Jesus, His Life – Episode 6: Pilate: The Trial

We begin this final episode with the same introduction as the first five parts. he episode begins with the same introductory comments.

We begin with a scene of Roman soldiers, along with a carriage in which sits Pilate and his wife, entering through the gates of Jerusalem. Pilate is thinking “I hate this place.” Referring to hot dusty Jerusalem. His thoughts continue “Once I wanted to make a name for myself, but now I just want to scrub this place from my skin”. Pilate’s attitude is significant to the whole story.

The commentators provide a bit of historical content:

Pilate was the prefect, that is the Roman military Governor in the province of Judea from 26 – 36 A.D. He’s famous for one thing. He’s the man in charge during the execution of Jesus. Pilate has come from the lowest level of Roman nobility and probably clawed his way up the ladder to end up in the little backwater town in Judea, arriving on the eve of the Passover. It’s a tough time for a Roman to be in Jerusalem.

Pilate only travels to Jerusalem during Jewish feasts and festivals and fulfills an important ‘behind the scenes’ role, working with the High Priest to make sure there is no unrest during Passover. Pilate also holds the ceremonial robes that Caiaphas must wear – a kind of hostage situation.

Pilate gives Caiaphas his ceremonial robes and asks him if there is anything he needs to know about. Caiaphas answers that there is not. Pilate is naturally suspicious of Caiaphas and really thinks that Caiaphas is expecting trouble.

Next we wee Pilate being awakened in the middle of the night by a messenger from Caiaphas and of course upset. Caiaphas drags Jesus in and presents him to Pilate, hoping Pilate would deal with Jesus because Jesus is popular with the Jewish people. It’s a familiar story. Pilate asks about the charges against Jesus and actually speaks to Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?”As with Caiaphas earlier, Jesus answers “You say so.”

Caiaphas and Pilate talk things over with Caiaphas making more accusations about Jesus. Pilate finally tells Caiaphas and the religious leaders “Take him yourselves. Judge him by your own laws.” (So far, so good.). Caiaphas wanted Jesus executed but had no authority to do so. Pilate wonders why Caiaphas wants Jesus dead.

At the same time we are told that the Pilate of history was cruel and merciless petty tyrant, while the Pilate of the Bible is weak and indecisive, not wanting to take full responsibility for Jesus’ death. The story of the trial in the gospels doesn’t really reflect the actual historical and political reality of the time, so we are told, in order to more easily convert Romans to Christianity. The Biblical portrayal doesn’t reflect the true power of the Roman Prefect.

The conversation between Jesus and Pilate is for the most part, faithful to the text of John 18. Pilate’s wife tells her husband to have nothing to do with Jesus, but when Pilate was sitting at tribunal and not privately, as depicted. Also, the film gives us a glimpse of what she saw in her dream, which is not in the text. Pilate then ‘passes the buck’ to Herod.

The appearance before Herod is recorded in Luke 23. Jesus wasn’t forthcoming there either. Herod an his solders mock Jesus and it is Herod’s soldiers who are said to mock Jesus, not Herod alone, as the film portrays. The chief priests and the rulers of the law who were there are not shown in the film either. It is suggested that perhaps Herod thought the mocking was sufficient punishment and that’s why he handed him back to Pilate.

Pilate of course doesn’t want to make a decision to put Jesus to death and is seen taking things over with Caiaphas telling the Chief Priest the he has found nothing in Jesus worthy of execution. He calls for the condemned rebel Barabbas to be brought to him, per the Jewish custom of freeing one condemned Jewish man during the feast.

We are again told that it is naïve to think of Caiaphas a terribly evil character and reminded that portraying Caiaphas birthed anti-Semitism. After all, Caiaphas just wanted to save lives. (This is the same line that was fed to us in an earlier episode.) This is consistent with an earlier commentator’s claims that the Jewish people were not, then or now, in any way responsible for Jesus’ death (even though Peter on Pentecost said otherwise).

Pilate presents Jesus and Barabbas to the crowd. “Give us Barabbas!”, they shout. So Pilate is off the hook and can have Jesus executed without a major uprising. He orders the flogging that preceded the execution. We are given great detail about the whip of cords used in the flogging,

Soldiers again mock Jesus and put a red cloak across his shoulders and the crown of thorns upon his head.

Jesus is dragged through the crowds. Pilate still seems uncertain and Caiaphas tells Pilate, “Go on, crucify him.” Pilate says to Caiaphas, “You take him, you crucify him.”, demonstrating the power play between the two men. Since Pilate knows Caiaphas doesn’t have the authority to put Jesus to death and us warning Caiaphas to stay in his lane. (Scripture says they became fast friends? Luke 23:12).

