Hi. Welcome to my recap and reaction to The Chosen, the crowd-funded, first ever multi-season TV series about the life of Jesus and his disciples. You can find my prior posts about the show HERE.
THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:
Matthew and the centurion, Gaius deliver Simon’s tax payment to Praetor Quintus. Nicodemus tries to correct Shmuel for detaining John the Baptizer. On the way back to Capernaum, a leper approaches Jesus and the group on the road, asking Jesus to heal him. Jesus cleanses the leper, telling him not to speak of it. The group heads to the house of Zebedee and his wife Salome. As Jesus preaches, a crowd gathers, drawing the attention of both Pharisees and Romans. After witnessing the healing of the leper on the road earlier, an Egyptian named Tamar forces her way through the crowd to help her paralytic friend, Ethan, meet Jesus. Tamar’s friends climb to and remove the rooftop, lowering the paralytic. Jesus forgives the paralytic, disturbing the onlooking Pharisees. Jesus heals the paralytic, and Matthew writes it down. Shmuel quickly calls on the Romans to seize Jesus. The disciples immediately flee and Nicodemus seeks Mary Magdalene to meet with Jesus.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
The episode opens in a pawn broker’s shop. A man who the shop owner has never seen before enters trying to sell bronze chisels. The owner haggles with him, offering twenty denarii, implying a concern that the stranger has stolen the tools. The man argues, but in so doing, he inadvertently shows the leprosy on his arm. The shop owner panics, screams at him to take the money offered, and to go. The leper takes the money and says he did not mean him any harm.
Leper: My tools were all I had left.
Elsewhere, Matthew and Gaius discuss the fish Simon caught to pay his tax debts. Matthew – who was present – tells the Roman soldier that they had to jump out of the skiffs to keep them from sinking under all of the weight. Matthew comments on all of the money they are guarding, and asks Gaius if he should have a weapon. He is met with a stare before Gaius says that this cannot be the first time he has been saddled with a repayment that is a coupe of months past due. Matthew explains that Simon and Andrew were two years and seven weeks behind.
The two men grow increasingly nervous, standing in the open with that much money, when the Roman soldiers assigned to pick it up finally arrive. The newcomers laugh about the fact they are nervous over a couple of months back taxes.
Nicodemus, after meeting with John the Baptizer, speaks with the Sanhedrin. He explains that despite John’s unusual appearance, and what he describes as ignorant teachings, he presents no threat to Herod or the Romans. The leader of the Sanhedrin argues that it is known John has a large following.
Nicodemus: I believe these followers are investigating – as one would – a loud noise.
He then states that the problem is that John was legitimized by the order of his detention and that the effort to keep him silent gives him a pedestal. The leader of the Sanhedrin states that they issued no such order, causing Nicodemus to reply that he was shown a sworn statement from the Romans that a Pharisee ordered his detention. Shmuel stands to admit that he is the one who ordered the arrest.
Shmuel: He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them are an abomination to the LORD.
[Note: Prov. 17:15]
A member of the group tells him that quoting Solomon is not an explanation, which leads Shmuel to retort that he will not turn a blind eye to John’s sins even when all others do. When asked about John’s sins, Shmuel tells them that John called them a brood of vipers. Nicodemus laughs and tells the group that John uses coarse language to attract attention.
Another member of the group tells Shmuel that his rash actions have inflated the importance of a trivial outlier and also have drawn undo attention to their sect from Rome. He adds finally that he is astonished that a student of Nicodemus would have the temerity to bypass his approval. Nicodemus promises to speak with Shmuel.
Simon speaks with Little James as Jesus and his disciples travel. He learns that Little James was on his way to join a choir in Jerusalem when he first met Jesus. Simon jokes that he was Caesar’s favorite gladiator. In response Little James begins to sing, to prove is ability. The group claps and Simon says that he stands corrected. Simon asks him what he thinks he will do for Jesus, and the other man answers that only Jesus knows what he will become.
Just then Jesus calls to Simon to let him know that his mother is leaving their group, and that he will travel with her. Jesus tells him that he will meet up with them all later at their camp in Capernaum. Simon tells Jesus that he will make sure their group arrives safely, but Jesus replies that Simon is to go on ahead, and to meet up with his own family. He points out that Simon has a family and Jesus then notes himself as an example, noting that he is leaving all of the fun they are having together to escort his mother.
Quintus sees that Simon paid of all of his debts and notes that it’s remarkable.
Quintus: For the first time in a year, quarterly collections will have exceeded Pilot’s projections. And if the fishermen are no longer fishing on Shabbat… have an olive Matthew, you’ve earned it.
