“Christ with a Bow” (aka “Jesus and his Merry Men”)

BBC has taken the legend of Robin Hood and updated it for a new generation. Now a tale that truly resonates with our times, Robin of Locksley, Earl of Huntington (Jonas Armstrong), every bit the loveable rogue, along with his his bard/manservant, Much (Sam Troughton, whose grandfather, Patrick Troughton (Doctor Who), played Robin in the BBC’s ‘50s Robin Hood television show) return to their beloved England, haunted by memories of war as they return from the Crusades.

“The law is under threat and must be severe if it is to be respected.” –an errant knight

The pair come to find their people under the yoke of tyrannical rule by the new Sheriff of Nottingham (played with impish glee by Keith Allen). The people are taxed to fund the king’s wars, as the king needs to fund his holy war, fought in the name of God and King. In fact, outlaws declared enemies of the State, not subject to the same laws.

The Sheriff is the face of the Empire, the State, the system itself: the “empire,” with its values and its control and order, is seen as social and governmental impotence. Robin, on the other hand, makes for an interesting comparison to Christ. Let’s see how they stack up.

“Principle is making a difference.” –Marian (Lucy Griffiths)

Robin gave up his kingdom to be a servant to the poor, thus becoming a threat to the Empire. This is reminiscent of what is called Jesus Christ’s condescension in Philippians 2:5-11, the idea that God would take His essence, wrap Himself in human likeness, and humble Himself by coming from heaven to be like one of us on earth. Also like Christ, Robin focuses on one fundamental lesson: how we need to take care of your neighbor, instead of treating them worse than animals, until the return of the true King.

In light of where he finds himself, Robin slowly recruits a band of Merry Men which includes Little John (Gordon Kennedy), Allan A Dale (Joe Armstrong), and Will Scarlett (Harry Lloyd). His ally in Nottingham is Marian, the tough-talking Mary Magdalene of his life. They are Robin’s disciples just as he is their Master-Teacher.

While we are here, we need to be about the poor, the widows and orphans. Those without wealth don’t hear the same message as those in poverty. Too often our gospel has the luxury of interpreting poor as a spiritual condition, as opposed to those who were really hungry, really persecuted, really afflicted, really without clothes, without shelter, without hope. When you are poor and a teacher talks about being thirsty and hungry, it takes on a more immediate dimension.

“Everything’s a choice. Everything we do.” –Marian

By speaking out, by speaking the truth, Robin condemns himself. The idea of Robin Hood becomes too big, too much of a threat to the powers that be. He challenges them and defeats them with unexpected methods and is thus labeled a threat to the empire and has to be dealt with. Still, he is willing to give himself up in order to save others. Certainly there were times when he could’ve killed the Sheriff, but that is not his way.

Jonas is no Errol Flynn (sadly, too many folks reading this are going to ask “Errol who?”), but there is just enough swashbuckling joy to buoy the show (but I’m a sucker for good sword fights and arrows, so I’m easy). There is also a strong undercurrent of humor, much of it provided by the Sheriff’s evil sarcasm and Much’s antics ( I can’t hear the phrase “brave sir Robin” without thinking of Monty Python and the Holy Grail). Full of modern flourishes to the dialogue, BBC’s Robin Hood is a raucous, fun romp.

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