As a young man my most favorite movie of all was "Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ". Yes, like other boys of my generation I loved movies about the old west, war movies and tales of adventure. Yet, this Hollywood rendition of the amazing biblical story really affected my life and thinking.
The chariot race was breathtaking and incredible. Yet, the most touching and powerful parts came after Christ’s death on the cross. When Christ dies it begins to rain and we see his blood flowing down as the atonement for sin. Judah ben Hur’s mother and sister are healed of their dreaded leprosy and emerge from the leper cave. Leprosy, besides being a terrible disease, is a biblical symbol of sin’s destructive power. They were completely healed!
From a recent blog post that I located at Ligonier Ministries, Pastor Anthony Carter provides something I found most helpful in his blog entitled "Our Bloody Religion", which primarily focuses on the biblical significance and meaning of Christ's blood at His Crucifixion: "More than anything else, the blood of Christ is spoken of as accomplishing for us the grand benefits that belong to salvation: We have been purchased by His blood (Acts 20:28). We have propitiation (satisfaction of the Father's wrath) by His blood (Rom. 3:25). We have been justified by his blood (Rom. 5:9). We have redemption through His blood (Eph. 1:7). We who were afar off have been brought near by His blood (Eph. 2:13). We have peace through His blood (Col. 1:20). Our consciences are purified by His blood (Heb. 9:13). We are sanctified through His blood (Heb. 13:12). We are ransomed by His blood (1 Peter 1:19). We have been set free from sin by His blood (Rev. 1:5). These and many other benefits remind us that the blood of Christ is central to all we are as a redeemed people. Therefore, it should not be surprising that as recipients of God’s gracious salvation through the person and work of Christ, we preach, pray, and even sing of the wonderful power of the blood.
Later in "Ben Hur", Judah returns to his former home after watching Jesus die and shares with his fiancé Esther about what he heard Jesus say on the cross at almost the moment He died, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And then also, Judah told her, “and I felt his voice take the sword from my hand" (which was the sword of vengeance and hate against Rome).
The same Man who had given Judah a cold drink and the hope and will to live, even as he was being led away to die as a galley slave, had now given Judah eternal life and forgiveness of sins. Judah had come to look upon the Savior by faith while He was hanging on the cross in Judah's place. Judah discovered that Jesus was the promised Messiah and Savior! Ben Hur's hope and life was once again restored by the crucified Savior through the look of faith.
Again, as Esther comforts Judah, suddenly, his mother and sister emerge to show him that they are now healed and made whole by Christ’s blood and atoning sacrifice. With a look of faith upon the Savior hanging on the cross there comes the removal of sin, forgiveness for sins past, present and future. Christ’s death on the cross heals. Christ’s death on the cross transforms the heart from hate to love. Christ’s death gives hope as we are justified by faith in Him alone.
Now, the movie, “Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ”, is all Hollywood, but it was well done and inspiring. It won 11 Academy awards in 1960, which was the most of any movie, until "Titanic" (1997) and "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" (2003), both of which won the same number.
Well, while on our visit home during last Christmas we of course spent time with family. My brother Larry and his wife Tammy have enjoyed reading the novel "Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ", and especially its depiction of the Savior interconnecting with the life of the main character and the portrayal of Christ’s giving of hope and love through His life and death. They encouraged Kim and I to read this amazing book that the movie was based on. We took them up on their encouragement, and so, we have been slowly reading through this amazing book.
This novel was written by Lew Wallace in the 1800s and is considered the most influential novel of the 19th century, even surpassing the sales of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Lew Wallace was an American lawyer, Union general in the Civil War, governor of New Mexico territory and author from Indiana. Most important is he was a Christ follower and set out to write a novel depicting Christ’s life and death by crucifixion and the effect on the lives of regular people as a testimony of the Savior’s solution for sin, the power of the atonement and the love and hope He gives to those who will believe.
I am impressed by the way in which Jesus’ voluntary sacrifice is portrayed in the film and I'm anticipating the same in the novel. He didn’t have to do that. Love for us placed Him there. Love for us kept Him there. There’s nowhere else for a sinner who recognizes they are a sinner in need of a Savior to look…there’s no other remedy for sin. If He doesn’t pay for our sins in our place, then we must pay for them ourselves. The look of faith must happen in this lifetime. Once this life is over it is too late.
As a result of God’s plan of rescue and deliverance through Christ’s death on the cross, those who are born again by that look of faith to Jesus, who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, are brought to the Father, cleansed by His sacrifice and by His blood. That look of faith allows us to be declared by the Father as free from the penalty of sin (Romans 8:1, “There is, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in (forgiven, born-again, rescued by) Christ Jesus." Now THAT is an amazing “tale of the Christ” in the life of all who believe and it is still happening daily throughout this sin-filled world all these many years after that amazing day!
Two of my most favorite verses are these:
I am really enjoying the “new read” my brother and his wife led us to (we knew about it, but were content with the movie version…silly I know!). I encourage you to read it as well. But most of all, I encourage you to look by faith on the Savior who died in our place. We must acknowledge that we believe and want to receive his forgiveness for our sins and that He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father but through Him.
**Click on the picture below and read the full blog post from Pastor Carter, "Out Bloody Religion".
Robert Thomas Clark, M.Div.
Follower of Christ