Quintus notes that Simon has shown himself able to perform well under pressure and he speculates that maybe Simon could be compelled to do so again. Matthew interrupts him to say that Simon is not responsible for the fish. Quintus ignores him and states that it is clear from Matthew’s report of the events that it is clear that Simon and his accomplice tricked him. When Matthew asks to what end Simon might have done this, Quintus says that it might have been to get the other fishermen off his back, or to spook them more generally away from fishing on Shabbat. Quintus says this could not have worked out better. Finally he pays attention to Matthew’s demeanor.
Quintus: Don’t tell me you’re spooked.
Matthew: I am neither sophisticated nor subtle, Dominus, but I am observant. I detected no subterfuge.
Quintus tells him that he did well, and that he is fortunate to have himself to interpret for him. They are interrupted as a messenger enters to tell Quintus that King Herod’s envoy is approaching, having been spotted at Gennesaret heading north. He gives instructions to several men and turns his back to Matthew and Gaius. After a while, he turns around smiling to ask how long they would have remained in place.
He spares them having to answer by stating that things turned out very well with Simon. Quintus promotes Gaius to the rank of Primi. He also expresses pleasure with Matthew, calling him wonderfully odd. Matthew returns to the earlier discussion, stating that he saw no means for deception, but Quintus tells him that this is because he has no guile. He then asks Matthew to give him a reaction to a different situation, one wherein a childhood rival arrives, unannounced (a Senator in Herod’s party), and he wants Matthew to explain how he would make it clear to the visitor that he has won.
Matthew advises him to show the visitor his plans for infrastructure, noting that conquest is not simply conquering nations, but imposing a way of life. Quintus is dumbstruck and pleased with this answer. He then dismisses Gaius and Matthew.
As Jesus and his students go down the road, they encounter an Egyptian woman selling flowers. Jesus speaks with her briefly in her native language. After, when asked about knowing Egyptian, he explains that his family fled Bethlehem for Egypt when he was a boy. One of the group is surprised that he was there during the Massacre of the Innocents. Jesus acknowledges that he was, but then their group continues on.
A moment later a leper – the one from the intro of the episode – appears on the road with them. The Egyptian woman is still near enough to witness this. He pleads for Jesus to heal him, sharing that he knows Jesus has this ability because he heard about the miracle at the wedding in Cana. The disciples all strongly encourage Jesus to stay away from the man, but Jesus approaches him and heals him. After, Jesus tells him to tell no one, but to report to the authorities for inspection and to make the proper offering after. As the map, crying tears of joy hugs Jesus, the Egyptian woman looks upward and leaves the road.
Later we see Salome and Zebedee preparing to host Jesus and his disciples. He sees them approaching, announces it to his wife, then runs out to greet his two sons. Salome follows him out and it so overwhelmed at the sight of Jesus that she cannot initially speak. When she gathers herself, she tells James and John to listen to Him, and to remain by his side. They promise to do so. She stands stunned for a few moments longer until James gets her attention, and she remembers to invite them inside. Jesus cautions her that there will be more people coming, but she says that is fine and insists they come inside. Zebedee, James, and John talk quietly, with their father asking where Simon is. They explain he is at home, taking care of things, with Andrew on his way now to fetch him. Zebedee says he wondered whether he would have to fetch Simon himself, thinking he might have cold feet, but his sons correct him to say that Simon is the “teacher’s pet” and that Zebedee would hardly recognize him now.
At his home, Simon sits with his ailing mother-in-law, singing a hymn while she suffers with fever. Outside the room, Andrew explains to Eden about the events in Cana. She looks stunned and pleased.
As Andrew and Simon walk to Zebedee’s home, they run into Matthew. Simon calls out to the tax man, They tell him that they squared their debts with Quintus and that he is free to return to his cage and stop following them.
Matthew: It’s not you. I’m here about the man.
Simon: What man?
Matthew: The man at the shore who made the fish appear.
Simon grabs him threateningly and tells him that he saw no man on the shore. Matthew insists that he saw him and that he was there. Simon guesses that the first thing he did was to tell Rome and Matthew replies that the Romans do not believe him.
Simon: You really are a traitor!
Before he can do more, Andrew pulls him away. Simon tells Matthew that the best thing he can do is forget what he saw, and Andrew echoes him, advising that he go home. Matthew tells them that the Romans do not believe what he saw, but he believes it. He tells them both that he needs to know. Andrew asks him what good their answers to him would be if he won’t even listen to himself.
Nicodemus meets with a group of younger Pharisees and pulls Shmuel aside.
In Zebedee’s house, he asks Jesus about his father and where he comes from. His son pushes back on his questioning, but Zebedee says he likes genealogies. Salome guesses that Jesus is from the tribe of Judah. Jesus asks her why she guesses that, and before she can answer, their talkative neighbors arrive. Immediately, the wife asks Jesus about the parable of the nets and how soon that day will come. Instead of answering directly, he tells her a story about the wedding they just attended. He asked the group gathering around him what they think the servants of the attendees were doing while their masters were away. In a back and forth, he tells the Parable of the Waiting Servants (Luke 12.) He concludes by telling the woman who asked the question that neither the angels in Heaven, nor the Son of Man, know the day or the hour when these things must be, so the servants must always be ready.