We are treated to more speculative commentary concerning the back and forth between the two and a silly commentator (professor from Duke) telling us that the gospel writers were wrong trying to blame the Jews for Jesus’ death. (He doesn’t believe the gospel writers weren’t inspired by the Hoy Spirit to write what they did.)

At this point Pilate and Caiaphas sure aren’t acting like fast friends! There’s a lot of angry glaring at each other.

Another10 minutes or do of speculation I was too tired to add to my notes, along with more angry stares between Caiaphas and Pilate. Finally, Pilate himself orders the execution but washes his hands of Jesus blood. More comments about the gospel writers being wrong about the Jews being responsible for the execution (different commentator).

“The historical reality is likely to have been that if Caiaphas had brought Jesus to Caiaphas to Pilate, Pilate would not even have batted an eye in ordering the crucifixion of Jesus” (Dr. Robert Cargill)

Pilate walks away thinking, “What does another dead man matter to me anyway? Golgotha is soaked in the blood of countless men, and I remember none of them. Rome won’t give a second thought to Jesus of Nazareth, so why should I?”

Jesuit Priest, Dr. James Martin tells us, in one of the last two comments of the episode, “We should not blame Caiaphas and the Jewish authorities for the death of Jesus. Only one person had the authority to put Jesus to death, and that was Pontius Pilate, a Roman.”

The very last scene of the episode has Pilate and his wife watching two Roman soldiers dragging Jesus away for his execution. Jesus glances at them both. Pilates wife looks at her husband disapprovingly then turns around and walks away.

“If Pontius Pilate hadn’t executed Jesus of Nazareth. Pontius Pilate would have been lost to history. He would have just been another Prefect of another distant province.” ( Dr. Michael Peppard, Author)

(I guess the very last comment had to be about the main character of the episode.)

                                                                           The End

Dan’s final thoughts:

This episode had nothing at all to say about Jesus’ mission in coming, either true or false. It didn’t really need to. It was all about Caiaphas, Pilate, and Jesus’ trial. What was shown about Jesus seemed to be accurate. Not so much the Roman Prefect and the High Priest. They were both misrepresented and their relationship (they became friends) twisted to fit the botched narrative commentary.

P.S., I just noticed that there are still two more episodes to follow, Jesus life from the viewpoints of Mary Magdalene and Peter. I had already begun working a summary of sorts with a few overall observations, and now two more???????? (Some of you will get it.) Decision, decisions.

Jesus, His Life – Episode 5: Judas: The Betrayal

The episode begins with the same introductory comments. Again, as with previous episodes we will be asking “Where’s the Gospel?” again and hoping to see/hear a clear message that Jesus died for the sins of men. There will again be a few italicized personal comments. And off we go again.

This new episode’s introduction begins with a commentator telling us that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus is “one of the great mysteries of the New Testament” Then we are taken back to the scene in the Garden where Peter cut off Malchus ear and Jesus healed him. Judas is watching and we are told that Judas is probably asking himself “Is this the kind of Messiah I want to follow?” Judas had been looking for another “David”. Another commentator says “Every story needs a bad guy and Judas is it”.

The actual episode begins in Bethany and Jesus’ whispering for Lazarus to come out, which he does. Mary hugs Lazarus. Judas is watching and thinking “Each of us grows up hoping we can make our mark, becoming something special. Until Jesus came into my life I was a nobody, but not now. Now the world will remember the name ‘Judas Iscariot’- forever.” (I guess that’s because he was one of the disciples of the man who brought a dead man to life.

We are told that “The raising of Lazarus from the dead was the greatest miracle of Jesus’ ministry, bar none” and would both astonished and scared people. We are also reminded that why Judas betrayed is the greatest mystery in the Bible. It’s not a ‘who done it, but a “why did he do it”

Commentators speculate about Judas, since the Bible doesn’t tell us much about him. He wasn’t mentioned all of the time but we know he spent a lot of time with Jesus. We see Judas and Jesus in a crowd and Judas cautioning Jesus, “Be careful Lord, these crowds are dangerous.” “Jesus was very close to Jesus, in his inner circle, yet he betrayed Jesus for reasons we don’t understand. That makes him a compelling and mysterious character (Joel Osteen).

Judas was different from the other disciples. He didn’t come from Galilee, where Jesus called the others. “Iscariot” is probably a Judean name. He might have been named after a town called ‘Kerioth’. Maybe he’s even from a group of trained assassins called the Sicarii, who were Jewish zealots.

