Film Friday: Ben-Hur

In this classic tale of brotherhood, slavery and revenge the glory of man plays out in the arena, with chariots, whips and deadly ambition.

Prince Judah Ben-Hur and Messala Severus have been raised as brothers, though Judah is Jewish and his adopted brother is Roman. When Messala joins the army he is assigned to protect Pontius Pilate and things go very badly wrong. His brother Judah is accused of treason and for five long years he labours as a slave in treacherous conditions on a Roman war ship. When he eventually escapes he returns home intending to exact revenge on his adopted brother. And then he witnesses the death of Jesus.

The glory of man plays out in the arena with muscles, sweat, sand and posturing. The glory of God is presented on a cross of loss, pain and humility. Yet the weakness of God challenges the strength of Judah and stops him dead in his tracks. Judah’s lust for revenge melts away when he witnesses the extraordinary sacrifice and forgiveness of Jesus. His world view is challenged and he begins to change direction. The power of the cross of Jesus is a strange, mysterious, illogical thing. An event that has impacted billions of people and led them to a new way of life, turning the accepted ways of the world upside-down. Many analyse it from afar and respond with disbelief and sometimes ridicule. But some of those folks then move a little closer, and like Judah, find rescue and relief. The courage and commitment of Jesus of Nazareth opened a door that no one could close. And time and again I’m so grateful for the forgiveness, inspiration and fresh start that I find in him. ‘It was our weaknesses, our sorrows that weighed him down, he was crushed because of our iniquities, our mistakes and crimes, wounded for our sins. he was beaten in order that we might have peace.’ That’s how Isaiah explains it in chapter 53 of his biblical book, verses 4-6.

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