Air date April 26, 2015

“We have found each other in faith.”

As Jesus’ message of love and peace sweeps the land, Peter begins to see His believers grow in numbers. In this week’s all-new A.D. The Bible Continues, we witness the early church gain momentum in spite of Pilate’s tyrannical Roman government, bringing hope to a persecuted nation.

The chaos has begun. Nearly lifeless, Arik hangs from shackles in a dark torture cell, where he is beaten mercilessly for answers about Drusus’ murderer. “Just finish it,” the bloody landlord mumbles to the Roman soldiers, not willing to speak.

Caiaphas storms into Pilate’s palace, eager to speak his mind about the three Jews killed without reason. Before Caiaphas can get any words out, Pilate pushes toward him an urn filled with the ashes of the fallen Roman soldier. “The assassin came for me,” Pilate spits at Caiaphas, who loses all sense of conviction. “Ten Jews will be crucified every day until I have the man who tried to kill me,” Pilate continues, sounding more and more angry with each word. Meanwhile, Cornelius and his men drag 10 terrified young men out of a synagogue, some of them barely teenagers. Surrounded by shouting pilgrims, the Romans yank the Jews through the streets to their undeserved destiny. Once they reach Golgotha, the soldiers hold the squirming boys to the crosses, roping their hands and feet firmly. As the 10 crosses are hoisted up, the sound of a horn fills all of Jerusalem as an eerie signal – it’s begun.

Realizing the severity of Pilate’s plan, Caiaphas sits in the Temple chamber, ignoring Annas’ suggestion to delay the trial of Jesus’ followers until the assassin is caught. “The Temple has to be seen to be strong now,” Caiaphas counters. “We need a quick trial to end their disruption.”

Stephen, a curious young man, wanders over the rocky desert hillside, peering down at the other side. In the river below, he sees a cluster of converts, all waiting to be baptized by the disciples. After joining them, Thomas plunges Stephen into the water “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Stephen emerges from the river smiling, looking relaxed and reborn, ready to embrace this new brotherhood. Maya announces she’s going back to the city to check on her father, and Mary Magdalene joins her, wanting to keep her promise to Peter to keep his daughter safe.

Cornelius enters the torture chamber once again, this time with Arik’s young daughter, Tamar, in tow. “Papa,” Tamar utters, frightened. Arik raises his head, barely able to see out of his battered-shut eyes. Horrified that Tamar is in danger, Arik is ready to make a deal with the Romans. “Let my daughter go,” he whispers to Cornelius with any strength he has left, “then I’ll tell you.” In the morning, Arik’s dead corpse is carted away as Cornelius and his men flood the city streets, looking for Boaz. The Romans first check his shop, where they find his secret hideaway filled with deadly weapons, including the knife that was used to kill Drusus. Boaz, however, is deep within the city, pushing people out of his way, running for his life.

Dressed as a commoner, Leah scurries through the town to find Melek, the crippled beggar. “Stand up,” she instructs him, and he does with ease. “This man Peter aims to destroy the Temple,” she tells the curious beggar as she hands him a bag of coins. “Help us prevent that,” she continues, asking Melek to lie in court, testifying that he was paid to pretend he was healed. Very reluctantly, Melek takes the money.

Peter and John sit in their prison cell, surrounded by screams and wails bouncing off the stone walls. “We’re going to die today,” Peter says to John, who has tears streaming down his face. Temple guards fiercely grab Peter and John from the cell and hurl them into the courtyard, where Maya, Mary and seemingly all of Jerusalem are awaiting the trial. On their knees before the Sanhedrin, Peter and John look nervous as Caiaphas commands control. “Tell us, in whose name do you claim the cripple was healed?” the High Priest asks, ready to end this ordeal. Even with the crowd’s disapproving murmurs, Peter stands by his word – the cripple was headed by God in the name of Jesus Christ. “You’re liars!” Caiaphas shouts, as he brings Melek out to testify. Being a man who is used to being invisible, Melek feels a tremendous amount of pressure with everyone looking to him for answers, but regardless of Leah’s bribery, he tells the truth under the eyes of God. “There was no trickery,” Melek announces to the Sanhedrin, finally feeling bold. “I praise God for this man Peter and the one they call Jesus of Nazareth!” The crowd begins to lobby for Peter and John’s release as Reuben quickly removes Melek from the court. With no other option, Caiaphas is forced to free them, but only on the condition that they do not speak or teach the name of Jesus of Nazareth. “Break this condition, and you in turn will be broken,” the High Priest warns sternly.

