Turning Romans 8:28 into a Ball of Spaghetti

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I saw a Facebook post this morning that contained a short video clip, apparently taken from a Joel Osteen sermon, advertising Joel’s Podcast (available from iTunes). The above quotation is what he told anyone listening to the clip.

“On the other side of the difficulty is a new level of your destiny. If you keep the right attitude, all things will work for your good. Not some things, the good breaks, the promotion, but even the loss, the disappointment. The person that walked away, it wasn’t random, it was ordained by God.” – Joel Osteen

Although he didn’t quote any actual scripture passage, the obvious reference is to Romans 8:28, which claim that “all things work together for good.” Joel would have you believe that “If you keep the right attitude, all things will work for your good.”  Now that’s a nice thought, and a positive attitude (what Joel is teaching) helps, but is that what is actually taught in the Roman text? Let’s take a look, shall we?

 28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:28 – 30, ESV)

Joel maintains that:

1.  ALL things will work for your good and “the next level of your destiny” is the “good” (goal) for which all things work.

2.  All things are ordained by God, even the bad things.

What is true in the above? That all things work together for good and that God ordains all things.

What is NOT true? Well, just a couple of things.

1.  Joel is speaking to a very large audience, to every individual sitting in the former basketball arena turned into a ‘church’ (I use the term loosely), outlying ‘campuses’, as well as television/digital media viewers. The author of the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul, was speaking to a particular group of people, the Christians in Rome. He also spoke about a specific group of people, those who “love God and are the called according to His purpose.”  2. Joel defined the “good” in the “all things that work together for good”, as the next level of your destiny, even implying that since God ordains all things, He has ordained for you some sort of divine destiny, a concept NOWHERE taught in scripture.

He has a lot of company in that regard. There are countless faux preachers and teachers who make the Christian life all about us, and our personal aspirations and dreams for life in the here and now.

Scripture, however, tells us it is those who would give up their lives for His sake would find eternal life (Matthew 16:24–25; Mark 8:34–35), that the whole life of the Christian as a dying to self and living for and in Him who died for us (Galatians 2:20), and that if we want to be Jesus’ disciples we must DIE to self (Luke 14:27). Dear friends, these passages teach the exact opposite of searching for some personal ‘divine destiny’!

Sadly, the ‘divine destiny’ lie might be the most dangerous cancer eating away at today’s church. And it’s really not a new teaching at all. I think the journey to where we are now on began over 15 years ago with a book by a portly West Coast Pastor that was about finding your unique purpose in the world. That book began by saying “It’s not all about you,” but then talked ALL about you for the rest of the book! The mantra for much of American evangelicalism.

So what’s Romans 8:28-30 really about? I’m so glad you asked! Let’s look at it again.

28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:28 – 30, ESV)

These passages are about God’s eternal purpose, NOT our temporal destinies! And anyone who teaches or preaches this dream destiny lie turns God’s eternal purpose on its head and has tricked thousands, if not millions of professing believers into dedicating their lives as Christians to pursuing their earthly ‘destinies’, and remaining trapped in this world, even as they are already citizens of a heavenly Kingdom and recipients of countless heavenly blessings!

Pray for all those who have been deceived. Prey also for Joel Osteen and all prosperity gospel preachers. They WILL be held accountable.

‘Jesus, His Life’ History Channel Series – One Blogger’s Observations

‘Jesus, His Life’ was a History channel multiple episode look at the life of Jesus, as told by the people in his life who were closest to him. Eight episodes were aired leading up to Easter told by Joseph, John the Baptist, Mary the Mother of Jesus, Caiaphas, Judas, Pilate, Mary Magdalene, and Peter.

