Why I’m Not Overly Excited About the New Christian Movie ‘Overcomer’

I remember when I started seeing advertisements here and there about the Kendrick brothers’ new movie ‘The Overcomer’. I didn’t have the obligatory “I’ve GOT to see it!” feeling then and I don’t now, for reasons that might become clear in this article.

Please don’t hate me,

This morning I saw on Facebook a post from a friend and one of the Chaplains who serves at the chapel we attend here n Colorado. It was a link to an article from The Christian Post titled  ‘”Overcomer’ opens in top 3 at box office, grosses $8.2M”. I read it and clicked the link to a previous CP article about the movie called “’Overcomer’ doesn’t water down the Gospel, still appeals to nonbelievers, filmmakers say”, which I had previously read. There a few bits from both articles I found interesting that I will share with you.

First of all, let me be really clear that I am not condemning the film,, it’s admirable production value., the churches taking busloads to see it, or any individual who  pays to see it on the big screen, especially non-Christians who watch it and become interested in knowing more about Jesus Christ and saving grace as a result.

On to the subject of my  lack of excitement . Also bear in mind that I have not watched the film yet, a cardinal sin worthy of a certain level of condemnation from some of my Christian brethren. At the same time, the fact that a few remarks from these articles caught my attention just might mean that I have been paying attention while engaged in reading the Bible and studying its doctrine.

Since the article about box office results after the grand opening was the first article I read this morning, Keep in mind that I often read these sorts of articles about Christian film productions with the question “Did it/will it present a clear message of the gospel of Jesus Christ?”

The movie’s theme centers around a basketball coach in a manufacturing town who loses his tem when the plant sits down and a lot of people leave town. He ends up coaching a sport he doesn’t even enjoy  and  ends up realizing that his true identity is found in Christ, not in his own accomplishments. The ‘gospel’ moment in the article was this:

“As previously reported, the film does not shy away from the Kendrick brothers’ Christian message and centers around the message of Ephesians 1 and 2, which focuses on identity. The movie includes a scene where the sinner’s prayer is spoken and touches on things like learning how to pray and how to know God.”

That the sinner’s prayer is spoken could be a good thing, if what precedes the praying is an accurate discussion of WHY it needs praying – that all of , until God saves us, ‘dead in our trespasses and sin’ and ‘by nature children of wrath’ , as we are told in the first few chapters of Paul’s  letter to the Ephesians, which seems to be the source of the film’s argument that our true identify is in Christ, not our accomplishments.

The article tells us this:

“As previously reported, the film does not shy away from the Kendrick brothers’ Christian message and centers around the message of Ephesians 1 and 2, which focuses on identity. The movie includes a scene where the sinner’s prayer is spoken and touches on things like learning how to pray and how to know God.

“Satan loves to convince people that they’re the opposite of what Ephesians 1, 2 and 3 say they are,” Alex Kendrick told The Christian Post during a sit-down interview with CP earlier this month. “

While I agree with the above sentiment,  it is nowhere found in the referenced Ephesian text. The actual text focuses on our natural state without Christ , (‘dead in our trespasses and sin’ and ‘by nature children of wrath’ .  Then we wee in the text of Ephesians what are perhaps the most important words in all of scripture “But God……”, followed by a beautiful description of God’s complete sovereignty in the salvation of men, It is God who raises up dead men, makes them alive in Christ , and gives them a new identity.

This new identity in Christ is very real, and the result of God’s intent to save all of his people, through the shed blood of his only Son.. Does ‘Overcomer’ address the ‘dead n trespasses and sin’ and ‘by nature children of wrath’ pieces of the puzzle?

On to the second article, ‘Overcomer’ doesn’t water down the Gospel, still appeals to nonbelievers, filmmakers say, which preceded It preceded report of the film’s opening by a few weeks.

While it provided a more detailed description of the movie’s theme and story line, it also said this:

““There’s a temptation to water down the truth, and the whole time we’ve been very overt and open about what we believe,” Stephen Kendrick said. “This story doesn’t water down the Gospel, and it’s embedded with the truth. We believe, now more than ever, that the Church needs to hear overt truth.”

