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:
In Canaan, 1952 BC, Jacob (Amato D’Apolito) and his sons dig a well in Shechem. In Sychar, AD 26, Photina (Vanessa De Silvio), a suffering Samaritan woman, fetches water from Jacob’s Well. At Matthew’s house in Capernaum, Jesus answers questions from the Pharisees, including Yussif (Ivan Jasso), with the words of Hosea. Shmuel petitions Nicodemus concerning false prophecy. Jesus goes to Simon’s house and heals Simon’s sick mother-in-law, Dasha (Leticia Magaña). Learning Matthew left, Praetor Quintus issues a decree against religious gatherings outside synagogues. As Jesus and his students complete their preparations to depart Capernaum, Nicodemus leaves money for them. Gaius bequeaths Matthew’s wealth to Matthew’s father, Alphaeus (Troy Caylak). On the road, Jesus decides to go through Samaria, much to the shock of the disciples, especially Big James (Kian Kavousi) and John. When they arrive in Sychar, the disciples go to town to buy food while Jesus stays at Jacob’s Well, where he meets Photina, asking her for water. Jesus offers her “living water,” expresses true worship, and announces that he is the Messiah. After hearing Jesus telling her everything she did, Photina tells everyone Jesus is the Christ. The disciples return then Jesus publicly launches his ministry.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
Canaan, 952 B.C.
Jacob directs his sons to a spot for digging a well. They are interrupted by another man, who asks about Jacob’s recent lant purchase. He tells Jacob that he was cheated in the purchase and that he will never strike water when digging the well because the underground river runs around the mound, not below it. They continue on amicably, as Jacob explains they are sojourners and that his grandfather was promised a homeland by God. The stranger tells him that in Canaan, the gods are not very nice and often do not follow through on their promises. He asks Jacob the name of his god. Jacob replies that His name is El Shaddai. The stranger is baffled that their God has no temple and no home, and that He is not carried by them.
Stranger: So He is invisible.
Jacob: Yes. Well, usually. There was one time He broke my hip.
The stranger laughs and says he has heard enough, noting that of all the gods Jacob could choose from, he picked an invisible one whose promises take generations to come true, who makes him sojourn in strange places, and who broke Jacob’s hip. He tells Jacob that was a strange choice. Jacob replies that they did not choose Him. Abruptly they are interrupted as one of Jacob’s sons calls out that they found water. Jacob checks the water and tells the stranger that He chose them.
In the present, we meet a woman at that same well, drawing up water, alone, in the middle of the day. She loads it onto a carrying pole and returns to her village. Once there, she sets it down and enters into a home. The older man inside tells her as she comes in that when the door opened, he had hoped it was a thief or a murderer. She apologizes for disappointing him, and says that there is something she needs from him. He asks her to come closer. After she nears him, he tells her that her hair is matted and her face is red. He says that if she came back to live with him, she could go to the well with the other women in the morning. She answers that she could have been able to do that, also, by remaining with Ramin.
The man asks her to come out with it, and asks how much money she needs. She answers that she is not here for money. She hands him a bill of divorce and says she wants him to sign it. He says that only a man can file divorce, so she explains that it is written in his name. He asks on what grounds he is to divorce her, and she replies that she is living with another man. He asks her so what and says she did the same with him. She says that the Pentateuch gives permission for a husband to divorce his wife if she lies with another man. He refuses to sign the document, even after she begs. He tosses the document into the fire.
At Matthew’s house, Jesus, his disciples, and their friends are gathered for a dinner party. After a while, Pharisees knock on the door demanding to know what is going on. Matthew opens the door to ask if he can help them, and they admit that they were on a walk and heard voices. They look inside and see Jesus, who stands to greet them and invite them inside. They refuse, rudely, noting the guests. One of the Pharisees asks Simon why his master eats with tax collectors and sinner. (Matthew 9:11)
Jesus: It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. (Matthew 9:12)
They continue complaining that the gathered people have not offered proper guilt sacrifices and Jesus tells them that they are forgetting the scroll of Hosea.
Jesus: “I desire mercy more than sacrifice.” (Hosea 6:6)
Pharisee: Then all righteous men are on the lookout for you, and they are weighing every word you say.
Simon: Is that a threat?
Jesus: Please let them know this, Jusef. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
Just then Gaius approaches the door and asks if everything is okay here. The Pharisees say yes and go on their way. At the doorway, Gaius sees Matthew, who tells everyone to continue eating, promising to talk to Gaius. They step aside and Gaius again warns him that he is making a mistake and says he can still walk away from this. Matthew answers that he made his choice. Gaius directs Matthew to look at the people gathered in his house and describes all of them, except Matthew’s fellow tax collectors, as the bottom of the barrel in the city.
