Biblical films that surprise me and move me are the only ones I recommend, and that’s not an easy thing to do since I am a very critical viewer with a high aversion to cheesiness. But I am glad to say “The Young Messiah” was worth the admission cost and worth my two hours and months of waiting. Here’s why:
—–1. Imagination: films like this are a great example of what St. Ignatius of Loyola calls “contemplation”, which is none other than using our God-given imagination to picture the Scriptures and put ourselves in the Biblical scenes. Doing such dedicates our mind to God, allows the Holy Spirit to help us see something we hadn’t seen before, notice a detail we didn’t know, discover God in a deeper and more profound way. Also, contemplation helps us not waste our mental power on lowly things, or in other words: dedicating our imagination and wits to contemplation keeps us from doing stupid things with it, wasting our imagination on perversions and derogatory daydreams. Your mind was made to think about beauty, glory, endless awe and wonder, lost in the infinity of God. And movies/stories like this show us how to do it: it all starts with a question, and it can be as simple as wondering how Jesus was like when He was still growing up.
—–2. Joseph: the man we see here guarding the Holy Family is no wimp, but he lives up to one of his many nicknames: The Terror of Demons. Joseph is depicted as courageous, loving, strong, gentle, and ready to die to protect Jesus and Mary. I got to see this movie with a group of friends, and it was overwhelming for us all how inspiring Joseph was in the film, especially when he tells Mary that she should not fear anything, but that the world’s most powerful and fearsome armies should fear her instead! Think about it! She is the mother of God, and God the Father custom made her to be the mother of His Son. God even honored and respected Mary enough to let her choose! So if anything were to happen to her, all Heaven’s legions would probably swarm down on her attackers.
Joseph knows how special Mary is, and he is prepared to do anything for her and Jesus. For more about this great saint, please see my post on Not the Average Joe.
—–3. Mary: If there’s one near impossible role to play on film, it’s the role of Mary. No film has depicted her up to my standards, not even the epic “Passion of the Christ” does the Queen enough justice! But this movie actually gets pretty close, and in fact is my favorite depiction of our Lady. We see her ponder in her heart about her Son, we see how humble she is: humble enough to wonder if she can bear the suffering that is destined for her little boy. Just as we see Jesus growing and increasing in wisdom and stature, we see also His mother doing the same: growing in strength needed to surrender her child to the sacrifice He was sent to accomplish.
But perhaps what made my eyes water the most was watching Mother tell Son His story. And how she described the Annunciation, the simple beauty of the moment history changed course forever, and it changed because she said “Yes” to God’s proposal. This scene is hard to discuss anymore than that, so you’ll have to just see for yourself what I mean.
—–4. And the best for last: the boy Jesus. We see Him bursting with healing, and there was such power and desire to do good, so much but I’d like to point out two events in the film. The first is when Jesus raises a boy from the dead, and not just any boy. But a boy who bullied Jesus and wanted to hurt Him. So we see here Jesus not only forgiving His enemy, but healing him also. And when the bully rises, he continues striking Jesus, beating him from where he left off. This reminds me of us: how many times the Lord has brought us back from certain spiritual death, yet we deny Him and betray Him, abandon Him and even curse Him so we can return to our miserable sins. Truly we are a tragedy when we do so, when we reject Love Himself.
Another event is when the Roman Centurion, Severus, has caught the boy Jesus at last. There really is no escape for the Holy Family, except that Severus has seen the incredible might and goodness of Jesus. He has seen the healings, he has heard the witness accounts, and he knows that the world needs this — he himself needs this, this Jesus. You see it in Severus’ eyes that violence and death has defeated him (Severus was the one who executed Herod’s command to massacre the children of Bethlehem), and that he now wants more to life. He wants life rather than death, healing instead of killing, and goodness instead of malice. And all that life, healing and goodness was standing right in front of him.
We should also know that by defecting on his mission to assassinate Jesus, Severus risks being reported to his superiors and then executed for treason. Severus is willing to risk his own life to let Jesus live on, and so we can see him here as a sort of first martyr for the faith!
So when we next see Severus, we see him carrying the toy camel that belonged to Jesus. It’s a relic. And it reminds Severus of the hope that this boy Jesus has brought into the world, and changed everything. Think about it: if He can bring people back from the dead, wouldn’t that change all we know about the world? If He can reverse absolute and certain death, what else can He do?! And of course we find out what more He can do at His Resurrection.
So knowing this, we also must decide if we let Jesus live, or do we kill Him? Will I let the Lord live in my life and heal me of my wounds and evils? Or will I kill Him by rejecting Him, and thereby kill myself also? Will I listen to my conscience which wants goodness and life to win, or will I listen to the Evil One and choose death and defeat?
—–BONUS: Jesus Wept. There is a scene where the boy Jesus asks an old rabbi about what happened in Bethlehem seven years ago. And when He learns of Herod’s slaughter of babies, we see tears in Jesus’ young eyes. He knows now that all those children were martyrs for Him. They were massacred to shield Him, they died so that He could bring all back to new life, and a glorious life at that. And He will make it up to them by dying for them in return, in love.
—–For a great professional and in-depth review, check Deacon Greydanus’ here.
—–More about how much Jesus knew while He was increasing in wisdom and stature.