I had just entered the world of CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) and my initiation included attending the international CBA Conference, held each year during the month of July. As I walked about the conference floor where hundreds upon hundreds (upon hundreds) of vendors (such as publishing houses, recording companies, designers of religious "hardware"), I couldn't help but notice the larger-than-life images taken from the recently released movie, The Visual Bible; The Gospel According to Matthew. And, like most folks, I was captivated by the expression of the actor who portrayed Jesus, Bruce Marchiano.

"The Smiling Jesus," I heard people saying. "He shows Jesus as a man of joy, rather than just the 'man of sorrows.'" It seemed that this one creative move had set Marchiano apart from the ranks of actors Max von Sydow (George Stevens's, The Greatest Story Ever Told) and Robert Powell (Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth).

A Personal Jolt

Some time later, while sitting in my usual place at my church, I listened to our praise and worship team while, on the overhead screen, scenes from the above-mentioned movie played. I will remember forever the scene of "Young Matthew," sitting at his tax collector's desk, looking up as "Jesus" approached him. The camera zoomed in on "Jesus'" face. It filled the screen...and there was something in the eyes...something that beckoned.

"Follow me," he said, quoting Matthew 9:9.

My heart leapt as, immediately, "Matthew" stood...and followed. I was left to wonder, "Could I leave everything behind and follow the call of Jesus?"

Read the Book

A few months later, I began showing the movie to our home study group. We studied three or four chapters of scripture and then watch the corresponding scenes from the movie. As a gift, one of the couples gave me a book by Marchiano, In The Footsteps of Jesus; One Man's Journey (Harvest House, 1997). Reading it, I came to realize that the actor probably understood better than many what it would mean to be in the shoes of the Disciples.

According to Marchiano's story, it was obeying God's call to missionary work in Australia that ultimately led to his acquiring the role of Jesus in Reghardt van den Bergh's movie retelling the Gospel story...but not before nearly washing him up in Hollywood.  With the role of Jesus now his to portray and after being out of work for so long, Marchiano wasn't about to take his new role lightly. He studied the Scriptures as he went to the Lord in prayer, seeking to understand better the One he was about to portray.

Meeting the Man, Conducting an Interview

Having seen the movie and read a couple of his books, I was thrilled when I received the opportunity to meet Bruce Marchiano. Sure, I wanted to chat with him about the role he is most famous for, but even more about his work spreading the Gospel of Christ in Africa, the country in which the movie was shot, as well as his current heavy speaking and writing schedule.

For a few moments we sat at a table, sipping coffee and talking about his newest "passion," sharing the love of God with a dying world.

Eva Marie: What was your first impression of Africa and how did it change after filming the movie?

Bruce: I just fell in love with Africa...I haven't really seen much of Africa, just South Africa...but I fell in love with the place. It's a different way of life; it's a slower way of life - my speed. It's changed and just like any change some of it is for the good and some not. It has become a harder place. Corruption is rampant. When I first went there, I thought "I'm going to move here." If I didn't have a family, my nephews and niece, I would have. But, not today. It's just too dangerous. It's heartbreaking.