Thursday, April 9, 2020

Films About Jesus

Jesus of Nazareth on Amazon Prime
Jesus is honored among all major religions as a teacher, ethicist, prophet, or mystic. This is the season of Lent, a time of reflection and repentance for those who believe in the orthodox principles of Christianity, in the deity of Jesus, commemorating His passion and resurrection. There are also many groups of Christians and others who may not agree on all the details of this faith, and their kids might be in your classes. It takes a delicate touch to provide respect for all kids' beliefs during discussions of major religions.

We respect the rights of all people to have beliefs.  We 
respect the rights of all students to safely hold their beliefs without harassment in public schools. I am not recommending showing films about Jesus or not showing them in your class; that is a decision for your school.
But beginning in Middle School, at least in the State of California, there are many passages from the Bible, and the New Testament in particular, that are considered worthy of literary consideration and historical value. The Book of Job, the Psalms, the Sermon on the Mount, parables. The King James version, which has celebrated its 500th birthday, is considered a masterpiece itself. It is said Shakespeare made a contribution to it.

Actor Diogo Morgado playing Jesus in 'The Son of God.'
Last year the History Channel showed the mini series 'The Bible,' created by a team of mostly Roman Catholics. It had great ratings. A segment of the series has been edited for theater release, 'The Son of God.' Lots of folks going to see it. Some critics say the lead actor, who is from Portugal, has created a 'surfer Jesus' because of his breezy hair and athletic build. I do expect Jesus looked a great deal more semitic and not European at all, 
but the creative team of 'The Son of God' got the sense of kindness and power effectively.

This is a pretty good time of year to show portions of the Jesus story if you're going to. The History Channel, liberal bastion of cable TV, has shown the television film of "Jesus of Nazareth" in entirety for years- Jesus being a central person of historical interest. That's why this is the year 2020.

The Passion of the Christ
on Amazon Prime, is in Aramaic, the language Jesus actually spoke,  with subtitles.
Mary, the mother of Jesus in "The Passion of the Christ."

Jesus, although He was Jewish,  is usually portrayed with a British accent, except for "The Passion of the Christ," which was in Aramaic (the Hebrew spoken at the time of Jesus) with subtitles. That's a pretty amazing idea and accomplishment, if you can find it in you heart to forgive Mel Gibson for being a flawed human and all after he produced that remarkable movie. The production has accuracy in costuming, music, and portrays basic Catholic theology, except possibly about Pontius Pilate, the Roman who deserved no sympathy for his decision.
"The Passion of the Christ" 2004
"The Passion of the Christ," is bone crushing in the accuracy of suffering. The perspective of Mary the mother of Jesus is unique in this movie version, and serves to present why many Christians have a special devotion to her. What age of child should see this? I can't say, but it is very intense, particularly when Mary flashes back to Jesus falling as a little boy as He carries the cross. Use your own judgement.
"The Kings of Kings" 1961

"The Greatest Story Ever Told" 1965

Several Bible-themed movies came out in the sixties with blue-eyed Jesus actors quoting the King James Bible. Jeffrey Hunter was in the "Kings of Kings," a remake from the Cecil B. DeMille's 1927 version. 
Max von Sydow played Jesus in 1965 in "The Greatest Story Ever Told." The films are sympathetically presented, especially toward poor little misunderstood Judas, who is frequently the most interesting character. These films have a respectful mood if not accuracy, and for the viewer who is looking to connect with the words of Jesus quoted in the Bible, these films are very effective. Children who are familiar with the story should be okay with the crucifixion scenes which are not too graphic, but they do have to be prepared.

As children watch a film about Jesus, it is very intense. Jesus is a lovable and sympathetic character whether He is considered in a religious sense or not. Kids really have to be prepared for the story to transpire. I was invited by a friend to a theater full of viewers from her Baptist church to see "The Passion of the Christ." All adults, all in tears (both men and women) by the end. It is just a really tough and sad story for both believer and non-believer.

"Jesus of Nazareth" miniseries 1977

My preferred film about Jesus to view with children is the television miniseries, "Jesus of Nazareth." (1977). It is frequently on television at the Christmas and Easter seasons, and available on Netflix. Visually, there are lots of references to famous works of art, and the music is sort of mysterioso in a supernatural sense that a good something, maybe a miracle, is going to happen; that something supernatural isn't always sinister. Jesus is compassionate, powerful and somehow one-of-the-guys while being divine. Peter is great with his bumbling, yet strong and sincere personality. Mary was a little young being portrayed by Olivia Hussey. Judas was indecisive until he was creepy and betrayed his best friend. I personally don't think Judas was sorry after he did that. Laurence Olivier portrayed Nicodemus.

Nicodemus (Laurence Olivier) quoting Isaiah 53 as Jesus is on the cross.
Being a miniseries, the important parts of the story are portrayed because there is time for them. The Sermon on the Mount is well worth sharing with kids, particularly since important modern leaders such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King reference this, and other portions of Jesus' statements. One of my very favorite scenes from any film is this portrayal of Jesus giving a parable (which are also part of the standards for literature.) Peter and Matthew the tax collector also have a moment.
Jesus hangin' with His homies, for which He was criticized severely.

Here is the Prodigal Son, put up on youtube.

 The person who put up this video also included a little music, not from the film.
Here is another film used to educate those who have no idea at all who Christians believe Jesus to be. It has been shown to millions of people around the world as an evangelistic tool.

Film Review: The Jesus Film (free and in 1,120 Languages!)

I would like to share a song that I still find marvelous. This was written during the Jesus Movement of the early 1970s and presents the case for Christianity at its most basic and radical. Which pretty much describes the Jesus Movement, and how Jesus happened in my life then, too.  Enjoy.

"Jesus Is All That We Need."
 Gary Arthur
The Way

Good ole fashioned Jesus music from good ole fashioned Jesus People @1972

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