Stephen Kendrick tells us that ‘there’s a temptation to water down the truth” (very true), and that ““This story doesn’t water down the Gospel”. (It doesn’t?)

“But we also understand the need to go to nonbelievers and communicate biblical truth in like a parable format as Jesus did. We try to package truth in an inspirational story that anybody can relate to. Everybody’s going to be touched by marriage difficulties at one point or another, or the trials that come with losing your identity. So regardless of what you believe, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll enjoy the movie, even if you don’t know the Lord. We try to include the Gospel in all of our movies so that a nonbeliever will hear it and hopefully come to Christ as a result of it.”

We are told that we all have marriage difficulties and trials that come with losing our identities, which is also true,  Then comes the most troubling tidbit (at least for this guy):

“We try to include the Gospel in all of our movies so that a nonbeliever will hear it and hopefully come to Christ as a result of it.”

Doesn’t the Bible tell us that the unbeliever hates God and cannot please Him (Romans 8:7-8),or even understand  spiritual things and considers them foolishness (which the gospel is) (1 Corinthians 2:14)?

Lastly, no unbeliever truly  comes to Christ to ‘rediscover their identity’. There is one, and only one reason to embrace Christ – for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus died  to fix our sin problem, not our identity crisis. ‘Overcomer’ might be a good movie fort hose who are already believers (like the movie’s main character) and having identity issues, but if it doesn’t discuss the issues of sin and repentance from it for the forgiveness of sins, it’s weak in the proclamation of the gospel. The ‘gospel’ that says Jesus died to solve your identity crisis (or any other temporal problem) can’t save anyone, but it might point them in the right direction.

Heaven’s War

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Trapped between worlds! After a terrorist bomb explodes, US senator Jonah Thomas is forced into an epic battle fought somewhere between life and death, Heaven and Hell.

While FBI agents and terrorists fight for his life in one world, angels and demons wage war for his soul in another. Will Jonah learn the truth and find his way home before it’s too late?
One of the most powerful presentations of the gospel ever produced in film.”
– Tim Utekal, Secondly Magazine
“Awesome! A supernatural thriller that beautifully presents the gospel.”
– Jonathan Falwell, author, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church
“A powerful story of the spiritual battle that rages around us for every human soul.”
– Edwin L Carpenter, Dove.org

General Observations:

The movie tackles the problem of sin and the reality of hell. In fact, at one point we see screaming people falling into a flaming hell, inducing corrupt politicians..

The truth that everyone will one day stand before the Judgment and give account for all deeds done in this life is well presented.

The power of prayer is presented mainly through Jonah’s dying mother and his wife.

The movie presents the message that Christ died for the sins of the world. The archangel Gabriel presents John 3:16 to Jonah Thomas while they are in the spiritual realm where Gabriel, with a little help from his friends, does battle with demons, over Jonah’s soul.

Jonah finally sees the truth (Gabriel’s goal) and surrenders to Jesus, giving his life to the Savior.

Spiritual warfare over the souls of men is the overarching theme of the movie. Some might think the spiritual warfare theme, complete with ‘battle’ scenes and CGI effects overshadow Jonah’s giving his life to Jesus.

There is a happy ending of course, with Jonah, his wife and daughter walking off into the distance and shining sunlight, the“light of Christ”.

The final narrative quote was interesting. As the trio are walking away into the light, we hear the narrator say:

“But for those who do the will of God, they will one day have every tear and every sorrow wiped away and they will live forever in the glory and love of our Lord Jesus.”

Personal Observations:

I purchased the DVD because I kept getting ads on Facebook (must be an algorithm). But rather than pay the full ‘sale’ price, I bought 4 DVDs. Other short reviews might follow this one. We actually watched one of the other DVDs first.

