3 Stars – Challenging
“Tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear, Things I would ask him to tell me if he were here.”
So goes a well-known early 20th century hymn by W. H. Parker. That longing to know stories is innocently, yet fictionally, represented in The Young Messiah where we follow a young Jesus at age seven for one year of his life out of Egypt and back to Jerusalem. None of this is based on Biblical evidence, but it does include stories that have shown up in early writings ranging from The Infancy Gospel of Thomas to the Quran.
Young Jesus is played with warmth and purity by a young English actor, Adam Greaves-Neal. If there is one thing notable about this film is its eclectic combination of actors, scenes, and script. Most of the cast is English and Jesus sounds like he was born in London. The film was written from an adaptation of Anne Rice's novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, a departure from her more well-known vampire novels. The screenplay and directing was by Cyrus Nowrasteh who is best known for writing scripts for murder mysteries such as La Femme Nikita, and the film was staged, crewed, and shot entirely in Italy.
All of this quirky trivia doesn’t detract from the goodness of the story, even if you have to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy its fictional tale. If you are a Biblical purist, this is probably not the film for you, but if you like stories that uplift the heart, this will draw you in. There is almost no reference to this period of Jesus’ life in the Bible, and the suggestion that a young Jesus could perform miracles stands at odds with the Gospel accounts that claim that Jesus performed his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. There is one reference to Jesus bringing a bird back to life which is similarly referenced in the Quran.
Nevertheless, there is nothing sacrilegious about this representation, recognizing that it is a supportive story of fiction and it doesn’t detract from the innocence of a young boy who does not respond with the same sinful emotions of those around him. In some ways, this is on the same level of fiction as Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series of books and movies. Neither story implies that this is the “gospel” truth, but they do cause you to think about what might have happened, or what could happen. In either case, they point to the need to trust God rather than trusting in your own wisdom and strength. That in and of itself is completely Biblical in its core message.
- The return of author Anne Rice to her Catholic faith was the impetus for writing this book as contrasted with her Vampire Diaries. What do you think of her attempt to fill in the gap of our curiosity of a young Jesus. Was he as you imagine him to be at age 7 ?
- The fact that the Quran honors Jesus as a prophet is not well known. What do you think this honoring of Jesus will do in the future between the Christian and Muslim faiths?