As free men, Peter and John walk back to the safe house, greeted by cheers throughout the entire city. “What happened?” he asks, astonished by how many people are awaiting their return. “You did,” Matthew says, hugging Peter tightly. “And they just keep coming.” Inspired by the hundreds of new followers, Peter leaps onto a table and draws the attention from everybody in the room. “We are united when each of you gives what you have and takes only what you need,” he says to the mesmerized crowd. “The Kingdom of God is coming and we will be fit to enter!” One by one, the converts line up and donate all of their belongings. Among the donators is a wealthy couple, Ananias and Sapphira, who places a large chest full of gold and jewels on the table. “All that we have in the world we give to Him,” Ananias says with sincerity, earning a nod of approval from Peter. Later in the day, a mother finds Peter in the streets and asks him to cure her fatally ill daughter. Peter freezes, suddenly not feeling confident. “It will be God’s will, not mine,” he says as he takes the lifeless young girl in his arms. When the girl does not initially respond to Peter’s healings, he steels himself and tries once more, this time with more conviction. “In the name of Jesus Christ, be healed,” he says, and suddenly the girl gasps and opens her eyes. Peter can barely believe it himself. It’s a miracle. “We have to tell people about this,” Stephen says, completely fascinated. “We have to go to the Temple now.” Peter, however, quickly dismisses this idea, urging Stephen to be patient. Feeling dejected, Stephen turns away and walks right into Cornelius and his men dragging the next group of 10 Jewish boys to be crucified. Cornelius orders Stephen to move aside. When Stephen refuses, Cornelius punches him in the gut, knocks him to the ground and brings a knife to his throat. “I want you to live,” the Roman soldier says through his teeth, “because I am merciful.” Cornelius kicks Stephen once more before carrying on with his duties. When they arrive at Golgotha, the Romans brutally fling the dead Jewish boys into a pile to make room for the new ones.

Sitting in solitude, Peter tries to gather his thoughts when Mother Mary finds him. “My son chose you for a reason,” she comforts Peter, who is clearly overwhelmed with his newfound power. “He knew your faith was strong enough to bear the responsibility, to help you become the man our people need you to be.” He looks into Mother Mary’s eyes and nods, knowing she’s right.

Pilate sits at his desk, making a stick figure out of Drusus’ ashes. He transforms the figure of a man into a figure of a cross. “Now I’m making a mountain out of their ashes,” he says spitefully, almost as if he’s in a trance. Horrified by the man her husband has become, Claudia tries to remind Pilate of the dependable, ambitious diplomat he once was. “Now you extract a mass blood sacrifice to appease your almighty wrath,” she says with worry in her eyes. “I am an instrument of Roman power,” Pilate answers back defiantly. “My actions are an expression and reminder of that power.” Feeling defeated and disrespected, Claudia leaves as her husband once again pulls the urn full of ashes close to him.

Boaz snakes through the shadows of the streets, trying to stay hidden, when suddenly Levi, the leader of the Zealots, grabs him and pulls out a knife. “If I’ve found you, they’ll find you,” he says to a frightened-looking Boaz. “But they won’t kill you quickly like I would,” he adds, and tells Boaz to disappear. Boaz hurries home and frantically packs his belongings. His beloved Eva watches, feeling helpless and heartbroken. “Please stay here, stay with me,” she pleads, on the verge of tears. “I can’t; they’ll kill you too,” Boaz says, equally as sorrowful. As he kisses her, she grabs his face and loses herself one last time before he leaves.

Crammed on the floor of the safe house with many of the converts, John lies, restlessly fidgeting in his sleep. In his hazy dream, he envisions himself in the Temple courtyard, touching a very specific crack on the ground. When he wakes in the morning, John goes to the courtyard, looking for the exact spot from his dream. Finally he finds the right crack, but he is unsure of what he is looking for. As John stands on the stone, perplexed, a wealthy man named Barnabas approaches him and begins talking to him with great friendliness. “You confine yourselves to the poor and the sick,” Barnabas tells John, “but I am poor and sick, in my soul.” Barnabas offers to give all of his money in exchange for Jesus’ message to be preached, and John invites Barnabas to come with him, now understanding why his dream led him here. After getting Peter, the three of them walk deep into the desert to a wide stretch of dry, open land. “When I bought this land, I was assured King David once made camp here,” Barnabas says. “I’m glad to give you this land.” Very grateful, Peter smiles. “It’s perfect. A new beginning.”

