Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Written by Lydia Tan, Singapore
Notice something about children? They ask questions. Plenty of questions. They want to know the “why” to every “what”, and they make keen observations about the simple things in life that older people take for granted. Doesn’t it astound you how some of the best questions can come from the mouths of smallest ones?
For anyone who has ever wondered if that was how Jesus was like as a boy, The Young Messiah, an American biblical drama, addresses this very question, presenting a fresh and interesting take on a seven-year-old Jesus.
“Wait a minute, the Bible doesn’t say much about Jesus’ growing up years,” you might think. You’re right. This film is in fact a screen adaptation of the book, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by American author Anne Rice. So treat this movie as a work of fiction (as it is meant to be), and you won’t jump and wince at every detail. That said, I felt that this story actually enriched my understanding of Jesus (hang on, hear me out).
In a nutshell, the movie depicts the boy Jesus living in Egypt with his parents, Joseph and Mary, after their narrow escape from Herod’s massacre of boys in Bethlehem. What it adds—which is not found in the biblical narrative—is Jesus’ ability to perform miracles as a boy, as well as a few other characters. There is the creepy dude (representing Satan and who can only be seen by Jesus) who whispers lies into people’s ears, the erratic son of King Herod who’s obsessed about destroying Jesus, and an unsure Roman centurion tasked to find and kill the young Messiah.
Special mention must be made about the cast, especially the actress and actor who played Mary and Joseph respectively. Both did a remarkable job of portraying the dilemma faced by their characters in deciding whether and how to tell the young Jesus about His true identity as the Son of God.
But what really struck me was how the film portrayed Jesus’ humanity. Jesus didn’t skip childhood and become an adult instantly. He had to grow up—just like every single one of us—and learn how to trust and depend on God in every situation. He is shown as not having all the answers at the start, but having to ask questions, just like any other child, and having to be patient in waiting for God to reveal the answers. His intimacy with His heavenly Father is also shown in one scene, where Joseph asks Him what He is doing. He replies, “Praying, and playing.”
The Young Messiah also got me thinking about another aspect of Jesus’ humanity—His vulnerability. As a child, Jesus felt fear, just like all of us. So He knows exactly how we feel, as Hebrews 4:15 says—“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” Doesn’t knowing that our Savior knows and understands all of life’s perils bring us much comfort and encouragement?
To think of Jesus as a defenseless child experiencing such feelings and situations just blows my mind. The fact that the God of the universe descended to dwell among us, became like one of His creation, made himself vulnerable, and subjected himself to the care of ordinary people such as Mary and Joseph (instead of say, a priest or king)—doesn’t that show the great extent of God’s love for us?
As an avid moviegoer, I would rate this movie a “2” in terms of cinematic experience. In terms of the perspective it offers, however, I think it deserves a “3”. Just a note of caution: this movie might not be suitable if you’re an action buff. Aside from some moments of suspense, the movie is rather slow-going as a whole and ends on somewhat of an anti-climax.
But should you choose to watch it, it might give you fresh insights and lead you to a deeper appreciation of the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for us as the Son of Man and the Son of God.