We do know he sort of the ‘treasurer’ for the disciples. With that in mind, we head to Bethany again, to the home of Mary,

Martha and Lazarus and the story we are so familiar with of Mary anointing Jesus feet with expensive ointment and Judas objects, scolding Mary:  “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” Jesus tells Judas to leave Mary alone and that while the poor will always be available to care for, he (Jesus) would not.

The incident is kind of a turning point for Judas. Jesus had rebuked and embarrassed him in front of the entire household. Judas is convinced that Jesus could not see just how much he cared. (Really? For the poor? He was always a thief [John 12:2])

Fast forward to the triumphant entry into Jerusalem at Passover.

One commentator tells us that that Jesus knows exactly what he is doing, that he is orchestrating everything.’ coming to Jerusalem was to say “The status quo is corrupt, the current world is wrong, and we need to change it, NOW! We See Jesus riding through the streets with Judas alongside proclaiming “This is the coming kingdom of or ancestor David.” Judas muses that he was convinced that his destine was to sit at the right hand of the king! Jesus is riding along, arms wide open and smiling. By riding in on a donkey he is in effect claiming to be the king of Israel. We are told that Jesus has become both a religious and political agitator to the Romans and religious leaders.

Jesus goes to the temple and sees the money changers there to sell animals for sacrifices, a practice everyone is making money off of, and Jesus is angry, turning over tables and scattering money all over the place. We are told that Jesus’ anger is really an expression of his disgust at Caiaphas becoming rich from Roman favor and the money of honest Jewish pilgrims.

We are told that when Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers, Judas might well have thought that this picture of a violent Jesus, and not the loving, ministering, miracle working Jesus, was NOT the Jesus he wanted to see. This would mark Jesus as ‘public enemy #1 for the establishment.

Judas is then seen approaching the temple (or home) and asking to see Caiaphas. Judas was deeply disappointed that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah he had expected, which might have been the reason for the betrayal. We are told that many fail to see the human side of Judas, that he was wrestling with a huge decision. Judas tells Caiaphas that Jesus must be stopped. Caiaphas tells him to look for an opportunity to hand him over, somewhere quiet, and hands him a bag of money, the thirty pieces of silver, which amounted to either one month’s wages or four month’s wages, depending on if the silver was in Roman denarii or Israeli shekels.

We are given some useful information about the history and meaning of the Passover meal in Jewish culture, looking back a the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

Now to the Passover meal with Jesus and the disciples. Judas is concerned whether or not Jesus knows he just betrayed him.

At the table, Jesus speaks to his disciples about his coming death, confusing the disciples again. Jesus shares the bread “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” “This is the blood of my covenant, which is poured out for many.” (Neither Jesus or the commentator say that Jesus blood was poured out “for the remission of sin. This is a huge omission, consistent with previous episodes omitting the thought that Jesus died for the sins of men. We are given to believe that Jesus’ impending death and resurrection is about saving the world system!)

At supper, Jesus also announced “One of you will betray me, one who is eating here.” Judas, sitting next to Jesus asks him “Which of us in the traitor, Lord.” Jesus says “It is the one who to whom I give this piece of bread, when I have dipped it in this dish,” and breaking off a piece of bread, dipping it and handing it to Judas. And of course, Jesus also whispers to Judas “Do what you have to do, but do it quickly.” The other disciples think perhaps Jesus has sent Judas on some sort of an errand.

The Jesuit Priest who commented on the other Jesus episodes offers that Jesus was either demonstrating his omniscience in knowing Judas would actually betray him, or he was just using human intuition, having known Judas so well. (The either/or is interesting, coming from someone who supposedly knows the attributes of God.)

Judas leaves, still struggling mightily, knowing he is betraying everything he once believed in.

Now to the Garden of Gethsemane (probably a vineyard, per a commentator). Jesus is praying, doesn’t want to die, but has accepted his fate, if it’s God’s will.

The Roman soldiers, Malchus & company from the Temple, and Judas arrive. Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss.

Peter separates Malchus from one of his ears and Jesus miraculously heals him. Judas is thinking again: “Jesus IS committed to a ministry of non-violence, and certainly doesn’t it marred by a violent act.” . . . “With that kiss I tore down everything he (Jesus) gave his all to do!”

Jesus is dragged off to see Caiaphas (for the first time) Judas realizes that he has played right into the High Priest’s hands, asking himself “What have I done?”

Jesus is being judged in Caiaphas’ mansion by the Sanhedrin in the middle of the night, against the rules for such affairs. Jesus is confronted with “So you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus is silent except to say “You have said so. But I say to all of you, from now on, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One, on the clouds of heaven.