 

I’m not going to reiterate all of the personal comments contained in the reviews we posted, but share three observations and try and answer one question

 

Observation 1

Pastor Gabe Hughes, whose review of the first episode strongly suggested that this series would miss the true message of the gospel – that Jesus died for the sins of His people, was right. There were only two significant mentions of sin in the series, at least that I could see, and I watched every episode. One commentator, Adam Marshak, told us, “John’s (the Baptist) message is simple; repent of your sins, receive Baptism, receive purification, and you will be saved.” Was he teaching ‘baptismal’ regeneration? If the answer is yes, he was presenting a false gospel, repudiated in both the Old and New Testaments. The second reference to sin was actually an excellent comment.  “There is nothing more important in Christianity than the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus defeats death, so he defeats sin, and his being raised to new life is about the promise to Christians that they too will be raised on the last day.” (Mark Goodacre)

 

Observation 2

The ‘gospel’ message presented was that Jesus was sent by God to save/fix everything that is wrong with the world, over and over again, by multiple commentators. In a word, ‘social justice’ is the gospel message delivered to the viewer. While matters of justice in society are addressed in the Bible, they are the natural result of Salvation, as believers are indwelt with the Holy Spirit and by that Spirit are urged to love & care for others in a myriad of ways.

 

Observation 3

In the episode covering the Last Supper, Jesus says, “This is my blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many.”, using the Mark 4:24 reference. The Matthew 26:28 passage says, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Probably not a really big deal, but certainly a missed opportunity to include the specific reason shed his blood.

 

Summary Observation

So from beginning to end, this film series completely MISSED presenting the gospel message that actually saves sinners – that Jesus died for the sins of His people, the very message the Angel bought to Joseph before the Savior’s birth.!

 

The Question: WHY?

 

Why do these sorts of films keep failing to share a message that can actually save sinners?

 

First of all, let me say that I completely understand why secular film makers, who are not themselves believers in Christ, would miss the true gospel. The Bible I read tells me that all unbelievers are lost and in bondage to sin, living in darkness, and in rebellion against their creator. I get that. Such a message won’t generate a large audience, or sell many tickets at the box office.

 

But why do professing believers keep failing to share the gospel that is about the problem of sin? Well I know why some do (Think Joel Osteen, the series producer). He told Larry King, during an interview, that he never dwells on sin. After all, we all know we sin and it’s not really necessary. In the same interview Joel said he sees himself as more of a life coach than anything else (like a biblical preacher?)

 

The series was full of commentators who were ordained ministers or, connected to Christian institutions. They didn’t share the genuine gospel either! This series doesn’t stand alone in that regard. The other productions mentioned at the beginning of this post were exactly same. This missing the gospel trends is also a prevailing characteristic of most offerings from Pureflix. I watched a fair amount of Pureflix offerings and finally stopped. They were too painful to watch.

 

I suspect this trend is based partly on the thought that if we just tell people how much Jesus loves them – wants to bless them in every way materially, and how special they are (God can’t even imagine heaven without us), they will find it really hard NOT to give their lives to Jesus, ask him into their hearts, walk an aisle, or repeat a special prayer, and all by making own ‘free will’ decision. In all fairness, there are many that believe that this is the BEST way to share the gospel. There was a time when I believed it myself. That was a LONG tome ago, before I read the Bible a few more times, and feel in love with the soul humbling doctrines of Sovereign grace.

 

The Apostle Paul tells us the true gospel is offensive to unbelievers, in their ‘natural’ state. The bad news about sin is deeply offensive to those who love their sin (all lost people). Paul also told us not to remove the natural offensiveness of the gospel (Gal 5:11, 1 Cor 1:17), yet we do, over and over again. Paul also proclaimed that he was NOT ashamed of that gospel (Acts 1:16). This offensive message is THE message that has the power to save sinners!

 

I see only two possible reasons for not sharing a gospel message that hits to the core problem we all have – SIN.  We might have been taught that we just need to ‘attract’ people to Jesus and talking about sin could drive them away. Or, perhaps we are just ‘Ashamed of the Gospel’, as John MacArthur’s book of that name presents to us so clearly.

 

Again, I’m not trying to be unduly harsh with the makers of this, or any other of today’s popular Christian film offerings. But for this this old soldier, if I fail to share the true gospel, and trust in the sovereignty of God to save His own, just as the Angel promised Joseph, I am either ashamed of the gospel, or I have a very low view of God.

