This past Sunday, “The Bible” miniseries premiered on The History Channel and, lo, it was good, drawing in 13.1 million viewers. The numbers were powerful enough to smote the competition on all the major broadcast networks and become cable’s most-watched entertainment telecast this year.
The creators of the 10-hour series, which will culminate on Easter Sunday, are Survivor executive producer Mark Burnett and his wife Roma Downey, star of Touched by an Angel. Burnett hopes that this project will offset biblical illiteracy among young people. “In school, you have to know a certain amount of Shakespeare, but no Bible,” Burnett told The Christian Science Monitor. “So there’s got to be a way to look at it from a pure literature point of view. If it wasn’t for the Bible, arguably Shakespeare wouldn’t have written those stories.”
Initial reviews of the premiere have been mixed. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe of The Christian Post called it “a remarkable spiritual and emotional experience,” while other reviewers have branded it as “overwrought,” “flat” and “tedious.” When my cable went down just before the Sunday debut, I posted a distraught Facebook message. Within minutes, one of my friends replied, “You aren’t missing much.” Another said, “Just read the book; it’s better.”
Still, I am hoping that the series might just drive people to the source material. It is, after all, the world’s best seller for a reason. When I was in my late twenties, searching for a new path after hitting brick walls, I picked up my old confirmation Bible and began reading. I started with the Gospel of Matthew and, by the time I finished John, I joined Thomas in confessing, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) To me, the scriptures are not just a collection of narrative, poetry, laws and letters. In my devotional book, Just One Word, I write, “Peer into the scriptures long enough and you will discern among the cast of thousands a Face—the Countenance of Christ. The Bible is God’s photo album and He has proudly affixed a picture of His Son on practically every page.”
Can you see Him?
The Risen Jesus saw Himself there. On the road to Emmaus, He held a Bible study for His fellow travelers, showing how the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms all testify to Him (Luke 24:27). We are not sure what scriptures Jesus highlighted that day. He likely pointed to Himself as the Passover Lamb (Exodus 12:3-13) and the rising Star and Scepter in the Book of Numbers (Numbers 24:17-19). Perhaps He revealed Himself as the ruler from ancient times that Micah foresaw, born in the little town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Surely Jesus likened himself to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah (Isaiah 53), the righteous Branch coming from David (Jeremiah 33:15) and the lowly, donkey-riding King in Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9).
Jesus broke open the scriptures as a host would divide fresh-baked bread among hungry guests. Later, at supper, Jesus would break a real loaf of bread. It was then that the Emmaus travelers recognized Him and said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32 NASB)
The Living Christ is still revealing Himself through the Holy Scriptures. Even if “The Bible” miniseries tanks, the Bible itself will endure. As popular teacher and author Henrietta Mears wrote in her bestseller, What The Bible Is All About, “The Bible is one book, one history, one story, His story. Behind 10,000 events stands God.”