Luke 9:22 A.D. TV series: The Bible continues … in prime time

Today’s post was written by and shared with permission from Rusty Wright.
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Hollywood’s Bible Power Couple is back – with a flourish – this time on prime-time network television.

They really take this spiritual stuff seriously. In 2012, my wife and I attended a dinner in Washington, DC, where actress Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel) announced that she and producer-husband Mark Burnett (Survivor, Shark Tank, The Voice) planned to devote the rest of their careers to creating works that honor God.

They were heading to Morocco to film a series on the Bible for the History Channel. After dinner, Burnett enthusiastically described his vision to present Jesus “as strong—powerful, impressive.” 2013’s The Bible series drew 100 million viewers. The couple’s 2014 Son of God feature film garnered significant box-office success.

Angst and adventure

Now in 2015, they’re bringing the story of Jesus’ first followers to television. Their dramatic 12-part series, A.D. The Bible Continues, captures the personal angst and adventure of those tumultuous early years. It premieres Easter Sunday on NBC.

Episode 1, “The Tomb Is Open,” is apt Easter fare. It begins with Peter, Jesus’ disciple, breathlessly running to watch Jesus’ appearance before Caiaphas, the high priest, who accuses Jesus of blasphemy deserving of death for claiming to be the Messiah. A woman says she recognizes Peter as one of the Nazarene’s followers. Peter denies it vehemently, and realizes he’s failed the leader he’d pledged to support.

The drama conveys conflicts – internal and external – well known to aficionados of the classic accounts, leavened with some speculative dialogue to develop the story for the screen. Peter struggles with the guilt of his denial, as does Judas with his betrayal. Roman governor Pontius Pilate and his wife argue over the wisdom of crucifying Jesus.

After the crucifixion and burial, Jesus’ grieving followers wrestle among themselves with whether they should believe Jesus’ prediction of his resurrection. He had told them, “The Son of Man must suffer many things … and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” (Luke 9:22)

Resurrection hoax?

The high priest appeals to Pilate to seal and guard the tomb, lest the disciples steal the body and perpetrate a resurrection hoax. Pilate remarks that “Roman crucifixion really doesn’t allow for [resurrections].” The screenwriters’ deadpan worked for me.

The un-narrated presentation assumes a basic familiarity with the characters and story. A quick read of a biblical account before watching could enhance the viewing experience. For Episodes 1 and 2, I recommend the final three chapters of either, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. And as you view Episode 1, watch for the angel. Way cool.

Episodes 3 through 12 portray stories from the first ten chapters of Acts. Viewer guides exist for those wanting to learn more.

As with their earlier biblical projects, Burnett and Downey and their team sought to be faithful to the spirit of the Bible. They take typical filmmaking liberties – combining events and condensing timelines – to represent the gist of the story without changing its basic message.

Racial and ethnic diversity

Producers took pains to involve a racially and ethnically diverse cast. “Christianity is among the most diverse movements in history,” notes Downey, “so … it was important to us to find a cast as diverse and beautiful as the church is around the world. … We hope that people see themselves [in the performances].”

Cast members hail from ten nations. For example, Juan Pablo di Pace (Argentina) plays Jesus; Babou Ceesay (Gambia) is John; Chipo Chung (Zimbabwe) is Mary Magdalene.

Nothing and everything

Foreshadowing much to anticipate in the rest of the series, Episode 2 (“The Body Is Gone”) highlights a key point. When Peter and John emerge from Jesus’ empty tomb on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene asks, “What did you find?”

“Nothing,” John replies. “We found nothing. And everything.”

Burnett, Downey, et al. are bringing timeless, inspiring stories about the “and everything” to millions of homes and hearts. May their tribe increase.
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www.NBC.com/AD-The-Bible-Continues Series premieres Easter Sunday, April 5, 9 PM/8 PM Central on NBC-TV and runs for 12 consecutive Sundays.
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Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com

Mark Burnett’s Bible TV Series: Epic Adventure

Today’s post was written by Rusty Wright.
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Think of it as Survivor: Earth

As reality TV host Jeff Probst might say (cue theme music; roll panoramic video), “This … is the planet Earth. A spectacular paradise that can become a perilous jungle. Two people – a man and a woman – are about to begin the adventure of the ages.”

“Their progeny will encompass vastly different walks of life, from kings to fishermen, saints to scoundrels. They’ll display nobility and treachery, altruism and secret alliances. But they’ll have one thing in common. They’ll all participate in an epic struggle between good and evil.”

“What will happen when explosive personalities collide? And in the end, who will find redemption and survive the ultimate tribal council?”

