Mary Magdalene is due to hit the big screen today. Emily Howarth, deputy editor of Premier Youth and Children’s Work, explains why she thinks it could be the perfect film for your youth group.
We love a good film clip illustration, right? Ones that represent Biblical truths from real Christian films are rare and if we’re honest they’re often unhelpfully cheesy. If you’re anything like me, you keep a steady eye open for anything that portrays our faith in a way that doesn’t have the tell-tale whiff of cheddar. This year’s release, Mary Magdalene definitely caught my eye.
See Saw’s head of film development, Katherine Bridle, was keen to highlight this is not a Christian film. It is a secular exploration, with the Bible recognised as a historical text not the word of God. Personally I appreciate their honesty. However, if you go in to this film expecting the Bible in all its God-breathed divinity you are going to be sorely disappointed. But that doesn’t stop it being something of a God-send for someone looking for a few new clips to add to their repertoire. Overall, this is not an action movie, so use wisely if your group are likely to find it a little dry. But here are some themes that we could use this film to explore.
The portrayal of Judas in this film is possibly the most interesting character arc in the whole film. We often see Judas as little more than a symbol of the sinner and the grapple between free will and God’s divine plan. But here he is shown as a faithful follower of Jesus, desperately seeking the new Kingdom of God that he sees in Jesus’ teaching. Yet – spoiler alert – he betrayed Jesus. His choice shows a character that is not only believable but one we could all be.
Jesus can be disappointing
As the story unfolds and Mary begins her journey following Jesus with the other disciples, we witness conversations between his followers as they attempt to understand Jesus’ intentions without our gift of hindsight. We see laid out their expectation of a powerful and conquering king based on their understanding of the prophecies in the Old Testament. Their wrestling with this explores how we can often misunderstand God’s intentions, a helpful leap into the often untouched territory of ‘unanswered’ prayer or other difficult elements of faith.
Women were disciples
It is an interesting nuance to see Mary as a fully-fledged disciple, an encouragement to those who too easily see God as sexist. The film is honest about the difficulties a 1st Century Palestinian woman would have had following Jesus, an encouragement to all who don’t feel they fit the usual church model of what a Christian looks like.
Jesus got angry
The film shows Jesus as fully human. This can make for uncomfortable watching in parts, and will probably divide Christian audiences. However, it does display a wealth of Jesus’ emotions, including his anger in the temple. For a generation that is frustrated with the world around them, it would be interesting to explore that Jesus feels the same about injustice.
The disciples disagreed
The disciples spend most of the film bickering about stuff. In fact, they come across in a pretty bad light overall. They disagree over his intentions and seem to believe that they can bend Jesus to their will. Sound familiar? Being honest about the weaknesses of our church is important so our young people don’t believe that just because we’re Christian we’re squeaky clean. Here we see very clearly that has never been the case.
With my film clip bank ready to be refilled, I await the arrival of the DVD.