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.