 

As for this, and many other “Christian’ offerings from the entertainment industry, most are nothing more than ‘adventures in missing the point.’ It was true of the other Bible based offerings we have reviewed here at The Battle Cry. And it it’s true of most Pureflix offerings. It was true of every single one that I watched some of their productions.

 

A bit of advice. 1) Pray for God to open hearts to receive the ‘bad news’ and the ‘good news’. 2) Pray that He send His gospel to the hearts He opened to hear it. 3) Be ready to be the messenger and share the whole gospel, with gentleness and love. Take the conversation to the ‘bad’ news first, followed by the good news.

 

“He WILL save His people from their sins.”

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In you didn’t have the opportunity to read an old guy’s reviews of the series episodes, here are the links:

 

Jesus, His Life, Episode 1: Joseph: the Nativity – Pastor Gabe Hughes
Jesus, His Life, Episode 2–John the Baptist: The Mission
Jesus, His Life, Episode 3: Mary, The First Miracles
Jesus, His Life, Episode 4: Caiaphas: The Raising of Lazarus
Jesus, His Life, Episode 5: Judas: The Betrayal
Jesus, His Life, Episode 6: Pilate: The Trial
Jesus, His Life, Episode 7: Mary Magdalene: The Crucifixion
Jesus, His Life, Episode 8: Peter: The Resurrection

 

Jesus, His Life – Episode 8: Peter: The Resurrection

After the same ‘Series’ introduction, we have the Episode 7 introductions:

 “Peter is what I would call the ‘ride or die’ disciple. Jesus came into his life and changed it forever.” – (Reverend Dr. Otis Moss III)

We see Jesus, speaking to Peter in front of a group of followers:  “I tell you, you are now Peter, the Rock. On this Rock I will build my church.”

“Peter really believed that he was going to be the faithful disciple, but that’s not what happens.”- (Nicola Denzey Lewis, Religion Professor, Claremont)

“It’s a story of redemption. Peter becomes the foundation stone on which Christianity is established.” – (Assoc. Prof. Robert Cargill, University of Iowa)

The opening scene has Peter walking away from a lake (Sea of Galilee?) sharing his story. (After having denounced Jesus and been forgiven?)

“My name is Peter and I have been given a second chance to deliver the message of Jesus. This time I won’t let him down.”

Flashback to Mary Magdalene telling Jesus’ followers she has seen the Lord. Peter is angry at Mary for ‘disrespecting’ them with her ravings. He was afraid she was telling the truth and he would have to look the Lord in the eye knowing he had failed him.

Flashback to months earlier, by the Sea of Galilee.

In the gospels Peter is the first disciple called by Jesus. (Adam Marshak, History Teacher)

Jesus reached out to Peter, perhaps because he was fisherman and Jesus knew these were hard working people. The understand what it means to be hungry, what it means to struggle, what it means to work hard.” (Pastor Susan Sparks)

Some background: In Galilee it would have been incredibly hard. People are one boat ride away from starvation. Everything they catch is going to be taxed by Rome, and local tax collectors would take something for themselves. (Rev Otis Moss III)

We see the calling of the rest of the disciples. They’ve been fishing all night and Jesus tells them to go t deep water and let down their nets. Peter is hesitant but goes anyway. The huge catch of fish. Peter is humbled and Jesus tells him not to be afraid and from then on he would be catching people.

A commentator tells us Peter would have known what Jesus meant by ‘fishers of men’, but then we see Peter walking along and wondering what Jesus meant. (????). But he also knew he would always be Jesus’ devoted follower.

Some people think Jesus was like a Marine recruiter looking for a few good men but he was just looking for men who would be willing. (Ben Witherington)

Peter seems to have been looking for something, or at least Peter was really ready to learn, when Jesus called him. (FR Martin) (speculation)

Peter is drawn to Jesus’ teaching, but he might have been a problem student for Jesus because he asked so many questions. But Jesus saw a spark of passion in Peter, which was what he was looking for in his disciples.

