Messiah

I don’t have time to binge-watch television. That explains why it took my wife and I almost two weeks to get through the ten episodes in the first season of the new Netflix series Messiah, which was released in January.

It is a compelling drama that touches on so many aspects of contemporary society. A messiah-like figure appears in Palestine, a young man who looks a lot like the traditional representations of Jesus Christ.

Not only does he look like Jesus, but he can apparently perform miracles as well. He has a message that resonates with the Palestinian people, which makes Israeli authorities very nervous.

Coming to the United States he continues upsetting the establishment with his message, which seems be be draw equally from The Bible and The Quran. People flock to him, believing him to be if not Christ then a similar holy person.

Those in Israeli and American intelligence services are less convinced. They investigate his past and what they discover has them questioning his identity and motivation.

What is the truth? And will people accept it?

I had heard of this series when it was in production and made a mental note that it was something I should check out. It seemed like it was going to take an interesting slant on faith and belief in the world today.

One of my first thoughts was that many Christians and Muslims will be upset by this show. Not so much for the message but for the concept. The messiah figure plays prominently in the theology of both religions, but not like this. Those looking for orthodoxy will see this as borderline blasphemy. That may be why the government of Jordan, where much of the series was filmed, asked Netflix not to make Messiah available locally, to avoid upsetting local sensibilities.

I will admit the acting is a little wooden in places, or maybe that is the writing. One of the central characters is a Christian pastor, and I just didn’t find him or his family to be all that believable.

This is not great art, but adequate pop culture. The plot moves along fast enough that you (usually) don’t notice the deficiencies.

What Messiah does do is allow us to question what we believe and why. How would we react to a Christ-like figure suddenly coming out of the desert? One who apparently can walk on water (among other things).

We’ve had our share of political messiahs, sports figures and athletes telling us what to do, but how would we handle someone with a message from God? Would such a person gain a following? How would that look to those who chose not to believe?

There have been other charismatic religious figures in the past, but aren’t we beyond that sort of thing? We are rational beings after all. Do we change our minds when the messiah shows he has power over tornadoes? Only someone sent from God could do that, right?

Where do faith and belief belong in the 21st century? How can we tell truth from lies, good from evil? Where do we turn for answers?

These are all questions stirred up by watching this show. It strikes me as the sort of thing that would be fun to discuss with friends

I had an idea of how the series was going to play out. I was wrong. There is plenty of room left for another season of Messiah. I’ll be making it a priority when it is released.

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