09 December 2013

The Messianic symbolism of Braveheart

This weekend, I watched my favorite movie, Braveheart. I first saw it in the theater in 1995 when it came out. My wife and I were dating at the time and we went together. I remember being deeply moved by the movie, though my wife couldn't get past the realistic portrayal of the violence. As I watched it this weekend, the messianic symbolism hit me in a way that I have not experienced before. I am certainly not the first person to notice this and I will not be the last. However, here are a few observations. I have interspersed Bible verses to make my point.  Please look them up. (spoilers after the jump).

The main character, William Wallace, is a Scotsman whose father and brother are killed. He is taken away from his clan by his uncle Argyle. As an adult, he returns and professes his love to Murron (Jeremiah 31:3).  He returns a dried flower she gave him as a child, signifying that he has loved her his whole life (Ephesians 1:4). Because of English tyranny, they marry in secret.

One of the English soldiers attempts to rape Murron and Wallace intervenes. They try to escape, but she is killed by the English. Driven by strong emotion and love for his wife, Wallace retaliates and kills the English garrison who occupies the village. In defense of her honor and for the liberation of Scotland, Wallace leads a rebellion against the mighty English, who have not lost a battle in over 200 years. He remains unswervingly committed to his cause (Luke 9:51, Matthew 16:23).

At the end of the movie, Wallace is captured (Luke 22:47). Several of the Scottish nobles have conspired to deliver William over to the English (Luke 22:1-2). The only nobleman not involved in the plot to deliver Wallace was Robert the Bruce, the heir apparent to the throne of Scotland. As the English soldiers are striking Wallace, Bruce attempts to intervene and blows start falling upon him as well.  One of the nobleman shouts, "the Bruce is not to be harmed, that was the deal!" (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Wallace is brought to the palace where he is imprisoned for treason. He refuses to recant, holding fast to his commitment to Murron and to Scotland (Matthew 26:63). And so he faces purification by pain (Matthew 27:28-31) and then execution (Matthew 27:35). Princess Isabelle, who has fallen in love with Wallace, begs him to plead for mercy.  When he refuses, she asks him to take something to dull his mind and again he refuses (Matthew 27:34).

At the last, he is brought into the public square.  He is on his knees on a cart, strapped to a cross.  The crowd jeers, spits at him, and throws food (Matthew 27:39). He is brought to the platform where he is tortured and strapped to another cross. The royal magistrate brutally tortures him and asks him to beg for mercy. Wallace yells out one word--"Freedom!"--and he is swiftly beheaded (John 19:30). 

Braveheart is unquestioningly messianic, which is unsurprising from Mel Gibson. What may be more surprising is how deeply people are drawn to movies with a strong messianic theme and perhaps don't even know why.  People love movies like Braveheart, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or the Matrix to name a few.  People may have a deep recognition of their need for a Redeemer, even if they don't openly acknowledge it. 

I highly commend Braveheart to you if you have not seen it.  It is profoundly moving.

Watch tomorrow for my second reflection on Braveheart.

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