Outside the doorway, Simon grows worried about the size of the crowd that is gathering. John, who is with him, tells him to relax.
Nicodemus tells Shmuel that his eyes are tired and asks him to read from teh scroll of the Prophet Isaiah. Shmuel reads (Isaiah 40:3):
Shmuel: A voice cries in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of Adonai;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.:
Nicodemus: And who does that sound like?
Shmuel: The heretic John.
Nicodemus asks what heresy Shmuel finds in those words, given that Isaiah said them, and Shmuel replies that the heresy lies in the fact that John has appropriated those words and taken a spiritual description of God in heaven and applied them to John’s physical successor on earth. They then debate whether scripture says that God cannot take human form. Shmuel cites Deuteronomy (4:15) and when Nicodemus retorts that just because they saw no form then, it does not mean God cannot do so. Shmuel then cites Exodus (3:20), arguing that this means John’s successor would have to walk around with his face covered all the time. Nicodemus asks if he would place limits on the Almighty, and Shmuel answers that he would place those limits which are written in the law.
Nicodemus: And if God did something that you felt contradicted the Torah, would you tell Him to get back in that box that you have carved for Him? Or would you question your interpretation of the Torah?
Instead of answering, Shmuel tells Nicodemus that when he was a student, he read all of the other man’s teachings, saying that they were so well reasoned and pure. Nicodemus interrupts him to say that they are still students and that their understanding will never be complete. Shmuel admits that it frightens him that he can no longer predict the other man’s rulings. Nicodemus tells him that fear insures one remains ignorant.
To make his point, Nicodemus cites the Sadducees. He explains that they take only the Torah as inspired scripture, disregarding the rest.
Nicodemus: To them, God stopped speaking when Moses died. Think of all they have missed.
Shmuel pushes back, saying that the Law exists to uphold it. Nicodemus answers that it is possible to both keep the Law, as written, and keep eyes open for new things God might be doing. When he asks Shmuel if they can at least agree on that, and the other Rabbi says that they can. Nicodemus encourages him by saying that the two of them can lead the others on this. They are interrupted by a messenger telling them that a man – not John – is preaching on the east side and commanding large crowds.
At Zebedee’s house, the group is having a discussion about sin, and men in Jerusalem who were executed by Pilate. Jesus relays the story about the tower in Siloam which fell (Luke 13:1-5). He asks if those who perished when that happened are worse than people living in Jerusalem. Jesus explains to them that all must either repent or perish.
Jesus is asked next about prayer. The questioner says she doe snot like to speak in public. He tells the crowd that it is better not to do it in public, anyway, adding also that the same is true for giving to the needy. (Matthew 6:1-5).
Outside, the Egyptian women who sold flowers is with friends, one of whom is a paralyzed.
At his tax booth, Gaius asks Matthew why there are no crowds at his booth. Just after he asks, a Roman soldier approaches them and informs Gaius about a situation in the town. He advises Matthew to lock up his booth and leave. Matthew asks about the situation and Gaius tells him there is a mob in the east slums. Matthew insists on going with them, despite the warning that he will be doing so unprotected.
As Jesus is telling another parable (Luke 18:9-14), the Egyptian woman tries to gain entry to the house, but the crowd is too large to pass through. She finds Simon, Andrew, and Mary Magdalene. She tells them that she saw what the Master did for the leper and that she needs to get her friend to him. Gaius and Marcus, the other Roman soldier, arrive as they are talking. Andrew leaves to talk to them as Mary Magdalene encourages the woman to come with her.
Andrew informs the soldiers that this is a peaceful gathering. Marcus quips that this is what the Maccabees said and that the crowd is blocking the road. Andrew answers quickly that the people have not been told where to stand yet and he promises to move them.
When Mary Magdalene cannot get the group to Jesus, the Egyptian woman asks about the roof. Mary has compassion and nods approval.
Matthew is standing outside and is hit by an object in the head. He looks up and sees the children from episode three on the edge of a neighboring building’s roof. They encourage him to come up and join them. As Matthew climbs the ladder, Simon joins them and is surprised to learn the children already know Jesus.
Nicodemus, Shmuel, and other Pharisees arrive. Shmuel is initially aggressive toward the crowd before Nicodemus reminds him that they are out of their element here. They look up and see Mary Magdalene on the roof of the building where Jesus is speaking. The men other than Nicodemus have not actually seen her sisnce her restoration (Luke 8:2) and they are astonished by it.