Matthew points out that Gaius is Germanic and that his people surrendered. He tells his old friend that he is surrendering as well and says that Gaius will do better without him. He adds that his recent promotion was well earned. Gaius asks how he will do better and points out that Matthew is the one who got him promoted. Matthew contradicts him, but when Gaius tells him not to play dumb, Matthew responds that he could just say thank you. Gaius refuses, so Matthew says that if he cannot say it, he could show it by doing them a favor. Gaius asks what the favor is.
At his home, Nicodemus speaks with his wife, who notes that he has not rehearsed the speech he is to give later. He says it is nothing, but she tells him that they want to honor him for the great things he has done here.
Zohara: You are one of those rare men who excels in both rehearsed and unrehearsed speech.
Nicodemus: And you are not guilty of bias, are you?
She tells him that Caiaphas said as much previously, and when Nicodemus says he was just flattering, she notes that he has never complimented her cooking. They both laugh. Zohara begins discussing their family, and what it will be like at Shabbat when they return. Nicodemus is clearly moved by this. They discuss the nature of God, and the idea of being called onto new and hard roads, but Nicodemus never tells her about Jesus. After a while, she gives him myrrh to commemorate their last day in Capernaum. He begins to shudder and mutters about there bieng one last day.
Zohara: Nicodemus, I love our life.
Nicodemus: As do I.
Zohara: Take me back to it.
Overcome, he tells her that he has changed his mind and that he wants to prepare his remarks.
Quintus meets with Gaius to ask him what methods they are using to quell and disperse mobs that are obstructing traffic. Gaius tells him that they are using mounted officers, and force if necessary. Quintus asks him what use mounted officers are if the people have never seen anyone trampled. Quintus tells Gaius that he was forced to endure a smug lecture after Herod’s envoy was delayed, and he insists that this never happen again.
Quintus notes that Gaius is alone and asks if this means that a new soldier has been hired to protect him. Gaius says a new soldier has been hired, but then adds that he is now reviewing applications for a new tax collector for that district as well. Quintus asks why and he tells him that Matthew left. Quintus is immediately angry and asks why he left Matthew quit.
Gaius: He is a contractor. I had no recourse.
Quintus: Quit to do what?
Gaius: He is to become a student.
Quintus: Of what?
Gaius tells him that Matthew quit to study the Jewish God. Gaius adds that he is following a holy man from the eastern ghetto.
Quintus: Oh, I really don’t like that man.
Jesus and his disciples gather for their journey. They discuss how many days of supplies that they need, and when told three, one of them asks if they are going to run all the way to Jerusalem. Andrew chimes in that this will not work for Simon, as he is not a great runner. Simon says he has bad shins. Jesus notes that Simon is subdued and asks him what is the matter. After some cajoling, Simon points out that he is the only one among them who is married. He admits that he is worried to leave Eden alone at home with their Eema.
We see Nicodemus after the ceremony in his honor. He is subdued but no one seems to notice as they praise him. Even Shmuel compliments him. Nicodemus returns the complement to Shmuel and shares that he foresees the other man will become an important leader in their order in the years to come. Shmuel seems to agree and suggests that perhaps he will one day teach across Judea. Nicodemus gently suggests that it might be bold to assume outcomes, pointing out that their work is for God and that God alone chooses where it takes them. Shmuel agrees, before saying that under Nicodemus’s guidance, he has found a matter of law he is deeply passionate about.
Nicodemus: Tell me, what is it that you have become so passionate about?
Shmuel: False prophesy.
He explains that this passion was born out of the experience of witnessing Jesus heal the paralytic. Shmuel was particularly offended by Jesus referring to Himself as the Son of Man. He approaches Nicodemus and notes that the man claimed to be God and that Nicodemus said nothing. He then tells Nicodemus that he will petition Jerusalem to study this matter further, and notes that if Nicodemus opposes this petition, it will raise the question of his actions when Jesus said these things.
Nicodemus: So, it’s all about politics and promotion for you, is it? It’s not to serve God.
Shmuel: On the contrary, Teacher, it’s about the law, and the law is God.
Nicodemus tells him that he will not oppose the petition before adding to Shmuel that he has learned nothing from him.
At Simon’s house, their Eema is coughing and feverish. She asks Eden where Simon is and if he can build them a fire. Eden tells her that Simon is away. She leaves the room and begins to cry when Jesus addresses her. She offers him a drink but he tells her that she saw first in Simon what He sees. He tells her that this noticing connects them. Just then Simon enters the room to explain to Eden that they are about to leave. Jesus tells him to stay where he is for a moment and to go sit with his mother-in-law.
After he goes, Jesus tells Eden that she is one flesh with Simon, and that his sacrifices are also her sacrifices. He also tells her that she has a role to play in all of this. He tells her that he sees her and adds that he would not ask her to do her part without taking care of a few things, nodding toward her Eema. She is stunned.