As with other contemporary ‘Christian’ films, I watched this one wondering whether there would be a clear presentation of the gospel. Oftentimes it’s missing. By that I mean a gospel message that included the issue of sin, the need for repentance, and the solution of Christ’s death for sin. For that, the film gets high marks. Christ’s death for the sins of the world was clearly presented. That Christ’s death was for the sins of the whole world, without further clarification, is typical when the intent is to communicate that Christ died for all of the sins of all men, a matter of debate between Calvinists and Arminians.

The film clearly communicated that Christ’s love can breach any obstacle to believing in his sacrifice for sins. And although final judgment is depicted, along with unbelievers being cast into hell, the fact that Jesus is both savior and judge seemed to be blurred. While Christ’s love is clearly presented, Jesus is not presented as presiding at the final judgment. Nevertheless, judgment for sin is clearly presented.

At the end of the day, salvation is presented as the result of Jonah’s free will decision, thus making human decision the determining factor in salvation, which is probably the prevailing opinion of the vast majority of evangelicals.

While salvation is rightly presented as a ‘free gift’, the final narration could communicate that final salvation is conditioned on ‘obedience to the will of God’, possibly conflating law and grace. Here again is the ending:

“But for those who do the will of God, they will one day have every tear and every sorrow wiped away and they will live forever in the glory and love of our Lord Jesus.”

The film seems to teach that although salvation is a free gift to be received by ‘giving one’s heart to Jesus”, living for eternity in the presence of Christ depends on human obedience.

It is my belief, from scripture, that genuine salvation unfailingly produces a life of obedience to the will of God, and naturally results in eternity with Christ. Perhaps the film’s producers also believe that, but it just could have been better communicated.

All in all, it was much better than most of today’s Christian film offerings, which are mostly adventures in missing the point of the gospel message.

“The Chosen’ – from the Producer’s Viewpoint

If you would like to find out more about ‘The Chosen’ series, there’s an interesting article here. It’s actually an interview with Dallas Jenkins, the producer. Here’s one of the questions he was asked, along with his answer:

How would you contrast The Chosen with other dramatizations of the ministry of Christ?

Jenkins: A lot of Jesus projects are done like a docudrama. They take you from Bible verse to Bible verse, miracle to miracle, story to story — and they’re not intended to get deep into the people with whom Jesus surrounded himself.

Our show really digs in to its characters, making it as human and real as possible. Simon Peter was married, so let’s explore what married life was like back then. We know Simon’s personality from the text. How does it translate when he is at home with his wife?

One day on set, we were shooting a scene where they argue as a married couple. I remember saying to some people around me: “I’ve watched all the Bible shows, and I’ve never seen a married couple fight. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a married couple kiss in a Bible show. Or even a married couple at all in those shows!”

We’re taking the time to get deep into these stories. That’s the beauty of doing a multi-season show, as opposed to a 90-minute movie or a small miniseries. Then when the redemption or victory comes, you’ve had time to feel the desperation and need for it.

Note that the producer’s purpose was to “get deep into the people with whom Jesus surrounded himself”. It appears that this series will accomplish that purpose, and in all fairness, Episode 1 did just that. Having said that, the text of the Bible doesn’t go deep into the lives of the people who knew and surrounded Jesus. Therefore, much of the series has to come from ‘outside’ sources, from what we know of the history and culture of the day, as well as from the imaginations of the writers. I think that was done well also.

At the end of the day, the production value seems to be excellent, as is the ‘entertainment’ value. It would be interesting to find out how well it actually treats the redemption story.

At any rate, please don’t let me dissuade you from paying $30.00 to be able to view the entire series. If you want to discuss it, I’d be happy to host that discussion here at The Battle Cry, no matter what you think about it.

 

 

“The Chosen”– AngelVid TV Series

The Chosen is recently launched television drama based on the life of Jesus Christ. The series’ creators wanted to distinguish this new series from previous portrayals of Jesus by crafting a multi-season, episode-based story rather than a single film that depicts a single moment or attempts to depict his entire life. The series will portray Jesus “through the eyes of those who met him”.

