Warning: Spoiler Alert! Reading this post will totally give the story away.
The film “Far From The Madding Crowd”is based on a novel by Thomas Hardy, set in Victorian England. It is full of shadows and types of Christ. Here’s some of what I saw…
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
The story is that of a shepherd named Mr. Gabriel Oak and his love interest, a strong, independent woman named Miss. Bathsheba Everdene. Even the names are amazing reflections. We see the leading man as a Shepherd, as is our leading man, Jesus. We know that the archangel Gabriel often appears as the Messenger from God on very crucial matters such as revealing the coming Messiah to Mary and Joseph.
Bathsheba in the Old Testament was very beautiful in the eyes of King David, who was a shadow and type of Christ. The name Bathsheba is made up of two words in its original text. Firstly ‘daughter’ and secondly ‘oath’. So the name Bathsheba reflects us as the promised bride to Christ, with God as our Father.
THE ADAMIC NATURE OF HUMANITY
In the beginning of the story, Miss. Bathsheba Everdene works on a farm, neighbouring the sheep farm owned by Mr. Gabriel Oak. Miss. Everdene is a strong, independent woman who is driven by her own ambitions. She is a hard- working, free spirited woman, and is very attractive in the eyes of Mr. Oak.
This is much like us in our state without Christ. We are a stubborn and rebellious people, born into an independent spirit. We see this originating in the Garden of Eden when Adam turns to independence from God rather than obedience to the will of God. We have all inherited this independent nature in Adam yet we are dearly loved by God.
THE GOOD SHEPHERD & THE FREE GIFT OF SALVATION
Mr. Oak is a humble shepherd and a man of few words. He notices Miss. Everdene from afar and then visits one day with a gift – the gift of a lamb. At this meeting, he asks her to marry him, stating how he will provide for her. Miss. Everdene, however flattered and perhaps slightly interested, rejects his offer, stating she is too independent and doesn’t want or need a husband. Mr. Oak accepts her rejection of his offer and returns to his farm.
Here is a beautiful picture of Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knowing us from afar, since before creation and coming to our home, this world, with the free gift of His own pure and blameless life, as seen in the gift of the lamb. We know Jesus is described as the Lamb of God, the Lamb that was slain for our transgressions. By offering this little lamb to Miss. Everdene, we see also Mr. Oak as the picture of the Good Shepherd, revealing his nature to her.
In the gift of the lamb, he reveals a gentle, innocent and beautiful life. Jesus is always wanting us to know His character. He is always showing us who He is, by what has been made. His life for us is a free gift with a promise of eternal value – a holy matrimony indeed.
THE DRIVING NATURE OF RELIGION TO THE LORD’S PRECIOUS SHEEP
That night, Mr. Oak is woken by the sound of his young untamed sheepdog named Young George, barking as he rounds up the sheep in the darkness of the night, ultimately driving them to their death as he drives them all over a cliff. To Mr. Oak’s painful despair, he destroys the silly young dog and inspects his sheep which are all dead or dying. Following this tragic loss, he leaves his farm to go and find employment elsewhere, having nothing left.
This young sheepdog shows the nature of religion that is very much alive in many of God’s people. The tragedy of this scene depicted perfectly the horror of the Lord’s flock being driven by religion, to it’s death. Oh, the anguish of the Good Shepherd over His misled sheep!
JESUS THE GOOD SHEPHERD WAS SENT TO HIS OWN SHEEP BUT BECAUSE OF THEIR UNBELIEF HE WAS REVEALED ALSO TO HIS OTHER SHEEP, THE GENTILES (Romans 11:11-25).
Mr. Oak stumbles across a farm where he can potentially find employment as a shepherd and it turns out the farm has recently been taken over by none other than Miss. Everdene, who has inherited it from her recently deceased uncle. She employs him as her shepherd to take care of her sheep and he humbly takes the position and works with a spirit of excellence.
At one point, all Miss. Everdene’s sheep have eaten a type of grass that has caused their bellies to bloat and Mr. Oak is the only one who can save them. He saves them by wounding them in the side (a type of death that signifies Christ’s death for His sheep when He was pierced in the side and the church being born at that very moment reflected in Eve being formed out of Adam’s side – wow!). After going through this death experience, the sheep are then made alive.
This is an incredible picture of the believer’s baptism. In baptism, we enter into Christ’s death in order to be raised in His resurrection. Just as Gabriel Oak was the only one who could perform this operation on the sheep, so is Jesus Himself the Resurrection and the Life!
