'A.D. The Bible Continues' Postmortem: The Desire for Power and Comfort Results in Death

"Episode four goes at quite a pace and stretches you in all directions. It's extreme," Babou Ceesay, who plays disciple John, tells THR.
John the Disciple

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the April 26 episode of NBC's 'A.D. The Bible Continues.']

Sunday evening's A.D. The Bible Continues episode "goes at quite a pace and stretches you in all directions. It's extreme," Babou Ceesay, who plays disciple John in the series, tells THR

The fourth episode, suitably titled "The Wrath," watches both Peter and John in jail, hearing the screams of torture from a fellow inmate as Peter tells John, "we're going to die today." John is disturbed by the idea of death, covering his ears as he comprehends crucifixion.

Both Peter and John are dragged to the city center and interrogated by Caiaphas, who asks them both whose name the cripple was healed through and why Peter goes by that name when his father called him Simon. John defends Peter to Caiaphas: "Peter is a nickname, a term of endearment. It simply means 'my rock.'"

After the two disciples are set free, audiences are introduced to Ananias and Sofira, who become Christians and donate "all" of their earnings to the early church. Later in the episode, viewers watch the couple die instantly after the Holy Spirit tells Peter that they kept some of their earnings; they lied to him when he questions if they gave all of their earnings.

While sleeping, John is given a vision, and goes into the city center to see everything come to life that was revealed to him in the vision. He meets Barnabas, a rich man who believes in the work of the Christian church and gives Peter and the disciples a piece of land as a safe haven for Christians to retreat to.

Throughout the episode, audiences watch the Governor angrily order that 10 Jews be killed daily until the man who attempted to assassinate him (Boaz) be found. Boaz escapes Jerusalem and flees to the retreat that the disciples and Christians live.

The episode wraps with Caiaphas pleading to the Governor to stop the mass killings of young Jewish men, which the Governor replies to with, "I will continue as I see fit until I have what I want. There will be no mercy."

Ceesay discussed John the disciple's newfound boldness, the significance of Ananias and Sofira's death, and the Governor's wrath against the Jews.

John and Peter are in prison at the beginning of the episode and Peter says to him, "We're going to die today, John." How is John feeling in this moment?

When we shot this scene, it was the longest scene. It happens all the time when you shoot stuff. What you're actually seeing parts of, the two of them are sitting there and Peter is thinking and John asks him if he is thinking about "him," meaning Jesus. Peter says, "no" and admits to the fact that actually what he's thinking about is his old boat. They end up having this chat about how much Peter hated their old boat and they laugh. While they're laughing, Erik, whose the guy getting tortured in the next chamber, screams out loud. When he screams, it cuts through their laughter and for the first time, John begins to realize that actually, he's going to die. And not only is he going to die, it could potentially be a very painful, prolonged death. He's trying definitely to be brave, but it's tough. They're two guys sitting in a cell, Peter is being brave, and [John] is trying to be brave, but he can't. The fear overwhelms him, especially hearing those screams. It concludes partly with Peter telling him quite matter-of-factly that they are going to die.

When they are pulled into the city center, John speaks up and says that Peter's new name is a term of endearment. Describe the change in John from being in the prison to speaking up in front of Caiaphas.

It's that thing in your mind, you imagine the monster to be 10 times worse than it could ever possibly be. Once they're dragged through out of the cell in such a rough way, thrown from the Roman guards to the temple guards, and then they're dragged through this court, once they're in there — and you're facing death or facing a sentence — you have nothing else to lose. It's never going to be as bad as your imagination could be. In that instant, John shifts from imaging his fate to being in the moment. In that moment, as Caiaphas tries [in a demising way] to make Peter look like he values this Jesus over his own father with this name change. John stands up for his friend. In that moment, because in that moment that's all that was needed is for him to just say — he's got nothing else to lose, he's probably going to die —so why not defend his friend in this moment of need? Peter wasn't necessarily doing a bad job, but he wasn't necessarily articulating it in a simple way. John just said, "listen, this is what it means."

John has a vision and goes to the city center, where he sees the vision come to life. What is the significance of John's vision?

