Our response to Jesus should come most dominantly from reading his Word—since that’s the only completely trustworthy place we can go to find the true Jesus. So when I realised the propensity for my heart to be more strongly influenced by “The Chosen” than Scripture, I had to make the decision to leave off watching it. The temptation was just too strong to dabble with.
As I gazed at the smiling, gentle face of Jonathan Roumie, I felt uneasy. This actor who portrays Jesus in ‘The Chosen’ was different to any other Jesus actor I had ever encountered. He had the right skin colour for a start. But more than that, his face somehow simultaneously conveyed a strength and kindness that attracted and drew me in. I felt the need to remind myself that he wasn’t Jesus, and that thought gave me pause.
Kudos to Jonathan Roumie for conveying these attributes of Jesus so well. Likewise, the other actors in ‘The Chosen’ do a wonderful job of convincingly portraying their characters. I have heard many Christians say how much they enjoy and relate to them, and I resonate with that. At last, here is a screen interpretation of the life and character of Jesus and his disciples that is believable!
Why then this niggling sense of disquiet?
Others have written about the merits of ‘The Chosen’—this article in particular is helpful—and I don’t dispute any of these. In fact, I agree that “if ‘The Chosen’ helps remind us of [the hope Jesus offers], or introduces it to some audiences for the first time, then that alone is reason for us to cheer its success and share it with others.”* Nevertheless, as I reflected on the unrest in my heart, I finally came to a conclusion. Notwithstanding its merits, this show presented a temptation for me.
The Power of the Senses
It is beyond dispute that audio visual media has a unique ability to evoke emotions and strong responses. So as I watched the first and second seasons of ‘The Chosen’, it is unsurprising that I felt moved in a new way by the stories of the disciples as they left their old lives to follow Jesus. Similarly, there are aspects of Jesus himself that evoked very strong responses in me as they were portrayed. For instance, there is a scene in episode 3 of season 2 where Jesus returns to camp late at night after spending the day healing hordes of the sick. The portrayal of Jesus as utterly exhausted from all his selfless service (especially contrasted with the disciples’ bickering) is heart wrenching. There is nothing like seeing pained facial expressions and body language or hearing a weary tone of voice, sighs and groans to produce sympathy for the plight of another. I found myself freshly drawn to Jesus and wanting to worship him for being willing to undergo this sort of simple suffering for our sake.
But it made me think. Was it really the true Jesus I was responding to? And if so, why did I respond so much more strongly to this scene than to the verses in God’s Word about the fatigue Jesus was subject to (like John 4:6, Mark 6:31, Luke 8:23 and Psalm 69:3)?
The first question is a tricky one to answer, and I’ll come back to it. The second one though, I think is simpler. An audio-visual representation of the concept of human fatigue does all the hard work for us. The producers have taken a reality that the Bible tells us of—that Jesus got tired—and demonstrated to our senses just what that might have looked like.