I decided to read Ben-Hur this year, not knowing that a remake would be in theaters on Aug. 12. I had seen the original classic in the 1959 version as a boy, which was mesmerizing, but going through the entire novel slowly as an adult impacted me at a much deeper level as I saw it afresh on the backdrop of the Bible narrative. One passage that really hit home personally and for which I wrote about in a prayer letter to supporters on March 30, 2016 (5 years to the day from the passing of my wife due to cancer in 2011) was the following: “In a recent reading of the novel, Ben Hur, I came upon a section where the Arab chieftan, Simonides asks his daughter what day it was…she affirmed it to be the anniversary of her mother’s death: "True, most true, my daughter!" he said, without looking up. "Today, five years ago, my Rachel, thy mother, fell down and died. They brought me home broken as thou seest me, and we found her dead of grief. Oh, to me she was a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of En-Gedi! I have gathered my myrrh with my spice. I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey. We laid her away in a lonely place--in a tomb cut in the mountain; no one near her. Yet in the darkness she left me a little light, which the years have increased to a brightness of morning." He raised his hand and rested it upon his daughter's head. "Dear Lord, I thank thee that now in my Esther my lost Rachel liveth again!"
Five years ago this very day, my cluster of camphire, Paula, was received into glory. It is easy to identify with Simonides as he reflects on those five years with his daughter. Today I had the opportunity to reflect with my daughter, Amber, concerning this significant day. Amber reflects so many of the lovely traits that I saw in her mother. So, after talking with Amber I read afresh the words of Simonide, but changed them a bit, “Yet in the darkness she left me a little light, which the years have increased to a brightness of morning…Dear Lord, I thank thee that now in my ‘Amber’ my lost ‘Paula’ liveth again!"
The YouVersion Bible has put together a devotional to watch in the week before the movie opens. I have lifted out the various devotionals which consist of a paragraph followed by a short video clip that will help prime the pump and hopeful deepen this movie experience spiritually for all of us.
Official Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLJdzky63BA
Ben-Hur is a story set in the first century when Christ was on earth. But it isn’t a story about Jesus. It’s the story of a man whose life Jesus keeps interrupting. Like any historical fiction, Ben-Hur tells a story of fictionalized characters but in an accurate, historical setting. The scenes of Christ’s interactions with this storyline are of course fictionalized, but as you’ll see, hold very true to the nature of the very real Jesus of Nazareth we read about in the gospels. This plan will explore five movie clips each with commentary from a different Christian leader. But today we’ll set the stage with a music video from For King and Country that sets the stage for the movie’s themes of love, forgiveness, justice, and redemption. (Song “Cease Fire” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhbR8yNyTRU)
Today’s video gives a glimpse of a part of Jesus’ life that the gospels are silent on. We see Jesus as a young carpenter in the years before His ministry began. In today’s video, Bobby Gruenewald, Innovation Leader at Life.Church and founder of the YouVersion Bible App shares how shocking Jesus’ teachings must have been in His time. (“Jesus the Carpenter” https://youtu.be/Csj4qysLpsU)
Today’s movie scene shows Jesus as an advocate for justice for those who are marginalized and cast aside by society. In our scripture reading, we’ll explore a similar scene from the Bible. Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church shares how this justice is so relevant to how we must live today as Christ’s followers. (Jesus protects the leper https://youtu.be/7-zliko3DR4)
Judah Ben-Hur’s thirst for revenge is ‘eye-for-an-eye’ justice, but Jesus’ revolutionary teaching transcends this concept of justice with mercy. Today Bishop Dale Bronner shares a scene about Judah and Esther (not the same woman as in the book of Esther!) as they come to terms with the price of revenge. (Judah and Esther at Camp https://youtu.be/_ctV-kovLpg)
Today’s video shows Jesus reaching out to help Judah Ben-Hur in yet another chance interaction. Founder and Editor of catholicmom.com Lisa Hendley explores how the answer to the biggest issues in the world today might be even as simple an act of compassion as sharing a drink of water. (Jesus Helps Judah https://youtu.be/B4QNMEl8iws)
In witnessing the extraordinary love of Jesus as he freely goes to be crucified, Judah’s heart is transformed by God’s grace from a man of hate to a man of love. Erwin McManus, Pastor of Mosaic. (Judah Helps Jesus https://youtu.be/QiLD71EtcP4)
Today, along with a reading of some of Jesus’ last words on the cross, we’ll close with a music video from Mary Mary who was inspired by the movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUKnzP_9lb4