Movie of the Week: Jesus of Nazareth by Franco Zeffirelli 1977
Clip: 2:12:00 – 2:21:30
Old Testament: Isaiah 60:1-3
New Testament: Luke 15
There are so many scenes from the Bible that Jesus of Nazareth really helps come alive that it is a challenge to limit the devotional selections to a handful. I’ve limited today’s clip to ten minutes, but if you have more time, begin watching around the 1:55:00 mark and continue from there. Zeffirelli does a masterful job of helping the stories of Jesus flow together. This clip is preceded by interactions between Jesus and Simon Peter, Andrew, Matthew, and some of the other disciples are asked to join him.
Like so much of the Bible, the story is told so matter-of-factly we sometimes lose sight of the deeper, underlying struggles that must have been at play. Take, for instance, Jesus telling Peter he would make him a fisher of men. In Matthew 4:20, the Bible says that when Jesus asked Simon and Andrew to join Jesus “At once they left their nets and followed him” (NIV). While they may have left immediately, that still leaves some loose ends to consider. What about his fishing business? His family? Other responsibilities? Whether Peter actually shows some hesitancy, as he does in the film, is impossible to know, but our human nature tells us, at some point, Peter must have really wrestled with all that was going on.
The extended clip packs in several stories from Jesus’ life and, I think, helps us empathize with all that the disciples must have been facing. The entire scene comes to a pinnacle with Jesus’ telling the story of the lost son from Luke 15. This scene is inspiring on several levels. At its heart, of course, is Jesus’ story – one of his most revered. Robert Powell, who plays Jesus, offers a wonderful performance of telling this parable. The scene is set in Matthew’s (the tax collector) house conflating that moment with what is noted in Luke 15:1 that Jesus is said to be in the presence of sinners. All these themes come together to offer a powerful reenactment of the story.
Rather than dissect this scene and the story, try to find time to listen to Jesus’ telling of the parable from the movie, and if you have more time, watch Wintley Phipps tell of the African roots of the song “Amazing Grace” and allow those words to be the focus of your meditation today.