A.D.: The Bible Continues 2.05 – The First Martyr

You can free stream the entire first five episodes here: NBC’s free showing of A.D – The Bible Continues.

My Recap:

This week’s episode tests Peter.  Will he give up the assassin named Boaz to the authorities, or will he risk losing the small faith community he has built to the wrath and retribution of Rome?  Peter allows Boaz, the man who killed Pilate’s bodyguard, to live in his camp under the condition that he gives up his desire for a violent overthrow of Roman ruler-ship and instead allows the love of Christ to rule him.  Boaz’s betrothed, Eva is approached by Caiaphas’ wife, Leah to give up her husband for the sake of her countrymen, who are being crucified in order to flush Boaz out of hiding.  Eva wants to protect her fiance but knows the death of her people are now her responsibility.  So she gives Rachel some information.  She tells her that Boaz has gone to a place where he can receive forgiveness.

When Caiaphas hears this news he heads to Peter’s camp and asks him to turn Boaz over to him.  But Peter will not do it.  Instead Peter implores Boaz to turn himself in before the Romans come to find him (and likely burn down the camp).  Peter tells Boaz he will not turn him in himself because it is God’s will who may live and who may die.  Boaz voluntarily turns himself in to Caiaphas’ men and accepts his fate as a martyr for the cause of the Zealots.  Pilate and the Romans want a slow public execution by crucifixion to be a warning to any more who would challenge them.  But as Boaz suffers on the cross, a man (the leader of the Zealots, named Levi) shoots him through the heart killing him quickly.  Levi escapes the Romans who chase after him.

When Cornelius, chief guard to Pilate, explains this development to him, Pilate is extremely angry at his loyal servant.  Pilate wants any and all who threatened his life to die now.  Cornelius offers his apologies and is willing to accept any punishment that Pilate wants to inflict on him.  But all Pilate does is dismiss him and tells him to not to show his face to him again.  I wonder what Cornelius will do next.  Will he try to capture more Zealots to appease Pilate, or will he maybe speak to Peter about the movement?  Ultimately Eva decides to join the Zealots to get her revenge on what they did to Boaz.

Speaking of Peter, he gets Caiaphas somewhat on his side when Boaz turns himself in.  But that quickly changes when Peter speaks the name of Jesus again, after Caiaphas had told him not to.  He arrests all the disciples this time.  But they are set free by an angel.  When they preach again in the name of Jesus, they are brought before the Sanhedrin (Jewish ruling council).  But this time an elderly priest named Gamaliel wants to release the disciples.  He believes that their movement will fail if it is not from God (he believes it will simply dissolve into nothing).  However if the cause of the disciples is for God, it would be best that the Sanhedrin not oppose God’s will.  So Caiaphas decides to flog them with whips and let them go.

In a really touching scene, Peter admits to his daughter that he can’t go back to Galilee (their hometown) and that she won’t be safe here in Jerusalem, so they decide to part ways.  These scenes with Peter and his daughter aren’t in the Bible but they are beautiful and remind us what the disciples are giving up.

Stephan, a new disciple is given the task by Peter to take care of the widows in the camp, but Stephan doesn’t believe his years of theological study should be neglected in this way.  So Peter comes up with the idea that Stephan shall begin to write down the accounts of Jesus that can then be read and studied by the new followers.  However Stephan’s desire for righteousness leads him to confront the temple priests.  He accuses them of being unjust by crucifying Jesus and unfairly detaining God’s messengers.  They arrest him and pronounce a sentence of stoning on him for defying the council’s authority to measure out punishment as they see fit (and again Stephan reminds them of the foretold destruction of the temple).  He is dragged outside the city gate, tied to a post, and then stoned.

As he is dying, a zealous student of the priests picks up the last stone and hands it off to the crowd.  With the last throw of the stone Stephan dies as the first martyr for Christ.  And with this we meet Saul, he was the one holding Stephan’s coat, and he is the one who picked up the last stone.

Next week we can expect to see the persecution of Peter’s group (also known as followers of the Way) by Saul who would later become Paul (defender of the faith).

Galleries:  Check out the galleries page or this one to see the characters in action.  There are a lot of characters to track, so it’s worth it to take a look at their faces, names and category groups (Followers of Christ, Temple Authorities, The Romans, Zealots).

Next week:  May 10th – The Persecution


A.D.: The Bible Continues 2.04 – The Wrath

You can free stream the entire first four episodes here: NBC’s free showing of A.D – The Bible Continues.

