From somebody who was born humbly in a manger and only known in the community as the son of Joseph, how did this particular Jesus (of many people named Jesus during his time) become the exalted savior and king of many generations? How did a group of less than a hundred disciples composed of fisher folk, poor people and sinners who were constantly persecuted grow to become one of the most powerful religious groups in the world?
These are some of the questions I’ve had in mind for quite some time now and have been trying to read about. So it’s a blessing to have stumbled upon CNN Philippines’ airing of National Geographic‘s 3-part series of the documentary “Jesus Rise to Power” last night, Black Saturday. The NatGeo website describes the show this way:
“Unravelling an epic human drama filled with suspense, political intrigue, brutal religious persecution and sheer luck – Dr Michael Scott is setting out to discover how Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. This is the story of how, in less than four centuries, the little known cult of Jesus rose from a disparate collection of beliefs into a dynamic, coherent force that would one day dominate the world.”
Thanks to one of the tweets I saw on my timeline last night I was able to catch a few parts of it. As a student of the Christian faith, I appreciated the presentation of social, cultural and political context of Jesus as a way of digging deep and around the simple text of the Bible. I always felt that the story and struggle of Jesus seem very flat and that we need a multi-dimensional look into what happened, why it happened and how it all happened. I always thought that we need to make Jesus humanity more human in our stories and not look at him as just a handsome (scholars say that he looks pretty ugly, the opposite of what we see in posters) figure levitating in the clouds.
What I appreciate about this documentary as well is that it looks beyond Jesus and presents how the movement grew and how the early Christians’ faith and aggressiveness shook the social order of the Romans. It allowed me to realize that looking at it from a different angle, the Romans were not much of the enemy but were also caught up in a movement for change that they didn’t expect to gain traction. The documentary tries to show us how political ambitions, negotiations and propaganda worked in the rise of Christians into acceptance, prominence and yes, power.
Just in time for the Philippine elections this May 2016, it would be good to look at how movements create gods and kings. It seems that the dynamics hasn’t changed. Let’s observe that over the next months, shall we?
Check out the links below to watch the 3-part documentary. I realized that I need more time to absorb all these and so I shall watch them again. So expect a possible continuation of this post. ‘Til then!