NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, April 10th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The perfect series to binge over Easter weekend.
I think I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve unequivocally recommended a Christian production not just for its moral value but it’s entertainment value as well. When I do come across that kind of rare gem, I tend to get a bit gushy.
Well, get ready, because I am about to gush.
CLIP: I saw the Messiah today. The man all of us, including you, have been praying for our whole lives. Don’t you even care? Was he a big man? Big? No. Rich? No, he didn’t seem so. He didn’t seem he could get us out of this debt to Rome? Maybe, maybe he was a doctor? No. So he can’t help with Eden’s eema who’s now living with us, Andrew. Dasha’s sick? So pardon me if I’m not exactly jumping out of my sandals because creepy John pointed at someone.
It’s important to note that The Chosen isn’t a straight retelling of Bible narratives like a Mark Burnett miniseries. It takes creative liberties by asking intelligent questions then imagining stories that might answer them.
For example, what might cause a hot-tempered, blue-collar guy like Peter to go fishing at night? He needs to pay off a debt, perhaps? Why is Matthew willing to become a pariah in his community for the sake of dollars and cents? Maybe he has an Aspergers-like disorder that makes social connections difficult but mathematical calculations easy.
It’s a fascinating interpretation that works perfectly with what we do know of Matthew’s meticulous nature.
CLIP: Where’s your escort? He didn’t want to enter. He feels that my lack of social graces…He thinks you’ll get him killed. Yes. Not today, Matthew. No. Today, I am in need. You heard me right. I am in need of your machine. My machine. You mind, Matthew. Keep up.
The Chosen’s extrapolations reinforce the New Testament narrative, giving us full personalities and backstories to go with the bits we already know. In fact, the filmmakers go to great lengths to get both the Scriptural and cultural details right. It’s clear they have a deep theological understanding of the material.
Funny and relatable, the series doesn’t just check off events as they occur chronologically in the Gospels. It uses flashbacks and quick references to the Old Testament to make a holistic case for Jesus as the Messiah.
CLIP: The man claimed to be God and you said nothing. I will petition Jerusalem, requesting permission to search the archives for all matters pertaining to such false prophecy. Will you oppose my petition, rabbi? The question on the mind of every man who reads my account will have to be what did Nicodemus do? So it’s all about politics and promotion for you, is it? It’s not to serve God. On the contrary teacher, it’s about the law. And the law is God. If I’m rewarded for that it’s because I learned from the very wisest. I will not oppose your petition. And Shmuel, you have learned nothing from me.
None of this to say that the show is perfect. Sets and costumes occasionally show evidence of budget constraints. And a few of the actors overplay their roles. My only serious gripe, though, is that every once in a while the script invents dialogue for Jesus that isn’t as careful as it should be.
Lines like asking Nicodemus what his heart is telling him miss the mark. Jesus knew better than anyone how deceitful our hearts are, so it’s unlikely He would have asked the Pharisee what he believed in those words.
But this feels more like rare carelessness than intentional mischaracterization. Especially as the rest of the scene is so earnest in capturing the spirit of John, Chapter 3. It would take a pharisaical spirit indeed to impugn such an excellent series over minor quibbles.
Put simply, The Chosen is one of the most engaging adaptations of the New Testament I’ve ever seen. We continue watching episode after episode not because we feel like we should support it as dutiful Christians, but because it’s entertaining and hard to stop.
CLIP: Simon, what troubles you? Nothing, just excited for the trip. You can tell me the truth. You’re telling me you don’t already know what’s in my head? That’s a conversation for another time. But for now…I’m the only one among us who is married. So you think I should have only called single people? Of course not. And I’m glad you didn’t. But Eden will be alone with her eema. You’re scared things could get worse and you wouldn’t be there. See? That’s what I mean. You already know anyway. Simon, everyone here already knows what you’re thinking most of the time. It doesn’t take God’s wisdom.