In Matthew 2, Joseph takes Jesus and Mary to Egypt, warned that Herod is intent on killing the young boy, before returning when Jesus is a few years older. In Cyrus Nowrasteh’s The Young Messiah (based on Anne Rice’s novel Christ the Lord), the audience is taken to first century A.D. Israel where Jesus (Adam Greaves-Neal) struggles to understand his power and the distinct dichotomy of reactions he receives from adults and children. The powerful, imaginative narrative about what Jesus’ family experienced, and their interaction with a Roman centurion named Severus (Sean Bean), will entertain, inspire, and challenge how you see the childhood of the Son of God.
Joseph (Vincent Walsh) recognizes that he is to take Jesus and Mary (Sarah Lazzaro) back to their homeland, at the same time that the mad ruler Herod (Jonathan Bailey) sends out Severus to track down rumors of the boy that Herod had tried to eradicate years before. These three principles are the primary players in a divine play who can hear the fourth major player: the Demon (Rory Keenan). Here is the allegory-meets-history blend that we could see in The Passion of the Christ: evil is personified and lurking, altering moments but unable to literally make people act.
Interwoven around and through the tension created by Severus’ quest, the Demon’s manipulations, and Jesus’ desire to understand why he’s able to heal others (and threaten their fragile understanding of how the world works), the journey from Egypt to the Temple in Jerusalem allows Nowrasteh to move us forward. We are watching Jesus’ grow up; we are watching Jesus’ parents negotiate the tricky waters of recognizing their son’s special nature; we are exploring the possible backdrop of how a boy became a man who was the Son of God.
For those seeking other background for the film’s Biblical perspective, a reading of Luke 2:40-52 will be helpful. There, we see Jesus’ journey to the temple where he proves himself to the learned rabbis. It also shows us that there is an understanding that Jesus grew (“in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man”), but that he already had acknowledged wisdom and the grace of God upon him. [There is also some background taken from a non-canonical work, The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, about Jesus’ healings of others at a young age.]
Yes, Jesus has special gifts but he doesn’t completely understand them – nor should he if he is indeed fully human like us. Yes, Jesus has the power to heal and bring others together but he also serves as a lightning rod of others’ discontent and disbelief. Of course, all of that is stirred up by the antagonist – the Demon – who rages at Jesus that chaos reigns and Jesus’ role is over already. Isn’t it beautiful to know the Demon doesn’t win?
If there’s more to Jesus’ story (and we know there is), we can also recognize that there’s power here in Jesus’ growth and his humble love for others. We can see that Jesus’ love is part of who he is even if he doesn’t understand what his “mission” is, and that his divine purpose synchronizes in a way that is beautiful and profound.