Seeing Jesus Again for the First Time: A Review of “The Chosen”

My wife and I recently watched the eight-episode, first season of The Chosen. If you don’t know what The Chosen is, here is a little primer. The Chosen tells the story of the Gospels, yet with more backstory, more character development, and additional plotlines and stories. It is a fictionalized (though rooted in Scripture) version of the life and ministry of Jesus.

If you are anything like me, that description might make you a little nervous. I do not like the idea of putting words in the mouths of Jesus or His disciples. I have come to that position after years of seeing it done very poorly more times than I can recall. Too many past productions don’t “get” Jesus. The reasons for that are many, though they tend to follow along a few primary lines:

  • A: The filmmakers are not believers and simply cannot understand the spiritual importance of who Jesus was and is.
  • B: The filmmakers are limited in time and scope and focus too strongly on Jesus’s deity, thereby presenting Him as too distant and otherworldly. Both approaches fail to capture Jesus in His totality.

A complete success

I am pleased to report that The Chosen avoids both of those pitfalls, to incredibly satisfying results. The series, written and directed by professing believer Dallas Jenkins, fleshes out the story and creates more texture with well-thought-out elaborations and additions. Most importantly, Jesus is treated respectfully. Both sides of His character are not only recognized but also accentuated. Jesus is fully God and fully man in The Chosen in a way I have never really seen in a film or television production. I will get into that a little more in a minute.

To put it plainly, The Chosen is by far the best on-screen attempt I have seen at capturing an honest and comprehensive view of Jesus and the Gospel narratives. The production values are high (good costumes, locations, and music), the acting good to great across the board (with maybe one or two weak links), and the writing is poignant. It is not a sanitized, sparkling clean story. The Chosen is refreshingly gritty and real, though never to the point of making it inappropriate for the family. What liberties are taken with the source material do not detract from or contradict the deeper truths of the Gospel. My wife and I loved it. It is well worth your time to give it a chance.

A personal struggle

With the “review” out of the way, let’s get to my primary reason for writing about the series. I was born and raised in a Christian home. From the very beginning of my life, I have been surrounded and saturated with Scripture. My parents raised me in the fear and admonition of the Lord, as all believers are instructed to do.

I don’t know if there are others who can relate, but this ever-present exposure to Scripture has brought with it both good and bad. Before you judge too harshly, allow me to explain. The good is obvious. I am who I am today because of God and the faithful instruction of my parents. I do not wish to change any of my background or heritage. It is a beautiful and holy thing I will always cherish.

The bad side of all of this is more complicated and falls squarely on my shoulders. Constant or even overexposure to something, even something good, has the tendency to become commonplace or worse to me. It happens with books, songs, and movies. If I listen to a song too many times I begin to grow weary of it. Now, you might think this contradicts what I have written in the past – namely my piece, The Joy of Re-Reading. The carefully timed and spaced re-reading of a book is a wonderful thing. Reading the same book repeatedly for most of your life is something else entirely. I have, at times, foolishly allowed my familiarity with Scripture to become apathy.

A new approach needed

The Bible is no ordinary book and constant interaction with it is not only good but also necessary in the life of a believer. I think we can all accept that. My failing is that I struggle with it, even though I know it is vital to my spiritual health. Too often, I approach the Bible on strictly clinical terms. I engage with my mind, but forget to include the rest of who I am. Too often, I treat the Bible the same way I would any other book, which severely undercuts its power and effectiveness. It connects with my intellect and reason, but I do not allow it to connect to my heart and soul.

Perhaps this is only a problem for me. I hope so. It is something I have grappled with for years. One of the sad consequences of this struggle is that it affects my view of God and more specifically, Jesus. It is easy for me to approach my belief in Jesus on a strictly intellectual basis. Yet, deep down, I realize that for a fuller expression of faith, I need to see and engage with Jesus in a more three-dimensional manner.

Back to the Word

Prior to watching The Chosen, I had begun working my way through the four Gospels. I have approached these times of study and reading with a desire and a prayer for Jesus to make Himself more real to me than ever before. Also during this time, my church began an online Bible study on John’s Gospel. All of this was happening, swirling around in my heart when we began to watch The Chosen. I do not believe any of it was coincidental. I am convinced that God used this particular combination of sources to speak to me more clearly.

Please do not misunderstand. The Chosen is not inspired Scripture. It does not replace my daily interaction with God’s Word. Nevertheless, it hit me at exactly the right time. Through my recent personal studies, my church Bible study, and watching the show, I am seeing Jesus in a fresh and new light – a living, breathing Savior. I am catching a glimpse of a Jesus who sees me, loves me, and chooses me. He is not distant or detached. He is relentless in His love for me.

A wonderful reminder

The Chosen serves as a wonderful reminder of who Jesus is. We get to see Him in His full humanity – He sweats, bleeds, laughs, sings, prays, cries, hugs, and dances. And we see Him in His divinity – He sees into hearts, heals, forgives, and saves. I know all these things as I have since I was young, and while the pages of Scripture provide a deeper and fuller understanding of who Jesus is, the reminder is still very much welcome. At the very least, The Chosen has pushed me to study more passionately, read more voraciously, and meditate more deeply about Jesus. Perhaps it will do the same for you.