One day, Jesus and the disciples are walking along discussing what some are saying about the identity of Jesus. Jesus asks Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers, “You’re the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And of course, Jesus’ reply to Peter:

“I tell you, you are now Peter, the Rock. On this Rock I will build my church.”

We are told that this has tremendous significance because Peter will become the foundation stone of the Christian Movement. (Dr Cargill) (Roman Catholicism, anyone?)

Nest we see a scene from a previous episode where Jesus and the disciples are escaping through the city streets after Jesus had cause some trouble. Peter narrates:

“I wasn’t just Simon of Galilee anymore, I was Peter, the Rock. Over the coming I was right there by his side. People laughed, spat in his face. I shielded him when they threw punches and threw stones. And I was there when they started to listen. So when he told me we would enter Jerusalem once more I was worried.”

Jesus was a surprising choice to head the movement, being just a fisherman. He wasn’t educated, spoke only Aramaic. But Jesus’ concern was to pick someone who has the character and the deep courage to be a follower of Jesus even if it could cost one their life. (Ben Witherington)

After commercial we are taken to the triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, with commentary of course.

“Jesus’ message is dangerous, but for Jesus, Jerusalem is the only place he could possibly go. It’s not only the political, it’s also the religious center of Jewish life.” (Adam Marshak, Fordham University)

“The symbolism of Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem should not be lost. This isn’t just a guy taking a ride on a donkey. This is a reenactment of the Jewish coronation of the King of Israel. Peter’s vision of a Messiah is someone who is going to help overthrow foreign rule, in this case Roman rule, and establish a Jewish kingdom (Dr. Robert Cargill)

“I think even Peter, at that point, could see the threat and danger that Jesus was generating. (Pastor Susan Sparks)

NOTE: We continue to see scenes also used in previous episodes this was done a lot, since the same scenes are discussed from the various character’s viewpoints.

Continuing in the Jerusalem scene we wear Peter, “He’s everything we’ve been waiting for. The fulfillment of divine destiny, the start of a glorious new kingdom. But how quickly that all changed.”

On to the Last Supper.

“The last supper rolls around and Peter does not have the exuberance that he had before. There is a slow and impending wait that is upon him and the other disciples.” (Rev Otis Moss)

We see Jesus washing Peter’s feet.

“Peter is horrified at the idea of Jesus washing their feet because he is their leader and this is something a slave would do.” FR Martin)

“When Jesus is washing the disciples’ feet, he’s saying that he’s not come as sort of a royal military king, but as a suffering figure, and he’s acting that role of servant with his disciples.” (Mark Goodacre, Duke University)

“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me. . . . This is the blood of my covenant, which is poured out for many.” – Jesus (Same omission of ‘for the remission of sins.’)

“The last supper becomes the origin of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, for Christians. (Dr. Cargill)

“Hearing the Messiah speaking about death, and having already witnessed his power, Peter is confused. How is this possible and how is this a revolution? Peter doesn’t quite get it. (Rev. Otis Moss)

“I don’t think Peter expected Jesus to be a Messiah who would start a movement so powerful it would get him killed. I think he expected Jesus to raise up the oppressed, but to push it to the point where the Roman government was so threatened by him that he had to be crucified? I don’t think he saw that coming.” (Pastor Susan Sparks)

Jesus tells Peter “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail you.”, predicting Peter’s denial. Peter objects.

We are taken to the Garden. Jesus goes to pray and Peter follows him. Peter narrates, “Jesus is restless, I was worried. His words had disturbed me and I knew that our arrival in Jerusalem would alert the authorities, but he was insistent. (No gospel records anything about anyone following Jesus in the Garden, only that Jesus went there with Peter, James, and John and asked them to keep watch and pray while he separated himself from them and later scolds them.)

They come to arrest Jesus, Peter cuts of Malchus’ ear and Jesus heals him. Peter is surprised that Jesus healed Malchus instead of fighting!

We head back to Jerusalem and witness Peter’s three betrayals, with a lot dialogue and dramatic commentary.