As Jesus is teaching about not covering a lamp with a basket, the Egyptian woman calls loudly to him from the roof, above where he is preaching. She explains that her friend has been paralyzed since childhood and has no hope except him. The group opens the roof to lower the paralyzed man down into the room where Jesus is standing.
As everyone watches on from their different vantage points, the man is lowered down by ropes. Simon tells Matthew to get out his tablet and take notes. Shmuel gets to the window and angrily asks Jesus by whose authority he teaches. The Egyptian woman above asks Jesus if He is willing to do this. As Shmuel continues to shout the question, Jesus tells the woman above Him that her faith is beautiful. He then looks at the paralyzed man and tells him that his sins are forgiven. Jesus reads the mind of the Pharisees at the window, and tells them that he forgave the man’s sins so that they would know by whose authority He teaches. He then tells the paralyzed man to rise, pick up his bed, and go home. The man is healed and he stands. Weeping, he embraces Jesus. (Luke 5:18-25)
Outside, Nicodemus is astonished. Shmuel angrily calls for the Roman guards and says Jesus is a threat to the Roman peace. The soldiers approach, the crowd disperses, and Jesus quickly leaves before they arrive. Among the Pharisees, only Nicodemus seems to appreciate what has just happened, as his eyes fill with tears to see the paralyzed man walking past him.
He then runs to catch up with Mary Magdalene, who is pleased that he witnessed the miracle.
Mary Magdalene: You asked me before if I knew His name. Now everyone knows His name and I fear for his safety.
Nicodemus assures her that he means no trouble for Him, and requests that she set up a meeting. She is skeptical and points out that his friends just tried to have him arrested. He tells her that they are jealous and afraid, though he is not. He begs her and she promises to try.
Matthew is dumbstruck. He climbs off the roof and looks around. The little girl on teh roof asks if he is lost and he tells her yes.
Jesus performs two more miracles. The second of the two is witnessed by the opposing authorities.
One of the things in reding the Gospels that can be difficult to process, with the text alone, is why the Pharisees, witnesses to some of Christ’s miracles, simultaneously deny them. The format of this show does a great job is giving us an identifiable answer: pride. Sometimes pride is difficult to imagine in the plain text, but it is an easy thing to see visually. The show does a great job of bringing these things to life.
In the conversation between Nicodemus and Shmuel about God, we see Shmuel struggling with the idea of God existing outside of the box of his own limited understanding. Nicodemus even gives a great parallel in their own time about this, with respect to the Sadducees, however, Shmuel just cannot embrace open-mindedness toward Jesus. He is proud of his station and will not suffer any challenges to that station. Jesus is a threat to his authority – and of course that’s true. Nicodemus is not proud. He’s curious and humble. As a result, he’s able to consider that Jesus might be something new that God is doing. Shmuel hides his pride behind the veneer of righteousness. He might even be acting in an intellectually authentic way, but we see in his demeanor and actions a lack of love. The lack of love is what blinds him.
“Shmuel” is an invention of the show. They needed to personalize the Pharisees to convey the emotion of the situation to a visual audience. Instead of nameless and faceless Pharisees, acting badly toward Jesus, we actually “know” some of them. It helps to understand the story being told.
The Egyptian woman is another invention. However, it makes sense that a connection like that could be realistic. We know that these types of “I saw / heard about what you did…” things did occur. This is just an imagined version of them. I don’t that contradicts the text. It adds emotion and humanity to them.
We also do not know that the the leper healed by Jesus had just sold his tools. That’s an invention of the episode writers. Is it the sort of thing that probably happened with lepers in this time? Yes.
The Christians who really dislike this show (at least as far as I’ve gone so far) tend to be opposed to any form of story-telling that is not directly on the page. The people who enjoy the show tend to see the stories as being brough to life in a relatable way that leads them back to their Bibles. My approach to the show is that if it does not purport to replace the text, directly contradict the heart text, and overtly encourages people to read the Gospel, I see this approach as a positive. I have always believed Christ to be a charismatic, loving person, with the full range of human emotions. He is depicted that way here.
Speaking of emotions, there are – as usual – a couple of tear-jerker scenes in this episode. The healing of the leper is particularly moving. I was also moved by the healing of the paralytic, but as there were other things going on in that moment, it hit a little differently.
As usual, the acting performances from everyone in this episode were outstanding. I have no idea how I would personally respond to Christ, in the flesh, like this, but the range of joy, disbelief, relief, tears, etc., expressed by the wide range of character types, make it possible to imagine how I might have done so. It’s also just a beautifully shot show, with great sets and costuming. I cannot say enough about how well The Chosen is made. It’s obviously done with a lot of love.
Overall, this is an outstanding episode of television that forces the audience to think (“do I try to put God in a box?”) and to feel / weep.