It was mid-March. My six children just returned home from school indefinitely. Our parish was preparing to close its doors to public Masses. There was fear in the air as I went to the store to stock up on food and household goods. I recall talking with friends about new terminology like “social distancing”. Changes to life were happening overnight, and it was hard to process it all in my mind.
At the same time, I heard about a TV series called The Chosen. And I thought it could be just what we needed during these drastically changing circumstances.
So, on one of the very first nights of being at home for an unknown period of time, my family settled in to watch Episode One of the first-ever, multi-season TV show on the life of Jesus.
And we were instantly hooked.
In the midst of such an uncertain time in our lives, The Chosen gave us renewed hope and assurance in Jesus. In a season when we could not receive the Eucharist, The Chosen gave us a tangible focal point that sustained us in a new way.
I know my family and I are not the only ones who have been deeply moved by The Chosen. Its success is due in large part to crowdfunding, which means everyday, ordinary people invested in this project in order for it to be created and produced.
And in recent months, when families were stuck at home because of Covid-19, downloads of The Chosen’s mobile app exploded. It consistently ranks in the top 50 most downloaded entertainment apps.
“We feel like if people can binge watch and have watch parties all over the world for shows like Game of Thrones and Stranger Things, there’s no reason not to binge watch a show about Jesus,” said director Dallas Jenkins, in an interview for the Chicago-Sun Times.
The Chosen: Biblical Fiction at Its Finest
Season One of The Chosen offers viewers eight 45-minute episodes about the life of Jesus (and Jenkins and his crew are currently working on Season Two). But what makes The Chosen unique is that it tells the story of Jesus through the men, women, and children who encountered Him personally. And as their unique narratives unfold on screen, we see, with fresh eyes and open hearts, how Jesus longs for an intimate relationship with each of us, too.
In the first season of The Chosen, we meet familiar Biblical figures such as Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter and six other Apostles, and Nicodemus. With intentional creative license, The Chosen invites viewers to glimpse into possible background stories of their lives, before Jesus transforms them. In other words, The Chosen fills in the Biblical narrative with Biblical fiction that is entirely plausible.
And this allows the familiar to come to life in a fresh, new way. Frequently-read Bible stories suddenly become vibrant, rich experiences, including the following:
- the big catch of fish and the call of the first Apostles (Luke 5:1-11)
- the healing of the paralyzed man (Luke 5:17-26)
- the miracle at Cana (John 2:1-12)
- the story of the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42)
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Inspiring the Imagination
Throughout the series, viewers are also able to imagine themselves in the story. For example, when I heard how Jesus speaks to Mary Magdalene, Peter’s wife (Eden), and Nicodemus, I could hear Him speaking gentle words to me. When I saw His eyes of love, looking affectionately at the children or giving a knowing wink, I could envision Him looking straight into my heart, too.
The invitation to prayerfully imagine is very Catholic. It is how St. Ignatius of Loyola invites us to read and meditate on Scripture. Some people call this lectio divina (divine reading). In this form of prayer, we read a Scripture passage several times, and then we engage it with our imagination by placing ourselves in the scene. We consider who we are in the story. What do we hear, see, taste, smell, and touch?
Watching The Chosen provides a similar opportunity for such prayerful imagination. In this case, it is called visio divina (divine seeing), or praying with art.
The Chosen also opens our eyes to the cultural, religious, and political realities of the time. Experts from three religious traditions (Judaism, Catholicism, and Protestantism) consulted on the show to offer a biblically, historically, and culturally accurate portrayal of the characters and circumstances.
Because of this extensive research, there is a realistic feel to the show. Viewers see an authentic representation of what Jesus and the people around Him looked and sounded like. We also learn about various Jewish traditions, such as Shabbat (or Sabbath). In addition, we gain greater insight into the oppression the Jewish people experienced under Roman governance.
Relatable and Deeply Human
The Chosen reminds viewers of the relatable experiences we share as members of the human family. Moreover, we see how the Incarnation of Jesus meets us in our need and lifts us up into redemption.
For example, in the story of Mary Magdalene, we perceive her enduring the hardship of past trauma. Then, when Jesus approaches, we see the miraculous transformation His healing brings her. We also recognize marital tension between Simon and his wife. But when Jesus enters both of their lives, His presence not only brings about personal conversion, but a renewal in their relationship.
Throughout the series, we also witness the humanity of Jesus, which helps us relate to Him in a new way. We see Him working hard to light a fire and His need for sleep. Observing Jesus’ sense of humor, compassion, and good nature is refreshing to witness, especially as He interacts—verbally and nonverbally—with His mother, His new friends, and those He heals and teaches. There are several scenes that depict the very tender relationship between Jesus and Mother Mary, and their close relationship is eloquently portrayed.
A Note to Parents
For parents wondering if The Chosen is appropriate for children, I encourage them to screen it beforehand to make that personal decision for their family. Each episode lands at various points on the dramatic scale, with the first episode being the most intense for small children. The third episode, however, is all about the relationship Jesus has with children, and it will certainly capture their hearts and imaginations, as they ponder their own relationship with the Savior.
Can’t Wait for More
My husband, all six of my children (ages 17 to 9), and I were completely captivated by The Chosen. Every episode compelled us to watch the next one. We found The Chosen entertaining, powerful, funny, and deeply moving. And we look forward to many more seasons of this wonderful show.
Have you watched The Chosen yet? What did you think?!
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