I was confused by the first scene of the episode, because I didn't remember the story about an angel of the Lord coming and releasing the apostles from prison. But when I looked it up in Acts, I saw that it was after the account of Ananias and Sapphira in Chapter 5. Then I was more confused, since the events regarding that couple hadn't transpired in the episode yet. Obviously, that was quickly resolved with the recap from Rhoda. And again, I was very impressed with how closely the Odyssey team stuck to the accounts and the chronology in Scripture.
I really enjoyed the argument that Seth had with the Hellenist Jew. Everything they discussed was so historically and culturally accurate and relevant. I really love how much thought was put into the conversations and the struggles of the characters in these episodes.
And then if those intricacies weren't enough, during the feud, Peter and the other apostles return, giving account of the beatings they received in Chapter 5:40-41, connecting Chapter 6 very nicely to the previous events. As I said last week, it's really opening up a whole new world for me to have all these stories connected together in such an incredible way. I'm learning along with Matthew that the church back then was just as closely-knit and personal and real as my church is now. I should never think of it as this stoic, unemotional, passionless entity that God wrote about and worked through, but that didn't really experience things like we experience them today. These were real people, like Seth, Deborah, and Rhoda, who had hopes, hurts, struggles, and joys--just like we do today. It's a refreshing reminder to know that we as Christians today are not alone; thousands have walked the road before us; even those thousands of years ago struggled with doctrines they didn't understand, Providences that they didn't know how to take, and persecutions that they felt like they couldn't endure.
The short conversation that Matthew had with Stephen was excellent. It didn't feel like something read off of a script. It felt to me like a re-telling of an actual account, full of things Stephen really would have said. And then that carried over beautifully into the words that Rhoda spoke to Matthew concerning the sacrifice of Jesus in His crucifixion on Golgotha. It was great to see early Christians making connections in biblical doctrines before Paul explained them in his epistles--even before he was Paul!
And then, the climax of the episode, the discourse of Stephen in the temple. At first, I was a little puzzled as to why the writers would portray the entire speech, as, to me, it always seemed a little disjointed and all-over-the-place. I sort of sympathized with the Jews who were asking him why he was telling them so many things they already knew. But then, chills went down my spine as, for the first time, I understood what connections Stephen was trying to make about the temple and the dwelling of God and idolatry. This was the first time in a long time that I felt I truly learned something from an Odyssey episode that I didn't realize before. The whole scene was superbly carried out, and it flowed together logically so well. And yet it all came from the pages of God's Word!
And the adventure ends in basically an exposition of Acts 8:1-4, a passage I recently memorized for the National Bible Bee. All the points in these verses were covered in the closing minutes:
Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.And, what do you know, I actually found myself really enjoying Mr. Whittaker's words to Matthew at the end. He actually sounded like a wise old man, full of knowledge gained through life's experiences. And through his words, we receive the moral of the episode--and a very good one at that. The church is just as full of problems today as it was back in the first century; and yet, because the true, universal church is made up of believers, it is just as much important to and loved by God as was the church two thousand years ago. Now, that's not to discount that there are errors, and even heresies and false teachers in the church (very many of them, in fact), and we are told by Paul to "mark those who cause divisions and avoid them" and "contend for the faith" and "take heed to the doctrine." So, in that sense, we must always strive for truth. As Martin Luther said, "Peace, if possible, but truth at any rate." We can minimize the arguments over what type of music, what type of baptism, what type of ministries and programs to have; but when it comes to the Word of God, the everlasting truth, we are to stand firm and fight to preserve the faith handed down to us by those who have gone before us. The church is "the temple of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth," and that is how we are to act. It's not primarily a mission to save the lost, or to sing good songs, or even to edify the saints--thought those things are definitely very important. No, we are foremostly called to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. We do that by defending His Word, preaching it in season and out of season, exhorting others to repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, who died to save us from the wrath of a holy God. If our message becomes anything more or anything less than that, we have missed the mark of being a faithful and pure church.
Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now. :P As you can tell, I really liked this episode. I love the Bible, so I love episodes that stick so closely to it and accurately teach it. And it was so wonderful how these shows wove together and connected key stories from the Book of Acts to so effectively portray the life and times of the early church. In fact, the only complaint I have against these episodes is that they didn't last longer, that it wasn't a 4-, 8-, or 12-part episode. Actually, I was really hoping that it would at least go to Acts 12, since that's where Rhoda is mentioned. She's the servant girl who answers the door when Peter comes to the house of Mary and John Mark after being released from prison by an angel. I read that portion of Scripture this morning, and I was surprised at how much I could see the fictional character of this show in the character of Scripture. They fit together so perfectly.
But anyway, I really hope that this isn't the last of the great episodes this season. Episodes like this are why I still listen to Odyssey. Amidst the legalistic moralism and worldliness that creep into the episodes at times, I still listen because I know that the Odyssey writers aren't totally unable to write great episodes like this. When they stick to Scripture like this, they can't go wrong. I hope they go this route more often in the future.
Well, thank you for reading my review. I really appreciate it. And I also appreciate feedback, so be sure to make a comment before leaving. And come back next week for my review of "Great Expectations"!