The Sanhedrin, except for Joseph of Arimathea (who offered a tomb for the burial) and Nicodemus (who visited Jesus at night in the gospel of John), agree that Jesus must die The two men cave to pressure, however, and the verdict of the Sanhedrin is unanimous.

Judas is distraught because this was NOT the end he was hoping for. He had wanted Caiaphas to toss Jesus “into the deep end” to see what he would do. Perhaps if Jesus had performed another great miracle, they would have been convinced he was who he said he was and let him go. Jesus was actually horrified by the verdict.

A commentator (the Jesuit Priest) adds that the ‘illegal’ trial would make the Jews look like bad people and wonders of the accounts of Judas in the New Testament fed into ‘antisemitism’. The Jewish people, as a whole, were not then, and are not now responsible for the death of Jesus.

Judas, thinking again, finally understands his legacy. He was the man who handed Jesus over to his executioners. “Lord, what have I done? I never thought it would end like this! There was a time when I thought nothing could stop us – until an evil seed entered my mind and made me doubt his (Jesus’) every word.”

Judas angrily returns the thirty pieces of silver. Overwhelmed by guilt he wonders if he was born to betray Jesus, or if the Devil made him do it.

Another commentator (Obama’s faith advisor) asks “What it Judas’ fault he did what he did? The reality is that we all have free will. Our Jesuit Priest says that the Judas story demonstrates the great battle between good and evil. That Judas was ‘chosen’ to do what he did means that there is some good in it. In fact, there is a huge battle between good and evil within Judas throughout the story.

Professor Nicola Lewis’ gives us her opinion of the Judas story:” I think what’s fascinating is that we will never get a handle on his (Judas) motivation.”

Then we see Judas, alone in the desert, slowly walking toward a lone, scraggly tree, and sitting down at the foot of the tree. “I wish I could go back, but I sense that God will never forgive me.” The camera zooms out and we see the silhouette of the tree and Judas hanging from one of the branches.

A final commentator tells us: “Our conundrum is that without the betrayal, Jesus doesn’t get handed over to the Romans to be executed. If Judas hadn’t done what he did and we wouldn’t have the story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, which is the centerpiece of Christian history.”

The End

Dan’s final thoughts: WHAT conundrum? Is all of this REALLY such a great mystery? Haven’t some of these commentators read Peter’s sermon at Pentecost? To the assembled Jews he proclaimed:

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Acts 2:22-23

Is there a great conundrum, or unfathomable mystery in the story of Judas? I would say possibly, but only a small one. While we might not know Judas’ exact personal motives, there was a very definite plan of God afoot; one that could NOT be thwarted. The fact of the complete sovereignty of God in the story should put us at complete rest concerning the minute details and this ‘great mystery’.

There is much in the film I left out, some accurate things and some not so accurate. Feel free to watch it for yourself, Bible at the ready!

Next up: Pilate: The Trial

 

Jesus, His Life – Episode 4: Caiaphas: The Raising of Lazarus

Each part of this film series is more difficult to watch. Although spurred on in my quest to answer the question “Where’s the gospel?”, my hopes are dwindling that it will make an appearance. We have yet to be presented the good news that Christ died for the sins of men. So, onward we go.

The Caiaphas episode revolves around the Jewish High Priest Caiaphas’ attempt to assess the threat Jesus poses to the status quo. Some commentators appear to be sympathetic to Caiaphas, as we will see. Note that much, if not most of this episode is taken from the Gospel of John

Once again, the same format is used, but this time we are provided Caiaphas’ possible thoughts and emotions about Jesus. I won’t give you all the names of all of the commentators, but try and provide an accurate account of what transpired in the film. I will try and not correct the narrative this time, but instead challenge you to examine scripture yourselves.

We are told that Caiaphas, High Priest 18 – 36 A.D., is extremely important, because without him Jesus cannot be arrested.

We begin with the Feast of Tabernacles. Thousands of people are gathered in Jerusalem for the occasion and Caiaphas is the ‘star’ of the festival as he presides over the activities. At one point he is standing on a balcony, pouring life giving water out of a pitcher onto plants below as some sort of ritual. Jesus appears and disrupts the ceremony by speaking: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

The commentator tells us that Jesus is really saying that “Rituals aren’t important, I’m the only one that can bring eternal life.”

We are treated to a short history lesson about the Romans having granted Jewish High Priests quite a bit of power, which is true, but Pilate was ‘large and in charge’. Pilate and Caiaphas talk about the previous Feast and Caiaphas tells Pilate that things are still peaceful, but he knows how quickly things can change.

