Jonathan David Faulkner
Let me start by saying that I rarely make recommendations of Christian Film Media. We either make the mistake of being extremely reductionistic and legalistic or we give easy and pat answers to extremely complex issues. I am even more hesitant to recommend Christian film Media that depicts or dramatizes the life of Christ. In them we often make Christ to be some otherworldly sage who quotes scripture and only upsets people when, and if, he cleans out the temple. We end up with a curated and incomplete picture of Christ as He was, as Scripture describes Him as. Jesus becomes either a flower-child Hippie (as in 2014’s “Son of God”) or an unreal, aphoristic shadow of who He really was. Rarely do we find, in Christian Media, a depiction of Jesus which accurately portrays him as both human and divine. Of course, one will never see perfection, that is impossible, so long as fallen and depraved human beings are involved. But we may have finally gotten as close as we are able in Dallas Jenkins “The Chosen.”
First off, let me comment on the format this is being released on, because that is where the uniqueness starts. The Chosen cannot be found on traditional film outlets. You are not going to find this on Amazon Video, Netflix or Hulu. Instead, you have to download a specific App that is available through almost every App Store (though it is not available through the Mircosoft or Kindle Stores) and allows you to, for free, stream to any external device on your TV or computer. My wife and I have been projecting it from my phone to our FireTVHD Stick with little difficulty. All you have to do is be on the same network as the device you are streaming it to. The other unique part of the system of delivery is that every episode is free, however you are asked to “Pray it Forward” by providing a certain number of episodes for free to someone else. You can even see who has paid for your episode as you watch it. You are not required to Pay it Forward, but I highly recommend it. This is how they are paying for their planned 7 or 8 seasons.
After you download the App and start watching episode 1 you are thrown into the world of Ancient Israel as you have likely never seen it. It is incredibly obvious that Jenkins and his production staff have done their research and maybe even consulted an N.T Wright or Everrett Furgason. The Cultural backdrop to the Bible comes to life in full HD living color. Right away you are introduced not to Jesus, but Mary Magdalene or Lilleth who is still Demon-Possessed. Long before you ever meet Jesus you are introduced to Matthew, Peter, Andrew, James, John and the Pharisee Nicodemus. You get to learn about their back stories, please note that we know little abut their lives before Christ, so creative license is taken, but even this creative license is believable given what we know of their characters in the Gospel, Peter is particularly impulsive. The first time you meet Jesus is in the last two minutes of the first episode where He comes to Mary in the Judean equivalent of a Bar where she is preparing to drink herself into a stupor. The episode ends with her healing, but not by Jesus doing anything dramatic, he calls her by name, and she runs to him crying. The next time we see her, in episode two, she is healed and preparing a Shabot Supper. Immediately you get the sense that Jesus, played by Jonathan Roumie, is incredibly safe and incredibly powerful. He is obviously human, but He is also obviously divine. He is an average person going where average people go, but He is also God. Roumie has done a masterful job of combining these two aspects of Jesus life in a way it has never been done before.
The final aspect I want to mention (I could write a book, but this is a recommendation), is the attention to cultural detail and background they have taken in producing this. You get the sense that you are watching ancient Judean’s under the occupation of Rome. The actors look and sound as they would have looked and sounded in the ancient world. Brown skinned middle eastern men and women who dress and act like ancient Brown skinned Middle Easterners. One is surprised to find this was produced in the United States since it denies our normal tendency to Westernize Jesus and His Disciples. This is likely what will make this show most effective as an evangelistic and discipleship tool, that it will be accessible to everyone because it strives to be an accurate representation of the times and the people involved in the original Gospel stories.
One final note and this is more a warning to fans than a concern about the production itself. I have seen some concerning comments about how this show has brought people closer to God than they have ever been. That is good, but please do not let this show replace your daily reading of the scriptures it is based upon. Please remember that this should point you to the Jesus of the Bible, not the Jesus of The Chosen. This should also encourage you to be part of the Jesus Community from which it came, scripture should always bring you into the communion of the Saints on this Earth. Pastors, this is an effective discipleship and evangelistic tool, let us use it as such, to draw people to Christ, but also to remind people that Christ’s People still gather today.
So I give THE CHOSEN a 9 out of 10 HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Check it out today!
avid Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.