The Young Messiah takes a year out of the life of Christ- a seven year old Jesus bar Joseph. If you have read Anne Rice’s Jesus Christ the Lord – Out of Egypt, you’ll soon recognize this intriguing, beautifully scripted, filmed and acted story of the God-child. If not, you may choose to seek out this most imaginative and visionary glimpse at the Holy Family as they travel back to Nazareth.
The first thirty years of the life of Jesus is wrapped in mystery. The Bible tells us only that Joseph was directed in a dream to take Mary and the divine child to Egypt to escape Herod’s slaughter of all Jewish male children under the age of three.
Cyrus Nowrasteh directed and adapted the screenplay and explainins that this Rice’s book was …”as fresh and original a take on the Jesus story as any I have ever read…it’s all about a sense of wonder through the eyes of this very special child.”
Throughout my read of Christ the Lord, Out of Egypt, several years ago, my sense of wonder at the radical elements of the story never left me. Wonder at the distinct feeling that I had been invited to a private viewing of the private and intimate lives of Mary, Joseph and their child of God.
Rice deftly deals with the ordinary consequences of the extraordinary events surrounding the child. Like the jealousy and confusion of older brother James, like the suspicion and fear of neighbors of the aura of ‘magic’ shrouding the small family. Like the absolute mystery of Mary, her evident and unexplained pregnancy before her marriage to Joseph.
Each of these elements of Rice’s original book is preserved in the screenplay of the film. As is the impression that we are watching an ordinary Jewish family charged with the impossible- protection of the son of God. One of my favorite passages in the book was preserved in the film. Mary finally tells her son the astonishing story of his birth.
“I will tell this story only once,” the blessed mother begins, ” so listen now. I was only fourteen…”
Once again, there is this paradoxical impression of an ordinary mother and her child discussing the commonplace facts surrounding how he came to be.
The most perfect description of this movie was penned over two thousand years ago by St. Paul:
Though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.*
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance…
Director Nowrasteh states that there is one fact agreed upon by all theologians. Jesus was entirely God while mysteriously wholly human, always.
If there’s one thing I found consensus about, it’s that Jesus was always God. But in his human experience in some matters, he veiled his divinity in accordance with the Father’s will. He subjected himself to physical, intellectual, spiritual, social growth. The Son of God is voluntarily put in the position of assimilating knowledge as a human being, as he becomes like us.
I felt that gave us a lot of latitude. There’s a line in the movie where the boy says: “There were angels at the river. I couldn’t see them, but I know they were there. How do I know that?” This is clearly a child who knows something’s up, who knows there’s something different, and he’s seeking and searching to gain that wisdom…