Monday, June 29, 2015

The Cornelius Decision

So, who else is watching "A.D.", the TV series? I rarely read any comments about it on FB, even from my rabid Christian friends, so I wonder.

It hasn't grabbed me and addicted me (like other shows I'm having to wait until the fall to see again . . . grrr), but it's interesting. Some folks are probably upset about the "extra-biblical" material, angles on the story that were not in the original text. The traveling Ethopian eunuch was involved in a plot against the Romans? James arranged with Caiaphas for the Jesus-followers to be accepted into the temple again? And John the disciple as a black man . . . I understand the desire for ethnic diversity here, but that's really stretching things.

I'm not necessarily bothered by these angles, though. It concerns me a little that the biblically illiterate will watch this and think this is all in the Bible, but because none of it that I've seen yet is contradictory to the important message and spirit of the text, I'm okay with it so far. In fact, as a Bible student and script writer, I'm pretty fascinated by the background stories they are supposing here, based on the sketchy details we are given in the book.

We just caught up yesterday on the episode we missed on vacation. And this was an episode I've been waiting for. From the beginning, when Pilate sent his top centurion out to do some violence and called him Cornelius, I've been waiting for the soldier's conversion -- because I knew this HAD to be that Cornelius. And it was. Great idea to have such a crucial character to the gospel story involved in everything from the start, even though in the Bible he pops up pretty randomly and isn't heard from again.

So, yesterday, Cornelius met Jesus. And he is then immediately called in by Pilate to lead his squadron of soldiers to bring the golden statue of Caligula into the Jewish temple . . . and to kill every Jew that tries to stop them. He's a soldier; he's been given orders, orders he must obey or he will be killed himself. Peter asks him what he will do. Cornelius responds that he will pray that the Holy Spirit shows him what to do. Good answer.

So, Cornelius marches his troops with the offensive statue to the gates of the temple, where he politely asks (there's a change right there) the high priest to step aside so he can fulfill his orders. In answer, Caiaphas offers his throat -- kill me if you must, I won't allow you to desecrate God's temple. Cornelius must decide which master he will obey: his earthly master or his heavenly master. And he must decide in a very public way, with EVERYONE watching. He hesitates.

And in that moment, the mob behind him attacks his squadron, and he is left alone kneeling and praying with his new Christian brothers, while the battle rages without his participation. And his soldiers don't seem to notice.

The episode ended before we found out if there will be consequences for Cornelius not obeying Pilate's orders. I suspect there will be. But isn't it interesting that this episode aired now? An episode that deals with the question of what do I do when doing my job, when obeying governmental authority, goes directly against what I know is God's will?

I'm anxious to see how this will play out in "A.D." I'm even more anxious to see how it will play out in my country.

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