Episode 7 "Mission"
This section tries to capture Jesus’ public ministry, and it concludes with His trial. The events and teaching are continually out of sequence, but the essence is fairly well captured, even if the details are all wrong. It opens with Jesus teaching the parable of the mustard seed at an event that occurred in Mark 2. There is a logical fallacy here as it is presented. Jesus is teaching in a courtyard, which is crowded but not packed. Yet, the four men with the lame man cut a hole in a roof adjacent to the courtyard, and lowered him through it. He seems to be on a blanket rather than a bed. The complaint against Jesus forgiving his sins was spoken out loud, however, rather than Jesus knowing what he was thinking. Everyone (except the murmurer) rejoiced when the man arose and walked.
The healing of a leper was well done, as was the scene involving the Pharisee and the publican. The publican happened to be Matthew, and he became Jesus’ disciple from then on.
The Woman Taken in Adultery
Although the overall effect is the same as that recounted in the Scriptures, the producers changed a few details. They have Jesus writing on the ground prior to the woman being brought into His presence. Several have picked up stones and are ready to kill her, when they point out that the Law said to stone her but then ask what His judgment is. Jesus picks up a stone, and the crowd wonders if he is going to cast it at her. He walks amid the crowd with His stone held high as though he was going to hurl it at her any minute. Then He says, “I will give my stone to the first man who tells me he has never sinned.” They slowly drop their stones and walk away. Jesus does tell her to sin no more.
After Jesus feeds the 5,000, He rejects the kingdom. The disciples want to know why. “Aren’t you going to be our king?” one says. “Jesus responds, ‘Who do you think I am?’” Peter then makes the good confession, but this is the wrong time and place for Peter to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. That event occurred far to the north in Caesarea Philippi. At some point, Judas says, “A Messiah should be a warrior, a conqueror like David.” Peter answers him, “Violence is not the way.”
Walking on Water
Mary Magdalene always seems to be with the twelve. No doubt she frequently was, but so were other women. She is present on the boat when Jesus comes walking on the water. Instead of Peter asking to join Him, Jesus invites him to step out of the boat. Except for that discrepancy, the rest of this event is accurate. Peter slips beneath the waves, and Jesus grasps his hand to save him, asking “Why did you doubt, O you of little faith.” If some portions can be correct, why can’t they all be?
Episode 8 "Betrayal"
A variety of events from Jesus’ life are portrayed in the remainder of part four of The Bible. But a tremendous out-of-order episode is now placed into the mix. Whereas Jesus began His public ministry by going to Nazareth and reading from the Isaiah scroll, the producers of the program insert it now—after the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus walking on the sea. When Jesus said that the passage that He read was fulfilled in their hearing, one Pharisee made several accusations against Jesus, one of which was, “His healing is the work of demons.” When Peter decided he had had enough of this detractor, he pulled back his fist and was about to slug him when Jesus stopped him by saying, “Peter, turn the other cheek.” Out of vengeance for being challenged and threatened, the man tells them that John was dead. He’s been “executed, beheaded.” Of course, this incident was fabricated and intertwined with teaching from Matthew 5.
In another invented scene, Pilate slaughtered some rebellious Jews, and the high priest says, “Imagine what he could do at the Passover.” Later, the narrator states: “Just 30 years ago, the Romans killed thousands during Passover demonstrations.” This becomes the motivation of the high priest to do something about Jesus so that He does not ruin their Passover.
In this miniseries, Jesus does raise Lazarus from the dead, but that is the only fact that remained intact. One would think that at this point everything would be fairly accurate, but, no, apparently the way God wrote the New Testament was not sufficient for the producers of this work. They present it the way they wish John would have recorded the facts. In this dynamic equivalent visual rendering, Martha greets Jesus and takes Him to the tomb of Lazarus. The entrance to the tomb is covered by a mound of rocks rather than a stone. After they are removed, Jesus, instead of calling, “Lazarus, come forth,” enters the tomb. He says, “Lazarus, I am the resurrection and the life.” Then He kisses Lazarus on his hair (his head being uncovered instead of wrapped), and having been dead for four days, he suddenly opens his eyes and sits up. Jesus concludes the event by saying, “Whoever believes in Me shall never die,” to which Lazarus gives an Amen. He walks out of the tomb dressed in a regular garment. His body had not been anointed in the usual Jewish custom.
In the triumphal entry, Jesus is riding a donkey, and they do spread palm branches before Him. Barabbas shouts to him, “Why don’t you make us free? Save us from the Romans, Lord.” Barabbas also mocks the coming of the kingdom. Jesus stares him down and walks past him into the temple area where He overthrows the tables of the moneychangers, interspersing some of His teaching from Matthew 6 at the same time.
When Jesus is asked by Nicodemus (acting on behalf of the high priest) if the Jews should pay taxes, Barabbas shouts, “No pay! No pay!” but Jesus gives the appropriate answer. However, instead of talking about the destruction of the temple only to His disciples, He says it publicly so that His enemies can hear Him, and it becomes a major part of their case against Him from that point on.
Nicodemus and Judas: Swapping Loyalties
Nicodemus now comes to Jesus secretly during the Lord’s final week instead of early in His ministry, as recorded in John 3. Jesus told him that he must be born again—not in the flesh but in the spirit. Jesus makes the wind blow and says, “And so it is when the Spirit enters you.” What Jesus actually said was: “So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
Meanwhile, Judas went to the chief priest and made an arrangement to betray Jesus. He was reluctant to do so, however, saying, “He has a power….” The high priest retorted: ”If he were the Son of God, IF, would he abuse God’s house?” Judas asked: “What do you want with Him?” “Just a talk,” is the lame reply.
The Last Supper, Arrest, and Trial
Pilate threatened to put the city under a curfew (?). Jesus announced to His disciples that He would be crucified, and they actually show Him giving the disciples the bread and the fruit of the vine, saying, “Remember Me by doing this.” After telling them that one of them would betray Him, Judas ran out, right past Satan, who will be spotted several times this evening among the people and the crowd. Nicodemus tried to defend Jesus, but the high priest asks, “Has He fulfilled any of the signs of a true Messiah, as written in our Scriptures?” Nicodemus says that having a trial at night is illegal. It must be held in court, in daylight, and in public. The high priest answers that it may not be legal but it is necessary.
Jesus has told Peter, after the Last Supper, that he will betray Him three times before dawn (rather than before the rooster crowing). This section was handled so poorly that even someone who knows little of the Bible could see the contradiction. Instead of Peter betraying Jesus that night, it is the next morning—well after daylight. Then they compound this error (which is actually in part five) by having Peter recall Jesus’ words—only they lop off “before dawn” from them!
Jesus is accurately portrayed in the garden of Gethsemane, even to the healing of Malchus’ ear and His telling Peter to put away his sword (although the intrepid apostle had already knocked Judas down and called him a traitor). However, they then throw a bag over Jesus’ face and whisk Him away like a mafia snatch. They beat Jesus along the way. The high priest asks Jesus, “Are you the Son of God?” and the answer is surprisingly accurate: “I am, and you will see Me coming with the clouds of heaven, sitting at the right hand of God.”
Gary W. Summers
*altered format from original publishing to correspond to aired episodes