Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Find the Passover Story in a Christmas Movie?

A perennial holiday favorite is the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.  The film never made a big impact when it was first distributed, and is often called Capra “Corn” because of its schmaltzy plot directed by Frank Capra.  I even know of a few folks that don’t like the movie!  I find that hard to understand, to be frank (not Capra), but another article on the movie really caught my attention.  I am borrowing liberally from that article’s point of view for this one.  See Article hereI choose to see the nobility of the sacrifices made by the movie’s protagonist, George Bailey.  In many ways his story echoes the Passover story.  Do you see the Passover story in this holiday movie so popular at Christmastime?

I love to see allegorical stories or allusions to things that at first glance seem remote from the heart of a story.  Yeshua spoke in parables, and in many ways It’s a Wonderful Life is just such a parable.  It is a parable that tells the story of our Messiah. 

First, my friend that doesn’t like the movie concentrates on the fact that George Bailey puts all of his own hopes, dreams and aspirations on hold for everyone else.  He misses college, never becomes an architect or world-traveler, and because of that my friend is offended to think George displays such altruism.  Nobody would do that, would they?

What if we look at in the context of George Bailey as a portrayal of Yeshua?

What would ‘Jesus’ do?

Seems to me that George Bailey fits the gospel story almost perfectly.  Should we feel sorry for him?  Or glory in his magnificent gift to his fellow men? What kind of character does George display?

George gives no thought to himself when he plunges into icy water to save his brother from downing.  And this is not the only time!  We see that George has a penchant for doing the right thing, even when he is punished for it.  When he saves the life of a sick child (that he never sees) by choosing not to deliver the wrong medicine he is slapped for it.  And when the truth comes out, even bleeding and in pain George has a generous heart of forgiveness and understanding for the heartbroken druggist who had just lost his son.  He saved both the druggist and the child who would have received the wrong medicine.

Just when life seems to be on the up-swing for George, a curious event happens.  Right before the calling on his life begins with the death of his father, he winds up plunging into a swimming pool in the middle of a Charleston contest.  Mikveh anyone?

Through a series of events George puts all his hopes and dreams aside.  Upon his father’s death he steps up to be the head of the Savings and Loan.  He gives up college to allow his younger brother to go instead. 

Life isn’t all terrible for George, he marries, has a family, and enables the townspeople to escape the thumb of Mr. Potter to build their own homes though the Building and Loan. 

Here is where it gets interesting.   What is George’s response when Potter offers him a job?  It’s triple the salary (wealth beyond belief), it is prestige!  It comes with a cigar, and it even offers travel!  Potter fills in for Satan by offering George the world and all it holds, but George, though sorely tempted, turns him down.  It may not have happened in a desert, but the story is familiar.

George uses money out of his own pocket to save the Building and Loan when there is a run on the bank.  And when Uncle Billy has a large deposit of money stolen from him by Mr. Potter (the richest and most evil man in town) George again places himself in the breach.  Instead of throwing Uncle Billy under the bus, he claims the sin as his own and seeks to fix the short-fall.

When George is at the end of his rope, with no hope to recover the lost money, he turns to prayer.  It is his garden of Gethsemane moment.  He’s contemplating his own death!  A suicide that would pay the debt from his insurance!  And even that is a parallel to Yeshua.  When George jumps off the bridge to save Clarence, he, for all intents and purposes, dies!  He’s given a gift to see the world as it might have been without his ever being born.

Without George, Bedford Falls becomes Pottersville, ruled by the avarice of the most evil guy in town.  Pottersville is dark, decadent and without hope.  Loved ones are inevitably headed for Potter's Field!  And in another parallel, the folks that George loves the most don't recognize him.

When George repents and asks to be returned, he is resurrected.  He tells GOD, “I don’t care what happens to me, just get me back.”  The climax of the movie is when his life is restored.  The world is again a better place in which to live.  With George Bailey there is light and hope; without him it was dark and hopeless.

There is yet another allusion that I see in the movie that takes me to Passover.  When George and Mary make a gift to the new owners of a house built by the Building and Loan they present the family with salt, wine and a loaf of bread.  A covenant meal!  And George is the access point for the poor to have their own homes.  Didn't Yeshua say he was going to prepare a place for us?

Can we look at George as a man after the Father’s heart?  A man willing to sacrifice his own desires, his life, to honor the legacy of his father?  George recognized the weightier matters and set aside worldly things for what is important.  He behaved as a righteous man, even when it was not what he wanted for himself.  And, in the end, he was rewarded for his altruism (I prefer the term love) when the entire town rallies to lift him up. 

Perhaps there isn’t any truth to an angel getting wings every time a bell rings, but George certainly earned his crown.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your insight. I have always loved this movie, and now, perhaps, I know why.