In 1955 Warner Brothers produced and distributed the movie “Rebel Without A Cause”, starring the young actor James Dean. Dean was 24 years old when filming began for “Rebel”. As the movie title suggests, the story is about a young rebellious man named Jim Stark, played by James Dean. The storyline, as described on imdb.com website is
“Jim Stark is the new kid in town. He has been in trouble elsewhere; that’s why his family has had to move before. Here he hopes to find the love he doesn’t get from his middle-class family. Though he finds some of this in his relation with Judy, and a form of it in both Plato’s adulation and Ray’s real concern for him, Jim must still prove himself to his peers in switchblade knife fights and “chickie” games in which cars race toward a seaside cliff.”
On September 17th that same year, James Dean did a 30-second TV commercial for the National Highway Safety Committee in which he cautioned, “Take it easy driving. The life you save might be mine.” Dean died in an automobile accident 13 days later, on September 30th, 1955. The movie “Rebel Without A Cause” was released on October 26th, 1955. The irony, the tragedy, the senselessness of the young, promising man’s death was difficult to grasp. For James to die from a situation he warned about just weeks before… it seems unfair and mocking. Life is unpredictable, and real life is more intense than any movie.
Some 2,000 years before James Dean, another young and promising man died a tragic death that he also told us about beforehand. Where James was unknowingly accelerating his life toward his demise, Jesus was intentionally concluding His life with a mission to His death. Or, more accurately, through His death.
As I ponder the annual celebration of the birth of Jesus, I am reminded that – unlike the young Dean (or any of us) – Jesus came to die in the prime of His earthly life. His life’s mission was a purposeful, intentional, unwavering rebellion. And unlike us, Jesus knew how He would die… a cruel and painful death at the hands of the very people He had come to save.
Jesus’ mission was a rebellion with a purpose. Rebelling against the phony religiosity of man. Rebelling against the exalting of hypocrites who followed rules, not God. Rebelling against man’s belief in redeeming himself by “being good”. Rebelling against knowledge of God instead of relationship with God. His mission continues today, in churches and towns and streets and homes around the world.
We started this post with a pretend story about a rebel with no cause. We end with the true story of a rebel with a holy cause. The world mourned the death of James Dean, yet the world caused the death of Jesus. I think it is safe to say that we were once rebels without a cause too.
“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (ESV)
In this holiday season, when we remember and celebrate the birth of the One that knows and loves us completely, we should also remember that His mission is still our mission. We have a cause.