Friday, January 1, 2010

The Miracle Maker. (2000)
Derek W. Hayes and Stanislav Sokolov

When our voting community talks about the greatest films of arts and faith, it's sad we don't have more noticeable children's films. In a key scene in The Miracle Maker, Jesus champions the faith of the little ones. He reminds us that they approach Him from the eyes of innocence, and out of a fearless need for life-affirming love. They know they can find their needs met in Him, and they're ready to be enveloped in the power of His life. They're ripe for seeking all the good they can hold onto, and they they're less apt to doubt that this good is found in Him.

Not that The Miracle Maker is necessarily a children's film, per se. It is animated, switching from very real looking puppets that are brought to life in a claymation-like process, to flashback scenes rendered in straight up cartoon. And we're somewhat conditioned to see this as only a children's medium and form. But when a story presents such a strong narrative arc -- (it is, after all, "The Greatest Story Ever Told") -- we can interpret it as a story that will reach any age, any skin color, any religion in any nation. Good Story does that.

This story in particular has a message that is to everyone, everywhere, and it is simple: God's Kingdom is here, and now, and it happens in how you take care of the creation the Father has created you in. Jesus' death and atonement for sin is only a part of the symbolic picture of how we are instructed to live and bless the world.

So even though it works for little kids -- and I watched twice as my own were completely engrossed in it (ages 6 and 4) -- it is a story that barrels through the age barrier, especially when told, as it is here, with such reverence for the original text, and piercing honesty.  

The Miracle Maker is personally amazing to me because I don't really like cartoons or kids' shows. Yet, even in a form that doesn't usually excite me, this story, when told this well, is the one that invades my heart and leaves me quietly stunned. Perhaps a tear can be found trickling from the corner of my eye.

Two pointed ideas are found in this version of the Gospel that aren't typically included in versions told to little ones:

One: That every political, social and economic view was present for Jesus to transform. That his disciples had loads of ideas about what their mission even was. That his crucifixion and resurrection overwhelmingly shocked as many as were on the outside of the circle, as it did the ones listening to his heart at the dinner table earlier that night.

And, TWO: That when Christ cried out and died, not only were the skies groaning and full of darkness, but somewhere off in the distance was a temple -- and as He gave up the ghost, the temple veil was shockingly torn in two.  The miracle of this event is what struck me in this rendition of the Gospel. After thousands of years of ritual and sacrifice, God still longed to fulfill the original promise he made to Abraham. That we who know Him are to be a blessing to all people, everywhere.

When the temple veil ripped, God picked up a universal bullhorn and shreiked at the earth: "Everyone is welcome! Every tribe! Every nation! Cast aside your judgment, and care for one another! The Kingdom is here, and now! There's no need to separate from those around you! Everyone, everywhere, come in!"

Watching this rendering of the tearing of the veil makes me wonder whether we, like the disciples at that time, are still floundering at the actual message of Christ. God rips the veil of a thousand-year religious process to make a point, and we, what? Somehow, we start a new religion called "Christianity."

I know there is hope. And I know God loves the church. The Story writes itself onto my heart, and I remain convinced that the way of Jesus is the only Way to truly bring heaven here to the earth. I just don't know how to do that, yet.

But I hope there are others who are wondering the same thing.

For a review instead of a reaction, check out my friend SDG's review Here, and my friend Matt's review Here. They are both excellent for further reading on The Miracle Maker.


  1. Great thoughts, Mr. Filmsweep.

    See, I have the opposite bias, I love animation in general, it is one of my great biases. But this movie transcends it. It is more than its medium. As you said, Good Story.

    I also loved how we see adult Jesus working as a carpenter at the beginning. It really sets the stage of the SIMPLICITY of this retelling.

    David S.

  2. Hi David. I only recently got the ability to post a response on my new blog, sorry about the delay.

    Thanks for the comment! Yes, I do have too many issues with animation. But at least I can understand that this is an issue with me... True art does transcend this bias. I really loved both Wall-E and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs this year. My then six year-old daughter still had her 3-D glasses on as the credits rolled at the end and I remember almost crying for joy as I felt it was such a good experience and I listened to her sing along with, "It's raining Sunshine!" What a beautiful moment it was.

    I will be voting to keep Miracle Maker in our Top 100 t A&F. A part of me hopes it moves down the list a bit because I'm still like, "An animated Jesus film at #3?"

    But it is lovely. And perfect. And simple but I think profound too. Perfect for adults and kids to together marvel at the Greatest Story Ever Told.

  3. How'd the four year do with it? Mine made it through Wall-E, not UP, John Wayne's In Harm's Way, and Star Wars, not Hostel.

    Ed AKA Buckeye Jones

  4. Ed, I only now saw your question months later. I apologize. I need to figure out a way to get the blog to email me whenever I receive a question.

    Elijah (just check out that Biblical name!) loved it, and for Easter this year I bought a DVD copy for the two. It's one of their favorite films.

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