THE ENEMY SEEKS TO ROB, KILL & DESTROY BUT JESUS IS THE GOOD SHEPHERD (John 10:10)
A suprise love interest appears in the story in the character of Sargent Frank Troy. After losing his true love, Fanny Robin, in a matter of confused communication, he defects from the army with his broken heart and bruised ego, and stumbles upon Miss. Everdene on her property one night, only to return again the next day and pursue her. Miss. Everdene is completely bewitched by him and his lusty power over her is evident, much to her peril.
Mr. Oak, foreseeing the type of impending trouble by falling for such a character, warns Bathsheba but she finds herself unable to deny him, much to the concern and hidden heart ache of Mr. Oak. In an impetuous act, Bathsheba marries Frank. Inevitably, Frank turns out to be a terrible presence in her life, bleeding her dry of money through his drinking and gambling and turning to controlling and violent behaviour towards her, she as a dove in his harsh, cold and crooked hands.
Frank Troy reminded me of the spirit of this world with its lustful enticements, lies and deceptions. How often the Lord Jesus warns us through the Holy Spirit, of impending trouble. If only we would listen to Him and trust the steady and caring character of our Good Shepherd who is ever with us.
THE SPIRIT OF THIS WORLD LEADS TO DEATH AND DESPISES THE CHURCH AS THE CHOSEN BRIDE AND EXPRESSION OF CHRIST (Revelation 12)
Upon the news that his lost love Robin Fanny has died after giving birth to his baby, Frank turns to his wife Bathsheba and states that as dead as Robin is, he will always love her more than he does Bathsheba, and that Bathsheba is nothing to him.
Subsequently, Frank attempts to drown himself, leaving Bathsheba a widow. She then contemplates accepting the marriage proposal of another suitor, Mr. Boldwood, in order to secure her bleak future because of the many losses she has suffered.
Mr. Boldwood is an older and wealthy chap whose property is adjacent to hers. Proposing to her earlier in the film, Bathsheba had declined, once again preferring her independence. Mr. Boldwood however, remains in the picture as a dear friend and although she has not promised anything, there is a hint of possibility between the two until Frank’s entry.
To Bathsheba’s shock, Frank returns, having being rescued from the sea and relishing in his being presumed dead. He abruptly demands money from Bathsheba to survive. Mr. Boldwood catches him strong-arming her and shoots him in the chest, killing him. Mr. Boldwood is then imprisoned. It is through Mr. Boldwood’s act of chivalry and love, that Frank is defeated and Bathsheba is set free from his grip.
Mr. Boldwood’s character reminded me of Christ, in that he gave his life for Bathsheba, even without anything in return. This is an extravagant love and reflects the extravagant love of God for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
WE LOVE BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US (1 John 4:19)
Finally, Gabriel as Bathsheba now calls him, makes plans to set sail to another land, leaving her to her independence. Bathsheba, runs after him, begging him not to leave her. He however, is insistent that he must move on. There is a moment of tension when Bathsheba is seen to weigh up her life without him and confesses her affections for him at-last, clearly deciding she cannot have a future without him. Ultimately, Gabriel embraces her with a longing kiss and the two head back to her farm, arm in arm.
God is like this. He has loved us with an everlasting love, just like Gabriel for Bathsheba. He sent His Son Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to express His love for us and promises us a love-covenant for all eternity. Jesus stands at the door of our hearts and knocks. He says whoever will open it, He and His Father will come and make their home within our hearts.
Bathsheba had to come to a place of surrendering her independent spirit and as a result was given a personal revelation into the love and character of who Gabriel was. We too, must come to a point of repentance in turning from our independence from God and into a ‘seeing’ who this beautiful Christ is, and confess with our own mouths that He is Lord. He is only too delighted to then come and make His home with us.
Just like Mr. Oak waited for a long time for Miss. Everdene’s affections to be returned to him so he could take her as his wife, Jesus is waiting for His bride to be ready so He can take her home to be with Him.
Church, brother, sister, we have a Good Shepherd who leads us beside still waters, who restores our souls, who leads us in the paths of righteousness for His sake. He makes us lie down in green pastures. His rod and staff protect and comfort us. Do you know your Good Shepherd today? Have you seen Him, do you know Him? Maybe you’ll watch this movie again after reading this post. I pray you will see even more of Him!
Happy viewing 🙂