Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Fourth Wise Man

The Story of the Other Wise Man
By Jan McClure

DVD Movie Review of
The Fourth Wise Man
Director: Michael Ray Rhodes; Cast: Martin Sheen, Alan Arkin

The Fourth Wise Man is a Paulist Production available on DVD from It is based on the book, The Story of the Other Wise Man, written by Henry Van Dyke. The story traces the life and journey of a wealthy Persian physician and astronomer named Artaban (played by Martin Sheen). Artaban dedicates his life to finding the Messiah. He embarks upon a search for the newborn Messiah and intends to make the journey with the three Wise Men, but somehow his travels never link up with them. Artaban ends up spending 33 years on this quest.

Artaban begins his journey by selling off his possessions and purchasing three great gifts for the Messiah: a sapphire, a ruby and a pearl “of great price”. Just like Jesus’ parable of the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46), the movie is also a parable that demonstrates the irony of Christianity: that we must give up everything and die to ourselves in order to purchase the pearl, which is the kingdom of God.

Artaban begins his journey toward Bethlehem with his three gifts, traveling with his faithful servant, Orontes (played by Alan Arkin). Orontes is the comic relief in the movie and makes many humorous quips about his master’s choices. Along the way, Artaban stops to help a dying man and thus misses his caravan. Because of this, he must sell one of his gifts so that he may purchase camels in order to proceed toward the Messiah.

The story continues to unfold with Artaban narrowly missing the Messiah. The saga follows Jesus’ path from Bethlehem to Egypt to Jerusalem, just like in the Gospels. Along the way, Artaban finds a leper colony and stops to help them, staying much longer than he had planned. The story shows that by serving others and giving of oneself in true charity and love, we can find peace and fulfillment.

This made-for-television movie obviously had a small budget and started off a little bit slow, however there were many humorous moments plus many messages. Although the film is fictional, it follows Jesus’ life journey, making references to other stories in the Bible and culminating in an ending that is very engaging and somewhat surprising. There is lots of food for thought in this delightful and thought-provoking film.

This film would be appropriate for all ages and would provide great visual teaching moments to young children. It’s only a little over an hour long and could keep a young child’s interest. Christmas is a good time to show it, but it fits any time of year. Since the story ends on Easter Sunday, it would also be a great film to show during Lent or the Easter season.

Questions for youth groups, families, and other small group discussions (and we hope you will post a comment below!):

  1. Can you think of a time when you have given up something for Jesus? Have you ever given up everything for him? If not, could you and what is stopping you ?
  2. Why should we model ourselves after Jesus? What are ways we can meditate more on his life in order to become more like him?
  3. What does ‘”The Pearl of Great Price” mean to you? Read Matthew 13:44-46 for more clarity.



Anonymous said...

good to the point review. Having read part of the book for a class assignment some years ago, I think there was a make of this some years ago so might be the same made for TV movie as I remember seeing it and know how it ends - will not give it away.
Lot of moral lessons are shown in the movie, compassion and humility are but two of them.
Might be time to rent and watch again - maybe during Lent.

Anonymous said...

thanks for share.

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