A dramatic transformation.

John 20:1-18

Around Easter time we see a lot of movies and documentaries about Christianity. They all claim to tell the truth or at least their version of it. When I was a young Christian, I would to love to watch such movies and TV shows about the Bible, the life of Jesus and the journeys of the apostles. For the most part, they were highly dramatized and fictional, as if the writers, producers and directors had to create a story in order to attract the attention of viewers. The Biblical accounts were incomplete and lacking in story value. There were too many gaps and jumps in continuity to allow for a decent presentation. You need action and violence and drama to tell a story. Today you also need sex. This applies also to documentaries and docudramas which add speculative elements and unproven and un-Biblical theories and heretical theology to challenge the truth and appeal to more audiences as well as to be politically correct. I guess they figure that if you poke enough holes in Christian theological beliefs, people will see that it is just another religion equal to Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism or what have you.

Nowadays I get annoyed by most of these films including those highly touted by fellow Evangelicals. This applies to the series A.D. and the Bible produced by Lightworkers Media. I guess I know too much about the Bible but any inaccuracies, any variation from the Biblical portrayal disturbs me. The actors and film effects can be highly dramatic and moving but I still am disappointed by the bad theology.

In A. D. which aired on Easter evening, I was upset by the characterization of Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the apostles. Mary, Jesus’ mother, was convinced that Jesus was going to rise from the dead and she chastised the apostles for not agreeing. That is pure speculation for the Bible shows no such thing. She is shown in the Bible only in deep mourning. Mary Magdalene also is portrayed as a rather strong character, but she is not shown as such in the Bible. She is shown only, like Mary, in deep sorrow and confusion. Neither of these women even had any idea that Jesus was going to rise from the dead, even though he had said He would. The same is true of the disciples. In the movie that appear to be a bit stronger than what the Bible says of them. In fact, Peter is approached by one of the zealots who wanted the apostles to join him. That is total fiction of course. The apostles in the Scriptural accounts were filled with fear as John says: “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews. . . “

The apostles and the women who accompanied them were filled with fear. They were highly demoralized. They had no idea that Jesus would rise from the dead despite what He had told them. They saw his body ripped apart and his blood spilled out. His arrest and execution and happened so suddenly that they did not have time to recover or think things through. They certainly had no clue or hope of what would happen until after it happened. then they would remember.

The film version I saw yesterday showed the apostles and the women to be strong and dynamic people, more in keeping with our American cultural attitude of self-reliance. They seemed less fearful and afraid. That bothers me for I think the Biblical portrayal of the apostles and the women, as incomplete as it maybe, is much more dramatic, effective and appealing. Here were a group of fearful and democratize people just like us, if we are humble and truthful enough to admit it. They were lost without Jesus, without purpose or meaning, again just like us. In a matter of hours they would be filled with great joy and bewilderment at the appearance of the Risen Lord. And in a few weeks, these whimpering and terrified men and women  would be changed into courageous and bold witnesses who were not afraid to speak the truth and to die for it. They would do so not by their own efforts, talents, gifts, or self-reliance and will-power but by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. An Jesus can do the same for anyone who is just willing to admit his or her sinfulness and uselessness.


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