Jesus: Plus, normal Simon is difficult enough. You think I want to travel with a worried Simon?
Jesus leaves Eden to approach the sick woman. With Simon, Andrew, and Eden watching, he heals her. After she is healed, she stands and immediately begins to serve them food. (Luke 4:38-40) Eden thanks Simon for following Jesus, and says that is why this happened.
We see Quintus giving instructions to write a decree in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek, so that no one can plead ignorance:
“By order of Rome, punishable by detention and imprisonment, religious gatherings outside the synagogue and Hebrew school are strictly prohibited. The Teacher known as Jesus of Nazareth is sought for questioning.”
We see the disciples saying their goodbyes and going toward the meeting place for their departure with Jesus. As they come together, Nicodemus watches them from some distance away. As they look around, and Jesus speaks loudly enough for him to hear the question of whether there is anyone else, Nicodemus weeps silently to himself. They find a bag of gold and Jesus tells them that a friend of His left that for them. As we watch Nicodemus torn apart by his silent grief, Jesus says quietly to himself, “you came so close.” They then set out.
Gaius visits the home of Matthew’s parents, both of whom are now home. Inside, he tells them about how Matthew quit his job to follow Jesus.
Gaius: I’m sure he will come to his senses.
Father: [laughing] His senses? Do you know my son?
Gaius: Do you? At the moment, he believes this man to be a prophet.
Mother: The man who healed the paralytic at Zebedee’s house.
Gaius: I would be careful with that word “healed.” We do not know what sort of trickery or illusion may have been involved.
Both of Matthew’s parents note that Matthew does not make decisions lightly, and Gaius agrees with them. Gaius then tells them that Matthew gave them his house, and when they refuse, he tells them that Matthew suspected as much, so he advises them to sell it or burn it down. After a moment, he tells them not to actually burn it down. Gaius gets up to leave and tells them Matthew’s other gift is just outside.
Outside they find Matthew’s dog. His father asks why the dog, and Gaius tells them that Matthew said thieves forced him to close his business. Gaius explains that the dog is for protection, either for the father while traveling or his wife while staying behind, home alone. Gaius instructs them to let him know if they hear word of Matthew’s whereabouts.
Father: Is he wanted?
Gaius: Not officially. But if Jesus of Nazareth returns to Capernaum, the Praetor would like to… question him and it would be in everyone’s best interest if you contact me.
Gaius starts to tell them that he likes Matthew, but stops himself, before saying quickly that he knows people who were mildly fond of their son. He leaves quickly.
On the road, Jesus tells the group that they are almost there. He explains at this point that they are going to travel through Samaria. He says there is a place there he wants to stop and that it makes their journey shorter by almost half. James and John start to explain why they do not like the Samaritans, listing out old history, before Jesus retorts that Jews destroyed their temple 100 years ago and notes that none of them were alive for any of these events. He instructs all of them to follow Him.
Some time later, they approach a well. Jesus instructs all of them to go into town to buy provisions, saying he will be waiting for them at this well when they return. After they go, he approaches the well. Sometime later, the Samaritan woman approaches to draw water from the well, alone, and in the middle of the day. Jesus asks if she can give him a drink. (John 4:7) They comment on each other’s lack of safety in being there alone, when Jesus asks her why she does not come with the others in the cool of the morning. She answers that the other women will not be seen with her, so she comes alone in the heat of the day. He asks again for a drink and she asks if he won’t be defiled by drinking from her vessel. They continue talking, and He tells her that if she knew who He was, she would be asking Him for a drink and that He would give her living water. She notes that he has nothing to draw water with, and that it is a deep well. She asks what He needs from her if He has His own supply of living water.
Their conversation continues, with her feelings of the historical animosity between Jews and Samaritans coming forward in her tone. She ask if His water is better than the water from their ancestor Jacob. Jesus replies that He knows Jacob, and that anyone who drinks from the well will third again. Jesus tells her that anyone who drinks from the water He offers will never thirst again.
She tells him to prove it, so Jesus instructs her to go and tell her husband and then to come back. When she says she has no husband, Jesus answers that this is correct because she has had five husbands, and that the man she lives with now is not her husband. She laughs derisively and says that Jesus is a prophet who has come to preach at her and she says usually the one good thing about coming to the well alone is that she can escape being condemned. He tells her that He did not come here to condemn her. She complains that the Jews will not let Samaritans worship in the temple in Jerusalem, but Jesus tells her that soon those barriers will be broken and people will be free to worship anywhere and that it will only matter than worship is done in spirit and in truth.
The woman listens, but then talks herself out of receiving the message. She shakes her head and walks away from Jesus. He asks if she believes what He is telling her, and she answers that until the Messiah comes, and sorts out everything – including herself – she cannot trust in anyone.
