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Son of God: Their Empire, His Kingdom, reviewed by John King


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.

Son of God is a dramatization, taken from the memoirs of John the Apostle, played by Sebastian Knapp, that starts with the Savior’s brief ministry on His way to Calvary’s Cross and finishes with our Lord’s Resurrection and promised return.

Richard Bedser, one of its 4 writers, was also a writer for the History Channel’s 2011 documentary, Gettysburg—which should speak well of his talent and that of the team of writers, directors, actors and actresses and all who were chosen for this monumental endeavor.

The difficult task before them was to recreate the picture of betrayal and rejection that would lead to Jesus’ death. This biblical story line with the time constraint movies must honor, in 138 minutes, had to feature a selected few of Jesus’ many miracles and sayings. The first half of the movie then features Jesus crisscrossing the holy land under the observation of a Jewish religious leadership that represents a hostility growing more visceral with each word or act of mercy He shares.

Christopher Spencer, the director, correctly understood that the narrative to have any historical relevance needed more than the suspenseful music that now drapes the backdrop of every modern film. Spencer needed a story line that could integrate the miracles of Christ into a single culminating event—his crucifixion. As scholarship knows, one part of the story was inevitable in this regard: the resurrection of Lazarus. This alone would seal the Savior’s fate.

One Sadducee in the movie betrays the general attitude about Jesus among the religious leaders, “There is nothing unusual about Him aside from His ability to cause havoc!”

Jesus’ choice of a tax-collector, Matthew, is featured and appears to be the beginning of his troubles with the religious authorities of the day. Jesus’ notoriety as a potential problem takes off with children flocking about Him by the hundreds and disrupting a Pharisee holding Yeshiva under a tent. Jesus frees a woman taken in adultery and then pronounces an invalid forgiven before helping him to his feet, healed. He cleanses the temple court while crowds of would-be followers surround Him.

The movie does not follow the biblical text without a bit of drama added, a timeline rearranged, and a few details missing. Jesus does not shed tears at Lazarus’ grave, for example. Instead He enters the tomb and kisses His deceased friend on the head.

But I didn’t find this change of narrative offensive because the purpose behind the scene—behind the entire movie—was to help me live the inspiration behind a Divine idea that led to my own salvation. Also, it is safe to say that the words spoken by Jesus here are a reasonable translation of some of our Lord’s actual sayings.

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Category: Living the Faith, Spring 2014

About the Author: John H. King, M.Th., retired from the pastorate after serving congregations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts for over 24 years and now develops software for the financial services industry. He is the author of Challenged: Living Our Faith in a Post Modern Age.

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