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Theme: Freedom vs. Corruption of the Heart


It is the year of our Lord 1280 A.D. The setting is Scotland; the story is of William Wallace. Braveheart, the motion picture, is a beautiful, moving portrayal of a man who lived and died in order to set hearts free. He was a man with a courageous, passionate heart, who fought against the tyranny of men with corrupt hearts. It is the story of a man who is very much a Christ figure.

The Early Years

The movie opens giving us only a glimpse of William Wallace's childhood. The King of Scotland has died without a son, leaving the throne to be fought over by the King of England and the Scottish nobles. Setting a trap to usurp the throne, Edward the Longshanks, a cruel pagan, has the nobles and their pages slaughtered.  Young William stumbles into this scene while following his father and brother. William's father and brother are killed trying to avenge these murders. In the scene which establishes the theme of the movie, William's dead father turns to him and makes this proclamation, "Your heart is free, have the courage to follow it."

At his father's burial the broken hearted William is ministered to by the young Murren.  Breaking off a purple thistle, she gives it to him, establishing a bond between them.  This simple gesture has profound significance.  The thistle did not become the national emblem of Scotland until the reign of James III (1451-1488; See note).  In Christian analogy the thistle is symbolic of both the crown of thorns and the fall of man, thus representing both sorrow and sin.  The gift to young William signifies the crown he will wear in order to free the hearts of Scotland's sons.

A rather mysterious man arrives on a large white horse and reveals that he is William's Uncle Argyle.  He tells the boy he will teach him how to use his head first and then the sword.  After saying the priestly blessing (Numbers 6:25), this man of faith departs with the young Wallace, who takes only his father's sword.

In similar fashion we are given just a few brief pictures of the early years of Jesus Christ.  When He is eight days old, He is presented in the temple and a righteous and devout Simeon makes a prophetic proclamation over Him.  It contains a prophecy that foreshadows the crown Jesus will wear in order to free the hearts of men (Luke 2:34-35.).  At the time of His birth, a corrupt "pagan" Herod the Great sits on the throne of the Jews.  In order to prevent the true King (the Messiah) from taking His place, Herod orders the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16-18). Jesus the Son of God is taken away for safety by Joseph, husband of His mother Mary (Matthew 2:13-15, 20-23). There will be many silent years before Jesus will once again appear to Israel.

                                                     The Years of Popularity

Many years pass and William Wallace returns to his shire. He comes with the intention of living in peace and raising a family.  Scotland is now in the firm grasp of the evil Longshanks.  In order to further subjugate the
people, Edward gives his nobles the right of "Prima Noctra" (First Night), whereby an English nobleman has the right to bed a Scottish woman on her wedding night. Longshanks is hoping to "breed out" the unruly Scots.

William secretly weds his beloved Murren because he will not share her with anyone.  The scene of their wedding is one of the most beautiful in the movie. It symbolically contains the cross, the Father, the Son, and His bride.

In order to get to Wallace, Murren is brutally murdered by the English.  Wallace then goes on a rampage.  This results in a local uprising.  Soon all of Scotland is going out to join him.  His heroism and popularity put the Scottish nobles into a quandary as to what they should do.  The climatic scene in this portion of the film is the Battle of Stirling.  Wallace arrives and passionately calls forth the sons of Scotland, not to fight for their
corrupt nobles, but for the most precious thing of all - their freedom.

The Book of Genesis records the fall of man (Genesis 3) and the corruption of his seed (Genesis 4:1, Romans 5:12). Satan sought to destroy the beloved of God in order to wound the heart of God. By usurping the dominion of man, Satan became the Prince of this world (John 14:30). He holds all men firmly in his grasp through their bondage to sin (Romans 3:23).

At the right moment "one man" entered whose heart was totally free, having no sin, or spot of corruption (John 1:29). After many silent years, Jesus enters the synagogue in Nazareth and makes this proclamation:

           "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
            He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind.
            To set free those who are downtrodden; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."
                                                                                                                     Luke 4:18-19

He had come to do battle with the enemy and to set hearts free (Galatians 5:1). He would be proclaimed the Messiah and multitudes of common men and women would follow Him as He moved throughout Judea and Galilee. He would be opposed and schemed against by the Scribes and Pharisees, who thought Him too
dangerous for their political alliance with the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate (John 11:47-53). Ultimately, He would wear a crown of thorns, as He became the atonement for the sins of mankind.

