This post is also available as an audio episode here (as of 4/8).
Many of us remember when there were essentially two Christian movies on television around Easter: Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth (1977) and, of course the epic The Ten Commandments (1956) with Charlton Heston (which strangely has little to do with Easter!). Not anymore.
The past couple decades have spawned many new productions of the life of Jesus, kicked off famously by Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004). More recently, there have been some creative new angles on Jesus and the message of Easter.
As a dad of 3 curious children, all of these movies offer great pathways into discussions about our faith and the story of Jesus. This past week we enjoyed two in particular that I thought I would recommend to others.
The Young Messiah (2016)
We watched this while cooped up in a cabin in the Smokey Mountains last week. The film tells the story of Jesus Christ at age seven as he and his family depart Egypt to return home to Nazareth. Told from his childhood perspective, it follows young Jesus as he grows into his religious identity. Now, of course, this movie imaginatively attempts to fill in the “hidden years” of Jesus’ life that the Bible is silent about. The film is based on the novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice (yep, that Anne Rice) which I also enjoyed years ago. It is also inspired by the legends that grew up around Jesus’ boyhood recorded in the New Testament Apocryphal books from the 2nd-4th century) that I always enjoy dipping into. This was very interesting to our kids who are almost 6, 8, and 10. Great discussion starter for family chat about Jesus.
I saw this one in the theaters when it came out, but this time it was more special as I got to watch it on Easter with my near 10 year old Peter, who is absolutely obsessed with his Playmobile Roman soldiers and ships. To have a son who shares my love of ancient Roman civilization and the Bible is a great joy these days. (We watched Ben Hur together recently as well.) But this film is PG-13 and the violence and intensity is not necessarily for younger viewers. Synopsis: 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. A well-done and thoughtful approach to the Easter story from a fresh vantage point.
Again, as parents and children, we are blessed with these powerful portrayals of the Easter story and life of Jesus. Let us use them to create fun pathways into the Bible and the true meaning of Easter. Happy viewing!