Episode10: June 7, 2015
The tenth episode of NBC’s series, “A.D.—The Bible Continues,” was aired on Sunday, June 7.
This episode brings a major player in the early church onto the stage—James, the brother of Jesus. We see a flashback to the time when Jesus was in the Temple in Jerusalem at the age of 12, calling that building, the center of Israel and the Jewish faith, his Father’s house. James would know that story, being the younger brother of Jesus, along with other stories of Jesus when He was a boy. James told of Jesus’ calmness and His kindness. This “inside track” of intimate knowledge of Jesus throughout His life gives James a tremendous amount of influence and authority in the early church, especially in Jerusalem.
Saul/Paul continues his fearless preaching about Jesus, which causes Caiaphas to try to win him back into the “Jewish” fold and for James to see Saul/Paul as an impediment to the church’s growth and influence in Jerusalem.
Caiaphas tells Saul that he forgives him for leaving the Temple faith, but Saul’s answer to Caiaphas is telling: “You cannot forgive me. Only Jesus can do that because Jesus is the Messiah and my sins have been washed away.” As you can imagine, Caiaphas was less than thrilled with Saul’s response, because Saul was saying there was no need for the Temple, its rituals and the washings it offered.
This point is emphasized later in the episode with a depiction of the Day of Atonement, where one goat is slaughtered, its blood paying for the sins of the people, and another goat, the scapegoat, after having the sins of the people “laid” on its head by the high priest, is led into the wilderness, sent away, and set free.
This ritual is done each year for the forgiveness of the people. Saul tells the people they can have their sins forgiven once and for all time by coming to Jesus and believing in Him as the Messiah. There is thus no longer any need for the Temple. He also tells those in the Temple courts that Jesus came to fulfill the Law, all of the rules and regulations that are followed by faithful Jews, not abolish it.
James sees Saul’s words as both true and as a hinderance to the acceptance of Christians in Jerusalem. Leah, the wife of the high priest, wants Saul killed. James just wants him out of the way. James wins in the end, when at the end of the episode we see Saul being sent off on his first missionary journey on the outskirts of Jerusalem, with Peter and James seeing him on his way. Peter and James are the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. Saul is the itinerant apostle, preaching and planting churches in far off places, in the land of the non-Jews, the gentiles.
The goal of Caiaphas and James is the same, each one wants the persecution to stop. Caiaphas wants the Romans to stop persecuting the Jews and the Temple. James wants the Jews and the Temple to stop persecuting the Christians. The Romans want to set up a statue of the Emperor Caligula in the Temple. Tensions are rising in Jerusalem.
In this episode we see the cost of being a disciple of Jesus being paid by everyday followers of Jesus. It’s no longer the leaders who are being punished for being a Christian, but those who are part of the underground movement of followers of Jesus. They speak quietly to each other and promise to protect each other.
But some followers are found out, some women who serve in the palace of Herod. One is banished and the other is flogged (whipped). It is here that we hear some familiar words being spoken by one disciple to another. “Don’t be afraid. Jesus will give you strength.” “Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ.”
It is interesting how a major character of Acts is introduced in this episode, meaning the Ethiopian Eunuch, who is an ambassador of the Queen of Ethiopia as the secretary of the treasury. We see the entrance of this powerful character into Jerusalem and, when he meets with the high priest and expresses some curiosity about the Jewish faith, how Caiaphas hands the Ethiopian Eunuch a copy of the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. This scroll becomes important in the Eunuch becoming, eventually, a Christian.
But that’s for the next episode.