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Archive for March 29th, 2013

A few weeks ago, we were again sitting in a Sunday School class at a church we’d never been to before, surrounded again by people we didn’t know. The teacher was a nice, kind man who welcomed us warmly. I remember from his lesson when he mentioned the movie Ben-Hur, one of his favorite films that he happened to come across on television the day before and was compelled to watch again. He recounted a few scenes in the movie that he found particularly touching and moving to him.

I was curious because I had never seen the movie before, though it is highly regarded as a great film. I decided to rent the movie from Netflix last week. Though it came promptly, it arrived at a somewhat busy time–one doesn’t have to be all that busy to not have time to sit down with a 222-minute film to do it justice. After being gone over the weekend and having busy evenings full of unpleasant chores such as finishing the taxes, we finally got the opportunity to start it on Wednesday evening. Being so long, we still ended up splitting it over two evenings, finishing it last night.

I didn’t know what to expect, really, apart from Charlton Heston and an epic chariot race. While the movie is over 60 years old now, it is still compelling and featured impressive cinematography; films of our day never have the sophistication of these old classics.

The story is about a Jewish man, Judah Ben-Hur, who lives in Judea at the same time as Christ. While Jesus is accomplishing His earthly ministry, Judah falls from his high station, becoming a slave of Rome but finding freedom and a new life after an act of heroism. However, this new lease on life doesn’t free him from the bitterness of revenge he harbors for the man who initially ruined his life. His life is strategically intersected at multiple points by the Christ, who gives him the will to live and, ultimately by His death, frees Judah from the hatred he harbors.

In retrospect, our delay of watching the movie was not accidental. Rather, I feel that I was meant to watch it during Holy Week, as I mentally and spiritually tried to walk with Jesus to the cross. While I wouldn’t recommend getting one’s entire theology from this movie alone, it showed me a perspective of Jesus that I confess I don’t often think about. Two millennia after His appearance on earth, it’s sometimes hard to think about the ascended Savior as a physical person who walked the earth. But putting oneself in the sandals of a Judean who saw Jesus teaching on the mount or witnessed His face as He carried the cross to Golgotha–the characters in the movie were in awe of the face of Jesus. Even in the agony of the cross, they saw a love beyond understanding when He looked at them, and they understood He was suffering it all for them personally.

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I am guilty of so often making my faith dogmatic, apologetic, or even theoretical, and completely forgetting the personal. While He was on the cross, He thought of me and my sins. Today, in heaven, He stands before the Father, interceding on my behalf. “Father! Forgive her; she has no idea what she’s doing.” I also fail to comprehend exactly what judgement I was to face before God; I know I’m a sinner, but do I really know that I’m a sinner? Do I understand exactly what Christ has saved me from? I don’t think I’ll fully comprehend it from this side of Heaven, but when I stand before the throne of righteous God, I will. And I will be more thankful for the cross then than I ever could be in this life.

Ben-Hur did leave out one significant detail of Jesus’ death, and that is His resurrection. The movie ended at the cross, but the story doesn’t end there. It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming.

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