Friday, April 6, 2012

Jesus in Film


As we move into the holy season, let’s explore some of the movies that depict the life of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I’ve included two lists, one from a noted Christian viewpoint and one from a secular. It’s interesting to see the similarities, but the contrasts may help the evangelical author to understand a wider audience. I have bolded the ones that appear on both lists.

According to Christianity Today, here are the top ten of the most popular movies of all time:

  1. The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ (1902-05)
  2. The King of Kings (1927)
  3. The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)
  4. The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
  5. Godspell (1973)
  6. The Messiah (1976)
  7. Jesus of Nazareth (1977)
  8. Jesus (1999)
  9. The Miracle Maker (2000)
  10. The Passion of the Christ (2004)

TIME Entertainment lists these:

  1. The King of Kings (1927)
  2. King of Kings (1961)
  3. The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)
  4. Godspell ( 1973)
  5. Gospel Road (1973)
  6. Jesus of Nazareth (1977)
  7. Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
  8. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
  9. The Passion of Christ (2004)
  10. South Park: Fantastic Easter Special (2007)

It’s interesting to me to see the two most obvious departures of the traditional gospel movie—Monty Python and South Park—included on the secular list.  Amongst these other movies, who at least attempt to tell the true story, (even Godspell,) are these irreverent plot lines.

What does that tell me, as a Christian author? That maybe occasionally we take ourselves too seriously? Yes, it was a horrible thing for Jesus to have to die on the cross for my sins. Very serious stuff when the fate of the whole world is literally in God’s nail-scarred hands. May we never forget what happened on Golgotha that day, and its significance for our eternal salvation.

But is the secular world more apt to receive our Lord if we can show His joy, His humor? Not irreverently, by any means. But in our every day stories. Perhaps a sprinkling of the twinkle in His eyes, a tug of a grin on His lips, even an outright guffaw from His throat. Portray his love as one of a Father’s delighting in his children. Even in the deepest of stories, where a character’s very soul seems to twist in agony, there is room for light (translate that as hope.) A subplot character who always says the right thing to make the hero smile. A puppy who enjoys a squeaky toy. A toddler who has just discovered her shadow. These are small seasonings of sweetness that makes the deeper message more palatable.

Two movies come to mind. They aren’t about Jesus necessarily, but are about God. Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty. Both portray God (played by Morgan Freeman) as a loving father who disciplines, yet dances with His children.

Allow God to dance in your stories. Season with that little bit of sweetness, and your message will be received with grateful, and hopefully, changed hearts.


Read these lists and the synopsis on each movie at Christianity Today and at TIME Entertainment.