The gospel echoes in all kinds of stories. It shows up in adventure stories when people are oppressed and a hero rises up to rescue them. We see it in romance stories where true love is put to the test. Fairy tales tell us that good prevails against evil. The echoes ripple out and into our hearts, developing and confirming what we know to be true: that we are created by someone and for something.
The stories in the Bible do not simply echo, or as John Eldredge puts it in his book, Epic , “borrow their power” from the Gospel story. They are the Gospel Story. The Old Testament points to it. The New Testament springs from it. The promised Messiah came in the person of Jesus of Nazareth who died in our place and rose from the dead so we can live as children of God again. That is the Good News all of humanity looks for in all our stories.
Because this story is so important, I feel a great responsibility to tell these stories well. To be historically accurate wherever possible. To make artistic choices that fit that culture and time frame. To show the characters as real people living through real circumstances, behaving and reacting as people who don’t already know the ending of their own story.
I admit, I approached The Chosen reluctantly. I watched the first episode skeptically, and my first impression wasn’t great. I thought the story moved slowly, though to be fair, most pilots do walk a fine line of setting up the world of the story while also moving the story along. I was waiting expectantly for the big reveal: the moment Jesus would enter. He finally did come and from that point on, I was hooked. I wonder if that’s what it was like in first century Israel; if people encountered Jesus and were inexplicably drawn to his simple authenticity while at the same time realizing all of their expectations were now upside down.
My hesitation stems from a history of poorly portrayed Bible stories. It seems to be a problem for the church. We miss the mark, confusing meekness for weakness and holiness for some unrelatable aloofness. We have enough trouble wrapping our brain around the idea that Jesus was fully God and fully man, let alone expressing that on the stage or screen.
But The Chosen (much like Sight & Sound’s Jesus) manages to strike that balance by focusing on the humans God chose to work with and through, in all their multi-dimensional glory. They paint a picture of people who are complex, who experience a range of emotions, and make the best choices they can within their framework of understanding. A framework that is not like ours.
There are so many ways to tell these wonderful, compelling stories. Experiencing them through different mediums, stage, screen, book, and so on, when they are told well, inspires me to dig deeper into my Bible and to see if I can find what the artists portray in the text.
The Chosen is well-crafted art. It allows us, the viewers, to discover the world as Jesus and his disciples did, giving us a better picture of the times they lived in which we can draw on when we read the stories for ourselves. I hope we will not ever think of one portrayal as the definitive picture of the gospel, but will continue to be inspired and to seek out the story for ourselves.
P.S. If you’re interested in looking at the Scriptures artistically, check out the Script Study to do just that!