As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
Luke 24:30,31

Christ at Emmaus by Rembrandt, 1648

Christ on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32). How I love this story! When I first read it, my mind pictured a Middle Eastern landscape at the golden hour with Jesus backlit by the sun (casting his face in shadow and obscuring his features). I “filled in” what I perceived as gaps in the story, including the dialogue intimated at in the verse, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Wow! I said to myself at the time. If I could put all that dialogue together, it would be a great way to witness to my Jewish friends!
I also took note of the reactions of Cleopas and his unnamed companion as Jesus spoke to them along the way… I pictured their anguished, weather-beaten faces revealing a rising hope, while they touched their chests, feeling what they would later describe as a “warming of the heart.”

For me, the road to Emmaus story serves as a wonderful insight on filmmaking. 
Two men, discouraged by recent events, find themselves on a lonely stretch of road. Their best friend has been murdered and they are reeling with grief, uncertain if justice will be done. High drama turns to mystery as an unidentifiable stranger joins their company. He has no leading-man good looks, “no stately attraction to draw us to him” (Isaiah 53:2). Yet, curiously, his personality “fills the screen.”
Cut to the interior of the house in Emmaus. Dramatic suspense turns to supernatural thriller as the mystery man breaks bread at the dinner table, revealing he is none other than the Messiah. At last some now say! The truth is in full view. Let’s break it down into sermon points and put it on Christian TV. But wait, where did he go? Jesus, come back, let’s get a second take! At least a close-up. But no. He has vanished into thin air. Surprisingly, the audience doesn’t seem to care. The plot has thickened, and everyone waits in anticipation to see what will happen next.
Note to aspiring filmmakers: Don’t be afraid to let some things go. Your audience will thank you for it. No one wants to be told what to think—especially when watching a movie.

Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur, 1959 (dir. William Wyler)

My mind goes to the scene in the 1959 movie Ben-Hur in which the title character, betrayed by his former friend, Messala, finds himself on another road… the road to Tyrus, where he will be made a slave of the Roman galleys. The journey—a forced march through the desert—becomes too much for Judah Ben-Hur. As the convoy reaches Nazareth, he scurries with the others to drink water, a few drops of water, but the Roman centurion, acting under orders, keeps him isolated. “No water for him!” he commands. Ben-Hur falls to the ground. In his torment and delirium, his voice just above a whisper, he cries through parched lips, “God help me.” Fade up the music and cue Christ (in an over-the-shoulder shot). He gives our hero all the water he can drink, staring down the fearsome centurion in the process. Ben-Hur recovers his strength and finishes the march. He survives the hell-hole experience of the Roman galleys, too, and will ultimately be restored to his loving family in Jerusalem. Does he ever really put all the pieces together? I don’t think so. “Once before a man helped me,” he will say later in the film. “I didn’t know why.”
Personally, I believe we will have done our job as Christian filmmakers when we spark the viewers’ imagination enough for them to get even a glimpse of the Savior. Provided it is the real thing, a glimpse may be all that is needed. Herein lies the noble challenge for Christians who wish to make films, write poetry, compose music, paint great art. Our work is to spread his fragrance… to reveal his beauty in the washing of feet, the embrace of a leper, the forgiveness of an enemy… Let us be like the mother who daily dabs her baby’s tongue with a taste of the divine. She knows full well that the taste of the tongue lasts a lifetime. 
Pablo Picasso said this: “God is really another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant and the cat. He just goes on trying other things.” Picasso, of course, could have been talking about himself. The greater point for me is that God, who made mankind, is not confined by human convention. Why should artists who name the Name of Christ be any different?

The Road to Emmaus by Robert Zünd, 1877

As Easter approaches, will you join me for a walk down the road to Emmaus? Perhaps your heart is heavy. My heart is heavy sometimes, too. But someone special walks with us, someone to lighten our load. “He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). And, yes, it’s hard to see him sometimes. The distractions and challenges of this life—like unfiltered sunlight—blind us to his identity. At the same time, we sense something about him that piques our curiosity and warms our heart. He seems to know everything about us—our weaknesses, our sins, our fears—and miracle of miracles, he doesn’t turn away. For some reason, and I can’t tell you exactly why, he joins us on the journey, and the more time we spend with him, the more we realize he is our friend. 

Happy Easter, my friends!

This is the book that inspired Cris to make The Puzzle Factory, now in pre-production with Messenger Films. The contents of its pages were not originally intended for publication. Let Me Have My Son contains, primarily, letters written on behalf of his son, Daniel, who at the time had been a patient in mental hospitals in Virginia and Mexico for seven years...

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Cristóbal Krusen is a filmmaker and author. He founded Messenger Films in 1988.

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