Flash back several years earlier when Pilate wanted to build an aqueduct using funds from the Temple. An uprising ensued  that the Romans forcefully put down. Caiaphas is worried another such revolt and the Romans again reacting with violence toward the Jews. This fear naturally affects the way he views Jesus.

We travel to Bethany, about 2 miles outside of Jerusalem. Bethany is a place where Jesus can experience normal daily living. Bethany is also the home of Mary and Marths, the sisters of Lazarus, who had a very close relationship with Jesus. While there, Jesus also teaches the people. We see Jesus teaching about the good Samaritan. We are also told that Mary and Martha travelled with Jesus as he travelled; female disciples with the same status as the other disciples.

The fact that Jesus and Lazarus are such close friends tells us that Jesus had friends outside of his closest disciples, demonstrating Jesus’ humanity,

We head back to Jerusalem and Caiaphas fear of Jesus’ healing miracles causing trouble and maybe even Roman violence. Caiaphas is, after all, most concerned with the welfare of the Jewish people and being allowed to practice Jewish religion.

Jesus arrives in Jerusalem and this time heals the man born blind, on the Sabbath, a really big no-no. The story presented in the film is accurate, including the man’s parents being brought in before Jewish leaders to confirm their son was born blind, as well as the healed man saying “All I know is that I was blind, but now I see.”

Caiaphas thoughts at the time: “If so many people can fall for Jesus’ tricks, how can I ignore him?” He KNOWS Jesus is dangerous. He cannot ignore him, especially when Jesus goes to the Temple.

We then see Jesus confronted by the Pharisees who ‘legitimately’ question his identity as the Son of God.  Jesus tells them “My sheep know me. I give them eternal life and they will never perish.” (John 6). Jesus tells the Pharisees that he and the Father are One. They pick up rocks to stone Jesus, but he escapes through the streets of Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, we return to Caiaphas and his fears about Jesus. Caiaphas remembers another time, years ago, when he was just a child, another revolt that was crushed by the Romans and 2,000 Jews were crucified (this was mentioned in an earlier episode also). After all, Caiaphas is the defender of the Jewish faith and Jewish people (a common thread of this episode.

Jesus and his disciples have escaped to the ‘other side of the Jordan’, where John had baptized. At the same time, Lazarus becomes very sick at his home with Mary and Martha in Bethany. A messenger is sent to summon Jesus to come and heal him. Jesus is conflicted about what to do, but remains by the Jordan. Lazarus dies and by the time Jesus gets to Bethany, he has been dead four days and has been lying in a tomb, wrapped in linen, as was customary in Jesus time.

We know the story. Jesus shows up and confronts both Martha and Mary, in that order. Martha is angry Jesus did not come sooner. Jesus says Lazarus will live and Martha thinks Jesus is talking about the final resurrection. gives her a lesson about the final resurrection. Jesus tells her that he is the resurrection and the life and that the one who believes in him, though he dies, yet shall he live. He asks Martha “Do you believe this?” Martha confesses that she believes he is the Messiah, the Son of God.

Jesus goes to Mary and responds in a very human manner. Jesus weeps over the death of Lazarus and knowing the pain of Mary. Mary takes Jesus to the tomb. To Mary and Martha’s surprise Jesus tells Lazarus to come out of the tomb (but not with the loud voice spoken of in John’s Gospel). The crowd (Mary & Martha included) were stupefied,

A commentator tells us that Jewish theology would have believed the since Lazarus died and had laid there four days, it was what God ordained. Therefore Jesus was overturning what God ordained, which ways that maybe Jesus’ claims to be the Don of god were believable. This was an enormous threat to the religious establishment.

Spies are sent to Bethany to watch Jesus and find out what his intentions are. After all Jesus threatened the religious establishment in Jerusalem. Malchus, whose ear was cut off in the Garden was among them. If fat, Malchus has appeared throughout the series, having been a servant of Caiaphas.

It was this miracle that convinced Jewish religious leaders that Jesus was a real problem and must be dealt with. This is a major shift and places Jesus on a trajectory of death.

We see Malchus watching Jesus in the crowd at Bethany, wondering how Jesus raised Lararus miracles. Malchus muses: “After all he is not a sorcerer, but just a man, a man made of flesh and blood, and I must not be frightened of him.”

Malchus slips through the crown and returns to Jerusalem to report to Caiaphas. From that day on, Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin try and come up with a way to deal with Jesus. There are arguments, but in the end, Caiaphas makes the hard call to get rid of Jesus. There is the risk of another revolt and to silence one man is not too much of a risk to preserve the religious establishment and the Jewish nation.

