If you’ve missed “The Bible,” airing on the History Channel, you’ve missed something worth watching. The miniseries, co-produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, is well done. The premiere episode drew a record audience of 13.1 million viewers.
Meanwhile, Hollywood movers and shakers are shaking their collective heads, confounded by the popularity of an “overtly religious program.”
While the immense subject matter has been condensed, is fast-paced and subject to artistic license, the casting, filming and special effects are impressive. One of the most intriguing depictions has been the angels. These are no Hallmark cherubs or Precious Moments figurines. These angels are large, muscular and mysterious, brandishing swords and possessing a presence that does not lend itself to fragile porcelain. They take the wimp factor out of faith.
The Old Testament stories are brutal and violent, each one connecting to the next with a running theme of man’s fickleness toward God – faithful one moment, unfaithful the next.
When stories move from words on a page to visuals on a screen, it is always surprising how a familiar story, retold in a different medium, can bring new dimensions of understanding.
As the story of Abraham and Isaac was about to unfold, there was a knot in my stomach. The celebrated story of Abraham’s faith is uncomfortable at best.
Abraham, childless for years, was promised a son by God. This son would produce descendants that would populate “a multitude of nations.” Abraham’s wife Sarah, well past her childbearing years, miraculously conceives and gives birth to a son. A few chapters later, God instructs Abraham to take his only son, now a child, to the mountain top and offer him as a sacrifice.
It is a difficult story to teach in Sunday school classes. A boy once asked, “What did Isaac do to make his dad so mad?”
Seeing Abraham and Isaac on screen makes the story even more gut wrenching. As an aging Abraham prepares to sacrifice his terrified son, God intercedes and points Abraham to a ram caught in a thicket to use as the sacrifice instead.
In a way that was never so real when the words were on a page, the cinematic version made clear. Yes, it was a demonstration of Abraham’s faith in God’s deliverance, but it was also a foretelling of another father who one day would indeed sacrifice his son. It was an Old Testament glimpse of Good Friday. Of course, the New Testament narrative did not end with Christ on the cross. The real climax was the empty tomb three days later, the event Christians around the world celebrate and commemorate as Resurrection Sunday and Easter morning.
How refreshing to see someone use their wealth and good fortune to produce a series like “The Bible.” What a wise use of resources. Naturally, there are critics and detractors, those for whom nothing is ever good enough. That said, it is always good when truth comes to life and even better when truth comes to the heart.