I haven’t seen the “Son of God” movie, but people assure me it’s good.
I’ve seen my share of Jesus on screen and I’ve always wondered why something just never seems right—-other than the obvious fact that it really isn’t Him up there.
So, I’ve decided to make my own Jesus flick.
As Executive Producer, here are some “notes-to-self” :
1. Cast a Jewish Jesus—-not a Norwegian guy that looks like a surfer. Okay, I’m not an anthropologist, but I’d be willing to bet that being a first century Jew, he was olive- skinned with brown eyes. Yes, I’m aware that many Jews have blue eyes. I have a Semitic racial background myself, yet blue eyes because of some Scottish-English ancestry. It’s enough to mix me up pretty good. That’s my story. I don’t think Jesus’ lineage intersected northern euro peoples, though.
2. Cast a plain guy—-No “Hot Jesus” allowed. Look for a typical Jewish man who is a little on the unattractive side. The only hints given of Jesus’ earthly appearance were in the book of Isaiah (53:2-3), which is unflattering, to say the least. It’s possible that if you saw a photo of the twelve apostles and Christ, you wouldn’t have been able to pick him out of the bunch—unless He was seated in the middle, maybe. But forget locating someone with a halo or a saintly glow. He was the adopted son of a carpenter from a despised area. And while you’re at it, make sure he has a haircut. Aside from the Nazarite vow (which we are never told he placed himself under), no males of the ancient Mediterranean world wore long hair except the sexually confused, slaves, or prisoners of war.
3. Pay close attention to how “Jesus” delivers His lines. The things Jesus said stunned His original listeners. His words have held the world in awe for 21 centuries. So when I see an actor glibly, casually saying those same words, something really doesn’t work. It fails to hit home. I’m sure Jesus didn’t scream and holler, either. But the Bible does say, “The crowds were astonished at His teaching, for He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matt. 7:28-29). Those scribes had a way of memorizing stuff from Moses and repeating it (kind of like the actor does, who plays Jesus). This is where it gets hard. Nobody can duplicate Jesus. But at least the actor has to navigate between gravity and approachability. On one hand, we don’t want an easy going, chatty-Cathy. On the other, no artificial-sounding melodramatic speeches (let’s save the cheese for the crackers).
4. Make sure “Jesus” is cast in the first century—-not 21st century middle class America. That means avoid putting sentimental religious ideas or modern social agendas in his mouth. He didn’t come to change the world, to help the world, or to make it a nicer place. He came to save it. One version of Him will sound like a spokesperson for your favorite political party. The other, well, sounds like a Savior.
5. Portray Christ according to His Spirit-approved biographies-—use film nuances—music, special effects, etc.— to bring out his royalty as in Matthew (He’s the king of kings!), his hard down-to-earth work as in Mark (He’s more than a sage/philosopher relaxing under trees), his compassionate humanity as in Luke (tender, kind, and not like Mr. Spock on Star Trek), and his mysterious spirituality as in John (far deeper than a mere traveling teacher).
6. Be accurate-—The contents of the film are called the gospel. That is, the good news that has captured billions of souls. Hollywood can’t improve on that. The more you try to improve the Mona Lisa with crayons, the worse it looks. Similarly, when it comes to the Jesus story, stick with what has already worked for thousands of years.
7. Get creative with the feeling of the film—-antique it, portray mystery, enigma, wonder. Show grit. Capture moments of the surreal. Use cinematic effects of shadow and light. Splurge on good special effects. Leave the junky stuff to the million or so Z-grade titles on Netflix. Viewing audiences are far more discerning than ten or fifteen years ago. But…don’t get creative with the setting. Remember, it’s the first century. Women keep their heads and figures covered and don’t wear makeup by Revlon. Men keep hair no longer than the earlobes. An-all Jewish cast should go without saying.
8. Somehow locate 50 million dollars-—that’s what it will take to pull it all off. Oh, and a team of talented young cinematographers and a hungry, aspiring cast that wants to send a message to millions of movie-goers. Or—sigh—maybe I’ll just keep preaching and teaching straight from the page to the heart. It’s a lot more difficult than making the movie and in some ways costs more, but that’s the way we’ve done it for a very long time, with spectacular results.
Meanwhile, if someone has that 50 million, my web page accepts paypal.