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A Chronicle of my Emotional Reactions to Watching Channel 9’s The Bible (The joy. The panic. The heartache)

By: Danielle Stott
A Press Service International voluntary Comment writer for Christian Today Australia
Tuesday, 3 September 2013, 7:13 (EST)
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The Bible Series, is a Channel 9 telemovie that’s been shown on Tuesday nights right across Australia over the last few weeks. Tonight I’ve decided to watch it for the first time.

My first impression of the telemovie? It’s so violent! At some point there’s a decapitation. At another point there is a lot of blood and a mass death scene. And I’ve only been watching for 5 minutes. It’s gruesome. And the Satan character, in his swarthy hoodie, sends shivers down my spine.

The telemovie moves fast (which I like) from one dramatic Bible story to the next. I think that Jesus is probably too handsome; and someone’s been too heavy handed with the eye liner and tooth whitening. And I’m a bit confused as to why the angles resemble ninjas.

But moving past these minor issues, the telemovie does seem to capture many of the profound and interwoven themes of the Bible. Themes of hope, of despair, grace and perseverance. The themes that make the Bible a truly captivating read.

Relating to Jesus

As I sit here, I’m aware at how thrilled I’m feeling to see Bible stories out in the public domain. There’s just something that warms my heart when I watch Jesus perform his famous Sermon on the Mount alongside a commercial for a Volkswagen or health insurance. It’s as if Jesus really might just be able to just break through to the 21st century. It’s as if Jesus is relevant.

But as I keep watching it’s becoming quite clear these Jesus stories are a world away from the 21st century. You see, men on the Gold Coast, where I live, don’t wear tunics. I rarely hear Hebrew or Greek or Latin spoken. And certainly never Aramaic, which is the language Jesus spoke.

To my knowledge, no-one around here sacrifices animals on alters. I’ve never drawn water out of a well and I don’t own a water cistern. The Rudd government, under which I live, is vastly different from the Roman Empire. And the major philosophies of the time, stoicism and cynicism, are certainly not on trend today.

As I watch the telemovie I feel frustrated that I can’t really relate to the era. The culture. Or to Jesus.

I must confess before I continue: tonight I’m grumpy. Irritable. You see, tonight I’m going through some nasty medical tests. So between the tubes and machines, I’m uncomfortable! And maybe this is making me a bit more pessimistic than usual. But it’s at these times in my life, times when I’m uncomfortable, that I sincerely want to (or need to) know how my experience fits with the telemovie I’m watching.

Is Jesus Still Relevant?

Well it’s getting late now. 10pm. I’m tired. But I find I’m perking up a bit as currently the telemovie is showing Jesus working hard to alleviate suffering. It’s great that Jesus gave sight to the blind guy and made the deaf man hear and saved that woman from being stoned.

I’ve felt happy watching Jesus’ miracles. But now that the telemovie has stopped again for a commercial break, I’m more conscience of my throbbing body - and the good deeds I watched Jesus perform, mere seconds ago, have lost there impressiveness.

Jesus’ healings were just so long ago. It all seems a bit irrelevant. Obsolete. I wish Jesus would just jump from the Channel Nine’s telemovie I’m watching over to the ABC’s 7:30 Report, or the news on any channel. I want him to do some healing miracles now. In places like Egypt or Syria or that strip of ocean between Australian and Papua New Guinea. Or for my own aches and pains.

But Jesus doesn’t do any channel hoping. Nope. And I’ve never had a first hand encounter with a miracle. Jesus is hard to understand, to know and relate too. There is a very evident gulf separating Jesus and I. It’s disheartening. I feel a bit ashamed about it. Does this mean I could easily fall away from faith?

The Unknowable God

I’m now feeling quite down. So during the last commercial break (and there are many) I’ve been looking through my thickest and dearest theology book like a panicking crazy women, in an attempt to find some comfort.

And you know what? I think feeling isolated from God is normal.

The Bible describes God as somewhat distant from us (Jeremiah 23 verse 23; Ephesians 4 verse :6). It’s the flipside of the theology that is so often preached at churches across Australia each week - you know, the theology that so strongly articulates that God is knowable, completely relatable, perhaps like a close friend. Of course this theology should be preached. God definitely is knowable. But at the same time, God is also unknowable, a mystery to us. Karl Barth, an influential twentieth century theologian, said that ‘God can’t really be known by us’.

Theologians often assert that God is on a different dimension or realm altogether. The difference between us and God is so huge; it could be likened to the gulf between the senses such as taste and sound. Sound and taste are of different dimensions. God exists in a different dimension to us (Jeremiah 23 verse 23). Or it’s like the difference between my intellectual capacity and that of a sea anemone (huge – in case you were wondering).

This all might seem like a gloomy take of the Christian life. It probably is. But acknowledging it is comforting if you’re someone like me that feels guilty about, or is frustrated by, the perceived gulf between themselves and God. Maybe it’s just part and parcel of the mysterious Christian life.

The telemovie is coming to an end as this article wraps up. As I write the Holy Spirit is descending upon the disciples. He was scripted in a bit late for me to include in this article – but I’m glad He did come and is still here.

Danielle Stott lives on the Gold Coast. She has a degree in Theology and has just started studying again.

Danielle’s archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/d-and-d-stott.html

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