In recent weeks I have loved watching the series The Chosen, a brilliantly produced series about Jesus and his core group of followers.
Depth and quality
I have always found dramatic adaptations of the Bible helpful. The gospel narratives are very lean and allow for plenty of imaginative speculation about people’s back stories, motivations and the context of Jesus’ teaching and healing.
But The Chosen goes beyond anything else I have watched in both depth, quality and spiritual power. These are my reasons:
The humanity of the disciples
Like any good series you really get to know the characters as 3-dimensional human beings. The awkward talent of Matthew the rich tax collector disowned by his parents, Simon’s journey to become a zealot trained to assassinate the occupying Romans, the financial and marital pressures on Simon Peter, the shrewd business skills of Judas and trauma and recovery of Mary Magdalene.
Their arguments, pettiness, irritability and confusion, as well as their bravery and conviction, are convincingly portrayed.
Jewish faith and culture
You cannot understand the New Testament without appreciating the Hebrew scriptures (or Old Testament) which provides the social and religious context from which Christianity emerged.
The Chosen captures the Jewish commitment to faith in |God permeating every part of life: every meal, every drink, every entrance to every house. I learnt more about the importance of Shabbat and the other laws which kept their community distinctive. You appreciate why the role of the synagogue and the authority of the Rabbi in interpreting Torah was so central to their whole lives.
The political context
Jesus’ lived and ministered during a time of imperial occupation and The Chosen conveys the political significance of Israel’s subjugation to the mighty Roman Empire. As ever in politics, taxation is a key issues. You appreciate why Matthew’s parents disown him as a traitor because he works for Rome. You also see how the miraculous catch of fish was so significant – rather than just a nice treat, it dramatically rescues the struggling fishermen from bankruptcy and the debts they owe.
You also see the power-play between the Pharisees and a religious establishment determined to stamp out challenges to their authority. These are seen through the struggles of a respected leader like Nicodemus who grasps the truth and challenge of Jesus but has so much to lose.
The portrayal of Jesus
Such a series will always stand or fall on the portrayal of the central character. And Jesus is portrayed brilliantly.
He is warm and human in his affection for his mother Mary and in the banter he has with his disciples. And he is sharp and clear in how he corrects and challenges the religious leaders and his followers. He is tender and sensitive to the children who want to spend time with him and full of compassion for the diseased and disabled. He makes time for private prayer and to prepare his teaching.
I find it hard to think how they could have portrayed Jesus any better.
The controversial Christ
The Chosen helps you understand the controversy created by Jesus’ actions and his claims. In displaying his humanity, it does not downplay Jesus’ supernatural power and his claims to be the Messiah.
His followers are grappling with the fact that Jesus could be the one that Israel were anticipating: the culmination of their nation’s hopes. But this is deeply controversial because Jesus of Nazareth was not the Messiah anyone was expecting. To many he is a deluded and dangerous blasphemer who should condemned and silenced.
And of course the claims to Jesus’ unique authority remain deeply controversial today. In showing the historic controversy, The Chosen challenges us all that there is no comfortable, easy middle way to accept Jesus’ moral teachings but reject his claims to be the Son of God.
Watch this clip of Jesus healing the woman suffering from continual menstrual bleeding. Before this scene, the episode shows the exclusion, shame and judgement this woman had suffered.
Watch The Chosen via Angel Studios
5 thoughts on “Why you should watch ‘The Chosen’”
I love ‘The Chosen’ too and have used clips in services. The characters are so well drawn and multi-dimensional and like you say Jesus is portrayed superbly. There has to be a lot of theological depth to make a series so spiritually powerful and this has it in spades. It is very faithful to the whole Jewish/Gentile context of the Gospels and the flaskbacks to Old Testament stories are delightful.
thanks Martin. At our church we are showing the first series on a Sunday evening followed by discussion
Couldn’t agree more Jon, and beautifully put as ever. Every time The Chosen portrays a healing, I’m reduced to tears. There’s something about the intimacy and compassion of God illustrated in those moments that touches me very deeply.
thanks Adrian – I am there weeping with you brother!