Peter and the disciples go into hiding. We see Peter filled with self-doubt and loathing, but we are told by one commentator, “I think we should be incredibly sympathetic toward Peter and his denial. Yes, he denied Jesus, but he did it because he was profoundly scared. I think that this denial is one of those moments that comes out as really really human. All of us can relate to a time when we fell short because we were scared, and this is Peter’s moment.” (Adam Marshak)

During the carrying of the cross through the streets of Jerusalem, Peter and the disciples are waiting in hiding, where they remain throughout the crucifixion.

After several days, Mary Magdalene is the first person to see the risen Lord and reports to the disciple that he has risen. Peter scolds Mary because he doesn’t believe her. (Couldn’t find that in the gospels?)

Peter goes to the tomb by himself to investigate and sees the guards at the tomb. (Also not accurate?)

Jesus appears to his disciples and followers where they are hiding, confirming his identity to them.

“When Peter saw the risen Jesus, he knew he was seeing something unprecedented. This was not a hallucination or some spiritual ghostlike being. This was a transformed, glorified body that could be touched, but also could enter locked rooms. Peter must have been in utter awe.” (Michael Peppard)

“There is nothing more important in Christianity than the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus defeats death, so he defeats sin, and his being raised to new life is about the promise to Christians that they too will be raised on the last day. (Mark Goodacre) (Excellent comment!)

Peter, feeling that he had lost his last chance for forgiveness went back to Galilee, to his life as a fisherman. He knew he had failed. What else could he do? He discovers he could not just go back to being a fisherman. He thinks it’s all over, and also reflects upon all that has happened. He is still struggling with having denied Jesus. He needs to find forgiveness. (perfectly reasonable sentiments).

One day, while Peter is fishing, he sees Jesus. He knows that Jesus had come for him, Peter. His mental chains had come loose!

Jesus reinstates Peter by questioning him:

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

“And with those statements; ‘Feed my lambs’, ‘Tend my sheep.”, “Feed my sheep.”, a threefold re-commissioning, just as there had been a threefold denial, and Peter is restored to being the leader of disciples.” (Ben Witherington)

“From that moment I knew I would be able to do whatever Jesus commanded of me. I’d been given a second chance” – Peter

“Jesus’ great commission is sort of a ‘Big Bang’ moment for Christianity, because it’s the moment where it takes off. Jesus s telling his disciples that they need to spread the word.” (Nicola Denzey Lewis)

The disciples are gathered on the shore and Jesus commissions them to make disciples of all nations.

“This is the first missionary movement in religious history. This is the first time anybody says go out and recruit people in mass.” (Dr Cargill)

Peter tells us:

“I knew Jesus as my teacher, my friend, and as the Son of God. Because of him I am restored. I have regained my purpose.”

“We see Peter a transformed man. He has finally gotten it. He comes out renewed, more confident, ready to go forward, and in fact, he does go forward.” (Nicola Denzey Lewis)

“Peter understood his task was to reclaim various people for the following of Jesus, and to go throughout the Empire to do this.” (Ben Witherington)

“Christianity spreads rapidly throughout the Roman Empire. In less than a decade after the death of Jesus there were probably 10,000 Christians. 200 years after Jesus’ death there might be close to a million Christians. And 300 years after the death of Jesus, the Roman Emperor himself, Constantine converts to Christianity.” (Dr. Cargill)

Cue aerial shot of the Vatican, and the explanation of how Peter goes to Rome and becomes the first Pope. “Is it historical?”, asks Nicola Denzey Lewis. She talks about Jesus’ words to Peter inscribed in the Vatican. And when we read Paul’s letter to the Romans and you don’t find Peter (Ben Witherington).

We Gain see Jesus speaking those famous words to Peter:

“I tell you, you are now Peter, the Rock. On this Rock I will build my church.”