The End

Dan’s Final Comments:

There is a lot I could say, but as I said, I challenge to the reader is to investigate for themselves. This isn’t because I’m lazy, I just know that interested believers, when they search the scripture for themselves, come away tremendously enriched for having done do!

I will mention something that was omitted from this episode that I think was a tremendously significant part of the final discussions between Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. We find in John’s account an actual God given prophesy made by Caiaphas about Jesus, while they were plotting to kill Jesus:

47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” (John 11:47-52)

This prophecy is clearly about Jesus dying for the sins of the Jews and not only the Jews, but for Gentiles also – ALL of the true children of God everywhere.

On one hand I am personally upset this was omitted, but on the other hand, it fits perfectly with the social justice narrative we have seen, as opposed to Jesus dying for the sins of people, not their earthly welfare. The ‘social justice’ theme is intact.

Next up: Judas: The Betrayal

 

 

Jesus, His Life – Episode 3: Mary, The First Miracles

After the second episode, I wasn’t sure I would watch another one. On the other hand, I am still hoping to see the Gospel message clearly articulated in anything coming out of the entertainment industry, and specifically the ‘Christian’ entertainment sector. So I watched it, but didn’t review it in as much detail as Episode 2 (detailing time-stamps and the identity of all of the commentators).

This post will describe some events in the film, along with personal observations. Personal comments will again be italicized. We will address the “Where was the gospel?” question at the end.

The episode began with the same intro as the first two, including Pastor Joel. The remaining episodes will probably begin the same way.

Just as the second episode was told from the perspective of John and what he might have thought, this episode is told from Mary’s perspective. And also like the last episode with John, some of the thoughts of Mary can be considered ‘reasonable’ speculation, but others not so much.

Some of the commentators in this episode are the same ones from previous episodes, but there are more women commentators that in the first two episodes, I assume to add credibility to the commentator side of things – women talking about a woman.

Throughout the film, one thing is consistent. Mary always knew that God had a special plan for her son, which is a reasonable assumption. At times however, she seemed to be more certain than Jesus, who was also trying to determine what it was.

·         At the beginning of Mary’s narration we are told that Mary always knew God had a special plan for Jesus that she (Mary) longed for but also feared.

·         The first miracle – Jesus changes water into wine

o   At the wedding at Cana, when Jesus and a few followers made their appearance Mary said that Jesus “was somehow different, happy, surrounded by friends, a man with a new purpose”.

o   Mary of course realized that it was a good time for Jesus to make a statement about his ministry. When she tells Jesus that the wine has run out, she is encouraging him to embrace ‘who he is’.

o   Jesus tells the servants to fill the empty jars with water and draw some out. At the moment the water is turned into wine, Jesus is facing heavenward with closed eyes and there is some sudden wind.

o   Mary tells Jesus “This is your time; the people need you.”

During the film, Jesus is at Mary’s home along with his brothers and there is tension between Jesus and his brothers – all reasonable. When not at home, Jesus is traveling around preaching and performing miracles.

The Sermons on the Mount is shown (same scene as in the last episode). We are told by a commentator it is the most important speech Jesus made in all of his ministry because it threatened the establishment/ruling class. (Was it? We report, you decide.).

We Jesus healing a man with a withered hand, ticking off the Pharisees, who were part of the establishment Jesus was taking on.

Jesus goes to Capernaum to really begin his ministry (according to a commentator) of preaching and performing miracles. We see Jesus healing a demon possessed man and looking a bit like Benny Hinn, pressing forcefully down on the man’s forehead.

We are told by a commentator that Jesus’ ministry was to those “who had their backs against the wall, the marginalized, disenfranchised, and forgotten by society.” (Social justice, anyone?)

Jesus’ work and ministry threatened his family, we are told, which was probably true. At one point, Mary and his brothers travel to where Jesus is ministering, wanting to stop him – perform an ‘intervention’. (If Mary knew Jesus’ calling, why would she want to stop him?).

One commentator said “The gospel accounts aren’t very fair to the Pharisees.” (If God inspired all of Scripture, how could they NOT be fair?)

We are shown the scene where Jesus is told his Mother and brothers are there and Jesus telling the crowd exactly who his real mother and brothers and sisters. A commentator tells us that Jesus is saying, in effect, that “Traditional families don’t matter. What matters is this new family, this new kingdom discipleship of following me.” (I can’t picture Jesus saying traditional families just ‘don’t matter.)

Near the end, Mary tells Jesus’ brothers that they will one day understand Jesus’ ministry. (which they did, after the resurrection).

