Episode three of Season two of the The Chosen (the landmark television series about Jesus and the disciples) is a thing of devastating power. While the entire episode is worth talking about, it is the end that packs the strongest punch. The final scene left me teary-eyed and awestruck in all the best ways. More importantly, it left me feeling spiritual conviction.
We live in a culture that avoids honest and painful self-reflection. We dance around it and dress up other ideas to make them sound like we are doing the hard work of spiritual introspection, but in the end, it’s mostly pantomime. I am not suggesting that we should dwell on our failures and short-comings. Not at all. But, if we are in the habit of avoiding all evidence of our fallenness, we miss out on the necessary pruning that Jesus wants for us. We need to be able to see sin for what it is and not call it by less offensive words like “messy” or “flawed”. There is a place for those words, but in the end they miss the mark when acknowledging and confronting our depravity.
To be clear, we do not do this difficult yet important work on our own. The Holy Spirit is constantly nudging and moving us. If we are paying attention, our hearts should be attuned and receptive to His voice. The conviction of the Holy Spirit is an essential part of the Christian journey and one that many of us, myself included, are too quick to ignore. That gets us back to The Chosen.
Setting the stage.
Before we dive into the final moments of the episode, we need to set the stage. Episode three is fairly short for The Chosen standards. Clocking in under 37 minutes, the episode is basically divided into two sequences. First, there is an unprecedented 14-minute 50-second one-take scene. I don’t want to chase this rabbit too long, but everyone in the cast and crew should be commended for that amazing scene. Ambitious is not a strong enough word for it. The preparation, timing, and execution all have to be perfect to pull of something like that. And they pull it off perfectly. After that scene ends, the show settles into a campfire conversation between many of the disciples.
The episode is titled Matthew 4:24, “News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all.” The opening one-shot follows the disciples as they manage the crowd, help Jesus (who is unseen for most of the episode), and take breaks to talk. The dialogue firmly establishes that Jesus has been healing the sick all day with no time off. The disciples are understandably concerned about His workload. Night settles on the disciples’ camp and we transition to the second half of the episode.
When a good thing goes bad.
For the remainder of the episode, we watch as the disciples sit around the campfire and talk. Things start out just as you would expect them to. Lighthearted jokes, personal stories and anecdotes, gentle ribbing and teasing. Mother Mary gets to share her experience of giving birth to Jesus and all the complicated emotions that followed. It’s a beautiful and poignant moment in a show full of them.
Unfortunately, things don’t stay so positive. The conversation turns uncomfortable, with some of the disciples expressing their anger and resentment towards Matthew and his previous tax collecting work. Frankly, it is a conversation that needs to happen and one that comes to no resolution. Matthew is now a follower of Jesus but that does not excuse or condone his past employment. As a tax collector he was part of a system that brutally hurt most of the people sitting around the fire. And from what we are shown, he has not yet owned up to it. The disciples have a right to feel hurt, though they take it too far.
As I said, it is uncomfortable and awkward. Tensions are high and what started out as a pleasant conversation quickly devolves into an angry and bitter argument. When the scene feels as if it cannot possibly get any more intense, Jesus makes his appearance. One might label it as a “blink-or-you-will-miss-it” kind of scene due to its brevity, but I do not see how it is possible to miss it. Those final minutes land like a slap in the face.
What would Jesus do?
Just as Simon Peter declares that he will never be able to forgive Matthew, Jesus staggers into the camp. He is disheveled, sweaty, and appears to have blood on His clothes, hands, and head. He is exhausted and barely able to make it to His tent so Mother Mary lovingly helps him clean up, wash His feet, and prepare for bed.
The argument dies on their lips. Every disciple looks ashamed and embarrassed. Rightfully so. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I am fully aware that The Chosen is just a television show. It is not inspired Scripture. Even so, that doesn’t mean it cannot speak Truth. (Read Isaiah 53 is you want Biblical support for this scene.) I believe God can use anything to bring conviction in our lives. Even a television show.
Too often, we get caught up in our own problems, opinions, and debates that we miss what God is doing. While we aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong, sometimes we need to take our eyes off the good thing we are doing and focus on the better thing Jesus has for us. Other times, we need to turn our backs on whatever sin has us ensnared and keep our eyes on the One who bore our sickness and carried our pain. When He is our focus and our guide, those things, whether temporary or sinful, fall out of view and lose their power in our lives.
It can be very easy to lose our focus. After all, there are plenty of distractions, even good ones. With no ambiguity, this scene hit home with a much-needed reminder: we should be about our Father’s business, not our own, no matter how important we think it is. He will bring conviction when we lose our way. When we see Jesus for who He is and what He has done, our problems seem so petty.
You shall be holy, for I am holy.
Early in the episode, about midway through the impressive one-take scene, Mary Magdalen says something that I believe ties up the entire theme perfectly. As a few disciples discuss prophecy and being holy, she says, “I don’t think He is waiting for us to be holy. I think He is here because we can’t be holy without Him.” Personal holiness does not happen without conviction from God. Conviction will not affect us if we do not listen to His voice. Jesus promised us that the Spirit would “guide [us] into all truth” which by necessity will include guiding us away from error and sin. (John 16:13) But, I believe it will also guide us from good to better.
God is speaking to us. Always through His Word. Sometimes, with a still, small voice. Sometimes, with a shout. Other times, he uses friends or family. And once in a while, he uses something as out-of-the-box as a television show. “Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God.” (John 8:47a) On our own, we cannot be holy. We need the constant work of the Lord for that. Do not walk away from those times of conviction unchanged. I’m grateful for the reminder The Chosen had for me. I will do my best to listen to His voice and to always choose His better over my good.