“The Death of Death in the Death of Christ” by John Owen

John Owen wrote “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ” in 1647. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that it’s a challenging read. What follows is short excerpt from J. I. Packer’s introduction to John Owen’s classic work:

“Now, here are two coherent interpretations of the biblical gospel, which stand in evident opposition to each other. The difference between them is not primarily one of emphasis, but of content. One proclaims a God who saves; the other speaks of a God Who enables man to save himself. One view presents the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind—election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit—as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly. The other view gives each act a different reference (the objects of redemption being all mankind, of calling, those who hear the gospel, and of election, those hearers who respond), and denies that any man’s salvation is secured by any of them. The two theologies thus conceive the plan of salvation in quite different terms. One makes salvation depend on the work of God, the other on a work of man; one regards faith as part of God’s gift of salvation, the other as man’s own contribution to salvation; one gives all the glory of saving believers to God, the other divides the praise between God, Who, so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it. Plainly, these differences are important, and the permanent value of the “five points,” as a summary of Calvinism, is that they make clear the points at which, and the extent to which, these two conceptions are at variance.”

“Whether we call ourselves Calvinists hardly matters; what matters is that we should understand the gospel biblically. But that, we think, does in fact mean understanding it as historic Calvinism does. The alternative is to misunderstand and distort it. We said earlier that modern Evangelicalism, by and large, has ceased to preach the gospel in the old way, and we frankly admit that the new gospel, insofar as it deviates from the old, seems to us a distortion of the biblical message. And we can now see what has gone wrong. Our theological currency has been debased. Our minds have been conditioned to think of the Cross as a redemption which does less than redeem, and of Christ as a Saviour who does less than save, and of God’s love as a weak affection which cannot keep anyone from hell without help, and of faith as the human help which God needs for this purpose. As a result, we are no longer free either to believe the biblical gospel or to preach it. We cannot believe it, because our thoughts are caught in the toils of synergism. We are haunted by the Arminian idea that if faith and unbelief are to be responsible acts, they must be independent acts; hence we are not free to believe that we are saved entirely by divine grace through a faith which is itself God’s gift and flows to us from Calvary. Instead, we involve ourselves in a bewildering kind of double-think about salvation, telling ourselves one moment that it all depends on God and next moment that it all depends on us. The resultant mental muddle deprives God of much of the glory that we should give Him as author and finisher of salvation, and ourselves of much of the comfort we might draw from knowing that God is for us.”

“And when we come to preach the gospel, our false preconceptions make us say just the opposite of what we intend. We want (rightly) to proclaim Christ as Saviour; yet we end up saying that Christ, having made salvation possible, has left us to become our own saviours. It comes about in this way. We want to magnify the saving grace of God and the saving power of Christ. So we declare that God’s redeeming love extends to every man, and that Christ has died to save every man, and we proclaim that the glory of divine mercy is to be measured by these facts. And then, in order to avoid universalism, we have to depreciate all that we were previously extolling, and to explain that, after all, nothing that God and Christ have done can save us unless we add something to it; the decisive factor which actually saves us is our own believing. What we say comes to this—that Christ saves us with our help; and what that means, when one thinks it out, is this—that we save ourselves with Christ’s help. This is a hollow anticlimax. But if we start by affirming that God has a saving love for all, and Christ died a saving death for all, and yet balk at becoming universalists, there is nothing else that we can say. And let us be clear on what we have done when we have put the matter in this fashion. We have not exalted grace and the Cross; we have cheapened them. We have limited the atonement far more drastically than Calvinism does, for whereas Calvinism asserts that Christ’s death, as such, saves all whom it was meant to save, we have denied that Christ’s death, as such, is sufficient to save any of them. We have flattered impenitent sinners by assuring them that it is in their power to repent and believe, though God cannot make them do it. Perhaps we have also trivialised faith and repentance in order to make this assurance plausible (“it’s very simple—just open your heart to the Lord…”). Certainly, we have effectively denied God’s sovereignty, and undermined the basic conviction of religion—that man is always in God’s hands. In truth, we have lost a great deal. And it is, perhaps, no wonder that our preaching begets so little reverence and humility, and that our professed converts are so self-confident and so deficient in self-knowledge, and in the good works which Scripture regards as the fruit of true repentance.”


