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Forty-Seven Days With Jesus

Content Caution

Forty-Seven Days with Jesus 2024


In Theaters


Home Release Date




Paul Asay

Movie Review

Families are great. Also, expensive.

Joseph and Julianna Burdon know all about that. Kids need food. Clothes. Furniture, for cryin’ out loud. And when teen son, Daniel, starts thinking about college? Well, might as well lop off an arm and leg and try to sell them on the secondary limbs market.

Joseph loves his family, and he does his best to provide for them. Why, he’s working on an account that just might move the family financial ledger in the right direction. More than that, he believes passionately in what he’s developing: a campaign to support the National Association of Firefighters. Joseph’s father had been a firefighter for decades. So for Joseph, this campaign is important on a host of levels. In a way, it’s about family.

And if that means ignoring his own family members for a few days—or weeks, or maybe months—well, that’s the price a dad must pay right?

No, wife Julianna says. She’s had it up to her eyeballs with Joseph’s job. It’s not like she doesn’t appreciate his work ethic. She knows that on some level, he’s doing it for her and the kids. But fatherhood’s about more than putting meat on the table: It’s about meeting your wife and kids at that table. It’s about going to soccer games and school plays. It’s about going fishing and taking long walks filled with conversation.

And it’s especially about engaging in a small family reunion with Joseph’s mom and dad on the family ranch. It’s especially about spending Easter weekend with each other—particularly when it might be the last Easter they ever have together.

Joseph’s dad, known as Poppa to the grandkids, sick. While no one talks about it much, Joseph and Julianna know he might not have much time left. To spend one last glorious Easter weekend together—boating, fishing, maybe playing a game or two of charades—that’s what’s important, Julianna believes. This is time the family won’t ever get back. The job can wait.

Yeah, yeah, Joseph says. But he’s on the home stretch with this all-important project. He’ll just work a few more hours Easter weekend. Just a few more phone calls. A few more finishing touches on his presentation, scheduled for … Saturday.

The same Saturday that Poppa was going to take the boat on the lake with everyone—maybe for the last time.

Joseph could use a little help with his priorities. Everyone else in the family sees that clearly. But how can they help him see it for himself?

Maybe a little book that Poppa wrote can help—one about a man who always had His priorities straight. Poppa called it Forty-Seven Days With Jesus, and Joseph loved hearing it when he was young. Maybe it’s time that Joseph passed the story onto his own kids. Maybe it’s time he internalized the story’s deeper messages himself.

Positive Elements

Forty-Seven Days With Jesus is really two stories in one: The first concentrates on Joseph and his family in the modern era, while the other unpacks Jesus’ final 47 days on Earth … as a musical.

First, the modern elements.

Honestly, Joseph seems like a pretty good dad when he’s, y’know, thinking about it. He’s funny and engaged, and his kids—even teen Daniel—clearly enjoy his company. But they feel Joseph’s absences, too, and those come far too frequently. Julianna loves her hubby, but she’s running out of patience. “I want my partner back,” she tells Joseph’s sister, Claudia. “My friend. I want my family to be whole.”

Joseph’s parents and brother-in-law (Jeremy) do what they can to help nudge their son to reprioritize his life. Poppa—who as a younger man dealt with similar issues—is especially concerned about Joseph’s workaholic tendencies, and he tries to coach his son as best he can with a lot of love and just a hint of exasperation. “You’re making the same exact mistakes that I made,” he tells Joseph. “And it’s painful to watch.”

Meanwhile, the family also circles around Julianna—encouraging patience, but reinforcing Julianna’s belief that Joseph should be more involved. Nonna (Joseph’s mother) talks to Julianna about how she dealt with Poppa’s own overcommitment to work, and she underlines the fact that she took a stand and basically insisted that he take his family more seriously. “He who doesn’t risk, doesn’t win,” Nonna says, acknowledging that standing up for a more committed husband was a risk. “I’m glad for all the risks I took.”

But the movie suggests that the most powerful changes can be attributed to Poppa’s “book,” Forty-Seven Days With Jesus. Tracking Christ’s life through Palm Sunday through His Ascension, Joseph and his family are reminded of Jesus’ own transformative love and forgiveness. And they try to incorporate those lessons into their own lives.

Spiritual Elements

Forty-Seven Days With Jesus warns us right from the get-go that the film is us an imaginative retelling of Christ’s last few weeks on earth. “We encourage you to read the full story as it was written in the New Testament,” an opening slide tells us. But while the biblical narrative certainly features a lot more musical numbers than were likely present in ancient Judea, the lyrics of the songs themselves seem doctrinally sound.

Jesus sings about how He’s the “Passover lamb,” a willing sacrifice to “set you free.” From the cross, Jesus gives His mother over to John for her care. After the crucifixion, Jesus seems to fall through space (a visual illustration, apparently, of Him descending into Hell). Etc. While the musical spin won’t be to everyone’s taste, most songs seem to be rooted in Scripture, following the familiar beats of the story.

