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As the boat in which he travels is tossed by a storm, a man named Joel writes a letter to his boyhood friend Stephen and reminisces about the past: As a young man in Nazareth, the orphaned Joel is friends with Joseph, a carpenter, and asks him if his son Jesus will return home. Joseph replies that he will not, as he has been "called" to service. Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of the beautiful Irene, who is to marry Stephen. Joel is crushed to learn of Irene's engagement, as he has fallen in love with her at first sight, and although he confides his feelings to Joseph, he does not tell Stephen. At the wedding, Jesus visits and miraculously turns water into wine. Later, unable to bear his feelings for Irene, Joel decides to leave Nazareth and upon his arrival in Caperneum, moves in with his uncle Jonathan, aunt Sarah and admiring younger cousin Dismas. Jonathan, who is seriously ill, is pleased to see Joel and states that he is the answer to his prayers for help with the family shop. Joel first must visit Levi, the Jewish, Roman-appointed tax collector, to pay the family's overdue taxes, even though Joel decries the Roman government's oppression. Joel's ire increases when he sees Roman soldiers beating Jews for failing to pay their taxes, although Jonathan tells him that God is punishing the Jews because of the corruption of their leaders. Joel believes that the Jews should fight their oppressors, but Jonathan urges patience, stating that the only salvation is through spiritual revival. Later, a stranger visits the shop and impresses Joel with tales of his travels. Soon after, Dismas is delighted to hear that Jesus is in Caperneum, and wonders if he can cure Jonathan. Joel cooperates with Dismas' plan to lower Jonathan through the roof of the crowded synagogue, and is pleased when Jesus does cure Jonathan. The next day, the stranger visits again, and Joel learns that he is a Greek named Omah. The pair spend many hours conversing, and upon learning that Jesus has accepted Levi as a follower, speculate that he cannot be the Messiah because he would not allow a "traitor" to join him. Believing that the fiery Joel will embrace the revolutionary cause, Omah takes him to Jerusalem to meet Prince Manaen, the secret leader of a group dedicated the violent overthrow of the Romans. Manaen, who presents a nonreligious façade to outsiders, informs Joel that he must train in guerrilla warfare for six months, after which he will be tested. At the end of his training, Joel leads a raid on a Roman castle, from which he steals a large sum of money, and after the completion of his next mission, meets a pretty Jewish dancer named Myra. Joel is attracted to Myra, although Manaen warns him that friendship can be dangerous. Manaen orders Joel to turn Myra into a spy against her Roman employers, and Joel reluctantly accedes. Manaen then reveals that the group's assets are growing, and that they will be able to orchestrate a full rebellion in a year. Realizing that they need more money to persuade the outlying chieftians to join them, Joel proposes that he rob rich pilgrims coming to Jerusalem to pay their taxes. Manaen agrees, and under the name Barabbas, Joel begins a campaign of theft and harassment of the Roman soldiers. Joel enjoys outwitting his adversaries, although he is angry when Omah tries to recruit Dismas, as he believes that Dismas is too young. Dismas is also dismayed upon being reunited with his cousin, whom he believes has grown hard and cynical. Later, Joel is at Myra's home when Roman soldiers, alerted to his presence by Toran, Manaen's traitorous servant, raid the building. Joel eludes the soldiers and stabs Toran to death, then takes Myra to Manaen's palace. There, Joel alerts Manaen that the Romans will question him due to Toran's body, and the eavesdropping Myra deduces that Joel is Barabbas. Myra assures Joel that she is proud of him, then suggests that Manaen sneak Joel out of town during Toran's funeral. Later, Myra, Oman and Dismas have joined Joel during his raids as Barabbas, until one day, they are ambushed by the Romans, and Myra is killed while the men are captured. Joel and his friends are taken to the same garrison where Jesus, who has been arrested for not paying tribute to Caesar, is being held. When the commander of the garrison questions Jesus, he finds no fault with him, although the crowd continues to demand that he be punished. Hoping to appease the increasing mob, the commander orders that Jesus be scourged, but they insist that Jesus be crucified for claiming to be the Son of God. Again hoping to spare Jesus' life, the commander asks the mob whether they want Jesus or Joel to be freed. When the crowd chooses Joel, the commander orders that Jesus be crucified, along with Omah and Dismas. Horrified by what is happening, Joel accompanies the crowd to the hill where the three men are crucified. Dismas begs Jesus to save himself, as he has done nothing wrong, and asks to be remembered by him. Jesus promises that Dismas will be with him in Heaven, and after Jesus dies, a storm sweeps over the mourners. Back on the boat, Joel continues his letter by telling Stephen that he eagerly anticipates seeing him after their thirteen-year separation. Joel's ship is sunk by the storm, however, and he is washed ashore on Cyprus. Joel is found by a young boy named Joel, the son of Irene and Stephen, and learns that Stephen was stoned to death for becoming one of Jesus' followers. Although Irene tries to persuade Joel to accept Christ as his Savior, Joel asserts that Jesus could not even save himself. Joel reveals his continuing love for Irene but tells her that he must leave because he brings sorrow to all those he loves. Irene assures him that he will be welcome to return once he has found peace, and later, in Antioch, Joel meets Paul of Tharsus, who preaches about Jesus' return from the dead. Paul takes the skeptical Joel to the leading Christian disciple in Antioch, and Joel is surprised to find that he is Manaen. Joel and Manaen discuss their former lives, and Joel, finally coming to terms with the fact that Jesus took his place on the cross, accepts him into his heart. Filled with peace, Joel writes to Irene, telling her that he has "drunk the wine of morning" and will be returning soon. First, however, Joel decides to accompany Paul to Jerusalem, where they will give money to Christians needing deliverance from the vengeful King Herod Agrippa. In Jerusalem, Joel is captured and brought before Herod, and when Joel refuses to renounce his faith, he is sentenced to be tortured to death. In his jail cell, Joel is told by the guard that Herod died during the night, before signing Joel's death warrant, and the guard offers to try to help him. Uncertain whether he is to live or die, Joel is nonetheless filled with peace, and reverently prays, "Thy will be done."
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||World premiere at Greenville, SC: 30 Mar 1955; Los Angeles opening: 15 Apr 1955|
|Release Date:||1955||Production Date:||
16mm from Bob - donated to AMPASA.
|Color/B&W:||Distributions Co:||Bob Jones University|
|Sound:||Production Co:||Unusual Films|
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