This film is an attempt to address the question of “What happened in Jesus life before He came onto the scene at 12 years-old?” What was he like as a young boy? The movie is, of course, based entirely on conjecture of His life as a 7 year-old. Here are a few themes that are worth noting:
The Exiled Life in Egypt Ends
The movie begins with Jesus and his family, still living in Egypt after fleeing the murderous Herod. In the first scene, we see a skirmish with a bully who trips as he was about to beat up Jesus’ little female cousin, but trips on a stone and dies. The boy’s family then pressures Joseph to take his family to leave the area even after Jesus raises the boy from the dead back to life.
In the meantime, Joseph had had a dream that Herod the Great was dead and that it was now safe to return to their home in Nazareth.
A great deal of the movie takes place on their journey back home. They quickly realize that their return home does not lead to less, but more controversy and danger for the young Jesus.
The Devil’s Limitations
A notable and quite biblical theme in the movie, is how very limited the devil’s power affects us. The movie does a wonderfully job at depicting how God has limited Satan’s reach and power to be only within what He allows for the time being. He sought to intimidate Jesus, because ultimately He was terrified by Jesus’ very existence. At one point, when Jesus become ill with the fever, the devil appears to Him and attempts to choke Him with metal fingers. At this point, Jesus rebukes him telling him to never touch Him. The devil is obligated to obey the Son of God.
We see innocence of the child who just happens to be the One Who is the maker of all mankind. He is fully human, yet fully God.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
Another notable and admirable depiction is the relationship between Mary, Joseph, and their son Jesus. We see the complexity of raising the Son of God, the One who made mankind, yet in the body of a child. Joseph asks the question, “How do I explain God to His Son?” Indeed! How do you?
The film also covers that turbulent of history when Rome ruled Israel with a heavy hand. Yet, in addition to oppression from without, under Herod, and the Temple notables, there was also oppression from within. Add to that chaotic recipe the various bands of rebels attempting to squelch Rome with their meager attempts, the times were quite violent. This aspect of the film makes it less suitable for young children.
Foreshadowing His Crucifixion
There is a scene that foreshadows Jesus’ crucifixion. Upon their return journey as the approach Jerusalem, they were compelled to walk a road with crucified rebels on either side. Jesus appears intrigued by the dying men even as His father tells him to keep His eyes down. One day, He would be crucified as a rebel accused by the chief-priests claiming to serve the same God Whose Son they would put to death. We are reminded of the Scripture: “He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him.” (John 1:11)
Herod’s Jealous Obsession with the Young Messiah
We see that Herod, whose father had ordered the slaughter of every male child under 2 years-old, was also obsessed with the young boy and ordered Severus, the Centurion to kill Him. This Roman character is quite interesting. He saved Jesus’ life on the road back from Egypt to Nazareth. Then again at the climax of the movie, when he had come to the temple to carry out Herod’s order, he was unable to kill this this epitome of innocence and goodness in the young Messiah. Herod is a picture of man’s futile attempts to thwart God’s plans. We see the Centurion reporting back to Herod that he has indeed carried out his order and killed Jesus. The viewer knows that this was not true and as Severus walks away from the mad king, we see a close-up of the little carved wooden camel that belonged to Jesus, attached to his uniform ‘tassel’ on his leather apron. The soldier walks away quite satisfied with Himself.
In the end there is more historical consistency of the times than biblical ones. Yet, the film is a good and honest attempt to address the life of the Jesus, the Messiah, at 7 from those who are clearly enamored with His life. The filmmakers did exactly what they set out to do, created a story about Jesus’s boyhood inspired by Scripture and history.
The Young Messiah is well done and nothing was garishly out of character for the Son of God. Although no factual proof is given, the biblical themes are consistent with Scripture. This is fiction, yet the tale is entertaining and the events are possible on some level. After all, the Bible does tell us that that if all of Jesus’ miracles were recorded, the world could not contain all of the books that would have to be written. John 21:25. Could it be that God wanted us to focus on Jesus’ ministry so that His children would model that behavior?
The entire cast gives stellar performances in their respective roles. Young Jesus is great, except for all of the questions surrounding His quest to find out Who He is and why He is able to perform miracles. He does, however, have enough answers by the end of the movie and is satisfied with leaving the rest up to His Heavenly Father, whom the trusts completely.
The movie is based purely on conjecture as the Bible never mentions Jesus’ childhood before He accompanied his parents to the Passover in Jerusalem, staying in the temple even after his parents have left to return home to Nazareth. The filmmakers introduce the movie with a caveat that the film was inspired by Scripture and history. Yet we are not told about the specific historical records used as foundation- if there were any.
One could be confused by events happening to Jesus at 7 years-old that from biblical accounts, happen much later. Granted, each of the events listed below are changed in an attempt to maintain the integrity of the biblical account. However, when they occur, it is quite clear what the filmmakers are attempting to mimic. Events happening much earlier than the biblical account:
- Resurrection from the dead (Eleazar the Egyptian bull)
- The “baptism” where He heals His uncle (Jesus approaches His maternal uncle to heal via baptism)
- Resurrection of the dead bird (flash back when cousin suggested that Jesus does the same with the mean-spirited Eleazar)
- Ministry to the unclean woman (a slave woman who had been molested by her captor is befriended and “adopted” by Jesus and His family.
These all show the heart of the boy and the filmmakers are careful to differentiate the event enough to not be an attempt at the biblical account.
In the Young Messiah, Jesus at 7, resurrected another boy from the dead, incidentally one who had pummeled him before he fell to his death. In the Bible, that did occur once He began His life of ministry. Jesus, at the wedding of Cana, turned water into wine. It was then He, had specifically said that He would not begin His ministry prematurely. The could be the biblical evidence that He performed no miracles before He turned 30.
See the Young Messiah, but do not expect it to be factual or biblical. The filmmakers tell us at the outset that the movie is “inspired by…” not “based on…” Scripture and history. Nevertheless, if you can get past that point, you may expect to be pleasantly entertained as long as you do not need cite chapter and verse accounts of Jesus as a 7 year-old. Enjoy it for what it’s worth, a good attempt to answer the unaddressed issue of Jesus’ life as a young child.
I do recommend this movie. I would offer one caveat – this movie is not a biblical account of Jesus life as a 7 year-old. Therefore, it is not supported by the Bible nor history. It is a good, clean, fictional movie for the family, but not recommended for the very young due to the violence.
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