My Recap:

This week’s focus is on the retribution of Pilate and his need to exercise the might of Rome over the land of Judea and city of Jerusalem.  Pilate has completely had it with the “silliness” of the Jews practices and beliefs.  Last week one of his guards (bodyguards even) was killed by a Zealot.  The zealots want to rid the Holy Land of the occupying Roman army and its iron-fisted rule over them.  So Pilate instigates a witch hunt.  His plan was to crucify 10 Jewish citizens a day until the real culprit(s) are handed over to him.  There is no justice in this, and so Caiaphas wants it to stop before Pilate allows an even larger city-wide revolt to occur.

Meanwhile Peter and John are awaiting trial by the Jewish council (the Sanhedrin) for their preaching that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah (or rescuer) of the Jewish people.  The Sanhedrin called Jesus a heretic for thinking he was equal to God himself. Peter recently had healed a lame man who could not walk from birth.  Although I don’t remember if this is actually in the Bible, Caiaphas’ wife tries to bribe the blind man into testifying against Peter and John.  She says that Jesus followers want to bring down the Temple (but it was something Jesus had not directly said.  Jesus said “Tear down this temple and I will raise it in three days”, as He was referring to his resurrection).

At the trial, Caiaphas calls Peter a liar pretending that he had healed the man under the authority of God, but the once lame man shows up to testify.  He says he was lame from birth, that no one paid him to pretend he was lame, and that now he is healed.  The lame man had spent years at the Temple, so many of the people there knew that he was lame and likely telling the truth.  The people want Peter and John set free (for justice, but also because they want to experience more healings, I would suppose).  This makes Caiaphas extremely angry.  He has been shown to be weak compared to Jesus’ followers.

Caiaphas is also weak to the Romans.  He tries to humble himself to obtain God’s mercy by wearing sackcloth and pouring burned up ashes onto his head and body.  He hopes that his piety will convince the Romans, but Pilate only mocks him by making him eat the ashes of the cremated Roman soldier who was killed (I don’t remember this in the Bible either).

Peter returns to the upper room where the disciples are gathering and is shocked to see hundreds of people there.  They had witnessed the disciples miracles of healings and speaking other languages.  Peter’s resolve is strengthened by this.  Instead of keeping quiet as Caiaphas had asked, Peter believes it is God’s will to spread the message while knowing it may cost him his life.  The show represents this strengthening by showing the Holy Spirit as a wind that rushes in to help the disciples when they need it.

John has a dream that leads him to a place where he meets Barnabas (a wealthy believer in Jesus).  Barnabas promises the disciples some land to set up a new community of believers where common goods are shared to care for the poor.  This of course attracts a lot of people, because Rome has placed a huge tax on the citizens in order to support Rome’s building projects.  This makes the citizens both poor and resentful of the Roman system.  It also attracts followers who want to help.  Unfortunately two of the followers are not sure Peter’s mission will truly succeed, so they hedge their bets and keep some of their money hidden.  I don’t think this would have been a problem but they lied and said they were giving it all to ministry.  In a vision Peter is informed by the Spirit of what happened.  Both of the two followers die of internal hemorrhage and are quickly buried.  And Boaz meets Peter and wants to join the camp but Peter says he must repent first.  Boaz refuses saying that being a citizen of Judea is enough.

Finally we meet Stephen who is a new convert and very strong when it comes to seeing justice done.  He tries to stop the Romans from arresting the citizens for crucifixion. He is knocked down and beaten by them.  Next week I fear something even worse will happen to him.  And we have the wives working together to find the culprit, Boaz who killed Pilate’s guard.

Next week we can expect to see the stoning of Stephen who is the first martyr for Jesus recorded in the Bible.

Galleries:  Check out the galleries page to see the characters in action.  There are a lot of characters to track of so its worth it to take a look at their faces, names and category groups (Followers of Christ, Temple Authorities, The Romans, Zealots).

Next week:  May 3rd – The First Martyr


A.D.: The Bible Continues 2.03 – The Spirit Arrives

You can free stream the entire first three episodes here: NBC’s free showing of A.D – The Bible Continues.

My Recap:

This week we focus on the anticipation of the arrival of the Holy Spirit, which is a very mysterious thing to me.  Jesus says the disciples must return from Galilee to Jerusalem to wait for the spirit to come.  At the spirit’s arrival they will be equipped to declare the message of Jesus’ coming kingdom to the people of Jerusalem, Samaria, and all the “known” world.  I put known in quotations because very long sea voyages were difficult and dangerous in those days.  So to the disciples “the world” to them was the area around the Mediterranean sea.  But I am getting ahead of the story.  At this point they are waiting.

