I’m not a fan of Christian movies. While their messages are positive, I generally find them cheesy, badly written and poorly acted. They try too hard to evangelise at the expense of good filmmaking and ultimately end up doing neither. So when I saw Christians were producing a new series on the life of Christ, I rolled my eyes: “Please Lord not another cringe worthy Christian film.” This time, though, people whose taste in film I trusted were talking so positively about The Chosen, that it convinced me to at least give it a go.
One strength of this series is that it doesn’t try to shove Jesus down your throat; rather it gently invites you to make up your own mind. It focuses on the characters around Jesus in their ordinariness and brokenness. While staying true to what is written in the Gospels about these characters, it adopts excellent creativity in filling out what the rest of their lives may have looked like, showing both how common their lives were and how much Jesus had impacted them.
This, in turn, makes the characters relatable. They sin, they joke, they cry, they laugh at the same things that we would. Throughout the series you find yourself thinking “this story in the Bible makes so much sense now.” It’s true, the way the stories are filled out may not be what actually happened, but that’s beside the point. What these stories do is actually help bring the real events in the Bible to life in a fantastic way. They make you want to immerse yourself in Scripture even more.
The figure of Jesus is also a big win. They succeed in showing the humanity of Christ without compromising His sinless nature or detracting from His Divinity. Jonathan Roumie is warm, gentle, strong, funny and incredibly likeable in the role as Jesus. Jesus becomes someone you want to hang out with, become friends with, travel with, joke and muck around with, and – crucially – follow. This final point is particularly what hit home with me in a profound way.
I really struggle with pride. While I do my best not to let my ego get the better of me, I find that I crave affirmation and I can become discouraged when I don’t get it. I realise that it’s a particular weakness of mine that I need to continue working on. I mention this because of an encounter I had with God in prayer as a fruit of this series. In episode seven, there are two characters that Jesus encounters, both of whom have been powerfully impacted by Him and His message. In two separate and very moving scenes, Jesus invites them each to follow Him. The series goes on to show their reactions and ultimate response to this invitation.
Once I finished watching this particular episode, I went to my prayer space at home to do my night prayers. As I sat down, the image of Jesus saying the words “Follow me” was strongly on my mind and heart. In that moment I found myself weeping. I came to the realisation that what I truly wanted was for Jesus to say those words to me. I wanted Jesus to choose me. God was showing me that this was the affirmation I ultimately craved. This was the answer to my inner longing. But He didn’t leave me there. He revealed that Jesus does want me. He does choose me to follow Him.
This concept wasn’t new to me. I have both heard and taught countless times about how we all yearn for the love of God. I knew it to be true. But it took a Christian series to take that knowledge and let it sink deeper into my heart. Here’s the thing: truly good art naturally draws one out of oneself. It moves a person to that which is true, good, beautiful and ultimately, eternal. Now, when you mix good art with an openness to the Holy Spirit, then you get something powerful that can change lives. This is the experience I had of The Chosen.
The Chosen puts the viewer in the shoes of the characters so well that we feel as though Jesus speaks to us when he speaks to them. As the characters start becoming Jesus’ chosen who follow Him, we realise that Jesus’ call extends to us. His invitation is for all of humanity. We might grapple with this invitation just as the characters do. Like them, we may also say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to this invitation. But ultimately, we are all given the opportunity to call ourselves His chosen.
I’m not saying this series is perfect. Some scenes could have been more effective, certain details seem inaccurate, and the actors’ Middle-Eastern accents can at times be more amusing than convincing. Those things, however, are minor details when looking at the series as a whole. It is both a quality artwork and inspired.
So, if you’re avoiding watching this series because of the usual Christian cringe factor, you need not be worried. The Chosen is entertaining, creative, well produced and deep – everything I thought Christian films were not. Or maybe God’s just softening my heart to Christian film? Whatever it is, one thing’s for sure; this series has given greater depth to my relationship with Jesus and helped me internalise that I am in fact one of His chosen.