Reflections on The Chosen


I am late in watching The Chosen. People at my church have been talking about it. Those who have are raving about it as since the show helped them understand the Bible more and even fall more in love with God. I was hesitant to watch yet another show about Jesus and the Apostles. After all, everything that came before like the Left Behind series about Revelation or The Bible often were big productions with celebrity stars.

But with The Chosen, there was something different about this show. I watched the first episode and then I was hooked. Before I knew it, I had finished the entire season 1 on Amazon Prime. I continued watching and could not stop until I finished season 2 last night. I would text my friend Melody about my progress and she was always so excited.

So what do I like The Chosen?

Sublime Writing

At opening scene of season 2, episode 1, the Apostle John is interviewing the other disciples after James was martyred by King Herod in around 44 AD. John would like to record people’s memories of Jesus before more disciples are dead or scattered. John said he was starting to forget what Jesus sounded like. The writers truly humanizes Jesus and the disciples. That made me think: I haven’t talked to some of my closest friends in law school and I forgot what they sound like. I remember the faces and the conversations, but like John, I don’t remember what they sound like.

John interviews Mary who said that all the books in the world cannot capture everything Jesus said or did. “I’ll add a disclaimer!” John replied. For those who know the Gospel of John very well, this is an Easter egg that refers to John 20:30.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book..

In another episode when Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer, the writers managed to incorporate the words in plain language. It dropped all the Thous, Thys, Thees, arts introduced in the King James. Now, there is a place for liturgy especially in the mainline Protestant and Catholic churches. Hollywood makes it even worse when the script identifies the “Christian” as the one who is reciting of the Lord’s Prayer during a critical moment. But to The Chosen‘s version, it was like hearing the Prayer for the first time ever.

Filling in the Gaps

The Chosen is ultimately a dramatization. It is NOT the Gospel. It attempts to fill in the blanks since the Bible is silent or omits certain details. For example, we read in Matthew 9:9 and Luke 5 that Jesus called Matthew while the latter was working in his booth. In the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew is called after the Sermon on the Mount is preached which seemed to make no sense. After all, how would Matthew know the words if he wasn’t there? The Chosen‘s timeline is closer to Luke’s account which documented Matthew’s calling before the Sermon on the Mount is preached.

Speaking of the Apostle Matthew, the TV series tried to show Matthew’s past. Unless we find an actual, verified biography of Matthew, we can only guess why he became a tax collector and turned his back on his own people. We can only guess what Matthew thought about his pariah status or how he first heard of Jesus. If you have seen the series, Matthew is portrayed as a man who loves numbers and rationality. Miracles are an impossibility, right? Matthew thought so too until he encounters Jesus. Jesus healed those who everyone else wrote off.

And because the Sermon on the Mount is found primarily in Matthew, especially the full version, The Chosen depicts Jesus relying on Matthew to help with his sermon preparation.

A Matter of the Heart

Christians will never be perfect. There will always be sin in our lives. I am never quite sure when Christians got it into our heads that being holy means being perfect all the time. Who hasn’t stubbed their toes and let out an expletive? Who hasn’t hurt themselves cutting/chopping/nailing something and cursed up a blue streak? And that’s just the small stuff. Christians can still get drunk, deal with addictions, and have recurring sin.

In the Gospels, we are told that Mary Magdalene was delivered from seven demons. I cannot imagine the pain and torment or the deliverance that Jesus gave. All through the history of the church, Mary Magdalene represents all of us who have shady pasts – skeletons in the closet. Like Mary, when we are freed from our sins, it is great… for a while. But sooner or later, something will shake us up again. An unexpected trial will do that. Rather than continue to trust God, we default back to our old ways. Maybe it’s safe. Maybe we think we can fix it ourselves. In fact, we might pick up some even worse habits!

In season 2, Mary had a relapse after a stressful encounter with a demon possessed man. Mary left the camp and has a two-day bender in her old haunts. Simon and Matthew were sent to retrieve her. When she does return, she does so in shame and guilt. To her surprise, Jesus does not condemn her. It’s not perfection He wants but devotion.

How much of that is true versus drama, I don’t know. Even if that was 1000% fictional, consider the parable of the Prodigal Son. When the younger son returned with clothes in tatters and literally smelling like pig, the father did not chastise the son but celebrated the latter’s return. The ancient and the modern stories ought to remind of the same truth: Christians caught in recurring sin should not be punished for “not trying harder to repent”.

I really hope that scenes like that ought to heal you. Too often we think that if it is a story or a myth, it must be false. Tolkien certainly did not believe in that. Why do you think The Lord of the Rings (books and movies) have such an effect on people? Why shouldn’t The Chosen touch your heart as well?

Moving Forward

The Chosen is set to run for seven seasons. If it goes longer, that would be great. If it doesn’t, that would be sad but not the end of the world. If you haven’t watched it, try it out. If you are much further ahead than me and eagerly waiting for season 4, actually, you’re NOT going to ruin anything. After all, we all have the same Bible.

Speaking of reading the Bible, I cannot emphasize enough that the Bible is the final authority. Don’t rely on The Chosen for your theology or even as a study guide. However, you are definitely free to enjoy it. You can definitely talk about it as a springboard for sharing the Gospel. Just remember the line between entertainment and the real truth.


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