Our family watched the History Channel’s Jesus: His Life miniseries over Easter weekend. I learned about it via Scot McKnight on twitter awhile back when he mentioned that he had consulted on the project and was eager for people to see it. My attention was further perked by the list of advisors – people you don’t usually see on the same project. So when Easter came around, we sat down to watch and it was time well spent.
“Jesus: His Life” explores the story of Jesus Christ through a unique lens: the people in his life who were closest to him. Each of the eight chapters is told from the perspective of different biblical figures, all of whom played a pivotal role in Jesus’ life including Joseph, John the Baptist, Mary Mother of Jesus, Caiaphas, Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalene and Peter.
An odd assortment of talking heads and plenty of dramatics put interesting angles on familiar stories and sparked fantastic conversations at our house, but the scene that really struck me was in the final 2 minutes of the John the Baptist episode.
In this scene, John the Baptist has just been murdered and the disciples hurry to look for Jesus >> they find him in on a hillside in in the midst of a conversation, and they barge right into the midst of it saying, They’ve killed him. John the Baptist is dead.
John. The man who helped launch Jesus’ ministry. His teammate in the work. His cousin. His friend.
The drama of this moment is excellent – we see profound grief take over Jesus’ body. And, knowing the story, we can perhaps also see his resolute commitment to keep on the path before him.
It is into this moment that one of the disciples pleads, Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples. Stunned, Jesus turns to them in anguish, then looks heavenward and he begins speaking what we know as the Lord’s Prayer.
who art in in heaven……
To have the show directly connect John’s death to the Lord’s Prayer in this way was striking. The Lord’s Prayer >> not portrayed as some hillside workshop on prayer, but as Jesus’ authentic response when caught up in his own profound grief. In that moment, he turned to his Father in Heaven……thy Kingdom come.
This scene really stuck with me in the days after I watched it so I went to the Bible looking for this compelling connection between Jesus, the Lord’s Prayer, and John the Baptist’s murder. Have I missed it all these years?
Not really. Because it’s not there. Not literally. Mark and John don’t include the Lord’s Prayer. Matthew attaches it to the Sermon on the Mount. (Ah! there’s my hillside workshop on prayer.) Only Luke’s gospel inspires possibility…. teach us to pray like John taught his disciples, but in the text there is a gap between John’s death and this request.
Does it matter? I think, no.
An awful lot of hard news has crossed my path in the weeks since I watched that scene. People I know and love have dropped into the abyss of lament. They face the challenge of difficult, uncertain days ahead. The pain is stunning. How to keep going?
I believe the how is embedded in Jesus’ reaction as portrayed in that scene. Fully human in his grief. And in his humanity, he showed the way.
Weeping, we also pray.
and we press on.