Jesus: This Messiah you speak of… I am He.
She starts to leave, when Jesus begins naming her husbands and her relationship with them. She drops the water she is carrying and asks why He is doing this. He explains that He has not revealed Himself to the public yet as the Messiah, and says she is the first.
Jesus: It would be good if you believed me.
We see the disciples returning from town in the distance as she tells Jesus that He picked the wrong person. He replies that He came to the well, specifically to meet her. She starts to weep, and then she gasps, finally understanding the reality of her situation.
Woman: I am going to tell everyone.
Jesus: I was counting on it.
She runs back into the town, without her water, yelling about meeting Jesus. When the disciples reach Jesus, they comment that she left her water, but she continues on yelling in joy. One of them tells him that they haev food. Jesus says that he has food to eat that they do not know about. Another of them asks who got him food. (John 4:7-34)
Simon realizes the import of what just happened though and comments that He told her and that she can tell others. He is happy and Jesus answers an unfinished question by telling him it means they will be staying in Samaria for a couple of days. Simon celebrates that it has started.
The episode and the first season ends as we hear a song titled “Trouble.”
I’ll give thoughts on the season as a whole, at some point, but my first thought is “job well done.”
The conversation with the woman at the well was an absolute gem. It was relatively faithful to the text, only adding a little surrounding conversation to bring it to life. Jesus knew that this woman’s authentic self would be an evangelist. He saw beyond the surrounding circumstances to really see who she could be. This mirrors the conversation Jesus had earlier in the episode with Eden, regarding Simon and how only the two of them really saw Simon.
It feels like a bit of an unfair comparison, but we really see again in this episode what a difference the right spouse makes. Eden pushes Simon in the right direction, whereas Zohara holds Nicodemus back. I say it’s unfair because Nicodemus never actually tells his wife about Jesus, so she’s operating at a disadvantage to Eden. Zohara was not given the same chance to support Nicodemus that Eden was given to support Simon. Of course, we see little in her to suggest she would have supported that choice from him, which is likely why he never told her. Too much of his earnest faith journey is done alone. Simon and Eden operate together, as “one flesh.” It was a smart choice also, by the writers, to make Zohara a relatively warm character who loves her life, her husband, and her family. She holds her husband back not by choosing something bad, but by choosing something good. “Good” can often be a dangerous enemy to “best.”
I liked that we saw Jesus show concern and love for Eden and Simon’s mother-in-law. He directly includes Eden in Simon’s work for Him- which He had not done yet – and then He heals her mother to help. The joke about not wanting to travel with a worried Simon was not in the text, but it did not feel inauthentic. One thing Jonathan Roumie’s portrayal of Jesus gives the audience is a fully human Jesus, as well as a fully God Jesus. Often on screen, Jesus is distant and unrelatable. This performance is warm and charismatic.
Sometimes it gets lost that Jesus wanted to make Himself known to more than just the Jews (usually this is an argument that becomes inferred when critiquing the Apostle Paul) , however, Christ’s work in Samaria suggests that evangelizing the world was His intention. (Obviously, Jesus later gives a more explicit command / commission to that end.)
An interesting subplot in this episode is the follow-up to Matthew’s decision. This is the portion of the episode that lies most outside of the text of the New Testament, though we should surmise as New Testament readers that Matthew’s decision had actual consequences that were not recorded. The guess on the part of the writers as to those consequences made for a good story, though of course it all might have gone quite differently in real life. None of these story-telling choices felt as though they contradict the actual text.
I am really loving Gaius as a character. He cares for Matthew and is concerned about him. He even goes to visit Matthew’s parents, to do the favor Matthew asked of him, and he packed a lot of punch in the short question, to Matthew’s father, of whether he knows his own son. Quintus is also flummoxed and hurt by Matthew’s departure, and deals with that by lashing out. Quintus is a fun character, and Brandon Potter’s portrayal of him has “Lex Luthor from Smallville” vibes that go beyond the similarly bald head. It’s very well done.
Speaking of villains, I like where the show is going with Shmuel. There is a feeling of menace with him, but without the loss of a rational understanding as to why he is taking that path. He remains human and is not a two-dimensional mustache (beard?) twirler. He reacted to the miracle with the paralytic by focusing on what Jesus said without regard to what He did. The three-dimensional video medium makes that easier to understand. Shmuel threatens to weaponize Nicodemus’s non-reaction against him with the others. I enjoyed seeing the reaction from Nicodemus to that threat, too. He handled it well. He is an earnest soft-hearted man, but also a mentally sharp, tough one.
On the whole, this is another great episode and we get a sense now that the long introduction is over. The “Trouble” referred to by the outro song as the episode ended is now beginning. We have met most of “The Chosen” and have now seen how this story begins.