What about those early childhood years of Jesus? Other than the story at the end of Luke 2 when He stayed at the temple to speak with the Rabbi’s when He was twelve, the Scriptures are silent about the childhood of the young Messiah.
Recently, I had the honor of screening the new film, The Young Messiah at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention. The film debuts nationwide on March 11 and while “movie reviews” are not the thing I normally write, it seemed my early screening of the film gave me the opportunity to write about this film.
The movie begins in Alexandria, Egypt when Jesus is seven years old and follows the family on their journey from Egypt back to Nazareth and their early struggles return to the village they left nearly eight years ago.
The boy Jesus discovers He is different. He heals a bird early in the film and performs a special miracle of raising from the dead another boy who died while he was bullying Jesus. That miracle alarms other Jews living in their community. Finally, through a series of events along with a dream given by God to Joseph, the small family decides it is time to return to Nazareth.
There is a demonic character who plays the role of instigating various situations aimed at hurting and even attempting to kill the child Jesus. Only Jesus can see the creepy looking character and while he is prominent in the first half of the film, the role has a relatively minor appearance in the second half.
In the second half of the film however, there is a Roman centurion (played by Sean Bean) who participated in the slaughter of babies at Bethlehem. He is commissioned to find this “special child” and destroy Him. Clearly, the events of Bethlehem seven years ago haunt him and yet, he proceeds in an attempt to kill this little boy. This makes up the bulk of the films plot and climaxes with a showdown in the temple between this Roman soldier and the young Messiah.
There is a funny situation when Joseph wishes to enroll Jesus in the local Hebrew school when they return to Nazareth. Jesus is quizzed with a series of trick questions from the old Rabbi running the school and Jesus amazes everyone with His responses. Joseph’s little smirk while His son is answering the Rabbi’s questions brought out some laughter.
The film does bring up an interesting idea. Was Jesus always in possession of the knowledge that He was the Messiah, God’s Son sent to save the world? This film presents the idea that He didn’t fully know or understand who He was until at the end of the film when His mother tells Him the whole story of His birth and what she understood of His mission.
From a strict movie stand-point, the actor playing Jesus was convincing – as long as you could get past his British accent. He seemed miscast for this role. Further, the demonic character was quite creepy, but under developed. Either he needs to be featured more in the film or dropped all together. The film had its’ villain with the centurion and without further development, the demonic character was unnecessary.
I must admit, this isn’t something I’ve ever thought about and other than the afore mentioned incident when He was twelve, the Bible is silent about His childhood.
There are some liberties taken with the Scriptures.
According to the film, Mary’s brother and his wife and their son (named “James”) have gone to Egypt with Mary and Joseph. They decide to make the return trip to Nazareth with them. There is no Biblical indication this ever occurred and having their son named “James” really leads to some confusion. According the Bible, Jesus had a younger brother named James who goes on the write the New Testament Book of James and was elevated to the head of the church in Jerusalem by Acts chapter 15. Additionally, James the apostle was the brother of John, both of whom were sons of Zebedee and were not mentioned in the Bible as being cousins of Jesus. I’d be less bothered with this whole family relationship element of Mary’s brother if their child wasn’t named James. It’s just confusing to people who don’t know Scripture well enough to understand who those other men named James.
Further, Jesus becomes quite sick at one point and depending on your theology about sickness, some may be bothered with the concept of the child Jesus nearly dying from “the fever.” This scene does lead to a great interaction between Jesus and the demon. When the demon reaches out to touch Jesus, the seven year old Son Of God summons all the authority his young boyish voice can muster and commands the demon in no uncertain terms not to touch Him.
The movie moves along well, its plot line isn’t complicated or boring. There are scenes of violence, crucifixion scenes and the demonic character. Those images could disturb young viewers.
I wish the producers would have had some sort of Biblical disclaimer at the beginning of the film letting the audience know this was a work of fiction and not a true Biblical story. Go ahead and see the film just don’t get your theology from it or even your understanding of Biblical history.
If you tolerate a British sounding child as Jesus you’ll probably enjoy the film.