                                                   The Falling Away

The success of Wallace at the Battle of Stirling provokes Edward the Longshanks to greater wrath. Scheming with the Scottish nobles, he secretly buys their allegiance resulting in their desertion of Wallace and thereby insuring his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk. He is most deeply wounded by the discovery of Robert the Bruce within the English ranks. This is a denial by one who is close to his heart; one he has believed in. Finally, deciding for the good of the nation he must meet the nobles, he goes to Edinburgh against the warnings of his closest companions. Unbeknownst to Robert the Bruce, another nobleman has betrayed Wallace to Longshanks. This time Wallace is successfully captured even though Robert the Bruce tries to prevent it. Wallace is handed over to the English for trial and execution.

The early years of Jesus' ministry were marked by the tremendous crowds, which followed Him. Many were not true disciples, but came only to see what they could receive from Him (John 6:26-27).  As the cost of
discipleship began to require a sacrifice, many withdrew and no longer followed Him (John 6:60-66).  Because the conspiracy to kill Jesus continued to grow, He was forced to withdraw to a country near the wilderness and could not walk about publicly (John11:47-57). Understanding what He must do for the nation, He willingly returned to Jerusalem against the warnings of His disciples (John 11:7-8). There He was denied by one closest to His heart (John13:38) and was betrayed by another disciple (John 18:1-4). He was handed over to the Romans for trial and execution (John 18:28-40).

                                                    The Trial and Execution

There are many similarities between the trial and execution of William Wallace as portrayed in the movie Braveheart and the trial and execution of Jesus Christ.


The Gospel

  • He has a predetermined trial where he is asked to recant in order to receive a more merciful death
  •       Mark 14:53-65
  • He is offered and refuses a drink to dull his pain
  •       Mark 15:23Matthew 27:34
  • Kneeling in prayer, he admits his fear to God and asks for strength for what he must undergo
  •       Luke 22:41-44Matthew 26:36-39
  • As he enters the public procession leading to his execution, he is tied to a crosspiece
  •       John 19:17
  • The vast majority of the crowd is hostile and casts insults at him
  •       Mark 15:29-32Matthew 27:39-44
  • A few of his disciples cloaked in disguise are in the midst of the unruly mob
  •       Luke 23:49
  • Tied to a crosspiece he is brutally tortured to death
  •       Luke 23:33
  • He does not recant, but with his last breath cries, "Freedom!"
  •       John 19:30
  • While dying, he sees his beloved bride
  •       Hebrews 12:1-2
  • His death changes the hearts of all those watching
  •       Luke 23:47,48
  • He lives on in the hearts of those who love him
  •       Acts 2:32-39

                                                           The Last Battle

    It is difficult to put into words how powerful and moving the closing scenes of the movie Braveheart truly are. As the narrator explains, the death of William Wallace did not accomplish what the evil Longshanks
    intended, the subjugation of Scotland. On the contrary, Wallace's men are now gathered on the field of Bannockburn under Robert the Bruce. He tells them,  "You have bled with Wallace, now bleed with me". Wallace's childhood friend flings his sword to initiate the last battle. The sword left to him by his father now leads the warrior poets of Scotland to their freedom and victory.

    We are in the last battle. Our King leads us with the Sword of the Spirit to do battle for the hearts of men (Hebrews 4:12-16).  A brave heart is one that is free from corruption (sin). It is bestowed by the Father
    because of the sacrifice of the Son. It is given to those who believe in the Son. The brave heart is where the Spirit of the Son dwells

    Scripture:  Ezekiel 36:25-27
                     Hebrews 10:19-23


    Thistle:  The prickly thistle, with its accompanying motto, Nemo me impune lacessit ("No one provokes me with impunity"), is the national emblem of Scotland. It is a symbol of defiance and a willingness to defend Scotland. According to legend, in the eighth century the Scots were alerted to an imminent Danish attack when one of the barefooted Norsemen trod on a thistle and yelped with pain; as a result, the invaders were successfully routed. The thistle was officially adopted as the Scottish emblem during the reign of James III (1451-1488) and later also appeared in the British royal arms.  
                                                                                        Signs and Symbols by Clare Gibson

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