April 10, 2012

Amazing Artistic Depictions of Christ Pt. 2

At last! The long-awaited continuation of the inspiring controversy . . .

There are some real gems in this final installment. These artist's depictions are truly brilliant and thought-provoking. While some of these works of art contain objectionable content, what I am assessing is their treatment of the character of Jesus Christ and nothing more.

If you find yourself upset or offended by anything your read here, I recommend reading the introduction to this two-part post before exploring these artistic representations of Jesus Christ.  

In Film
The Miracle Maker 

While this film utilizes what are at times comically old-fashioned clay-mation techniques, the voice acting is absolutely superb. Big names such as William Hurt, Alfred Molina, and Ian Holm (Bilbo in The Lord of the Rings!) have lent their voices to major characters in the story; and perhaps most astonishingly, Ralph Fiennes, having portrayed of some of the most evil characters in film history (Voldemort, anyone?), has undertaken the heady task of playing the voice of Jesus Christ, the Miracle Maker.

Unfortunately, embedding any of the clips of The Miracle Maker is forbidden by YouTube, so you'll have to leave the blog to watch the video here. While you should definitely make time to watch the whole film at some point, I would recommend skipping to around 3:20 of this particular clip to get a taste of what I love best about this depiction of Jesus. He is a holy savior, but he is also a hard-working carpenter and above all, a friend. I love the cheesy jokes that he and his friends Martha, Mary, Lazarus and others laugh at during this casual dinner party scene.

Mary, Mother of Jesus

Yes, that is Christian Bale in a tunic.

I admittedly have mixed feelings about this film, because I'm pretty sure it's straight-up sacrilegious to find Jesus attractive. Anyway, what I do appreciate about this particular representation is the attention to Jesus' periods of growing up. This particular Jesus focuses so much on just becoming a good man before He even thinks about becoming the Messiah.There are moments when it's easy to forget that this man is the Son of God and not just an average guy from Galilee who has to go through difficulties as He grows up but who also experiences times of joy. He laughs and dances; He cries and even mopes a little. He is your typical twenty-something.

The crucifixion scene in this film is especially heartbreaking, as Jesus is presented as nothing more than a young man who just wishes that his mother could make the pain go away :-(. I dare you not to cry if you get your hands on this film.


Joshua (Tony Goldwyn) is supposed to be the modern-day incarnation of Jesus Christ. While his humble and non-biblical second coming brings up all sorts of theological issues in and of themselves, other than this, the secular film is surprisingly biblical in its message.

In all honesty, Joshua is almost the exact image of what I imagine a modern-day Jesus to be. He is a chill, down-to-earth, and slightly socially awkward sweetheart who loves people to pieces. He shows up in a religiously ultra-conservative but spiritually almost-dead community and completely turns the tables. Of course, like the Jesus of the gospels, he doesn't preach revolution or damnation. Instead he condemns the manipulation of both the religiously legalistic conservatives and the charismatic liberals through his lifestyle of love and sacrifice. Faith, he declares, is not about what happens in a pew or at a tent revival. It is about being there for people when they need it most.

Same deal as above. Head over to YouTube to watch these clips. I would recommend stopping about six minutes in if you don't want to give away the whole wonderful story.

In Music 

"Property of Jesus" by Bob Dylan

Jesus is more of a philosophical figure than an actual character in this classic Bob Dylan number, but I still think this is a solid depiction of the Man from Galilee. The main character in this song is one of the finest example pop culture has to offer of what it means to have Jesus Christ living in you and through you. The first stanza is one of my favorites:

     Go ahead and talk about him because he makes you doubt
     Because he has denied himself the things that you can't live without
     Laugh at him behind his back just like the others do
     Remind him of what he used to be when he comes walkin' through
     He's the property of Jesus . . .

Three more interpretations of Christ (including my all-time favorite) after the jump!

"I Am Love" by Michael W. Smith

This eerily beautiful song make me think of the "still, small voice" of God that Elijah heard in 1 Kings. Jesus may not be a warlord, a televangelist, or a rock star, but that does not mean He is is someone who can be ignored. His message is calm and often quiet, but it is powerful and unwavering. All doctrine, dogma, and stereotypes aside, Jesus Christ is love, and love is stronger than the forces of hate that try to paint Him as something less than He is.

I feel silly, but these musical depictions of Christ are short enough and un-controversial enough that I can hardly think of anything to say . . . but I'll more than make up for it with the theatrical ones!

In Theater

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

In many aspects, this tragically funny "dramedy" by Stephen Adly Giurgis is quite inappropriate, plain and simple. There is an unquantifiable amount of foul language and several garish sexual references. This is truly unfortunate, because the incredibly sparse scenes featuring Jesus Christ feature a man more loving, forgiving, and desperate for His loved ones than I have ever seen. The play takes the form of a trial in Purgatory over the destiny of Judas Iscariot's soul. In the final scene, after having been dragged through the mud by everyone who has every right to hate him (even Satan himself seems to think Judas in spineless and traitorous), Judas is approached by Jesus, the man he betrayed unto death.

The exchange that follows is beautiful and heartbreaking. Jesus declares that He misses Judas and wants to be reunited with him in heaven. He insists that He has always loved Judas, that He never left him, and that it is Judas’ own shame and despair that keeps him from reaching out to Jesus. In the final heart-breaking moments of the play, Jesus holds out His hands to Judas, saying, "I'm right here," and begging for His friend to come with Him.

Judas, however, cannot see the outstretched hands, and remains forever in darkness, separated from the one who is so ready to forgive and love him forever.

  Jesus Christ, Superstar

My favorite depiction of Jesus Christ in any artistic medium to date has to be in this song from Jesus Christ, Superstar. Even though I'm only focusing on the one song, I couldn't possibly include this performance of "Gethsemane" by Michael Ball in the Music category. This is a body, soul, and spirit performance that far transcends the power of music or lyrics.

What I love most about this song's interpretation of Christ's final hours in the garden is that it mixes direct quotations from scripture with more contemporary language describing the all-too-human emotions such as fear and doubt that surely battered Jesus as His anxiety caused Him to sweat drops of blood upon the stones at His feet. I hate that so many "Jesus movies" depict the Savior serenely accepting the will of God moments before being dragged to His execution with little more than a frown on His face. Michael Ball's performance reminds me that Jesus Christ had a choice. He did not have to save us. He made the decision to die a miserable death on that cross for you and me, and it was a hard decision.

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