Episode 7: May 17, 2015
The seventh episode of NBC’s series, “A.D.—The Bible Continues,” was aired last Sunday, May 17.
The intrigue in the palaces, both those of Pilate and of Caiaphas, continues in this episode. In face, Pilate enlists the help and testimony of Caiaphas when the Emperor Tiberias visits Jerusalem. It’s a big deal when the Emperor of the entire Roman Empire visits a distant outpost governed by a lifelong civil servant. Pilate knows that he can come under the knife of Tiberias as quickly as others have come under his knife.
But Tiberias doesn’t look favorably upon the alliance of the High Priest and the Governor. To allow the governed, indeed the occupied, people of the province, of Jerusalem, a place of debate in the palace before the Emperor is a move of desperation.
Meanwhile, Saul continues to persecute the Christians of Jerusalem at the beginning of the episode, forcing them to choose between the Temple or Jesus. Frankly, I think this is a good depiction of the real issue at hand: Is the center of faith in the true God going to be the Temple or is it going to be Jesus? The Christian answer, and the witness of the Bible, especially the gospels, is that the center of Israel has indeed moved, shifted, from the Temple to Jesus. The fact that Jesus gathered twelve disciples is a clear sign that Jesus knew and intended that others know of the shift.
But Saul’s persecution is halted by the visit of the Emperor. In fact, his persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem becomes a source of embarrassment for both Pilate and for Caiaphas. Herod Antipas, meanwhile, is enjoying the discomfort of his two rivals. Saul is ordered to stop his zealous work, but he is reluctant to discontinue because it is a sign of deep and authentic Jewish faith to be zealous for the Lord. And, if anything, Saul is a good and faithful Jew.
The burgeoning Christian community continues to mature. In a scene where the Christians celebrate the Lord’s Supper, Peter tells them they get strength through that sacrament because it is both a sign and a reality that they are in union with the Risen Jesus, who is Lord. Also, the beginning of the apostolic ministry, where the apostles begin to go out and both spread the word of the gospel and establish bands of believers beyond Jerusalem, is depicted with Phillip traveling to Samaria.
While in Samaria, Phillip encounters Simon the Sorcerer. Simon the Sorcerer is a trickster and illusionist, but many believe he is actually a healer who is gifted by God. In short, Phillip performs a healing that Simon cannot, which leads to many coming to faith in Jesus. Phillip heals a woman who is dead by saying to her, “In the name of Jesus, the Son of God, I release you from your prison.” Afterwards, even Simon the Sorcerer comes to Phillip to be baptized, but for a spurious reason; he wants to use the name of Jesus to make a name for himself as well as make some money.
The episode ends with Saul being tricked by Caiaphas. A Christian who is being whipped so he will release information about other Christians is bribed into telling Saul that Peter has fled to Damascus.
And it is on the road to Damascus that Saul meets the Risen Jesus himself, having his heart, mind, name and life changed forever.