Episode11: June 14, 2015
The eleventh (and I thought there would only be ten!) episode of NBC’s series, “A.D.—The Bible Continues,” was aired on Sunday, June 14.
The tensions between the Temple and Rome, with the early church squeezed in the middle, continue. Caiaphas, the high priest of the Temple, wants to preserve the Temple. The zealots want to overthrow Rome. The Christians, with James the brother of Jesus now leading the way in Jerusalem, are seeking to find a way to preach the good news of Jesus without being persecuted by either the Temple or the Romans.
There is a lot going on.
In the debate among the followers of Jesus, the issue of forgiveness comes up. Can the Christians forgive the Jews and the Temple after leading the effort to have Jesus crucified? But John, who was there when Jesus was crucified and heard him cry out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” sharpens the debate when he says, “If He (Jesus) asked forgiveness for them, then He asks it of us, too.”
As the Holy Spirit reminds the early church of the words spoken by Jesus, the church is formed and assumes the very character of Jesus Himself, thus bearing the image of Jesus into the world. That was the task of the church then, in the early days of its formation, and it is the task of the church now. We are the image-bearers of Jesus to the world. We are His ambassadors, as it says in 2 Corinthians 5, “as if He were make His appeal (of being reconciled and made new) through us.” The church is, indeed, the Body of Christ.
James is stepping into a more significant role in leading the church in Jerusalem, while Peter responds to the call to begin spreading the good news of Jesus beyond Jerusalem. Peter bids his friends goodbye, when asked where he will go, with: “Out there. To preach.”
Meanwhile, James appeals to Caiaphas that the Christians be allowed to preach in the Temple courts without persecution. Caiaphas says they can, if they refrain from saying Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, is resurrected and will return again. James replies that they can’t stop from telling the truth about who Jesus is. But Caiaphas gives his assent anyway and Christians begin preaching in the Temple courts.
One of the women who was flogged for her witness to Jesus, Tabitha, becomes sick and it is obvious she is dying. She asks to be brought to her hometown of Joppa, and Mary Magdelene brings her home. While in Joppa, Tabitha dies. But Peter is also in Joppa, preaching. Mary sees him and asks him to come to Tabitha. Neither is sure what to do. After all, they are following the leading of the Holy Spirit, but they don’t have a lot of experience or knowledge about what that entails.
Peter goes to Tabitha’s house and finds people mourning her death. He goes into the room where she has been laid and prays over her. We see the wind blow Peter’s hair, a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and after a moment Tabitha is alive again. It is a work of the Lord Jesus, the Lifegiver, through His church, His faithful followers. People marvel and even Peter is both surprised and overjoyed. He is learning about the power of the Holy Spirit and the new life given through Jesus.
Another follower of Jesus, Joanna, also suffers for being a follower of Jesus. She is strangled to death by Pilate’s orders. Cornelius, Pilate’s trusted commander, strangles Joanna, but before he does she tells him that she forgives him. Afterwards, Cornelius is obviously both shaken by what he has done and touched by Joanna’s words.
This episode ends with Phillip’s encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch. Phillip is led, by an angel, to go to the road on which the Ethiopian Eunuch is traveling. The Eunuch is reading the scroll of Isaiah, given to him by Pilate, and asks Phillip who Isaiah is talking about. Phillip tells him it is Jesus and the Eunuch asks if he can be baptized. They spot some water, the Ethiopian Eunuch is baptized, and Phillip is miraculously taken away from that spot.
The Ethiopian Eunuch is left there alone … but changed.