Packer’s entire introduction can be found here: Introductory Essay to John Owen’s Death of Death in the Death of Christ (J. I. Packer) (all-of-grace.org)

John Owen’s work can be found here: The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (eBook) | Monergism

A modernized version of Owen’s work can be found here: The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (onthewing.org)


To Whom We Should Bow

With all the ‘bowing’ going on lately I thought a reminder would be in order. There’s a time coming when 

“So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:10-11

“For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”” Romans 14:11

“By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’ “ Isaiah 45:23

We can repent of our sin now and bow before the King of Kings or we’ll bow to Him from the depths of hell, the former out of love and latter out of fear.

Albert Barnes Commentary:

Philippians 2:10

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow – The knee should bow, or bend, in token of honor, or worship; that is, all people should adore him. This cannot mean merely that at the mention of the name of Jesses we should bow; nor is there any evidence that God requires this. Why should we bow at the mention of that name, rather than at any of the other titles of the Redeemer? Is there any special sacredness or honor in it above the other names which he bears? And why should we how at his name rather than at the name of the Father! Besides, if any special homage is to be paid to the name of the Saviour under the authority of this passage – and this is the only one on which the authority of this custom is based – it should be by bowing the knee, not the head. But the truth is, this authorizes and requires neither; and the custom of bowing at the name of Jesus, in some churches, has arisen entirely from a misinterpretation of this passage. There is no other place in the Bible to which an appeal is made to authorize the custom; compare Neal’s History of the Puritans, chapter 5. Ninth 5. The meaning here is, not that a special act of respect or adoration should be shown wherever the name “Jesus” occurs in reading the Scriptures, or whenever it is mentioned, but that he was so exalted that it would be proper that all in heaven and on earth should worship him, and that the time would come when he would be thus everywhere acknowledged as Lord. The bowing of the knee properly expresses homage, respect, adoration (compare the notes at Rom_11:4); and it cannot be done to the Saviour by those who are in heaven, unless it be divine.

Of things in heaven – ἐπουρανίων epouraniōn – rather of beings in heaven, the word “things” being improperly supplied by our translators. The word may be in the neuter plural; but it may be also in the masculine plural, and denote beings rather than things. Things do not bow the knee; and the reference here is undoubtedly to angels, and to the “spirits of the just made perfect” in heaven. If Jesus is worshipped there, he is divine; for there is no idolatry eta creature in heaven. In this whole passage there is probably an allusion to Isa_45:23; see it illustrated in the notes at Rom_14:11. In the great divisions here specified – of those in heaven, on the earth, and under the earth – the apostle intends, doubtless, to denote the universe. The same mode of designating the universe occurs in Rev_5:13; Exo_20:4; compare Psa_96:11-12. This mode of expression is equivalent to saying, “all that is above, around, and beneath us,” and arises from what appears to us. The division is natural and obvious – that which is above us in the heavens, that which is on the earth where we dwell, and all that is beneath us.
And things in earth – Rather, “beings on earth,” to wit, people; for they only are capable of rendering homage.

And things under the earth – Beings under the earth. The whole universe shall confess that he is Lord. This embraces, doubtless, those who have departed from this life, and perhaps includes also fallen angels. The meaning is, that riley shall all acknowledge him as universal Lord; all how to his sovereign will; all be subject to his control; all recognize him as divine. The fallen and the lost will do this; for they will be constrained to yield an unwilling homage to him by submitting to the sentence from his lips that shall consign them to woe; and thus the whole universe shall acknowledge the exalted dignity of the Son of God. But this does not mean that they will all be saved, for the guilty and the lost may be compelled to acknowledge his power, and submit to his decree as the sovereign of the universe. There is the free and cheerful homage of the heart which they who worship him in heaven will render; and there is the constrained homage which they must yield who are compelled to acknowledge his authority.

Philippians 2:11

And that every tongue should confess – Everyone should acknowledge him. On the duty and importance of confessing Christ, see the notes at Rom_10:9-10.

That Jesus Christ is Lord – The word “Lord,” here, is used in its primitive and proper sense, as denoting owner, ruler, sovereign; compare the notes at Rom_14:9. The meaning is, that all should acknowledge him as the universal sovereign.

To the glory of God the Father – Such a universal confession would honor God; see the notes at Joh_5:23, where this sentiment is explained.


Albert Barnes (1798-1870) was an American theologian, born at Rome, New York, on December 1, 1798. He graduated from Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, in 1820, and from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1823. Barnes was ordained as a Presbyterian minister by the presbytery of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, in 1825, and was the pastor successively of the Presbyterian Church in Morristown, New Jersey (1825-1830), and of the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia (1830-1867).

‘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.”


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.

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…………