Summary: It’s a wonderful life when your belief in Christ grows the more you know about him.
This fall a motion picture called The Gospel of John [http://www.gospelofjohnthefilm.com] will be released in the United States. Narrated by Christopher Plummer (Captain Von Trapp in the Sound of Music), the movie is a word for word presentation of the Gospel of John. It features 75 highly respected principal actors from the Canadian and British stage as well as more than 2,000 extras.
SermonCentral.com has asked Dr. David Mains, the director of Mainstay Ministries, to write four new sermons from John’s gospel that we can feature during the month of September.
Have you ever wished you had never been born?
Most everyone has felt that way a time or two. Life’s potential gets outweighed by life’s problems, making you feel like it’s not worth it to even remain alive.
Way back in 1946, Director Frank Capra made a movie about a good man who spent his days helping others but in the process life seemed to pass him by. When the film came out it wasn’t all that big a hit. Critics gave it mixed reviews. It barely made back its cost. But over the years It’s a Wonderful Life became a classic.
Like I said last Sunday, conflict is the problem a movie script is about. The conflict in this story is about a good man in a small town who unfortunately has few resources-that’s George Bailey played by Jimmy Stewart. Pitted against him is a mean character who owns everything in Bedford Falls except the Bailey Building and Loan. But Old Man Potter (played by Lionel Barrymore) will do anything underhanded, dirty, you name it, to get his grasping hands on that entity.
The movies we love have a good story line (which includes conflict), but they also reveal character development. Between these two ingredients, the story line is more important. But an audience will be dissatisfied with nothing except action. They want to understand the key people, to feel what they’re going through, and, if possible, see them through to victory.
I chose It’s a Wonderful Life as an example of this because most of you have seen it and the key characters are so memorable:
George Bailey-even as a boy he risked his life to save his brother from drowning. This kind of selfless act marks him all through the film. But George is an unsung hero who doesn’t know his worth as a person. Not that he’s perfect-as the story unfolds further revelations disclose aspects of his character we didn’t know previously. He gets frustrated and angry and discouraged. He despairs, even to the point of wanting to end it all. In the progression of Stewart’s performance we see a classic example of what should happen to the protagonist, the hero of a story, the main character-he’s changed as a result of the crises he has to undergo.
Mary Hatch Bailey is another main character. She’s George’s wife. She’s sensitive and supportive and feminine. It’s hard to imagine anyone else in that role because Donna Reed plays it so well.
The antagonist-mean, despicable Mr. Potter-is out to get whatever he wants regardless of who has to be smashed in the process. He’s a true villain and yet is quite believable. He’s not like the comic book figure or caricature. We really think we know people like this adult bully.
The person who precipitates the crises is Uncle Billy. He’s not really a main character, but it’s his mistake that puts George Bailey in his terrible fix. This often necessary and somewhat odd type personality is frequently the person who sets up a story’s climax.
Of course there’s also the lovable but bumbling angel, Clarence, who helps prove to George Bailey that his life has been valuable, truly remarkable, in fact, wonderful. But that’s enough of a look at the role characterization plays in a movie.
This past week did you go see the new film I told you about last Sunday? If you did, you already know that my recommendation was a good one. The movie is outstanding-even better than expected. If you haven’t yet seen The Gospel of John, PLEASE make that a part of your plans for this week. My belief is that this is the motion picture about Jesus for which Christians have been waiting.
If you’ve already gone, go back and watch it with some non-church friends. Then tell them your pastor is talking about it in his sermon next Sunday. See if they want to come to church with you. Because you’ve seen it, you know there’s no ambiguity in the movie. It’s Jesus the way John’s gospel presents him, word-for-word. The theatre where it’s playing is ______________________________.
Seeing John’s gospel laid out like this in a single presentation, I was quickly made aware of the writer’s use of characterization. The main figure, of course, is Jesus. Since he’s the focus of next Sunday’s sermon, I’ll limit my comments about him today. But in a good script the viewer needs to know why a given character acts the way he does. What his motivation is. That comes out so clearly in this film regarding our Lord…as it does in John’s gospel, take your pick.