While they wait a lot of politics are going on at the Temple where Caiaphas and his wife receive a visit from the widow of a loyal temple guard who was at the tomb when Jesus’ body disappeared (last week we found out Jesus did not disappear, but rose from the dead).  The guard was killed but the wife can’t understand why she doesn’t receive honors for his service (money and a decent burial for her husband).  Of course we know the answer was that he was killed by those trying to cover up the fact that the body was not in the tomb and that Jesus had predicted this event.

We also see Pilate and his wife discuss his murder of the roman guards who were at the tomb.  She is disgusted that Pilate killed them in their own house.  Pilate has just about had it with all the events that have spun out of his control.  And to make matters worse, the son of the roman puppet king Herod comes for a visit for Pentecost (I think it is a celebration of the giving of the law by God to the Israelites).  Herod Antipas as he is called, wants the Romans to leave the temple area so that the pilgrims may enter freely and enjoy their celebration.  But Pilate takes this instead as a challenge to his power.  So he decides to increase his power of the temple and symbolically decides to visit the temple and to enter in the gate reserved for the Israelites.  (Romans are Gentiles and must enter through a different way or gate).

When Pilate shows up at the temple,  Caiaphas cleverly tries to convince the crowd that this breach of protocol is because Pilate wants to make an offering ( a gift) to cleanse Pilate of his sin.  But Pilate can’t speak Hebrew (or Aramaic) and has no idea what Caiaphas is saying.  As Pilate leaves, the Zealots try to mount an attack on the Romans and do end up killing one soldier.  Pilate is furious and wants any suspects rounded up and executed for all to see.

As this is happening the Holy Spirit arrives to empower the disciples for their mission.  The spirit not only empowers them but enables them to speak in foreign language(s) to the crowd outside.  This is a reversal of the Tower of Babel story where God confused man’s language from one to multiple.  So now at Pentecost God has “unconfused” the languages to build up His kingdom, which is in direct contrast to man’s attempt at Babel to reach up to God’s level.

Peter and the disciples begin their ministry by healing a beggar on the street.  Then they go to the temple but are recognized as Jesus disciples and arrested by Caiaphas’ temple guards.  They beat Peter and also John and throw them into a cell.  Mary Magdalene brings them food and tells them that a few thousand people are now part of the Jesus movement.

Thoughts:  This was another good episode.  It’s interesting that no matter what the authorities did to stop it,  the message still got to the people.  I liked them bringing Peter’s daughter into the story.  She kept begging her father to return home but it is clear that Peter (who felt guilty betraying Jesus before he died) now wants to work hard to fulfill his teachers instructions.

Next week we can expect to see the Romans arrest and execute the Zealots and those who oppose Roman rule over the Temple.

Galleries:  Check out the galleries page to see the characters in action.  There are a lot of characters to track of so its worth it to take a look at their faces, names and category groups (Followers of Christ, Temple Authorities, The Romans, Zealots).

Next week:  April 26th – The Romans Crack Down


A.D.: The Bible Continues 2.02-The Body is Gone

You can free stream the entire first episode here: NBC’s free showing of The Tomb is Open.

The second episode is here: NBC’s free showing of The Body is Gone.

My Recap:

Last weeks story “The Tomb is Empty” ended with Caiaphas getting the news that the tomb Jesus was buried in was empty.  This week’s episode recounts the aftermath of that event.  To the Romans it’s a big inconvenience, and the Jewish leaders think Jesus’ followers (aka disciples) are trying to fake the Resurrection, and the people of Jerusalem are mostly oblivious to it all.  So this is a week in history where only the principle players know the stakes and potential risks of what has just happened.

The Jewish leaders led by Caiaphas want to find the disciples and quick.  If they can find them they can find the body of Jesus (so they think) and parade it through the town to prove that promises of the Resurrection were false.  But the temple guards can’t locate them.  So they try to get another body that looks like Jesus (with nail marks and bloody scars).  But Caiaphas does not think the people will be easily fooled by this (they saw his face and spent time with him).  Caiaphas does not want to invent a hoax (after all that is what he is trying to prove the disciples have done).  So Caiaphas lies about Jesus to the Roman general Pontius Pilate to stall for time, but Pilate finds out the body is missing from his own guards who were placed at the tomb at Caiaphas’ request.

Now Pilate sends out his own team of soldiers to find the disciples.  They try to block the gates of the city to disallow any escape, but the Zealots start a riot against the Romans and the apostles then escape back to their home town of Galilee.  Pilate then murders any of his soldiers who knew about the disappearance of Jesus’ body because he wants to leave this cruddy town and its strange beliefs.

