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Son of God: Their Empire, His Kingdom, reviewed by Daniel Snape


Son of God: Their Empire, His Kingdom (20th Century Fox). Actors: Darwin Shaw, Sebastian Knapp, Paul Knops, and Darcie Lincoln. Directors: Christopher Spencer. Music by Hans Zimmer.

From producers, Roma Downy and Mark Burnett comes the movie Son of God. Directed by Christopher Spencer (with additional scenes directed by Tony Mitchell and Crispin Reece), Son of God depicts the life of Jesus based on the Gospel of John. This is made apparent to the watcher as John as an old man narrates the beginning and end of the movie. If you are familiar with the mini-­‐series The Bible by the same producers, then one will realize that there is not much new material in Son of God. It is clear and encouraging, however, that the release and editing of this film was a strategic move to gain national and international cinema exposure to the Gospel story.

The film does well in covering the essential and compelling aspects of the Gospel narratives. Beginning with Jesus’ birth and visitation by the magi, our first image of Jesus the man, is as a solitary figure walking the mountaintops of Judea as he gazes down on the Sea of Galilee. This leads to Jesus’ encounter with Peter as Peter laments the lack of fish he able to catch. Peter’s initial skepticism towards Jesus is placated by Jesus asking, “Just give me an hour and I will give you a whole new life.” Peter’s response is, “Who says I want one?” While this exchange is not found in any of the Gospel narratives it unquestionably addresses a modern day dilemma many of us face. After Peter pulls in a miraculous catch of fish, he becomes aware that there is something different about Jesus, something worth following.

Familiar scenes to many such as Jesus preaching to the crowds, the healing of the paralytic who comes through the roof, the feeding of the five thousand and the resurrection of Lazarus, are skillfully and artistically conveyed. Two scenes in particular though, stand out as especially powerful and moving. These are the calling of Matthew the tax collector as he realizes his sinful nature and sees the hope that following Jesus offers, and Peter walking out on the water to meet Jesus. Both scenes help to depict the power of humility in acknowledging our sinfulness but also our faith in reaching out and walking towards Jesus.

Also well conveyed and communicated is the tension between Roman rule and the Jewish population. Roman brutality is displayed in several scenes and the scheming and politics that was so rife between the Romans and the Sanhedrin in a bid to retain power, underlies much of the film. This is an important subtly that is not to be underestimated throughout the film. While the resurrection of Lazarus, the cleansing of the Temple and Jesus’ reading of Isaiah 61 are portrayed as the acts that seal Jesus’ execution, ultimately it is both Pilate and Caiaphas’ paranoia of losing power, that leads to Jesus’ death.

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Category: Living the Faith, Pneuma Review, Spring 2014

About the Author: Daniel P. Snape, D.Min (Boston University School of Theology), M.Div. (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Senior Pastor of Community Congregational Church, Billerica, Massachusetts. He also works and ministers as a chaplain in the Boston area. Facebook.

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