The final scene has Jesus telling his disciples that they are “going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priest and scribes, and they will condemn him to death.” The disciples were silent and we are told that Jesus had finally reconciled his fate. (Did it really take that long?)

Final comments about Mary were offered. We are told that Mary knew Jesus was special. She was also a typical mother, but with a ‘spiritual’ understand of who Jesus was. To Jesus, Mary was his source of life, his point of creation, his inspiration.

The End.

Dan’s miscellaneous comments:

While we told throughout that Mary understood Jesus’ mission, we are never told that his mission was to “save his people from their sins”, as the angel told Joseph, something that, in my opinion, should have been in the first episode about the Nativity, but wasn’t.

We are led to believe that Jesus main mission for coming to Earth was to minister to people with “backs against the wall, the marginalized, disenfranchised, and forgotten by society.” This is exactly the mission of the liberals preaching the social gospel at the beginning of the 20th century, as well as today’s social justice warriors that tell us that we don’t even know what the gospel is if we aren’t trying to cure what ails society. I think we are told otherwise in scripture:

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Needless to say, there was no clear presentation of the gospel message that Christ came to die for the sins of His people, To have done so would have contradicted the clearly presented message that Christ died to usher in ‘social justice’, which does seem to be the theme of this series. How sad…………

Jesus, His Life, Part 2–John the Baptist: The Mission

This is post is a review of the second episode of the History Channel miniseries Jesus, His Life. Called Pastor Gabe Hughes wrote a good review of the first episode of the History Channel miniseries, which you can read at his blog here, or at my blog here. That review suggested that the gospel message about Christ’s death for the sins of his people would be left out, and that the message of the gospel would be presented as ‘saving the world”. Episode 2 confirmed Pastor Gabe’s suspicions.

To be clear, reviewing the second episode in the same manner as Pastor Gabe, with ‘time stamps’ indicating exactly where certain things were said in the film or taught by commentators was both time consuming and difficult, especially when the film needed rewinding to capture exactly what was being said or taught. I did not watch it, or review it with hostile intent, but in order to be able to intelligently discuss it and point out areas that didn’t seem to be faithful to the Biblical account.

Having said all that, here is what I observed concerning John the Baptist: The Mission, with ‘time stamps’ and an occasional personal comment.

This episode began with some of the same footage as the first episode, and included comments from various Christian personalities. Probably the most notable (popular) evangelical would be Joel Osteen, who also was the executive producer of the series. That in itself is in indicator of sorts. If you wonder why I said that, just ask me.

Much of the story is told from the point of view of John the Baptist himself – what he might have been thinking during his relationship with Jesus. The operative term here is ‘might’. Keep that in mind.

Dan’s Observations & Comments, in chronological order, with approximate time stamps:

3:50 – Dr. Robert Cargill (University of Iowa) suggests that “John the Baptist came preaching fiery sermons about what we would call social justice.”

4:35 – During scenes depicting John’s activities at the Jordan River, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III (Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ) suggested that John was baptizing people for a ‘renewal moment’ and has John telling those being baptized “You are reborn!” (baptismal regeneration?) He also suggests that what is being washed away is “that which is old”

4:57 – Dr. Adam Marshack (Author of The Many Faces of Herod the Great)) tells us “John’s message is simple; repent of your sins, receive Baptism, receive purification, and you will be saved.” (baptismal regeneration confirmed?)

6:15 – Jesus’ first appearance at the Jordan River. John narrates and tells us that he thought his mission was to find Jesus, but instead Jesus found him. (not in the text of scripture?)

7:05 – Jesus and John are seen walking along the Jordan passing our food (fruit). (Initially we see John passing out food and Jesus watching and later Jesus passing out food and looking back at John?)

Professor Mark Goodacre (Duke University) interjects that while the gospels make it seem like the relationship between Jesus and John was brief, but in reality, it lasted much longer. They spent a lot of time together learning from one another and becoming part of the same group. (pure speculation?)

FR James Martin (Jesuit Priest) adds that for a time Jesus was one of John’s disciples. John was both a friend and mentor to Jesus, but in the end the student (Jesus) became the teacher and the teacher (John) a student. (Where is this in scripture?)

11:05 FR Martin asks the question “Why is sinless Jesus wanting to be baptized? In FR Martin’s mind Jesus wanted to start His ministry in a dramatic and public manner. (more speculation?)

11:51 – Dr. Cargill offers that Jesus realized he needed to do what he saw John doing. Jesus says “I’ve got to take an unpopular message to the people, even if it kills me.” (Really?)

