King Solomon, the wisest of the wise, wondered, â€œWho knows whether he will be wise or a fool?â€ Ec 2:19. Most of us live to avoid appearing foolish. In fact, most of us believe we are wise; only fools would doubt us.
To periodically puncture this vanity, cultures have hosted professional fools â€“ people whose sole function was to contrast their abnormal behavior with what society considered â€œnormal.â€ The contrast could be physical â€“ through deformity, or linguistic â€“ through wit, or dispositional â€“ through shocking candor.
Fools have come in the secular and holy varieties. Almost every royal court has had a professional jester on staff. King Solomon defined wisdom by contrasting the behavior of the wise with that of the fool. And Christianity has had â€œholy foolsâ€- saints whose actions have seemed those of an insane person â€“ St. Basil the Blessed and St. Francis of Assisi.
The cinema has its own stable of fools, as well. The most famous â€“ the silent ones (Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd) – are studies in contradictions – â€“ go-getting but crude, conniving but naive, cruel but sentimental, and always caught up in circumstances beyond their control.
Rowan Atkinsonâ€™s Mr. Bean is a contemporary grandchild of the silent cinematic fools. He is abnormal in just about every department. Nevertheless God uses him in his latest movie, Mr. Bean’s Holiday.
The Kingdom of God can enter anyoneâ€™s life, even a foolâ€™s, in order to advance His will. And His will in Mr. Beanâ€™s Holiday is to reunite a father with his lost son.
And this, by the way, is the very plot of our faith: God uses the One whom all â€œnormalâ€ people considered a dangerous fool â€“ his son Jesus Christ â€“ to reconcile us, his lost children, with Himself.
The first shot of Mr. Beanâ€™s Holiday is of an English church in disrepair. Inside, the few remaining congregants have gathered to raise money to fix the leaky roof through the raffle of a vacation to Cannes, France, complete with a home movie camera. And who else should win but our unlikely hero, Mr. Bean.
So we see the decrepit church sending out into the world the fool, Mr. Bean, not to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, or cast out demons, as we would hope, but to enjoy himself at the beach and to record every moment of his self-indulgence on camera.
Mr. Beanâ€™s journey to Cannes illustrates Ec 10:15 â€œThe toil of a fool wearies him, for he does not know the way to the city.â€ Just about everything that can go wrong does, as our fool struggles to claim his reward of beach fun at Cannes. It seems the harder he tries to get there, the farther off course he gets.
Until his heart responds to the tears of a child.
We know that Christâ€™s heart is for the child. We know that He explained the Kingdom through children:
“And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them.Â But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:13-16
No â€œnormalâ€ person on Mr. Bean’s speeding train seeks to help the frightened child. Only the fool with the heart of compassion, our hero, Mr. Bean.
And that pang of compassion is all that God needs to cast the foolish heartâ€™s owner, Mr. Bean, as the one whom God will use to reunite the lost boy with his despairing father.
Before hearing the cries of the child, Mr. Beanâ€™s camera had been focused solely on himself, recording every minute and disgusting detail of his vacation. But after meeting the boy, his gaze is drawn outside of himself and onto others. Eventually hisÂ camera shot widens toÂ include the starlet who needs to get to Cannesâ€™ film festival.
Â The ad hoc international family of the British Mr. Bean, the French starlet, and Russian boy eventually arrives at Cannes. Once there Mr. Bean puts his own desire for a day at the beach on hold to focus on the needs of his companions. In the process, Mr. Bean is credited with reinventing cinematography and becomes the toast of the Cannes Film Festival!
The movie concludes with the entire world joining Mr. Bean in a rousing musical tribute to the unseen God who, nevertheless,Â shapes our foolish lives:
Somewhere beyond the sea,
Somewhere, waiting for me,
My Lover stands on golden sands
And watches the ships that go sailing;
Somewhere beyond the sea,
He’s there watching for me.
If I could fly like birds on high,
Then straight to His arms I’d go sailing.
It’s far beyond a star,
It’s near beyond the moon,
I know beyond a doubt
My heart will lead me there soon.
We’ll meet beyond the shore,
We’ll kiss just as before.
Happy we’ll be beyond the sea,
And never again I’ll go sailing!
We have seen that, indeed, He is there beyond the sea, and beyond our mundane trips to vacation on the shore, waiting for us, calling us to a greater adventure in the Kingdom of God, ready to embrace us, and welcome us home, forever.
And weâ€™ll never have to go sailing again.