I’m a little confused with a couple narrative choices in this episode, but let’s explore it anyway.
This week, King Herod came to Jerusalem and tried to lecture Pilate on respecting the feast of Pentecost by insisting he remove his soldiers from the temple. Pilate refused and instead insisted upon attending the festival and entering the Court of the Gentiles. Big no-no. The zealot Boaz tried to assassinate Pilate, which led to Pilate ordering executions on the temple steps. Meanwhile, Peter and the disciples prayed intensely and received the Holy Spirit… then wound up in jail for preaching about Jesus outside the temple.
On the one hand, I admire how the writers are building this narrative and really showing what it was like to be in a powder keg of a city like Jerusalem… there were the devout Jews, the warrior uprising zealots, the Roman occupiers and now… a rapidly growing Christian faction. The streets were dusty, crowded, and dangerous. Politics rage here, and everyone has an uncertain agenda – even Pilate’s wife. (Is it just me, or does she have a thing for his right hand centurion, Cornelius?)
But … this week they’re taking some liberties. Pilate never forced himself, historically, upon any festivals or holy rituals in Jerusalem. He did not make an extended stay in Jerusalem, either, after the crucifixion. And the upcoming “execute ten Jews a week until they turn over the zealot ringleader” plot is also made up. BUT, Josephus did write something about twelve Galileans being killed on temple grounds by Pilate’s centurions, his first year in Jerusalem. It was on the eve of the Sabbath and made the temple unclean. So, that’s where they are getting it from.
Overall, I think they are doing a marvelous job, but the downplaying of Pentecost surprised me (and the family) … after receiving the Holy Spirit, Biblically, Peter and the disciples went out and evangelized in different languages that they did not speak; Peter addressed a crowd of five thousand people, who pleaded en masse to be baptized. That latter part is noticeably absent here, since he turns up at the temple in a crowd but is soon beaten and arrested. There’s no sense of the scale of it, his speech is cut to a few sentences, and Mary Magdalene’s whisper that “many are coming to our side… maybe thousands” just doesn’t cover it. Let them speak in foreign languages! Let Peter have his speech!
Whenever things are added or omitted, I have to reason out the possibilities of why; in this instance, from a purely narrative perspective, I can see why the writers are placing so much emphasis on the power dynamics and political upheaval in Jerusalem, as well as spending a lot of time establishing Pilate as a villain. I realize that Cornelius is going to undergo some kind of a salvation experience, and am excited to see that unfold. I like what they’re doing with Peter and his daughter. So why leave out something that important?
To avoid controversy? To avoid stirring up Pentecostals? To not slow down the narrative? Or was it a choice intended to soften the blow? Either way, I’m disappointed that it happened, in such an otherwise engaging story. I’m also sad that no one else seems to be watching it. Something on this scale doesn’t come along often, much less something aimed at believers.