The Chosen: Why watching TV is good for you

The latest episodes of Jesus TV show The Chosen are out and I got stuck into them as soon as I could. Smashed both of them like you would with your favourite Netflix new release.

The biggest shock about such binging is that I’m now a fan of Christian screen entertainment. The Chosen has converted me.

The Chosen TV series

Before The Chosen, I was a reluctant and often grouchy viewer of any movie or TV show that dared to explicitly be about the things of Jesus, God or the Bible.

I don’t think it was just because I spent more than ten years as a professional movie and TV show reviewer. Like a lot of Christians, I would cringe or whinge about what I perceived as cheesy or contrived doses of sickly sweet screen time. Didn’t help that often the production values, scripting or acting were, erm, amateur at best. And those altar calls at the end …

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Turns out watching TV can be good for your soul, when what you’re watching is a shrewd treatment of the gospel as serious entertainment.

But watching Episodes 2 and 3 of The Chosen Season 2 has put me in the camp of being a surprising “evangelist” for this crowd-funded, well-produced series about the life and times of Jesus.

In fact, I’m hopeful that The Chosen has the same sorts of effects upon other people’s personal faith as it has upon my own. Turns out watching TV can be good for your soul, when what you’re watching is a shrewd treatment of the gospel as serious entertainment.

Season 2 of The Chosen is about Jesus’ disciples in the early days of his public ministry. Like Season 1, more of this show centres on what’s going on around Jesus, as opposed to having him in every scene. And that’s a great thing, as viewers like me – and you! – are plonked into the sorts of situations which Jesus probably stirred up while he was here.

How often have you wondered what it would have been like to be around Jesus? The Chosen walks a terrific line of clearly revering the Bible and not trying to add to it, while embellishing upon it to immerse us in the wonder, confusion, opposition and revolution of God coming to dwell among us.

Episode 2 covers the arrival of Philip and Nathanael to the Jesus gang. Episode 3 dwells by a fireside discussion about why the disciples were picked to follow him. While the second episode is more engaging in its conversations and character development, both of them continue The Chosen’s secret of success – making the gospel narratives come alive on-screen.

My own belief and trust in Jesus gets a real shot in the arm as episodes draw out different facets or nuances of biblical accounts I know quite well.

I really like how the reactions of characters, or their imagined back stories, can make me think about aspects of Jesus’s teachings or his influence in ways I had not even thought to do. It can be the look in the eyes of someone meeting Jesus for the first time, or mother Mary musing on what it’s like to raise the Son of God.

Such artistic flourishes on the true story of Jesus inspire me to go back to God’s word, drink it deeply and ask the Spirit to help me get the strongest taste of what it is to KNOW Jesus. Incredibly, it’s a TV show guiding me back to Jesus, not further away.

In Episode 3, a discussion between the disciples about what they were like before Jesus changed everything gradually heats up to Simon Peter verbally attacking the former tax collector, Matthew. Yes, this is an imagined scene not included in any biblical book but it made me consider what the disciples thought of each other – and how they would have wrestled with living out Jesus’ teachings within their own number.

When Jesus meets Nathanael in Episode 2, that remark about “when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” arrives with weight and humanity because of the considered structure of the episode. Do I think The Chosen‘s suggestions about Nathanael’s job or personal troubles are accurate? No, but this is not a show claiming to be the word of God.

More appropriately, it’s a show claiming to be about the Word that is sent from God, and it keeps finding nifty and provocative ways to stoke the coals of my faith.

Thanks, The Chosen. Looking forward to the rest of Season 2.

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