- For similarly named heroes, please see Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is a minor character in the Lew Wallace novel Ben-Hur and the movies based upon the novel. Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary.
In the beginnging of the novel three wise men, Balthazar of Alexandria, the Persian scholar Melchior, and the Indian scholar Caspar visited Christ and his family shortly after his mother Mary gave birth to Christ.
By 26 AD Jesus was working as a carpenter with his father. His father found that Jesus was not too focused on his work, that he preferred to wander the hills near Nazareth. Once Joseph criticized his son for not keeping his mind on his work, Jesus replied that he had to prepare to do his father's work. Joseph relayed that to a customer upset that his table wasn't ready yet, who responded by asking how come his son wasn't at the shop working.
When Judah Ben-Hur was being marched to the galleys, the group stopped in Nazareth for a break. Ben-Hur was exhausted and dying of thirst. Despite the command of the Roman centurion not to give Ben-Hur water, Jesus gave him water. The centurion discovered this and angrily approached. Jesus stood and simply stared at the soldier, who after a minute moved away, unsure of what had happened but not of a mind to mess with the young Nazarean.
Jesus continued preaching throughout the region, gaining a large number of followers. One of these was Ben-Hur's love interest Esther. Another was Balthazar, who wanted to be on hand as the infant he paid homage to many years ago was now a man starting his work.
After the chariot race in which Ben-Hur beat Messala Ben-Hur and his compatriots learned that Jesus had been arrested and was going to be crucified. During the march to Calvary Ben-Hur realized that he knew the man Esther and Balthazar were so excited about. He attempted to repay the kindness Jesus had once shown him but a Roman soldier kicked the bowl of water out of Ben-Hur's hands before Jesus could drink the water.
Ben-Hur followed the procession to Calvary and was one of the many people to witness the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. In the moments before Jesus died he shared a vision with Ben-Hur to convince the young man that it was his will that this all happen and that Ben-Hur allow the crucifixion to proceed. As Jesus said, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do" Ben-Hur felt the dying man's voice taking the sword of anger and hatred out of his hand.
In the 1959 movie version of Ben Hur the character of Jesus Christ was played by the American actor Claude Heater. He was not included in the credits for the movie. All the shots of Heater in the film showed him facing away from the camera as it was decided not to show his face in the film.
In the novel Miriam approaches Jesus before he is arrested and asks him directly to heal her and her daughter Tirzah of leprosy. Jesus does as she asked and healed both of them. This is different than the 1959 movie in which Jesus is not directly asked to heal Ben-Hur's mother or sister - in the movie the women were healed as Jesus died on the cross.
In the original novel, Christ shares a vision with Ben-Hur which makes him understand that he was the resurrection and the life. That vision made Ben-Hur understand what was truly going on, and why the crucifixion had to happen. When some of Ben-Hur's friends suggested rescuing Christ, Ben-Hur vetoed the motion, stating that it was the Nazarean's will that he be crucified.