Wonder and the Bible
I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus lately. About his favorite foods, and if he ever used his carpentry skills to make toys for children. I wonder if he ever tried to start a fire but couldn’t. If it took a few attempts. And I wonder what it would feel like to hug him. To be one of the children who crowded around him. To have him look into my eyes and call me daughter.
The reason I have been thinking so much about Jesus’ humanity is because Evan and I discovered a project called The Chosen - a short-film series about the life and ministry of Jesus, imagined by some Christian creatives. Normally, I would not watch anything where an actor portrays Christ. It’s just how I was raised. I was taught that images of Jesus bordered on breaking the second commandment. And even if it wasn’t for that, I have always struggled to watch films made by Christians because they tend to be a bit...well...cheesy. And I believe that Francis Shaeffer was right when he said that Christians should be the best artists, because we are personally acquainted with the Creator.
Despite my upbringing and nose-in-the-air opinions on art, Evan pressed “play,” and I was curious, so we dove into episode one of The Chosen, which was about Mary Magdalene and her trial of demon-possession. We ended up watching the entire first season in just two days. Both of us were swept up in it. It got us talking.
We noticed how often the writers took creative license, adding details about what might have happened in-between the Gospel narratives and adding backstories that don’t appear in Scripture. “Pastors will have to field a lot of questions,” Evan pointed out. We both predict that many articles will pop up on conservative Christian websites in the near future, critiquing the textual leaps and inaccuracies in the series. Warning Christians to be wary. And that isn’t a bad thing.
But I asked Evan, “What do you think this series will do for people?” He thought about it for a while, the way he does, before answering anything. “I think...it will help them love Jesus.” And I think he’s right. It’s not the inspired Word of God. It’s not the best acting or cinematography I’ve ever seen. But it made us ponder the life of Christ. And Evan reminded me of John 21:25, which says: Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
When was the last time I let myself ponder a question that the Bible doesn’t answer, like whether or not Jesus liked to run, or to walk, or if he had a favorite animal? Maybe Jesus had a pet! I wonder which of his disciples made him laugh the hardest. Did he like the sunshine, or the mood of a cloudy day and the smell after it rains?
These questions are not at the center of the gospel, but they center my affection on the person of Christ, reminding me that he really did walk upon this earth. That he understands what it is like to live in this flesh. To breathe in joy, and to try to breathe through pain. Bread, by the way. The writers of The Chosen decided that Jesus’ favorite food was bread. Which is extrabiblical, but only dangerous if one puts it on the same level of authority as the Bible.
What if we were able to say: the Bible alone is God-breathed, sufficient for piercing sinner’s hearts, teaching, and rebuke, but that creative depictions - whether a painting, a sculpture, a song, or a movie - can be a gift if they push us further into that Word, and the love of God through Jesus Christ? What if we let ourselves consider the life of Christ, using our imagination?
When I read The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe, or The Runaway Bunny as a child, my love for Jesus deepened. I wept when Aslan died, because it made me think about Jesus’ life-giving love for me. I rejoiced when the baby bunny was found, because that is how far God would go to seek one lost sheep. To find me.
I'm not saying you should watch the series. I'm not saying that we need extra-biblical art in order to love Jesus. What I am saying is that art can stir our hearts in unique ways. Shake up our apathy, and cause us to pause and consider things we hadn’t before. It can create wonder. And wonder, grounded on the truths of Scripture, is so incredibly good for our souls.
We have only a fraction of the stories of Jesus' earthly ministry and, were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Consider that. Let it spark your imagination.
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