13:06 – FR Martin (I think) tells us that Jesus (standing in the Jordan looking sort of puzzled) realizes who he is for the first time. Jesus finally realizes God’s plan for his life and surrenders to it. (Didn’t Jesus tell his earthly parents, when he was 12, “I must be about my Father’s business?) Jesus then stumbles out of the water.

Jesus heads to the desert and at @16:28 Satan shows up. Simon Sebag Montefiore (Author & Historian) provides commentary concerning the 3 temptations. The temptations are presented adequately, however Jesus saying “It is written.” after each temptation is omitted. Mr Sebag does include Jesus saying “Do not test the Lord my God.” It’s suggested that when Satan told Jesus “Worship me”. he was referring to the Roman Emperor. (?)

We now return to John’s story .

18:00 – Dr. Cargill says that after Jesus baptism John decided to “up his game” and take on political leaders. He heads to Galilee and publicly calls out Herod Antipas, The account of the rest of John’s life and execution seem to be accurate. What is embellished a bit is the visit of ‘Andrew’ to John in prison. I don’t believe scripture tells exactly who visited John in prison, only that John sent some of his follower to ask Jesus “Are you the one?” and Jesus sent a couple of his disciples to the prison to tell John what they had “seen and heard”

24:50 – Andrew visits John in Prison. We see bits of conversation between Andrew and John, with ‘flashbacks’ to what Andrew describes to John. Andrew tells John that a great Prophet has arisen.

At the same time, we are shown what Jesus was up to after the arrest of John.

25:14 Dr. Cargill tells us “After John is arrested, Jesus basically picks up the baton and runs with it. . . Jesus says to himself “This is My time.”” There is a scene of Jesus preaching the sermon on the mount to a small group under a tree. (borrowed from another film?)

26:16 – Jesus goes back to Galilee and recruits some of John’s disciples to be his own.

27:00 – We see Jesus and the great catch of fish when Jesus told them to cast on the other side of the boat, after an unsuccessful night.

31:00 – FR Martin says it was probably hard for John to let go of his own ministry. Back at the prison, it seems Andrew had left for a time, came back and told John of miracles performed by the Apostles. We see a scene of Andrew healing a sick person.

32:23 – Dr. Cargill talks about the needs of taking care of the poor, the widows, orphans, and the disenfranchised. (The mission of the Messiah that John needs to rethink?)

32:45 – Back to the prison. John realizes Jesus must become greater and he (John) must become less, because Jesus is doing work no one has ever seen.(we are not told in the Bible when John realized Jesus was the Messiah.).

Miscellaneous comments in summary:

Dr. Cargill doesn’t think John wanted to die and that he was actually afraid and sad. However John did understand his role in the life of Jesus.

Joshua Dubois (former faith advisor to President Obama) talked about understanding the profundity of the upcoming sacrifice and that John and Jesus were n the verge of a moment that would ‘change the world’. (Did Jesus die to save sinners, or the “World”?).

Back to the execution of John. The sword is about to drop for the beheading. John asks himself “Did I do enough? I hope so.” The sword drops and John’s head is delivered to Herod, Herodias and Salome in the banquet hall.

FR Martin reiterates that John was Jesus’ mentor and friend, and that Jesus would miss him at a very important time in his life.

Switch to Andrew, with a small group of disciples, saying to Jesus “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his followers to pray.” (See Luke 11:1. This happened, but the passage just says ‘one of disciples’ said that to him. Andrew was similarly named in other places on the film.)

Dan’s final comments:

1. There was much added to the film that is not in the record of scripture, which is the character and tendency of other Biblical films. You could say it’s a cinematic necessity in order to attract viewers and generate income. Some of the speculative additions are reasonable, but others seem silly to most biblically literate movie goers.

2. There are places in the above set of observations where I would have found it easy to biblically refute the action in the film, complete with scripture references. I deliberately chose NOT to comment so that I could not be accused of just sharing my opinion. That often happens when some readers find it repugnant that anyone say anything negative about a ‘Jesus’ film.

3. Where I did insert personal comments (italicized) I included question marks “?” so I wouldn’t appear dogmatic, and to encourage readers to compare the film with scripture on their own.

I sincerely hope this review has been helpful.

P.S. I WILL say with confidence that the only time I heard anyone say anything about the issue of “sin”, which is central to the message of the gospel, was when one of the film’s commentators told us that repentance from sins was necessary for salvation (correct), but water baptism was also necessary FOR salvation. I must therefore conclude, with Pastor Gabe, that the series will probably never offer a clear presentation of the gospel message. What we will be taught is that Jesus died to ‘change the world’