The new series A.D. is providing us with an in depth look at the rise of the Jesus movement, and its motivating forces and factors. In Episode 2 of this series of shows, the arc of the narrative does not really reach beyond the Easter stories in the Gospels. Indeed, it ends on a mount, probably in Galilee, with Jesus commissioning his disciples and then departing from them. Along the way we get various scenes, some of them quite moving, of the encounters of the risen Jesus with his disciples both male and female. Especially effective and affecting are the John 20 scene of Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene near the garden tomb and Jesus’ commissioning of her, and the appearance in the upper room to Thomas. My personal favorite is the scene in Galilee, taken from John 21, of the miraculous catch of fish, and the recommissioning of Peter.
If this is the spine of the 43 or so minutes of this episode, how is the episode filled out? Firstly, it involves the attempts by Pilate to kill the story, by killing both Roman soldiers and temple guards who were at the tomb when Jesus rose and escaped their clutches. Pilate without question was ruthless, but what Matthew 28.11-15 actually says is: “11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.” This is a far cry from what this episode in fact depicts.