. Last I checked, God doesn't usually consult with anyone or seek approval regarding his plans.
My thoughts. Would love to hear what you thought of the movie.
Addendum: Would love to hear your thoughts as to all the movies mentioned ... Did you see them and what did you think?