It's primarily the discovery of Barnabas. Barnabas eventually becomes a saint. He was a very rich land in that time; owned quite a considerable about of land. [Christians] were all hiding, they were growing in number, especially after [Peter and John] come out of jail. Peter's here at the table saying, "we're now beyond counting." In that time of need, a task is given to John. He wakes up not sure what the dream means, but obviously he goes out to this square… He sees the sign, but actually doesn't know why he's there. I felt that it came across enough. He discovers Barnabas. Barnabas then goes on to give them this land, which they set up their commune and during the episode, where Ananias and Sofira come to their end. This is a moment for John to start taking on some of the responsibility of this early church. He's a man of innocence; he goes with faith. He goes back to the temple so early afterwards, which is actually quite dangerous. You imagine he's just been released from that temple, going back to the courtyard directly outside the temple. The first vision is of those temple guards. It's not like he's a recognizable person. Barnabas walks up to him and calls him by his name. There's still that innocence of, "you know my name?" [John] doesn't see himself as significant. As far as he's concerned, he's just doing the work that has been set. Going back there…is in a way fool hearty. It contradicts the moment in the cell. There he knows he's facing a genuine challenge of death. 

Ananias and Sofira both die in the episode because they lied about what they gave to the early church. What is the significance of them dying because of holding back?

It was a very tricky moment — one of the trickiest moments probably in the whole series. One of the descriptions that I've heard of that moment is that it's an Old Testament God buried in the New Old Testament. Old Testament in that it's wrath, punishment and it's more extreme and severe. It's either one way or another way and that's it. Either give everything or give nothing and then you've made your bed. In the end, one of the ambiguities is, does Peter have something to do with their death as well? Is his anger towards them the thing that leads to people passing away? Ultimately, it's not Peter — it's the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is based on faith. At a certain point in the episode, when we reach a low point, his daughter says to him, "what would Jesus do?" and he says, "pray." He gets the moment and then he goes down to pray. Prayer in itself then becomes this massive showing of faith … The money the [Christians] are giving to [the disciples] isn't just to make the church rich; it's really for survival: to buy food, to buy shelter, to buy clothes and so on and so forth. If people turn up and they don't act faithfully as the rest of us, then they are open to whatever consequences the Holy Spirit, God and, to some extent, the rest of us in the commune feel towards them. Having said that, [John], in that moment, is really not sure that that's the right course of action. Where's the forgiveness? … It's a question of perfection, forgiveness, purity, turning the other cheek. You [ask], "what's that about? What's the blessing in that? There must be some sort of thing that the commune needs to know, the early church needs to know." Those people, in some ways, were sacrificed for that message, whatever that is.

Ten Jews are killed each day until the Governor's attempted assassin is found. Why does the Governor despise the Jews, and does this incite fear in the Christians?

The Governor, at this stage, doesn't see the Christian problem. The Governor really is in a situation where the governing of Judea is the top of his priorities. Caiaphas might feel the heat from the Christians, but not so much the Governor because not enough has happened. In fact, to the point where he leaves the temple after the murder attempt, that's when the Christians arrive … He knows there's some issues here and there, but the attempt on his life is about him trying to get Judea and Jerusalem to know that he is the supreme leader, and not just King Herod that they have and definitely not the High Priest, who is an appointed official at best. He's not necessarily getting a lot of support at home … With Pentecost and all the things happening and all the blood that's boiling, it's one his strategies … It's a tool. It's a tool for ultimate control. He doesn't want to lose that because if he does and he goes back to Rome, his life is worthless. He's willing to escalate it to any level. It's horrible. Episode four goes at quite a pace and stretches you in all directions. It's extreme. To crucify 10 people a day, so young as well, — they were only boys — it's hard to stomach.

Do we eventually see Christians becoming fearful of crucifixion at the Governor's command?

Definitely. Barnabas hands over this land and you go and see us set up a commune. What hasn't become evident is that people are streaming to this commune. If you're in Jerusalem, you're running the risk of being crucified. Our commune might start with a few hundred people, but it will grow to a few thousand … Jesus said go back to Jerusalem, feel the Holy Spirit's prompting and you'll know what to do, however there is an element of feeling like you've deserted these people that need their help. At this time, the Christians aren't going "you're Jewish, you're Christian, etc." they're just there to help people as best as they can. Part of what happens is they're aware that these crucifixions are happening. Boaz is in their camp and sooner or later becomes clear that Boaz is who they're looking for and the once they find him, the crucifixions stop. But what is the Christian going to do? Turn Boaz in? At the same time, if Boaz doesn't go in, the Governor is going to keep crucifying people. The next few episodes, the dilemmas get bigger and bigger in that respect.

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