(This post originally appeared on the Texas Baptists web site.)
Easter ended this year with a very human tale on television. NBC aired the first episode of “A.D.: The Bible Continues,” which started with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and will, in coming episodes, tell what happened afterward.
Unlike the recent movie, “Noah,” that had little resemblance to the biblical story, “A.D.” remained true to the Bible. As a result, it felt more real.
“For us (the producers), it’s just about telling these stories in a very human way,” said co-producer Roma Downey in The Hollywood Reporter. “These characters didn’t know they were in the Bible. They didn’t know the outcome from the Bible. They’re humans; they’re flawed humans, and we wanted to show it with grittiness and authenticity in a compelling, surprising way to draw the viewer.”
The show’s portrayal of High Priest Caiaphas reminds us of contemporary religious leaders who seem more concerned with protecting position and turf than in furthering the work of God. Pilate is a politician like many of today’s politicians – playing power games despite what they know to be true and good. Peter is like many of us; he wants so much to be faithful and to serve, but he gets scared and intimidated by the crowd.
“A.D.” also is helping end the period of “whitewashing Bible stories,” according to Adrienne Samuels Gibbs on the NBC News web site. “Unlike last year’s big budget films ‘Noah’ and ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings,’ this year’s big budget mini series … features a diverse cast that was almost as diverse as Jerusalem was back in the day.”
The way “A.D.” tells the story may also bring some depth to a simple reading of the text. A “historical retelling of the story means addressing the political turmoil of an empire,” Gibbs said. Producers Mark Burnett and Downey “consulted with historians, theologians and the Bible itself to inform both the dialogue and the intrigue.”
“Remember,” Downey said, “that we have this collision of groups in the region in that time. … The occupying Roman army and the cruel regime, the temple authorities and the power struggle, the danger of the zealots and those looking for freedom from oppression. In the midst of it all we have the disciples preaching the message of Jesus.”
Most people in the United States knows the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and probably that of His resurrection. But many of them have little idea about how Christ’s church emerged out of those two pivotal events.
The series continues this Sunday, April 12. I have no idea how it will tell the story in the weeks ahead, but I am encouraged the producers are followers of Christ who value the story as conveyed in Scripture and other historical documents.
In watching this series, we believers can see the roots of our own attempts at faith and service. We can expect to be humbled and yet encouraged, to be grateful and hopeful. We can expect to be touched deeply once again by the story that changed everything, both for individuals and for the world.
In the NBC “Dateline” show leading up the first episode, they discussed the risk involved in making this series because the primary character, Jesus, has left the scene. While technically correct, I hope viewers will see Jesus really hasn’t left the scene – He was with His first followers, and He is with us still.