I recently bought the blue-ray edition of Ben-Hur (1959) and we had a family movie night last night enjoying it. One thing, however, kept coming up. Cambria (8) kept commenting how badly she wanted to see Jesus’ face. If you have ever watched the film you will know that you NEVER directly see his face (or hear his voice).
We watch as shepherds and wise men arrive, but we never quite get a glimpse of the baby Jesus. We see him from a distance walking the countryside of Galilee. We hear about him from a neighbor that is bothered enough to confront Joseph about his son not working sufficiently as a carpenter. We get a peek from over his shoulder as he gives a drink of water to the recently enslaved Judah ben Hur and then face down a Roman centurion. We hear some of his teachings, acts and sayings in the mouths of others. We follow behind him on a hillside while thousands wait upon him attentively. He is hidden behind a Roman cross as he traverses the Via Dolorosa and as Judah takes opportunity to try to assist Jesus in carrying the cross. We even scan the onlooking crowds from behind him as he hangs on the cross and Judah looks on. Even his last words are only heard in the voice of Judah ben Hur. Not a glimpse of his face and no sound of his voice.
This seemed to particularly disturb Cambria (though my other children were also bothered). She wanted to “see” (and hear) Jesus. But that is not the story of Ben-Hur. It is entirely an oblique story of Jesus. One in which a faithful affluent Jew suffers the evils of empire and broken friendship, is miraculously preserved and restored, only to discover life is more than all of this. Life is found in the man he encounters only obliquely, yet who transforms his entire world. And this is our story. We do not (yet) see him or hear his voice directly. Now, we see in part and hear in part. We hear his voice in the voice of others. We see him only in passing even as we seek the more intently to gaze on him. We see his hands at work, we see the lives of others changed. We hear his words repeated by others. But we do not yet see him face to face.
And so it is with this wonderful classic film adaptation of Lew Wallace‘s novel which is rather fittingly subtitled “A Tale of the Christ” because ultimately the story of Ben-Hur is not really about him, but about Jesus.
And, from my perspective, this is the way our stories of redemption flow. Until that day when we will know him fully even as he knows us…