“He’s not just a child.” This line, spoken by one of the characters in the upcoming film The Young Messiah, aptly summarises the impetus behind the film as well as its attraction for viewers, and ultimately speaks to the mystery that lingers beyond the ending credits.
The Young Messiah is a fascinating glimpse into what life might have been like for Jesus Christ, as a young boy of seven years old coming to terms with his ability to work miracles and his revealed identity. In his statement, Director Cyrus Nowrasteh admits that “there are great challenges in depicting this because we know very little about Jesus’ childhood”. Yet, he and his team have managed “with respect and reverence… to imagine a child consistent with Jesus as revealed in the Bible”.
Even those with little to no knowledge of (and interest in) Christianity might be drawn to this evocative story of a young boy who knows he can do certain special things, but does not understand why no one else, especially his parents, will speak of it or explain to him why he can, and why they must stay on the run. Equally compelling is the sensitive portrayal of the struggle Jesus’ parents would have faced in protecting and bringing up a child whose questions they feel unequipped to answer – as his father Joseph asks, “How do we explain God to His own Son?”
However, like all parents, there is only so much they can protect their child from. Implications of events given brief mention in Scripture passages are brought to life in all their gritty reality, and we experience them through the young Jesus’ perspective – the slaughter of innocents, persecution faced as sojourning foreigners, the dangers of the road, the violence of death, the cruelty of conquering oppressors.
As viewers, perhaps we may think we know the story’s ending and its details by heart. Yet a film like this can bring us to question if we ever really knew the story in all its emotional context and narrative power, leading us to revisit the text anew. Most importantly, the production team expressed hope that “the story would also give viewers the opportunity to understand Jesus’ full humanity and, as a result, open up opportunities to discuss the life of Jesus and what the Bible does say about him.”
They added: “In affirming both Jesus’ full divinity and humanity, viewers become mindful that Jesus had a childhood and an adolescence, and grew into adulthood just as we all do.” This, they felt, would be “especially important for adolescents and teenagers, who often feel awkward and out of place when they are in a time of transition. This vision of the child Jesus might also speak to young people as they identify with or engage with social pariahs: the outcasts, the outsiders, and the others.”
The film, which will be released in Singapore on 24 Mar 2016 and is distributed here by Shaw Organisation, is based on the 2005 fictional best-seller Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice. More information can be found at www.theyoungmessiah.com
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Picture courtesy of Shaw Organisation
Grace Toh is Assistant Editor of Methodist Message and has been a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church for most of her life.