Follow me

Phill Lytle

I love: Jesus, my wife, my kids, my family, my friends, my church, Firefly, 80s rock, Stranger Things, the Tennessee Titans, the St. Louis Cardinals, Brandon Sanderson books, Band of Brothers, Thai food, music, books, movies, TV, writing, Arrested Development, pizza, vacation, etc...

12 thoughts on “Seeing Jesus Again for the First Time: A Review of “The Chosen”

  • May 12, 2020 at 3:40 pm
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    Thanks for this review. Mom and I plan to watch them, hopefully soon.

    Reply
    • May 13, 2020 at 9:03 am
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      I think you will enjoy it.

      Reply
  • May 12, 2020 at 7:55 pm
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    Thanks for this review. Very well written. I have seen each episode at least 3 times now and I still marvel at how well this is done on so many different levels. You articulated many of them very well. I really hope this series continues once the Covid-19 crisis is behind us. And I hope they can continue with the same cast, writers, and all the rest of the crew.

    By the way, if you go to VidAngel’s website you can find a lot of behind the scenes stuff about the series. Especially look into how it was funded – not your typical Hollywood approach.

    Reply
    • May 13, 2020 at 9:04 am
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      Thank you for encouraging me to watch it.

      Reply
  • May 13, 2020 at 1:16 pm
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    I tend to be critical of “Christian” films. (I used quotes because I am not a fan of using this term as an adjective. But that is a discussion for a different time.) However, I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed this series as art.

    My main criticism is that there are a few times that some characters put faith and reason at odds. In the context, it makes sense. It’s “unreasonable” that a regular dude could perform the miracles that Jesus performs. But it’s not unreasonable that God, the Creator of the elements, has control over His creation. I don’t like it when the Christian faith is presented as the antithesis of reason because it’s absolutely grounded in what is true.

    I don’t think the series does this, but just a few times a line is used that could be interpreted as such.

    Reply
    • May 13, 2020 at 1:41 pm
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      Yeah, it’s a tricky topic to handle for a television audience and it is one of the few missteps of the show. Not that they got it wrong but their handling of the issue is a bit clumsy or inelegant.

      Reply
  • May 13, 2020 at 1:55 pm
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    What format did you see these movies on?

    Reply
  • May 16, 2020 at 9:09 am
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    You nailed it for me, too. Watching The Chosen ignited a flame in my heart and sent me running back to my Bible in a way I can’t explain. I can only thank the Lord and tell others, as you have so ably done.

    Reply
    • May 16, 2020 at 2:51 pm
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      Thanks for the comment. Running back to the Word is never a bad thing!

      Reply
  • May 16, 2020 at 12:46 pm
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    This is the best review of The Chosen that I’ve read! Maybe it’s because it’s EXACTLY what I would have written if I could have put it as eloquently as you did. :-) I’m glad that someone on The Chosen Fan page shared it. I would share it on my FB page today but I just shared something else about TC this morning and I don’t want to saturate my page because i am trying to get more of my friends and family to watch it and grow to love it and the Bible as much as I do. Maybe next week I’ll share it! I’ve watched the whole series at least 3 full times, each time bringing me back to the Bible, New and Old Testaments. Plus watching individual scenes, behind the scenes, roundtables, interviews, reviews. On FB and IG, I follow The Chosen, Dallas, actors, production team, I joined a Fan club, discussion group and an auction group. You MIGHT say I’m a little obsessed, but I think it’s a very healthy obsession. You talked about it not being a coincidence what you have recently been studying before discovering TC. I also don’t think it is a coincidence that I discovered TC a few months after going on a study trip to Israel which had brought the Bible from b&w to color. The Chosen has added another dimension! Again, great writing!

    Reply
    • May 16, 2020 at 2:50 pm
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      Thank you so much for the kind words!

      Reply
  • May 16, 2020 at 4:27 pm
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    Thank you for eloquently stating exactly how The Chosen has impacted and continues to impact me.

    “A Wonderful Reminder ……
    The Chosen serves as a wonderful reminder of who Jesus is. We get to see Him in His full humanity – He sweats, bleeds, laughs, sings, prays, cries, hugs, and dances. And we see Him in His divinity – He sees into hearts, heals, forgives, and saves. I know all these things as I have since I was young, and while the pages of Scripture provide a deeper and fuller understanding of who Jesus is, the reminder is still very much welcome. At the very least, The Chosen has pushed me to study more passionately, read more voraciously, and meditate more deeply about Jesus.”

    I am thankful that through the Paying It Forward option on The Chosen app, I have another opportunity to fulfill The Great Commission that Jesus gave His disciples and all of us who are believers.

    Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)
    The Great Commission
    16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    Reply

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