We typically review movies in this format, but today is our third article reviewing a streaming series about the life of Jesus. As always, we provide talking points and questions to help explore spiritual topics and to share your faith experience with family and friends.
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The Chosen (Season 4, Episodes 1-3)
Unrated • 2024 • Historical Drama • 8 1-hour episodes
Starring: Jonathan Roumie, Elizabeth Tabish, Paras Patel, Shahar Isaac
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By Andrew Wood
The Chosen is an immensely popular multi-season series depicting the life of Jesus and his disciples. It’s a story well-known to most Christians, but the fanciful dramatic backstories it weaves make the gospel feel fresh and new even to those who have grown up in Sunday school. The first three episodes of season 4 premiered as a cinematic release on Thursday, Feb. 1, and the remaining episodes will premier later this month before all are released for streaming.
TAKING A DARKER TURN
Seasons 1-3 of The Chosen chronicle Jesus’ rise to celebrity status, including his remarkable preaching, miracles, and the call of his disciples. The series sets up rich storylines weaving together the disciples and the Jewish and Roman authorities as they try to make sense of this enigmatic new teacher and the upheaval he brings to their lives.
Most of this material is fictional, so the viewer needs to suspend disbelief of some of the scenarios and follow the story more with an eye to what Jesus says and does, which is closer to the actual Gospel accounts, than the imaginary details of some of the dramatic storylines.
Season 4 takes a much darker turn. John the Baptist has been arrested and meets his tragic end, foreshadowing the fate Jesus himself will suffer at the end of his life. The disciples contend with conflicts and jealousies among themselves and must learn unfamiliar qualities of humility and forgiveness. Jesus’ teachings and miracles are polarizing society to such an extent that the authorities are moving toward forceful intervention. And Jesus’ own actions seem almost deliberately designed to make things worse, to the confusion and dismay of his own disciples.
As in earlier seasons, light and humorous moments pervade Season 4, humanizing the characters and relieving some of the tension of the serious and tragic events unfolding around them.
Matthew (Paras Patel) is a consistently endearing and relatable character with his earnest sincerity and nerdy awkwardness. A love story between Thomas (Joey Vahedi) and his love interest, Ramah (Yasmine Al-Bustami), provides charming comic relief as the disciples take turns mentoring and chaperoning them.
Jesus (Jonathan Roumie) never disappoints. Roumie’s portrayal of the Messiah strikes the right tone of authority and approachability. His patience, bemusement, and empathy for the disciples is palpable. The dialogue is peppered with modern expressions like, “You wouldn’t get it” and “I got you,” which help make the characters accessible to a modern audience.
More than that, the situations themselves presented in the series are immensely relatable. We see how Jesus helps his followers process grief and loss, and how he gently but insistently motivates them to forgive one another.
The disciples must make a decision to continue following Jesus even when he doesn’t do what they expect, and when the blessings of healing and resources he showers on others don’t spare them from hard work and tragedy.
And they must also learn to do things Jesus’ way even when they can imagine ways to accomplish things more efficiently with a different strategy, organizational model, or fundraising. These are lessons modern Christians desperately need to hear and assimilate.
HOW TO VIEW THE CHOSEN
The Chosen was financed through crowdfunding. That is, people who believe in the project send online donations to fund its production and distribution. This allows the final product to be available worldwide for free online streaming, thus getting the message out to the greatest possible audience. Making a choice to see it in theaters first not only adds to the full-immersion dramatic impact of the film, it also helps to fund future episodes.
Season 4, episodes 1-3 are currently available in theaters. Episodes 4-6 will premier Feb. 15, and episodes 7-8 will be in theaters Feb. 29. The most convenient way to stream the series online is through the app: “The Chosen: Stream the Series.” You can even cast it on your TV for your family or small group to watch together.
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If you’d like to take your discussion of this series with others to a deeper level, try some of these questions:
• The Chosen takes quite a few creative liberties. What are some areas where it would be most important for people to understand the difference between fiction and the actual Gospel accounts?
• Which of the disciples do you most identify with in the series? How does Jesus’ interaction with them enhance your sense of connection with him?
• If you had lived in Jesus’ day, what obstacles would have prevented you from following him unreservedly? Are any of those obstacles in your life today?
• Who in your life could most benefit from watching The Chosen? What one thing could you say to them that best summarizes the value of this series to you?
Andrew Wood, a former missionary to Ukraine and professor at Nebraska Christian College, is a freelance writer.
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Read Andrew Wood’s earlier reviews of this series: