FINALLY, AN EASTER PRIME TIME SHOW ON JESUS!
Two years ago, I came home from a long trip on
Easter. I turned on TV and saw ABC was airing ''The Ten Commandments'' for
the 19th consecutive year on Easter in prime time.
''What does the story of Moses and the Pharaoh
have to do with Easter?'' I asked in this column. ''Absolutely nothing.''
I called Kevin Brockman, an ABC executive, and
asked why it was chosen on the anniversary of the Resurrection. Brockman
told me, ''I don't know if there is a more appropriate film. This has a
religious theme. The Ten Commandments are part of the Christian faith.''
I proposed to him the film, ''Jesus,'' which had
then been seen by 1.3 BILLION people in 219 countries. Campus Crusade for
Christ had found it to be such a powerful evangelistic tool, that it was
translated into 419 languages understood by 85 percent of the world's
However, ''Jesus'' had never been on ABC, CBS or
Brockman had never heard of the film, but
expressed interest and said he would talk with Paul Eshleman of Campus
Crusade to consider it. Last year ABC made no change.
But this year, ''The Ten Commandments'' aired on
Palm Sunday, just before Passover, which makes it an appropriate film for
the season. And on Easter itself will be the world TV premier of ''The
Miracle Maker,'' a full length film using the latest in 3-D clay animation
to tell the story of Jesus, featuring the voices of Ralph Fiennes, Julie
Christie and William Hurt.
The film was produced in Great Britain. It
opened in theaters in England this month, drawing larger crowds than a new
Shakespeare film, ''Love's Labour's Lost.
''It is faithful biblically,'' says Ted Baehr,
founder of the Christian Film and Television Commission that works in
Hollywood, reviewing films and TV from a Christian perspective. ''It is not
word for word from the Gospel, veering somewhat for dramatic purposes. But
it emphasizes the divinity of Jesus and drew upon an impressive list of
theologians in its creation.''
One of the key people behind the film's
production and introduction to the United States is Mel Gibson, a deeply
committed Catholic, ''who has a great passion for his faith,'' says Baehr,
whose reviews appear in his magazine, ''Movieguide,'' and on Christian radio
The story is told through the eyes of the young
girl who had died, but whom Jesus raised from the dead. In Mark 5:21-43, we
read, ''Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jarius, came there. Seeing
Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, `My little
daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be
healed and live.' So Jesus went with him.'' As they approached the man's
home, some men told Jarius, ''Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher
Jesus ignored them and told the synagogue ruler,
''Don't be afraid; just believe.'' A crowd of people were crying and wailing
loudly. Jesus went to them and said, ''Why all this commotion and wailing?
The child is not dead, but asleep.'' They simply laughed in response.
Jesus took her mother and father and his
disciples into the room, and said to her, ''Little girl, I say to you, get
up!'' Immediately, the girl, who the film calls, Tamar, stood up and walked
around. Scripture says, ''At this they were completely astonished.''
In ''The Miracle Maker,'' Tamar has other
encounters with Jesus during his ministry, a fictional yet plausible
development. Children will love this aspect of the film, for they can
identify with her. Tamar gives the story a fresh angle.
The story opens with Jesus working as a master
carpenter helping build a new synagogue in Sepporis. Again, this is
speculative, but scholars agree that a new synagogue was being built in at
that time in Sepporis, which is not far from Nazareth.
''A superb dramatization of the Gospel
narrative,'' says Anglican Bishop Rowan Williams. ''Accessible,
theologically accurate and moving. An outstanding, vivid and authentic
script. The 1st Century detail is excellent, pretty well flawless, in my
And on CBS in a few weeks, will be a new film
called ''Jesus,'' that was to have been broadcast on Easter, but is a bit
late in production. It is not animation, but a higher budget movie with
Did my column criticizing the story of Moses on
Easter spark these new productions? I don't know, but Ted Baehr thinks so!
Copyright 2000 Michael J. McManus.