Episode 9: May 31, 2015
The ninth episode of NBC’s series, “A.D.—The Bible Continues,” was aired on Sunday, May 31.
After Saul is converted and becomes a believer, a follower of Jesus, he preaches in the synagogue in Damascus, where he is not well-received. He is hunted by the Jews of Damascus and, thanks to Barnabus, is saved by being lowered over the city wall to freedom and a return to Jerusalem.
Saul wants to let the Christians in Jerusalem, especially Peter, know he is a changed man and is now a Christian. Understandable, the Jerusalem Christians, Peter included, are skeptical. After all, this is Saul, who was only a short time earlier trying to have Christians persecuted and killed.
Not only are the Christians not glad to see Saul back in Jerusalem, but when word reaches the temple authorities that Saul has become a Christian, a follower of Jesus just like those he was trying to kill, the response of Anna, the wife of the high priest Caiaphas, is this: “Find him. Shame him. Kill him.” There is really something at stake here and the producers of “A.D.” make the point well.
Later in this episode, Anna, Claudia and Herodias, the wives of Caiaphas, governor Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas, the “king of the Jews, confer together, searching for a way to make Saul a scapegoat. But these women also rightly state what’s at stake, that Jesus is a challenge to the Emperor and the entire Roman Empire. If Jesus is Lord, which was the church’s first proclamation and statement of faith, then no one else is, even and especially the Emperor.
This point of who is going to be Lord was the theme of this episode. In a discussion between Pilate and Caiaphas, Pilate says to Caiaphas, in the wake of Caligula’s announcement that he wants his likeness placed in the Temple, “Now you have a new god, and he is Roman.” Caligula will prove to be a ruthless Emperor, with an appetite for deviant desires.
As Saul tries to make inroads with Peter and the disciples in Jerusalem, he has to work hard to make his case. He even says to Peter, “It’s like you’ve forgotten about forgiveness,” as he testifies to his conversion and acts of faithfulness. The breach between Peter and Saul is not easily reconciled, but Peter says at last, “We’ve all been visited by the Holy Spirit and I feel him, too.” There is reconciliation and forgiveness, which prompts Saul to say, “Now we begin.”
The main charge given to the church is to be a witness to Jesus Christ as Messiah, Lord, Son of God, Savior. That witness is now double-pronged, with Peter leading the work in and around Jerusalem and Judea, and Saul leading the missionary effort to the gentiles far afield.
The conflict in Jerusalem between Rome and the Temple is about to get more pointed. But in the meantime the church will continue to grow and experience the awesome work of the Holy Spirit.
The Temple will fall. The Empire will crumble. The church will endure.