Starting the week of Lent and throughout Easter, CNN brings back the highly popular original series “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery. Beautifully narrated by some of today’s most respected theologians, scholars and leading Pastors, the six-part series provides a fascinating look into the historical Jesus, utilizing the latest scientific techniques and archeological research. An in-depth look into The Childhood of Jesus, Herod’s Tomb, The Tomb of Lazarus and a number of other historical events shedding light in to the life of Jesus, are certain to bring biblical times to life. We recently caught up with Rev. A. R. Bernard Senior Pastor of The Christian Cultural Centre, a New York Based ministry with a 40,000+ membership, to talk about bringing the series to life and why it is important now.
What got you interested in the project?
Well, the platform of course. CNN is a platform that is respected by many—not all, but by many in terms of balanced journalism. Their willingness to take on, and respectfully not investigate but explore the history, the writing and archeological findings and the people involved in the story of Jesus—made me say wow! This is great! And if I could be involved in something like this I would love the opportunity.
What makes it different from other series?
Again, it’s like going to seminary. Seminary explores critically all of the different views and perspectives but it doesn’t tell you where to land. You have to make that decision for yourself. I think the way the series is put together exploring these different things, leaves it to the viewer to come to their own deductions instead of trying to force a conclusion. And I respect that. I think they did a great job of it.
I love how they took the opportunity to imagine the characters surrounding Jesus, such as Lazarus and Thomas. Peter, Pilate and King Herod, and the role they played—making the bible more of a reality. Especially as you can see with your eyes the places that existed and the history that goes back [in many cases], more than two thousand years.
With CNN as the platform, what are your hopes for reaching the unbelieving community?
Well, that’s precisely my hope. Because if this aired on Christian television network, is not going to reach the kind of people that I would love to see it reach. There are Thomas’s out there! Who are trying to make up their minds, and trying to reason their way into faith and taking a look into Christianity. So if this could help lead them in that direction, I think it’s great.
How were you personally changed or impacted by the project?
I think more than changed, it affirmed something that I do every week as I pastor through my sermons. And that is to take the biblical text and go beyond what’s stated and imagine the reality surrounding the text. The socio-political, economic and spiritual reality that existed at the time. So when CNN said to me, [as we were shooting] I want you to imagine Thomas—I said, wow I like that! Let’s explore the possibilities that are not exactly stated in the scripture, but we can come to certain conclusions because we know human nature and we know the socio-political and spiritual context in which Thomas existed. And that really intrigued me.
What makes a project of this caliber important now?
You know, religion of every kind but especially for me Christianity, gives three things: It gives morality, guidance but most importantly hope. In our nation, with such division, (which creates anxiety and stress about the future), we need something that is going to give us hope. The idea that there is a divine hand that transcends human power and those in positions of power, gives us sort of a comfort to know that God is in control—and that He is moving history in a very specific direction designed to remedy the ills that we see around us.
What are your hopes for the series as we forge into the future?
I hope it’s not the last time CNN will do something like this. I hope the conversation will continue—And I hope that it’s also a model for other networks to take on a project like this. Too often we don’t want to get involved in religion, we don’t want to offend anyone or we don’t want to support any particular faith—but this shows it can be done, by showing respect to those who believe and those who don’t.