I’m a visual learner and one thing I love about the Bible is how visual it is. The writers give wonderful little details that make a scene come alive, like the time Jesus healed a deaf mute, and put his fingers into his ears and after spitting touched his tongue. Or when Zacchaeus ran on ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. Or when Jesus noticed a poor widow put in two small copper coins into the offering.
And in our visual age novels and as well as nonfiction books end up on the screen for our viewing pleasure. The Bible is no exception. I remember watching the six hour Jesus of Nazareth film several years ago and being captivated by the dramatic re-enactment of the incarnate Son of God on earth. There’s also the two hour Jesus film**, and more recently, The Passion of the Christ.
Now in Sunday School, we’re watching the Visual Bible: Matthew**. I didn’t go the first few weeks, but people kept telling me how good it was. They were right. What sets this screen version apart is that it dramatizes the entire text, with either the characters or a narrator speaking the words in Matthew. So there is a brief scene to illustrate Matthew 14:13 Now when Jesus heard this he went away from there privately in a boat to an isolated place. You see him wading into the water [a reminder that they didn’t use docks for small boats]with his cloak getting wet, and then hoisting himself up. There is something very moving about that glimpse of what the incarnation looks like.
It’s also no accident that the DVD cover shows Jesus smiling [a sharp contrast to the sorrowful Jesus on the cover of Jesus of Nazareth]. The Visual Bible portrays Jesus as joyful and playful with the disciples and with children, and taking great delight when he heals someone. It rings true that the person who incarnates life and light would be someone of great joy.
Seeing is not always believing, though. Time and again in the Bible, people who have seen God perform stunning signs have then balked when it came time to put their trust in him [Numbers 14 being a case in point]. But there is a real benefit to watching a film like the Visual Bible. Several times in the gospels, Jesus says a particular phrase to his listeners. It’s usually translated as Consider carefully what you hear or Pay attention to what you hear. But if you translate the original Greek literally, word for word, what he actually said was, See what you hear.” See, envision, perceive: that’s what the Visual Bible helps us do. One day we shall see face to face, but for now we see only a poor reflection as if in a mirror. The Visual Bible helps us see what it is like when the Word is made flesh and makes it a little easier to open the eyes of our hearts.
The Visual Bible is best to watch slowly, at a reading pace. We’re taking it a chapter or two at a time. There’s plenty to reflect on and discuss after twenty minutes of viewing. The entire production is 4 and a half hours–making the $15 DVD a great deal. The gospel of John and Acts are available in the same format too.
The Jesus Film You can watch it online and choose from hundreds of languages, including Cishingini,
Erzya and Tamazight.