This is more than I can do justice to. You could write volumes (and people have) about this. So I’ll hit the high spots. You can follow the links if you want more.
Victor Hugo was a French novelist (among other things) of the nineteenth century. He is most famous these days for two novels: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and Les Miserables. I read War and Peace way back in high school. I don’t know that I got much out of it. I think I read it more just to say I read it. I don’t care to reread it but Les Miserables is another thing. It’s 1400+ pages but I think it would be quite satisfying to complete. I think I’m going to give it a try before I kick the bucket.
I’ve started to read it before. Got a few hundred pages before I got sidetracked. As I recall it begins by describing the simple country life of a priest. This in itself is a few hundred pages. I think people used to accept novels like this in the past. You settle down and get to know the characters. Now we want a book to get to the point. It has to fit into the format of a two hour movie.
When I heard they had made a musical based on Les Miz I couldn’t believe it. Musicals were The King and I, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music. Light, inspiring, fun. A musical about the French revolution? Would there be guillotines? Shows what I know. It’s not about the eighteenth century French revolution. It’s about a short lived student revolt against a return to monarchy in the nineteenth century. Well that’s not what it’s about but that’s the background. Nevertheless it is about oppression, poverty, prostitution, people being mistreated everywhere. Not fun stuff.
But it works. It has been performed around the world. One of the most popular musicals in history. I was flabbergasted when I first saw it. And it’s all because of that priest.
The story opens with Jean Valjean in prison. Hard labor for many years because he stole a loaf of bread to feed his family. He is released but has to carry the mark of a convict. He can’t find work or a place to sleep. The priest takes him in. During the night Valjean steals the priest’s silver and takes flight. The police find him with the silver and take him back to the priest. And here’s the payoff. The priest says that he gave the silver to Valjean. But there’s more. He says, “But Jean, why did you leave without these two silver candlesticks I gave you?” Now you have to know the candlesticks were very precious to the priest.
This is amazing. This is the gospel preached pure and simple. We were lost, in prison, carrying within us the mark of our sin and God gave up what was most precious to Him, His Son, so that we could have all the riches of His kingdom. People around the world who could not be reached by the symbol of the cross, who would not hear preaching, would not be touched by scripture have had the gospel preached to them.
Isn’t God great?