A.D. The Bible Continues: Episode 9

ad3 I’m so delighted with the series’ depiction of Paul. I really am. Only he could think that being run out of Damascus after creating a riot in the temple was “incredible.” He goes running home to Jerusalem eager to embrace the disciples and Peter, and then is baffled with their inability to get over everything he has done to them in the past. “Don’t you live what you preach?” he asks. Ouch. You have a point there. He really nailed Peter too, while he was at it. “Didn’t Jesus ever have to forgive you for anything?” Um, yes, as a matter of fact, betrayal comes to mind. But poor Peter is really grappling with this. No one can blame him, really. There is only person who was capable of total forgiveness at the drop of a hat, and He, coincidentally, also had the power to look into a man’s soul. All we mere mortals can see is the externals, which leaves us at times with doubt. Is Saul telling the truth? Is this some elaborate ruse to get involved with the disciples only to turn on them when it is advantageous? Is this man cunning enough to plan an elaborate infiltration scheme? He has certainly proven himself single-minded and brutal enough. He threatened Peter’s daughter, he was present in the crowd that stoned Stephen, and he has thrown many into prison, where they are tortured and beaten. As Simon the Zealot put it, “We were accomplishing something before you came along!” Saul stopped their evangelism in its tracks… and now he is one of them?! ad1 God certainly has a sense of humor. Not only did He convert Saul, and in doing so, make one of the boldest, most headstrong, most passionate sharers of the gospel in that period, but He also intentionally sent him to the Gentiles. Think about that for a moment. Saul was a learned scholar and Pharisee. Prior to his conversion, I have no doubt that he hated the Gentiles. So God picks him up out of the dirt, dusts him off, slaps a mission in his hand, and says, “Go to the Gentiles.” And that, really, is the proof more than anything else of his immense change of heart; of the fact that he severely changed for the better. Therein lies the power of true conversion … change. It may take time, or it may be instant, but I don’t believe any profession of Christianity is true unless the individual professing it shows change, and in doing so, develops true love for their fellow mankind. I certainly know that growing up in the church, though I kept all the “rules” and was “well-behaved,” I had no love for my fellow human beings … until I actually got saved in my late twenties. I’m a very different person now. Looking back on my earlier judgmental, pious, and holier than thou self (let’s call it my Pharisee stage), I feel some regret but mostly just gratitude that I am no longer like that. Like Saul, I’m living proof that you can do everything right, profess faith orally, and maybe even genuinely believe in what you are saying, without possessing any love for others. And, I think, an absence of love means an absence of Christ. Paul hits it on the head this week, with the uncomfortable assertion that he doesn’t think Peter is living what he preaches. Where is the acceptance? Where is the forgiveness? It should be there! It should override every natural human instinct. Our default should be to respond with love. ad2 Yet, I understand defaulting to distrust, suspicion, and fear. I deal with those things every day. I had to catch myself, in Pilate’s palace, when the servant girl told the truth to her husband about where her money was going, because I think in her situation… I would have lied. Told him what he wanted to hear, to protect myself. Fear quite often overwhelms my faith. I can resonate with the panic settling into the palace right now. Caligula wants his statue, a graven image, in the temple – and everyone is frantic about it. Pilate just deftly made it Caiaphas’ problem, Herod is seeking to use it to his own political advantage, and Caiaphas for once is defending his faith instead of politics. Claudia is the only one who thinks there is some logical solution, if they can but find it – and turns to the other wives for assistance, only to be shocked by Leah’s cold suggestion that they make an offering of Saul and the disciples to distract Caligula. Historically, Caligula did indeed insist upon having his graven image in the temple at Jerusalem. It was late in his reign, and after most thought he had gone certifiably insane. The order was issued to the new Roman Governor (Pilate’s replacement) and … never followed through. Caligula was dead from assassination before inquiries were made about his edict being fulfilled. I don’t mind them moving around minor historical events, for dramatic impact – if they painted an inaccurate picture of him, I would be more annoyed. He’s vengeful, unstable, and unpredictable, which makes life at the center of his focus … interesting. I enjoyed the scenes with Claudia, and particularly her argument with Cornelius. I sense a love affair of the heart there, but never acted on; and sooner or later, he’s going to have to cease “following orders” and do the right thing. And probably die because of it.

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