Dramatic Miniseries

That’s the drama the upcoming ten-hour miniseries, The Bible, seeks to portray when it airs on History Channel every Sunday evening this March.

Prolific television producer Mark Burnett (“Survivor,” “The Voice,” “Celebrity Apprentice,” “Shark Tank”) and his wife, actress/producer Roma Downey (“Touched by an Angel”), spent two years creating what they hope will become a legacy. They consider this “by far the most important project we’ve ever undertaken” and sought to paint “the grand narrative of God’s love for all of us,” from Genesis to Revelation.

Curiosity and Inspiration

“The Bible is a sacred text that continues to challenge and inspire,” notes Burnett. “We … are deeply humbled to be given this once in a generation opportunity to breathe new visual life into the Bible’s profound stories. The Bible gives meaning and purpose to billions of people around the world, and sparks the curiosity of millions more.”

Spoiler alert: Eve eats the fruit (as does Adam); Noah, family, and animals endure the Ark; God parts the Red Sea for Moses and company; Delilah cuts Samson’s hair; David slays Goliath; Daniel survives the lions’ den; Jesus does good, is executed, but rises from the dead.

“Don’t make it lame”

But perhaps you already knew those stories. Either way, there’s plenty of adventure and drama in this series. At a recent Washington, DC, dinner, Burnett described his kids’ advice about the impending production: “Don’t make it lame.” He didn’t.

This quality portrayal has loads of action and state-of-the-art special effects to grab channel surfers’ attention. I’m no action-flick aficionado, but scenes like Ninja angels slicing their way through Sodom, the Red Sea crossing, and Goliath’s slaying made my spine tingle. Abraham’s sacrifice of his son, Isaac, had me right there, wanting divine intervention to stop that knife from hitting its target.

Faith and Trust

The depictions were exciting, gripping, genuine. I could identify with the characters’ human struggles, emotions and faith lessons, especially the oft-repeated “Trust in God.” Fallible people like Abraham, Moses, and Peter seek to discover what God wants of them, and then trust him to provide and protect.

It’s chock full of timeless truths, and true to Jesus’ teachings. As he said, “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Producers sought to be faithful to the spirit of the book in adapting selected Bible stories for the screen. They take typical movie-making liberties – combining events and condensing timelines – to represent the gist of the book in limited hours. Compressed narrative and dialogue skip some details and occasionally blur nuances. But, sit back, relax, and take in the big picture: God loves us; he is faithful; he is merciful.

The overall presentation (of the six hours available for advance press screening) gets an “A” from me. By all means, see the miniseries. Read the original, too. It is, after all, a very Good Book.

History Channel – Sunday (March 3, 10, 17, 24, 31)
History.ca (Canada)
www.BibleSeries.tv
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Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com

Hebrews 4:12 The Bible

The reason I started this blog just over two years ago, was to share what I learned through studying the Bible, and to encourage you to study with me. I know that there are some of you (and I have done it too) who start a reading plan in January with the intent to read through the Bible in one year. Genesis and Exodus are interesting, filled with stories of drama and suspense, but once you get to Leviticus, does your mind start to wander? Do you start to drift off? When you read through Numbers are you actually planning your summer vacation? How many of you have made it to Revelation? I know that before I changed my strategy two years ago, I had read Genesis more often than any other book. But when I started studying–not just reading–one or two verses at a time, without neglecting the larger context of course, I found myself more engaged and more interested.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s word is “living and active”. The New Living Translation says “alive and powerful”. Do you believe that? Or do you think that it is just a historical religious book that people keep printing and re-translating because there are still people who want to buy it? And why do they want to buy it? Why do you want to read it enough to start a reading plan every year? I believe that the same thing that draws many of us to The Bible, repels many as well. It is a representation of the power of God. It is God extending Himself to us through His written word.

The word of God is sharper than any double-edged sword, able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) God has provided it for us, to teach us, to correct us and to prepare us for every good work. (II Timothy 3:16-17) It is there for us to be able to know God’s heart, and to determine if ours are right with His. The word of God is available to us for our benefit, so that we can know God, so that through faith in Him and obedience to Him we can be recipients of His grace, love, peace and mercy. What a gift!

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Some of you prefer watching the movie to reading the book. Here is your chance! Though I recommend it as a supplement rather than a substitution, The Bible is coming to The History Channel as a mini-series beginning on Sunday, March 3, 2013 and continuing each Sunday evening until Easter Sunday. You can be sure that this will be a great production because it is being produced by Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Apprentice, The Voice…) and Roma Downey (Touched By An Angel). Accuracy has been insured by Bible scholars, including Dr. Craig Evans of Acadia Divinity College, Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. Find out more about The Bible Series at the official website, their Facebook page or on Twitter.