For those who do not keep a regular pulse on Christian media, you may not be aware of “The Chosen;” a popular miniseries that is already in its second season. Do not feel embarrassed if you do not know what I am referring to. I have a history of gagging at any “Jesus Junk” that popular Evangelical Christianity puts out. I have many reasons for my cringe at Jesus media.
The way Christian films are made seem to have a mandate to focus only on two themes:
1. My life was awful, and now it is not because, “Jesus.”
2. I was an awful person, and now I am not because, “Jesus.”
These two themes make most Christian media unwatchable by removing narratives from the realm of reality for most people. Jesus did not promise that our life would be better here on the earth. He did say the world would hate us because it hates him (John 15:18). And to suggest that I was once a rascal and now I am not because of Jesus is delusional at best and faith crushing at worst. To suggest that our war with sin is over, or to suggest that we should not struggle with sin post faith in Christ, is not biblical and not real. Yet, this is a popular-held belief. It makes those who hold to this view appear to be champions of moral living. It also makes all of us losers who struggle with sin wonder if this Christian thing is even for us.
I say all of this as a preface to the review for a specific reason. I reluctantly chose to watch “The Chosen” with much trepidation and skepticism. I truly was expecting “Touched by An Angel” + “God’s Not Dead” Dove Award cringe level Hallmark sappiness and theological Tom Foolery. However, by the end of Episode One of Season One, not only had my presuppositions and prejudices been dismantled, but so had I. Without spoiling the end of this first episode, I was a wreck and babbling brook.
For those of us who hold to sola scriptura, I am not presenting the show “The Chosen” as authoritative. That title belongs to Scripture alone when it comes to trusting what God has said to us in his word. The good news is, the producers and directors of “The Chosen” have also stated that they hold to the authority of Scripture. They have communicated that their effort is to take the truths of the gospel and Scripture and place the audience into familiar scenes in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. They have discovered a way to present the life of Jesus to feel as if you were there as it happened. If you can get past dialogue and situations that did not happen in the Gospel narratives, you will be fine. Keep in mind that this is a creative presentation in the form of a film.
Many of these creative depictions are used to develop characters like Matthew, Mary, Simon, and Nicodemus. The imaginative background of these characters is then used in “The Chosen” to present the mercy, forgiveness, and friendship given by Jesus to people who should not receive such things from the Son of God (we think). Some may struggle through the character development of the show wanting to see some action from Jesus. But, for those who are impatient, hang on. Allow the character development to draw you in for the “turn.” The show does a good job of showing how Jesus not only turned these characters’ lives upside down but the communities around them upside down as well.
The Chosen highlights four main themes:
1. Jesus is fully God and fully man.
The show does an outstanding, and dare I say original, job of bringing the humanity of Jesus to film. Out of all of the media I have seen attempting to illustrate Jesus as a man, this show excels in portraying Jesus as a man who once lived in time and space. Yes, there are moments that the show also portrays Jesus as fully God, and it is powerful. However, these depictions of his humanity are to be highlighted and recognized. For it communicates that this Jesus was certainly “one of us.” This depiction of Jesus has been given praise and, as expected, criticism.
2. Jesus did not come because we had our act together. He came because we couldn’t get our act together.
This realization never gets old. We naturally are curved to the idea that God would want to save us because there is something good in us to save. Yet, the opposite is true that while we were sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). Highlighting that Christ came for the sick, for the sinners, and for those that were in desperate need of saving is championed throughout this series.
3. Characters who should be judged and condemned are instead drawn to Jesus, and he is pleased to redeem, release, rescue, and forgive them.
The show does a good job of hitting you right in the feels whenever these moments of Jesus wanting the unwanted or loving the unlovable occur. It is easy to relate to the characters and imagine that just as Jesus redeems a character by seeking them out and calling them by name as his own, this too is how he has redeemed us. Warts and all, we sinners are exactly who Jesus has “chosen.”
4. When we stumble, Jesus does not leave us.
What I am about to say next is what I believe sets “The Chosen” apart from other attempts at film representations of the life and ministry of Jesus. “The Chosen” communicates the realness of the follower of Christ, post-Christ’s call to follow him. Absent from this show is an example of how sinning Simon was instantly transformed into champion Christian Peter. We still see his struggles after meeting/believing Jesus. Mary Magdalen is shown as being delivered by Jesus, but we still see her struggle with sin after being delivered. This depiction of the Christian life has had the self-righteous screaming “blasphemy” and the sinner-saint rejoicing at such hope. We do not see a Jesus who condemns and blots out followers who have lapses in their morality, but a true friend who also happens to be the Son of God. A friend who corrects when necessary but still stays with his friends. He does not leave them or forsake them, and that is why I believe The Chosen is worth watching. Take whatever baggage or gag reflex you may have to Christian media like I have and enter into viewing this show with an understanding that this is a creative/fictional depiction of the life and ministry of Jesus that aims to keep sound doctrinal truths intact.
The conversation that this show has started amongst Christians and non-Christians is wonderful. To put on display the concept of the simul will help many bruised reeds and smoldering wicks. It is helping to expose the error in the idea that a Christian never struggles with sin. It also presents the very Biblical reality of a Jesus who wants to redeem rank sinners. Even rank sinners who believe that they are past the point of Jesus ever wanting them. Perhaps this show can help you strike up a conversation with people who you can then introduce to the real Jesus of the Scriptures.