Backing up just a bit.  Jesus had returned to the disciples in the upper room where they had been hiding.  As per Jesus’ prophecy he would come back to life three days after his crucifixion.  Of course they are shocked and also elated.  Their sacrifice to follow Jesus was not a waste.  In fact his death was not the end but just the beginning of a new life for them all.  But one disciple was not there in the upper room to see Jesus.  He does not believe the others.  That is until Jesus returns again to show him his hands, feet and side, all of the wounds still there from what had happened three days before.

Jesus meets them again in Galilee to tell them to return to Jerusalem to wait for a sign that it’s time to preach the message of hope (the Gospel) to all in Jerusalem and throughout the land.  Jesus then leaves them to return again some day “on the clouds”.

Thoughts:  I enjoyed this episode.  The Jewish and Roman leaders were both shrewd in predicting the Jesus “cult” could be halted by stopping any stories of his resurrection, but they could not find the body!  Mary Magdalene (who wanted to prepare the body for burial) was the first to notice his body missing from the tomb, but found the linens he was wrapped in neatly folded.  No single person could have moved the giant stone blocking the entrance.  And the disciples could not have gone unnoticed by the guards if they were to try to take it.  No one wanted that body to disappear.  But it did.

Next week we can expect to see the sign that its time for the disciples to become the apostles (those that preach the Good news).

Galleries:  Check out the galleries page to see the characters in action.  There are a lot of characters to track of so its worth it to take a look at their faces, names and category groups (Followers of Christ, Temple Authorities, The Romans, Zealots).

Next week:  April 19th – The Spirit Arrives.


A.D.: The Bible Continues 2.01-The Tomb is Open

You can free stream the entire episode here: NBC’s free showing of The Tomb is Open

My Recap:

The story picks up before Jesus’ trial and execution on the Roman cross.  Jesus infuriates the high priest and the priestly council by using the unique name of God “I am”.  The name is holy and is never to be spoken.  Fearing an insurrection by the followers of Jesus at the time of the great festival of passover (100’s of thousand visitors are there in Jerusalem), the high priest orders the execution of Jesus, but needs the sentence carried out by the Roman military.  Only Rome is allowed to execute criminals and they will only do so if they pose a threat to the Roman emperor’s authority.  The high priest convinces the Roman general that Jesus refers to himself as King.  After questioning Jesus the general sentences Jesus to death on the cross, but first Jesus is brutally whipped.

The followers of Jesus are afraid and try to hide, but Peter is spotted and denies Jesus three times (exactly like Jesus predicted he would).  Judas (another follower) regrets his decision to take money in order to give Jesus over the priestly council for questioning (Was Judas greedy or did he just want Jesus to confront the ruling class and take his place in charge of the temple worship?).  Meanwhile the Roman governor’s wife is having dreams about Jesus;  she thinks he is a good man.  They hear about a prophecy that Jesus will survive death and return to lead his new kingdom.  So the Romans spear his lifeless body to ensure he is really dead.  The high priest is afraid the followers of Jesus will steal his body and pretend that Jesus has risen from the dead, so a small group of Roman soldiers and temple guards are sent to the tomb and it is sealed.  The disciples want to flee Jerusalem but Mary mother of Jesus tells them to wait three days, for that is the time Jesus said would occur before he arises.  On the third day they find the tomb empty.  The guards witnessed some sort of angle opening the tomb.  In fear they return to tell the high priest that the body is gone.

Thoughts:  I found this to be a well made episode.  This is a dramatization that highlights certain things about the crucifixion and resurrection that may not be widely understood.  First the death of Jesus causes an earthquake that nearly brings down the holy temple.  In particular the curtain between the holy place and the most holy place (where only the high priest may enter) is torn in two.  Next Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus get Jesus’ body and place it in a rich man’s tomb before the body can be eaten by wild animals.  Also Mary keeps Jesus’ leg bones from being broken (which is normally the procedure used to remove the body from the cross).  The high priest is unaware or he would have stopped this from happening.

One thing that works in the disciples favor is that Jerusalem is very crowded for the passover, so the temple guards who are looking for them are not able to find them.  Also the disciples meet the sicarii (or dagger men in latin) who want to take revenge against the Romans.  They will likely be a big part of the events to come in Jerusalem.  If you saw the recent show The Dovekeepers, it’s the sicarii who kill some Romans and then flee to the mountain fort of Masada.  The Romans track them down and besiege them there.

Galleries:  Check out the galleries page to see the characters in action.  There are a lot of characters to start with so its worth it to take a look at their faces and names.

Next week:  April 12th – The Body is Gone.