Les Misérables: Grace Changes Everything

Posted: February 26, 2013 by Josh Kwasny in Drama, Musical
Tags: , , , , , , ,


The newest adaptation of Victor Hugo’s historical novel, Les Misérables, has had its share of critical acclaim and just plain criticism.  Maybe I’m not smart or cultured enough to be a hater, but I loved this film!

Sure I found it awkward to watch Wolverine and Maximus sing to each other, but all in all, this film is fantastic!

What makes Les Mis so great is not the acting – although I was blown away by the tremendous talent of each of the actors. The performances of Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Sacha Baron Cohen (Yep – Borat) were particularly noteworthy.

Les Mis has incredible music.  You will hum songs like “Look Down” and “Master of the House” for weeks after seeing the film (at least I did).  If you don’t cry during Anne Hathaway’s singing of “I Dreamed a Dream,” you most likely have no soul.  It will take your breath away!  Although it is amazing, the music is not what makes this movie great.

While it is true that the film includes excellent scenery, choreography, lighting, and special effects, what really makes Les Misérables a great film is one thing – the story.  Les Mis is a great film because Les Mis tells a great story – the story of grace.

Spoiler Alert!

Set in 19th-century France, Les Misérables introduces us to Jean Valjean, a man who spent 19 years in prison for stealing bread. After being released on parole, Valjean attempts to rob the Bishop of Digne.  He is caught by the police and brought before the Bishop to confirm the burglary.  Instead of pressing charges, the Bishop extends grace to Valjean by giving him not only his silver tableware, but his valuable candlesticks as well.  This amazing act of grace impacts Valjean in a significant way.  He decides to break parole and pursue a new life.  His resolve is to be a generous man – showing mercy and grace to everyone he can.

This story includes a stark contrast to grace.  Enter the ruthless policeman Javert – a man of justice – who pursues the parole-breaking Jean Valjean for decades.  Despite Valjean’s changed heart and desire to peacefully live his new life as a generous benefactor, Javert is relentless in his pursuit of justice. 


At its core, Les Misérables is a story of grace.  We witness the power of grace – something powerful enough to change a man from poor criminal to rich benefactor.  This story is not about health and wealth, however.  The newly acquired riches are not the point.  Jean Valjean’s new status and affluence are merely the means by which he can continue to show others the grace and mercy he had received from the Bishop of Digne.

Jean Valjean’s transformation is remarkable!  He is a truly a changed man!  He even shows mercy to Javert when he has the opportunity to kill him.  Although Javert’t death would mean his ultimate freedom, Valjean offers grace.  This is too much for Javert.  Unable to cope with this alien power, Javert takes his own life .  The great law-keeper is destroyed by grace!


What make Les Misérables so compelling is that Jean Valjean’s story is everyman’s story.  Sure, some will protest and say, “I am not a thief! I am not like that man!  I am a good person!”  The truth is that no one is good (Romans 3:10-18).  Like Valjean, each of us is a thief.  We attempt to steal from our Creator.  Instead of following his way, we selfishly pursue our own glory.  Like Valjean, we are caught red-handed.  Our evil deeds are exposed.

Although the Bishop of Digne is on screen for but a few moments, the impact of his gracious actions to Jean Valjean reverberate throughout the rest of the film.  In the true story of redemption, God the Father likewise offers grace to sinners.  In Jesus Christ we receive not only acquittal from our crimes against God, but we are given the gift of adoption – all the riches of the Father are now ours in Christ Jesus.

This is the story of grace.  Grace that changes everything!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

(Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV)

  1. […] am simply building upon Josh’s excellent article about this excellent movie. Seriously. Read it first and then come back here. And yes, spoilers […]

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