Joseph hurries through the Temple, searching anxiously for Caiaphas. Furious and devastated that his nephew is hanging on a cross for a crime he did not commit, he commands the High Priest put an end to this extremely corrupt situation. “You’ve made a career of being close to Pilate,” Joseph says, tears brimming in his eyes. “Make it count for something now.” Feeling desperate, Caiaphas prays in the Temple courtyard, pouring ashes all over himself as part of a mourning ritual. “He has a position that none of us do. He speaks for us,” she says as she looks over at her nervous husband. “Yet he is silent,” Annas agrees.

At the new commune, the converts work vigorously to set up their new home. Peter walks through the camp, pleased at the sense of community already growing. “We’re in awe of what you’ve achieved here,” Ananias commends Peter, but Peter gives all of the credit to the work of the Holy Spirit. “We are humble in its presence,” Sapphira replies. When Peter once again wanders throughout the commune, he notices Boaz. “If we are still at odds, then this place is not for you,” Peter tells the violent Zealot. Peter tells Boaz he can live here, so long he repents his sins in the name of Jesus Christ, but Boaz refuses. “I do not recognize this name Jesus from the scriptures,” he tells Peter, not willing to give up his Jewish identity. “I recall Joshua, Solomon, King David,” Boaz adds, insisting he will stay at the commune regardless. Feeling powerless, Peter confides in Ananias. “There are people here who take advantage of us,” he says. Suddenly, a wind picks up around them and Peter hears a twisted whispering sound of the Holy Spirit. In a cloudy vision, Peter sees Ananias and Sapphira hiding money, despite them telling Peter they have donated everything they had. Realizing the couple has lied not only to him, but also to God, Peter charges Ananias for his sins. Ananias denies everything, but the Holy Spirit knows the truth. A trickle of dark blood drips from Ananias’ nose, and his face is covered in black speckled dots. He looks to Peter in confusion, trying to speak, but only gurgles of blood come up. Drowning in his own fluids, Ananias drops to his knees and keels over dead. Unaware of the commotion, Sapphira seeks Peter, asking about Ananias’ whereabouts. Hoping she will not face the same fate as her husband, Peter asks Sapphira to speak truthfully about holding anything back for themselves. “There may have been something set aside, but what does that matter?” she asks, confused. “It matters because you bet against our mission succeeding. You bet against God, Sapphira!” Peter cries out. She looks at Peter horrified, as black dots begin to scatter on her face and blood oozes from her nose and mouth. The men who are burying her husband will soon bury her too.

A.D. The Bible Continues

Caiaphas barges into Pilate’s palace, still covered in thick ash. “Your chief responsibility as Governor is to maintain the peace, but you’ve squandered that,” Caiaphas tells Pilate, aggressive at last. “More blood will be spilt. Roman blood.” Pilate, not appreciative of Caiaphas’ disrespect, orders his soldiers to restrain the High Priest. He picks up the urn he is obsessed with and grabs a fistful of Drusus’ ashes, shoving them into Caiaphas’ mouth. As Caiaphas gags and chokes, Pilate takes hold of his face firmly. “I will continue as I see fit, until I have what I want,” the Roman ruler barks at Caiaphas. “There will be no mercy,” Pilate says as a promise, not a threat. As Caiaphas leaves the palace completely humiliated, he catches the sympathetic eye of Claudia. Knowing she must do something about her out-of-control husband, she finds Leah late at night. “This killing has gone on too long. Pilate’s brutality will never find the assassin,” she says, one ruling woman to another. “But you can, you can end this. His name is Boaz.” Leah is surprised, but thankful for the information. This could be exactly what her husband needs to end this chaos.

preview next weeks episode “The First Martyr” airing May 3, 2013


 Here are a few added resources from A.D

Beyond A.D. A digital talk show Hosted by “E” Jason Kennedy 

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