Netflix currently has 150 million subscribers. They watch a billion hours of content each week. In recent years they have invested heavily in new content. The new content varies greatly and is added constantly. I know not everyone has Netflix, but if you do, this devotional guide includes weekend entries to accompany watching the new (in 2020) Netflix series Messiah. The series offers a provocative modern take on the life of Jesus that will help us in our quest to come to know him better. The mini-series wrestles with what it would be like if Jesus returned today.
When Jesus came on the scene in the first century, Jesus was clearly not the Messiah the people were expecting. Messiah uses that idea with the twist of today’s world – what if Jesus came back today in a way we weren’t expecting? Throughout Lent we will look at some of the earliest depictions of Jesus in the movies (like The King of Kings) as well as recent productions, of which Messiah is one of the most recent. Hopefully, you can be encouraged by the weekend readings even if you are not able or choose not to watch the series.
The series is rated TV-MA and has some coarse language throughout in addition to some brief, rear male nudity. The messiah figure is the star of the show, but what really engages the audience and provokes thought are the many characters and their interactions with this man. It should be easy to see ourselves and our own faith in many of the characters who just aren’t sure what to make of this interesting and enigmatic figure.
Clip: 4:00 – 6:15
Old Testament: Exodus 3:1-15
New Testament: Matthew 8:23-27
This early clip from the series Messiah offers a good initial picture of what Jesus’ ministry must have looked like. The unrest between Jews and the ruling Romans certainly created chaos and insecurity. Jesus was an engaging and captivating teacher who received a great deal of attention. This scene shows the turmoil that may have been similar to the times of Jesus. The audience was intrigued – they wanted to hear words of hope and salvation, but they were also skeptical. His message seemed to be at odds with both their interpretation of prophecy and the expectations their forefathers had helped create. What stands out about the messiah figure in this clip is his corresponding peace in the midst of the turmoil. The sandstorm and winds are strong, the troops are attacking, yet he encourages them to look beyond what is right in front of them.
It’s hard to miss the many times the people of God are told, “Do not fear.” Jesus often tells his disciples not to be afraid. It’s easier said than done, but I wonder if that’s not the message our world needs most today. Our media-saturated world screams, “You should be afraid!”: crime locally, wars globally, economic woes and hardship, environmental tragedies – we are constantly reminded of reasons to be afraid. This is similar to the world Jesus entered in the first century. Surely, his message to us today is, “Do not fear.” As he said to the disciples near the end of his life in John 14:1 (NLT) “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.”
Today’s discipline is meditation. In our world of constant media distraction and shortened attention spans, meditation is quickly becoming a lost discipline. The Psalmist cries out in Psalm 119:97 (NLT) “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long!” An important discipline to pursue during Lent is meditation. Routinely practicing meditation can have a dramatic effect on our spiritual growth. Dallas Willard writes about the importance of meditation.
“In study we also strive to see the Word of God at work in the lives of others, in the church, in history, and in nature. We not only read and hear and inquire, but we also meditate on what comes before us; that is, we withdraw into silence where we prayerfully and steadily focus on it. In this way its meaning for us can emerge and form us as God works in the depths of our heart, mind, and soul. We devote long periods of time to this. Our prayer as we study meditatively is always that God would meet with us and speak specifically to us, for ultimately the Word of God is God speaking.”
Find some quiet time to reflect on the beautiful teachings of the Bible. Today, as you consider the peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7), meditate on how God can make you a peacemaker (like him) in this chaotic world. Becoming a peacemaker begins with asking for God to bring peace to your own life. Meditate on this verse below, or perhaps some from today’s selected Scriptures, and allow the words to be your guide today. As Willard suggests, listen to God speaking to you.
Psalm 1:1-3 (NLT)
the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
2 But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.
 Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, 1991 ed., (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1988), 177.