For those who have not yet seen it, The Chosen is a critically acclaimed, crowd funded series about the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ.
The show, produced by Angel Studios, has been running since 2019 with preparations underway for the release of its third season next month.
Although a practising Catholic – I’ll be writing this review through that lense – I admit I was sceptical when I heard about the first season of the show. It came at a time when I wasn’t interested in watching a series, and the thought of an American production team gave me impressions that the portrayal of the story of Jesus would be somewhat – to my mind – irreverent.
In spite of this initial reluctance, stories about how well the show was being received by audiences internationally kept reaching my ears, and since the producers made it freely available to watch on Youtube and through a specially developed ‘Chosen’ app – removing the need to subscribe to a streaming service- I eventually gave it a try.
I should have been reading The Bible all my life but to cut a long story short I only started doing so about 3 years ago.
The Chosen – naturally enough for a show about Jesus of Nazareth – is based on scripture, but the character development is gradual and detailed enough that someone who isn’t familiar with Bible stories could still be well able to enjoy it.
Indeed, even those familiar with the exploits of Jesus and his 12 apostles, the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, and the Jewish high priesthood, or Pharisees, are given a unique ‘insight’ into the humanity of these people.
Even Jesus himself has a sense of humour in the show – something that made me feel somewhat uncomfortable at first – but then again according to Scripture He is True God and True Man.
This exploration of His humanity, His deep care for – and knowledge of – everyone He encounters is moving in a way that I’m not sure can be adequately expressed here.
The actor who plays Jesus, Jonathan Roumie – he’s half Irish btw -is himself a practising Catholic, director Dallas Jenkins is an evangelical Christian, and actor Shahar Isaac who plays Simon Peter is an Israeli Jew.
The show has a board of theological consultants featuring a Catholic priest, an Evangelical pastor, and a Jewish Rabbi. This suggests there would have been a healthy dose of dialogue between representatives of the relevant faiths during the production of the project.
From a Catholic perspective it is perhaps necessary to point out that the portrayal of the Virgin Mary is somewhat lacklustre given her fundamental importance as the Ark of the Covenant by which the Word of God became incarnate.
This writer is far from a theologian, but this is a factor that I feel is missing from an otherwise beautiful narrative – that’s what happens when the director isn’t Catholic I suppose.
The show isn’t shy about showing how religious authorities of the time – namely the Pharisees – were some of the most vocal and vicious critics of Jesus while He rose to prominence as belief in the coming of the long awaited Messiah spread.
Some were perhaps influenced by a devout belief that Jesus could not truly be the Messiah, others by simple jealousy at the waning of their own influence.
Over the first two seasons Jesus challenges those He encounters to follow Him. Many take up the offer while others – despite believing He is the Messiah – hesitate for fear of losing their positions in life.
“It’s true, there is a lot you would give up, but what you would gain is far greater and more lasting.” as Jesus says in His emotional encounter with Pharisee Nicodemus.
Jesus was a truly controversial figure in the first century – and increasing so again as much of societal norms move away from the Christian faith – The Chosen portrays how through His ministry He transgressed against social conventions healing the sick on the Sabbath, dined with outcasts, and refused to repay abuse in like manner.
Season two closes with preparations for Jesus to deliver the Sermon on the Mount.