“Peter’s story ends, according to tradition, with him being crucified in Rome, upside down, because he insists he’s not worthy to be crucified the same way as his Lord.” (Mar Goodacre)

“Peter’s story is, in a sense, all of our stories. We make mistakes, we have flaws and weaknesses. But like Peter, we can receive forgiveness and get back up again.” (Pastor Joel, of course! After all, he was the main producer of the series.)

The final scene has Peter walking briskly across rocky ground and saying,

“I am Peter, the Rock, and I will go forth and build His church!”

The End

Dan’s final thoughts:

This post might seem a bit long, but I wanted to be meticulous and accurately describe both the film and commentary, including the names of the commentators, which was a chore in itself, so

As with the previous episodes, this one was filled with the ‘thoughts’ of the main character (Peter).  And again, some of those thoughts were reasonable while others are just the musings of various leaders in the church and academia. In all honesty, we are never told in the new Testament how any of the series characters were feeling and thinking.

I thought it interesting that mention was made about the historicity of Peter as the first Pope. After all, quite a few of the commentators were either Roman Catholic or connected to Roman Catholic institutions. A little ‘political correctness’? Who knows?

We do have an excellent comment by Mark Goodacre:

 “There is nothing more important in Christianity than the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus defeats death, so he defeats sin, and his being raised to new life is about the promise to Christians that they too will be raised on the last day.”

_________________________

I’ll try and have some summary observations up soon.

_________________________

And in case you might like them, Here are the links to all 8 reviews:

Jesus, His Life, Episode 1: Joseph: the Nativity – Pastor Gabe Hughes

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus, His Life, Episode 7: Mary Magdalene: The Crucifixion

Jesus, His Life, Episode 8: Peter: The Resurrection

Jesus, His Life – Episode 7: Mary Magdalene: The Crucifixion

Now that two more episodes popped up at History.com I have more work to do. I originally thought there were to be only six parts (Pastor Gabe’s review of the first one) I had actually had an overall summary with a few observations in the hopper, but now it will have to wait. On to Episode 7. I apologize in advance for any impending sarcasm.

After the same ‘Series’ introduction, we are told, by various commentators, in the introduction to this specific episode:

“In many senses, she (Mary Magdalene) is the ideal disciple.”(Maybe?)

“She was at the crucifixion, She was at the resurrection.”(True)

“She is the one who receives the message.” Cue Jesus saying “I am ascending to my father.”

“As the first witness to the resurrection, Mary Magdalene is arguably ‘the beginning of Christianity’.” (I’m not sure how that even makes sense.)

The opening scene is a busy Jerusalem street on the day Jesus carried his cross through the city streets.

We hear Mary thinking to herself, “Jesus saved me from myself.” “ He made this woman.” “Who am I without him?” “Some horror is a test for even the strongest and bravest.” “ I am neither, and yet I thought he was going to change the world.” (That Jesus came to ‘change the world’ is a recurring theme in the series.

We see Jesus carrying his cross (the entire cross, not just the cross-beam). He glances over at Mary.

Flashback to ‘months earlier’.

Professor Nicola Denzey Lewis, Professor of Early Christian History, tells us “We first see Mary Magdalene possessed by seven demons. In modern terms it might have been schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, or maybe even PTSD.” (Maybe she thought actual demon possession manifested itself in the same sorts of behavior as the issues she mentioned?)

Ms. Lewis adds, “She (Mary Magdalene) comes to Jesus to be healed.” We see Mary pleading with Jesus and asking Jesus, “Do you see them?” Jesus says, “Yes I do.” (See Luke 8:1-3. We are only told that Mary was among some women who had been cured of evil spirits and she had had 7 demons. This dialogue, as well as the exorcism described below were complete fabrications.)

We witness the exorcism. Jesus grasps Mary by the shoulders and Mary’s hands seem to be reaching out for Jesus’ neck. The whole exorcism process looks almost like a wrestling match. Jesus commands the demons, “Come out of the woman, you unclean spirits!” With his hand pressing down on Mary’s head (looked a bit like Benny Hinn, but Mary didn’t fall over/swoon.), he commands the demons again. “Be quiet!” “I command you to come out of her!” (By now, Jesus is breathing heavily – from all the wrestling, I guess.) “Do not enter her again!” Mary steps backward, quiet, peaceful, and healed.

Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, tells what just really happened:

“In that moment, Jesus freed her from whatever the demons were in her life.” “Jesus’ way of life, his teachings, the way he dealt with folks, it sets her free!” (There’s a difference between demonic possession and having ‘demons in your life’)

NOTE: All of the above took place within the first 5 minutes of the episode! Cue to commercials.

After the commercials, we see another non-existent (in the NT) short exchange of words between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. Jesus asks “What is your name?” She answers “Mary.” They hug it out.

“This is a life changing moment. She goes from being a deeply troubled person to a follower of a great teacher and preacher.”( Professor Ben Witherington III, Asbbury Theological Seminary)

We are given background information concerning Mary and her connection to Magdala, a city next to the Sea of Galilee. It was more common for women’s names to be connected to their husbands or fathers and quite unusual for a connection to a place. We are also told that many people see her as a ‘sinner’ mostly due to Gregory the Great branding her a prostitute in 591 A.D. (there is an account in Luke 7, of an unnamed woman, called a sinner, anointing Jesus feet at the house of a Pharisee)

Jesus is arrested and Jesus’ followers are seen gathered in a house. Some of the women go looking for Jesus, but the men are too afraid. For their lives.

“The women were at the forefront during the Passion weak” (Dr. Michael Peppard, Assoc. Professor of NT Studies, Fordham University)

We are told that the reason Jesus is being crucified is because he is a threat for both Roman and Religious authorities in Jerusalem.

Then we are watching Jesus carrying the cross through the streets of Jerusalem, along with more of Mary’s thoughts as she watched events unfold: “I had seen what he could do. He could have stopped this, but he didn’t Why?”

Joshua Dubois (President Obama’s Faith Advisor) comments on the cross, “The cross is a serious matter, this is a heavy, heavy piece of wood. It weighed between 100 – 300 pounds. (In the film, Jesus is carrying the whole cross, not just the cross-beam, as some would tell us was the custom.)

Jesus falls and Simon of Cyrene is summoned to help him carry it the remaining distance to the crucifixion site.

In this scene, Jesus speaks directly to the women in the crowd, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me, weep for yourselves and for your children”. (See Luke 23). A commentator tells us Jesus is predicting the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the fact that in the future there will be more serious things to lament over. (Most commentaries agree)

We see both Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, but also secret followers of Jesus. We will see them again soon.

We are now at Golgotha listening to more of Mary Magdalene’s thoughts (not in the gospel accounts: “I waited for the sky to rain fire, or the sea to sweep us away, and I wanted to take out a sword and cut them all down.” “I could not be his warrior but I could be his witness.” (We will hear some of that last line again.)

Jesus’ cross is raised and there is a lot of crying in the crowd. Mary is thinking again: “Let them all cry. “I will not break.” “I will stand strong before my Lord.” She opens her clenched fists and we see blood on palms of her hands (a stigmata experience?).

We see other accurate depictions of what happened while they were waiting for Jesus to die. The offering of vinegar mixed with gall (a narcotic to dull pain), which Jesus refused, as well; as the mocking.

Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

“Jesus’ words from the cross,  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”, are critical as a summary , one of the main things Jesus came to Earth to do.” (Prof. Witherington)

Jesus; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (From Psalm 22), and finally. “It is finished!”

We see Mary Magdalene kneeling in front of Jesus on the cross, her hands outstretched and again, the blood on the palms of both hands.

We see the soldier using the spear to finish him off and Mary Magdalene telling him that Jesus is already dead. (Not the way it happened.)

We see Joseph of Arimathea ask for his body so Jesus could receive a proper burial, in the tomb he (Joseph) provided. Pilate seems surprised Jesus is already dead.

Finally, Jesus is carried to the tomb, his body washed and wrapped in linen (also provided by Joseph of A.)

Fast forward to Jesus’ followers gathered in a house, along with Mary Magdalene. The disciples have no idea what to do next. Mary runs from the room to be alone and asks herself “Am I already lost?” “Maybe.”, she answers.

