Italian movie director Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth (1977) is a classic and possibly the best film representation of the life of Christ. Where many directors of Biblically-based films are ham-handed with dialogue, characterization, and symbolism, Zeffirelli is subtle and nuanced.
One of the best expressions of his genius is the street scene in Nazareth soon after the Annunciation and just before Mary’s betrothal ceremony to Joseph. Mary sits alone at her loom carefully intertwining the threads of the fabric she is weaving. When she is called to follow the children to the ceremony that awaits her presence, she rises hurriedly to follow.
“a gentle swirl of wind ….”
Stepping out of her courtyard into the dusty street, she feels an imperceptible Presence behind her and turning sees a gentle swirl of wind lift the dust behind her.
Surprised, she hesitates, at first startled, then suddenly sensing a divine mystery, and on the heels of that a holy fear and reverence, before she is recalled to her purpose and hurries away to her betrothed.
In that moment Zeffirelli ties together the component parts of two scenes: the loom and the street, both encompassing the divine mystery of God’s imperceptible presence in the lives of His people. God, like a weaver at the loom, works through the threads of history to unfold his overarching purpose, each thread – far from being random – woven with purpose, firmly in control of his ultimate design. It is this realization, that causes a holy fear to pass across Mary’s startled face.
But this is soon superseded by a humble reverence that she, even she, has been chosen to play a role in the greatest providence of God for mankind, His provision of the Savior of mankind, His Son and our Lord, Jesus.
Images from Franco Zeffirelli, Jesus of Nazareth (1977)