Its not often a film intrigues me with its implicit theological content, but ‘Les Miserables’ has done so! Having received a DVD of the film as a gift, we settled down with some young visitors to the Vicarage to be absorbed by a brilliantly filmed story of revolutionary France.
Recently released convict Jean Valjean arrives at a small village in France. Cold, starving and penniless He is fortunate to receive a meal and lodging from a local bishop. Valjean wickedly repays the bishop’s kindness by running off with his host’s expensive church silverware. He’s soon caught and in danger of being sent back to the dreadful prison from which he has just been paroled but the bishop graciously saves him by claiming that the stolen silverware was, in fact, a ‘gift’
He even adds to Valjean’s new found wealth but with the profound commission “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil but to good. With this silver I have bought your soul. I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred, and now I give you back to God” . The rest of the film continues the story of how the bishop’s extraordinary act of grace transforms Valjean’s hardened heart and, in turn, how he devotes his life to helping others in extreme need.
One other man’s gracious act has offered the possibility of transformation for all of us. The work of Jesus on the Cross achieved once and for all the perfect remedy for sin. Don’t try to understand the mechanics of this – many have tried and all the theories of ‘atonement’ have their supporters and critics. It’s something to accept in faith, and by faith to allow the grace of God to transform the hardest and bitterest of hearts. To bring hope out of despair, and to emphasise the assurance of sins forgiven.
Valjean’s acceptance of his ‘new start’ offered by the bishop transformed his life. Millions have discovered that accepting the offering of what Jesus accomplished on the Cross has transformed their lives out of all recognition.
Easter is a time for those of us who rejoice in this to once again celebrate – and perhaps, for those who have never taken the step of faith, to allow themselves to be transformed. It’s a free gift!
Rev. John Girtchen