'A.D. The Bible Continues' Postmortem: Jesus' Resurrection Gives the Disciples Comfort in Hostile Days

Jesus A.D. Still - H 2014

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the April 12 episode of NBC's A.D. The Bible Continues.]

On Sunday's episode of A.D. The Bible Continues, the disciples experience a variation of emotions before and after Jesus' resurrection: doubt, awe, fear and comfort.

Following the Nazarene's death, his disciples fear that he will not resurrect as promised. In a shocking and intentional decision, Jesus appears to a woman first after he resurrects, to a distressed and grieving Mary Magdalene while she visits his tomb. Mary rushes to the disciples to share the good news, and Jesus appears to the gathered group, who stand in awe and are comforted by his resurrection.

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Disciple Thomas makes his way back to the group after sleepless nights and tiresome days and doubts his friends' claims that Jesus resurrected — until he witnesses his nail-scarred hands.

Throughout the episode, snippets of the growing hostility toward Jesus' followers becomes visibly apparent, but Mark Burnett and Roma Downey's "The Body Is Gone" episode primarily focuses on Jesus spending time with and providing peace to his disciples. He breaks bread with the group, appears to them while fishing — Peter jumps out of the boat to swim to and embrace Jesus — instructs them to return to Jerusalem and wait for his Holy Spirit, and says goodbye to the group as he departs to heaven.

Juan Pablo Di Pace, who plays Jesus in the series, discusses the significance of Jesus appearing to a woman first, the disciples' emotions and feelings post-crucifixion and Jesus leaving earth for heaven (though he assures The Hollywood Reporter that he will be back for future episodes).

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Jesus first appears to a woman after he is raised from the dead. Can you describe the significance of him revealing himself to a female in that time period?

The shooting of that scene was absolutely beautiful because Chipo Chung, who plays Mary Magdalene, was just so in pain before she actually gets to turn around. It was really moving to see her quite distressed. When I came up and she was facing me, there was this love in her eyes when she was facing me that was so beautiful. It was just wonderful. It's such a beautiful thing that he appeared to a woman before anyone else. That was one of my favorite moments.

Directly before Jesus appears to the disciples, Peter says that he wishes he could apologize to him. After he says this, Jesus puts his hand on Peter's shoulder, but Peter says nothing. Why is he quiet, and what is the feeling of the room when Jesus enters?

That scene was the very first day of filming for me. The very first thing I did was touch his shoulder. It was nerve-wracking because like anything, you turn up in a job and you've prepared and you've researched and you've got your thing down as much as you can. It's always like the first day of school. I didn't know most of the guys, and I didn't know the crew, so it was a leap of faith just trying to do the best and connect with the guys.

We are supposed to have been together for three years, the apostles and I, so it's a very interesting day. We actually shot that in two days. I remember the light was going, and we were trying to do it as fast as we could, and we got to a point where the producers said, "We should pick this up tomorrow," and I just jumped for joy because I am the worst person when it comes to having to do something fast. I think the moment was so important that it needed the attention — it's a really beautiful, important moment. For me as an actor as well, I want to get it right. Adam Levy is fantastic, so it was a really great moment to share with him and the rest of the disciples.

One thing for me that was very important in the relationship with the disciples is the familiarity, being tactile with them, and having this history — almost like a band of brothers. I didn't want Jesus to be detached from them. We incorporated that in the way that I pretty much hug every one of them, and there's a very familiar feeling with them. Also the fact that we started with the crucifixion before, which was so tough and suffering was so huge and uncomfortable to watch as well. For the resurrection scene, it was important that Jesus was the opposite of that suffering. It was all about the smile and the beaming qualities, the joy and the closeness and the humanity of someone who had an unconditional love for them. It was a pretty fun day after being crucified.

Audiences see Peter jump out of his fishing boat and swim to land when he realizes Jesus told the disciples to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. What is the significance of him jumping out of the boat?

It was a matter of trust, this idea that "blessed are they who have not seen and still believe." It's about trust and faith. When [Jesus] says, "Cast your nets on the right-hand side," he's asking them to trust him without saying "Here I am, and I'm going to give you fish." It's a "just have faith." So when they do find the fish and then [realize] it's him and [Peter] swims to the shore — I think that's Roma's favorite moment, because it's just that joy of the reunion, and we've been through the guilt of Peter — it's a beautiful way of reuniting with them. Obviously this is prior to "tend my sheep and tend to my lambs" before the ascension. It's that encounter, the beauty and the fact that he is flesh and blood now and they can actually spend time with him and see him and touch him. It's real.

At one point during the episode, Jesus and the disciples are enjoying time together outdoors. How are the men feeling at this time, knowing that Jesus will leave them soon?

It is a very heavy tone. In the same sentence that [Jesus] says, "Go back to Jerusalem and wait. Only then will you be ready to spread the word. Wait for the Holy Spirit," there is still a sense of doubt. Also the way that A.D. has been written, although this is scripture, we do stay with the disciples and what they're feeling. It was important for this interpretation of A.D. that [the show] was so realistic in terms that here is a group of men who witnessed something otherworldly and magical, but still they are being asked to leave everything for their faith. Even to give up their lives for it. I like the way that in that episode, there is still the doubt in all of them, even if Jesus is there. Even if they are blindly following him, at the same time they are human beings. They have to trust [while questioning]: Why do we have to go back? When and how is this Holy Spirit going to appear to us?

It's a very human thing that we question things. We live in a time now that everything is the physical and what's real and what's tactile, so back then, I think they had more of a belief in something else: in an energy, in something that wasn't so tactile. So it goes back to that faith. Of course, at that time, Jesus is telling him, "You will die for me. One day you will die for me. Are you ready to do that?" It's kind of a heavy, loaded moment. In that moment, Peter accepts. He says, "Yes, I am."

At the end of the episode, Jesus ascends into heaven as the clouds open to a host of waiting angel warriors. Will audiences see Jesus again in the series? What were the disciples' emotions when they watched him leave earth? 

We see some more [of Jesus] but not as grand and beautiful as that moment. I only saw the finished product about a week ago with the effects and the clouds and the angels. It looks stunning. I remember just being blasted with a generator, and the wig was flowing, but actually it felt so amazing to have the wind in my face. When I saw it and what they did with it — the postproduction of it, the clouds gathering and then the angel appearing and the rest of the angels — it's just beautiful. It really is so epic. It kind of describes A.D. and what the series is really like.

It's really important as well to marry the reality of the feelings and the emotions and the intrigue and politics of the show with the beauty of something else, something otherworldly, something fantastical and magical. If you could visualize faith, if you could put images to God and heaven and all those things, I think they would look pretty much like that. It's gorgeous to see it finally coming alive in that way. I haven't been blown away by any biblical movie or series before just because my imagery of religion and Christianity comes from the Renaissance paintings. I grew up with a mother who is a painter, and we used to go to the Vatican and look at paintings. …Those images for me were the most iconic and descriptive of what I imagine to be that world. To have that live and moving and part of the show, it's just stunning.