Fast forward to sunrise and Mary goes to the tomb, expecting to be able to anoint the body, which was a usual service provided the dead. The empty tomb. She thinks the body might have been stolen, runs back and reports the empty tomb to the other followers gathered together.

Mary, Peter and another disciple return to the tomb to investigate and go; inside. Mary tells the other two to leave and mourns over the fact of the stolen body. It is then she sees the two angels and is told that Jesus was not there but has risen. She walks out of the tomb, mistakes Jesus for a gardener. The conversation, from John Chapter 20, accurately portrayed in the film:

“Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!”

It could have ended at that point, but we are provided some ‘interesting’ commentary:

“Some people would say that this moment, the resurrection appearance in the most important moment in the entire gospel. This is proving the truth of Jesus ‘being’, that he had come back from the dead, fully present and incarnate in the flesh.” (Nicola Denzey Lewis)

Jesus sends Jesus to tell the rest that “I am ascending to my father and your father, my God and your God.” (Accurate)

“It’s a beautiful story and a remarkable story, and it makes her the first witness to the risen Jesus, something that early Christians would not make up because the witness of women wasn’t considered as viable as the witness of men.” (Ben Witherington)

“The fact that Mary was the first person to see the risen Christ says that she is the person Jesus trusted most; that this was indeed the person to be trusted with this news. In fact, he gave her an apostolic call in that moment when he said ‘Go and tell.’” “The fact that Jesus revealed himself just to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection makes her the first Apostle!” (Dr. Christina Cleveland, Duke Divinity School)

“Between the time that Mary Magdalene encounters the risen Christ on Easter Sunday and the time she finally proclaims the news of the resurrection to the disciples, Mary Magdalene IS the Church on earth.? “Only Mary Magdalene understood the resurrection, so therefore she is one of the most important people in the entire New Testament.” (Father James Martin, Jesuit Priest)

Finally, Mary Magdalene runs back and tells the rest, “I have seen the Lord!”

And of course we must have Mary’s final thoughts:

“I thought I was lost, but Jesus found me.”

“I am Mary of Magdala, and I am His witness!”

The End

Dan’s final thoughts:

In answer to my ongoing question, “Where’s the gospel?”, this episode has Mary Magdalene sharing the thought that she thought Jesus ‘came to save the world’ in the very first moments of the episode.  One of the commentators tells us that one of the reasons Jesus cam to earth had to do with forgiveness. (“Forgive them, for they know not what they do” – Jesus’ words from the cross.) There could have been something said about Jesus dying for the sins of men in Golgotha scenes for sure, but that would have contradicted the “social justice” theme of previous episodes.

As with the previous episodes, this one was filled with the ‘thoughts’ of the main character (Mary Magdalene), which is the advertised purpose of the series – to tell the story of Jesus from the perspective of those who were closest to him. Some of those thoughts have been reasonable while others are just the musings of various leaders in the church and academia, some of whom perhaps have an ‘agenda’ and want to construct a narrative to match the agenda.

Mary Magdalene, although clearly a follower of Jesus, and tremendously significant during the passion week, was attributed a somewhat, if not greatly exaggerated importance by some of the commentators, in my opinion. Is Mary Magdalene the beginning of Christianity, the first Apostle, the Church itself, or the MOST important person in all of the NT?

This was actually a very profitable exercise. I was ready to write a short summary with final observations. I was breathing a sigh of relief (the whole thing was painful). When two more episodes popped up, I was a bit upset and almost stopped anyway. Then I started watching the episode and in under a minute I knew I was going to really enjoy reviewing it!

It also gave me the opportunity to go back to the NT accounts of Mary Magdalene. For that, a simple Google search request gave me everything, in all four gospels! You can find it for yourself here.

Next up: Peter: The Resurrection

____________________________

Here are the links to the previous Episodes in this series:

Jesus, His Life, Episode 1: Joseph: the Nativity – Pastor Gabe Hughes

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.