But for the Burdon family, the story itself all that familiar. Emma, Joseph and Julianna’s 7-year-old daughter, has never heard the story before. She and her cousin, Brenda, are surprised to hear about the crucifixion and its aftermath. While teen Daniel has heard the story, he at times expresses skepticism—telling Emma and Brenda that it’s “just” a story. (The movie doesn’t really follow up on the girls’ reaction to this bombshell.)

Poppa believes that Daniel’s sullen attitude about the book can be traced to Joseph’s own religious attitude. “He’s not interested because his father isn’t living out the truth in the story,” Poppa says—even though Joseph’s been hearing that story (or Poppa’s version of it) since he was 5 years old.

Poppa says he was inspired to write the book when he “realized I needed to be a better man.” From that point on, he “started filling that book, page after page, night after night, with God’s words.” And we’re reminded that even when we feel stuck, God is always operating in our lives.

We hear plenty of discussion about Poppa’s Forty-Seven Days With Jesus book; family members discuss everything from the symbolism of unleavened bread to the power of forgiveness. Poppa talks about how the story is indeed quite real, “but whether we choose to believe or not is a whole other thing.” Jeremy, Joseph’s brother-in-law, goes on a riff on the supposed friction between science and faith.

We see a couple of “flashbacks” in the biblical narrative that are not encompassed by the 47 days (such as when Peter tried to walk on water on the Sea of Galilee). Crosses hang on walls around Poppa and Nonna’s property. We hear references to prayers being answered. And when Joseph gets a call from his whip-cracking workmate, he says, tellingly, “Speak of the devil.”

Sexual Content

Joseph and Julianna kiss once or twice. Jeremy and Claudia cuddle affectionately.

Violent Content

Poppa’s Forty-Seven Days With Jesus touches on Jesus’ crucifixion and its immediate aftermath.

The movie suggests that execution more than shows it: a hammer. A huge nail. The cross being stuck in the ground. Jesus is shown hanging on the cross, His head adorned with the traditional crown of thorns. But the only blood we see is a tiny trickle from his forehead. Later, we’re taken inside Jesus’ tomb, where Christ’s still-lifeless body rests underneath the burial shroud. (That shroud later lies empty, in the tomb.)

We’re told that Judas “couldn’t live with himself” following Jesus’ death, and we watch as he walks toward a noose hanging from a tree. Some blood seems to pool around the cross. But many of the more violent moments surrounding the crucifixion—the scourging, the spear in Jesus’ side, Peter lopping off the high priest’s servant’s ear—don’t make it to the screen at all.

Crude or Profane Language

Unless you want to count the word “heck,” none.

Drug and Alcohol Content

A couple of characters drink wine with dinner.

Other Negative Elements

As mentioned, Joseph spends a lot of time working—time that the movie suggests he should be spending with his family.

Poppa has a telescope that, technically, belongs to the local fire department. “They let me borrow it right before I retired,” he says with a smile. And he’ll be sure to return it just as soon as he’s done with it.

Simon shows Emma the joys of spray cheese by squirting some directly into her mouth. (But he’s none too pleased when Daniel comes down, opens the refrigerator and squirts some whipped cream directly into his own.)


“Loving is easy,” Nonna tells Julianna. “But living together, that’s the hard part.”

True enough. Anyone who’s ever been a part of a family can point to plenty of examples. We love our parents, but they might exasperate us. We love our kids, but they sometimes drive us crazy. We love our spouses, even though we—above anyone else in the whole wide world—are deeply aware of all their faults. And one of their biggest faults? They know all of ours.

Maybe Forty-Seven Days With Jesus is a little like that. There’s a lot to love here. But it just might drive you a little crazy, too.

Part of that friction is because the moviemakers try to blend two very different stories together: a modern-day family drama and a Holy Week musical.

I really thought the movie worked best when it concentrated on the present-day Burdons: Joseph, Julianna and their two kids. And I certainly think that allowing Jesus’ story to be told here—and to allow that story to work and impact their lives—was a worthy, workable goal.

But when you combine that very grounded, modern drama with a musical version of the last days of Christ, the pairing felt … odd. Despite some nice performances, the biblical musical numbers were dissonant and distracting, at least for me. It felt like a nice ice-cream sundae topped with gravy.

I wish I could’ve liked this movie more. And some people might love it. Certainly, you can’t fault the film for trying something new. Forty-Seven Days With Jesus brings to the screen a very familiar story in an unfamiliar format—and that itself might help introduce it (or reintroduce it) to moviegoers who’d otherwise think of Easter as simply a time to eat chocolate bunnies.

Movies have the ability to change lives. An if this one causes someone to read the New Testament for themselves—or even makes them more mindful of their families and more forgiving of the people around them—that’s a wonderful thing, and way more important than a middling movie review.

And from a family friendly perspective, you couldn’t ask much more from a film. It reins in the content concerns beautifully.

But in my opinion? The book was better.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.