When I first saw the Facebook advertisements, I confess I was not really interested in another film version of the life of Christ, for reasons I won’t explain here. They kept coming (thank you, Facebook algorithm). Even with an offer to watch the first episode for free was an insufficient inducement to dive in. Then I read some interesting Facebook comments, ranging from a couple that were extremely negative, to the majority that really loved the first episode, with some purchasing the next three episodes (more on that later).

So why not watch the free episode? So I did.

Here’s the opening disclaimer which was similar to those at the beginning of previous Bible based films.

“The Chosen is based on the true stories of the gospels of Jesus Christ. Some locations and timelines have been combined or condensed. Backstories and some characters or dialogue have been added.

However, all biblical and historical content and artistic imagination are designed to support the truth and intention of the Scriptures. Viewers are encouraged to read the gospels.”

The key phrases in the above disclaimer are “based on true stories”, “designed to support the truth and intention of scriptures”. “Viewers are encouraged to read the gospels.” might well have been followed by “….. if you are more interested in what is actually true”. Trust me.

If you hate spoilers, read no further.

The Episode 1 main biblical characters are Nicodemus, Peter & Andrew, Lilith/Mary Magdalene, Matthew, and Jesus of curse (at the very end of the episode). That they are actual characters in the Bible is definitely true. Most of what is told about them in the first episode is pretty much some of the material that was ‘added’ to the biblical account.

The episode follows three story lines. It begins with the Lilith/Mary Magdalene character as a small child who is often troubled in the night, and whose Father tells her to ‘read the words’, a reference to a passage in Isaiah. She appears off and on throughout the film, at the end having demons cast out by Jesus, but not as dramatically as the Jesus in the “Jesus, His Life” Mary Magdalene episode. I had to look up the ‘Lilith’ name, by which she is called until the very end when Jesus calls her ‘Mary’. Lilith was a winged female demon in Babylonian mythology. Her story actually appears in Hebrew mythology.

Next we see Nicodemus traveling down a dusty road with his wife, on his annual visit to Capernaum. It was during this visit that Nicodemus is called upon to perform an exorcism on a woman who was causing a lot of trouble. It was the Lilith character, and Nicodemus fails, setting up the deliverance by Jesus at the end of the episode.

We meet Peter and Andrew in an early form of ‘Fight Club’, or so it seems. They have a racket going. Peter does the fighting and Andrew controls much of the gambling going on. They are of course fishermen, but Roman taxes are driving them out of business. They are condemned by Nicodemus as unholy and wicked men because they go fishing on Shabbat.

Then we have Matthew, the much hated Hebrew tax collector. In the film, there is a scene in which Peter and Andrew appear at his tax collection window and they don’t have enough to pay their taxes and penalties, even though they filed numerous extensions (like with the IRS). The get out of paying (for now) because of a ‘deal’ made with Quintus, a Roman official.

Enough of the story lines. I left out a lot of the details, which were actually interesting, even though most of it was from the imagination of the writers. In the telling of the stories there was also a bit of well-planned suspense. It was hard to put things together during the film sequence, but if you know your Bible, you can see how things are tied together. The ending was intended to get you interested in watching more, for sure! If you like a good story, with some pretty good action, some suspense, and a good sound track, go for it – for a price

To ‘unlock’ the next episodes all you need to is pay $29.99 you can watch all of the episodes, get an exclusive DVD, a free devotional guide, and a FREE 3 month subscription to VidAngel, the streaming service hosting the multi-year series.

If you like this sort of entertainment, go for it. Judging by Facebook comments, may do. Some thought the first episode was REALLY good! One lady said she ‘was moved to tears’! I was hammered by one person who thought my saying I would review it for Biblical accuracy was being way too ‘negative’.

On the other hand, if you don’t think that wrapping a lot of fiction around characters of the Bible is appropriate for serious Christians, if you think that God’s written revelation to his children is worth far more than being used for entertainment purposes, don’t waste your money.

It’s up to you.

‘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.”

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

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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

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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