Mary's Demons & the Destiny of John the Baptist (Exploring The Chosen Season 2 Episode 5 with Youth)
Updated: 5 days ago
The Chosen Season 2 Episode 5 has sparked a lot of controversy. It's also a complex episode that develops a variety of plot lines and character arcs that were set up earlier in Season 2:
John the Baptist and Jesus have a final meeting before John heads off to confront Herod Antipas, and Jesus sadly anticipates John's arrest and execution.
Ramah struggles to learn how to read Hebrew from Mary Magdalene.
Mary Magdalene confronts both the literal and metaphorical demons from her past.
Simon the Zealot goes in search of Jesus, is introduced to the disciples, and pledges his loyalty.
While investigating Simon the Zealot, Atticus Aemilius discovers that Jesus' followers see him as the Messiah.
Matthew continues to have trouble fitting in among the disciples of Jesus, coming into conflict with Thomas.
Shmuel and Yanni, his friend, try to figure out how to manipulate the Sanhedrin into prosecuting Jesus.
Jesus goes off to craft the Sermon on the Mount.
If this seems like a lot, it's because it is. The Chosen Season 2 Episode 5 is covering plenty of ground in an attempt to give more direction and momentum to the overall season, and so it's important to be selective in discussing it with youth. We'll be focused primarily on John the Baptist, since I haven't given the adaptation of his character very much attention in these posts, but we'll also touch briefly on the theme of confronting demons, which also plays a prevalent role in the episode.
The Chosen Season 2 Episode 5 Intro Questions: Crazy John (the Baptist)
To begin your discussion, I would gauge what your youth already know about John by asking:
Who was John the Baptist? What does the New Testament tell us about him?
Many youth will know that John the Baptist prepared for Jesus in some way and that he baptized Jesus. They may remember hearing about his unique dress and his strange diet. Students will be less aware of John's conflict with Herod Antipas, his arrest, and his ultimate fate. Although these details might be considered "spoilers" in a sense, I think this episode of The Chosen expects us to come in with a knowledge of what's ahead. Without the knowledge of John's fate, the meeting between Jesus and John actually feels a bit random and out of place, and the strong dramatic irony that The Chosen is going for will be missed. This is not a "twist" that The Chosen is trying to hide; it's a doom that the show foreshadows and marches toward with a sad solemnity.
With that in mind, I would have your youth read the following passages as an introduction to John the Baptist:
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:1-17 ESV)
When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:1-19 ESV)
At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus. Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. (Matthew 14:1-13a ESV)
Before reading these passages, I would make it clear to your students that you won't possibly be able to explain and discuss everything in them. You could point out that many of these events will most likely be eventually adapted in The Chosen itself. For now, tell them to focus on the identity of John the Baptist and his relationship with Jesus. After you finish reading, follow up and ask them:
What questions do you have? What was hard to understand?
Based on these passages, who is John the Baptist? How is he described? What role did he play?
What was the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist? How did they view each other?
You may want to break things down a little bit more. In particular, John's baptism and its significance may be confusing to your youth, perhaps especially so depending on your church's practice and beliefs about baptism. Keep in mind though that this time is just aimed to get the minds of your students going.
Review Questions: The Chosen Season 2 So Far
Since the story of The Chosen has grown increasingly complex in Season 2, it's a good idea to regularly review some relevant information from previous episodes (especially since there's not a regular "previously on The Chosen" segment). Here are a few questions you might want to review (no need to take too long - just a quick recap):
What happened last episode?
In Season 1, what did Jesus save Mary from? In addition to her demons, do we know anything about Mary's old life before she encountered Jesus? [fishing for "the Red Quarter" bit]
Matthew, Ramah, and Mary Magdalene are outsiders in the group. What knowledge do they lack that the others have? What did they decide to start doing in Episode 2 of The Chosen Season 2?
Viewing The Chosen Season 2 Episode 5
Although The Chosen Season 2 Episode 5 did livestream on YouTube and Facebook, new episodes are now only being left up for 24 hours before being taken down. To watch this season with your group, you'll need to pick up The Chosen app (Google / Apple).
While watching The Chosen Season 2 Episode 5, I would make occasional comments through the chat but I try to not do too much teaching. I want the youth to enjoy it and not just see The Chosen as an elaborate preaching illustration. For the most part, I just clarify who characters are and occasionally I briefly explained a reference or allusion that is confusing to my youth.
The Chosen Season 2 Episode 5 Discussion Questions P1: Cousin John (the Baptist)
To begin your discussion, ask your youth group:
What stuck out to you about this episode? Were there any scenes that you found interesting or moving?
Did you have any questions about what happened?
How would you describe the character of John the Baptist as he's adapted in The Chosen? Does it fit with the way you pictured him?
What did you notice about the way Jesus and John the Baptist related to each other?
Were you surprised at how John the Baptist and Jesus disagreed with each other?
What did they disagree about? How did their disagreement reflect their unique missions?
What did you notice about the way John and Jesus talked through their disagreements and came to an understanding of one another?
At the end, why is Jesus sad?
At the end, Jesus reminds John the Baptist to listen to God's voice when he confronts Herod Antipas. When confronting the evil of others, why is it important to still listen to God's voice?
Jesus affirms that John the Baptist is doing what he should be doing, and yet Jesus is also sad about the suffering John will experience. Have you ever had a moment when doing what God called you to do meant suffering? Do you believe Jesus was sad to see you suffer?
The Chosen Season 2 Episode 5 Discussion Questions P2: Confronting Demons
As a transition, point out to your students:
John the Baptist was known for how he boldly confronted corrupt human authorities like Herod Antipas, speaking God's Word.
Just like John is about to confront Herod boldly, several other characters boldly confront a demonic force that refers to itself as Belial. In particular, we see Belial has a confrontation with Mary in which he calls her Lilith, the old name she went by while she was possessed - back at the very beginning of The Chosen Season 1.
Throughout the episode, Mary also seems to be having her past trauma triggered by her encounter with Roman soldiers (Note: in Episode 1 it's hinted that she was a victim of sexual assault by a Roman solider). Toward the end of the episode, she goes back to her old life.
When someone deals with past trauma or sins, we often say they're confronting their demons. Perhaps The Chosen wants us to see a connect between how Mary is confronting a literal demon connected to her past to how she is also confronting her trauma.
Now ask your youth:
Like Mary, have you ever felt like you had a difficult experience in the past that you didn't want to remember?
When Mary attempts to confront the demon on her own, he almost overpowers her, but when Jesus shows up he is overcome. Why is it important to invite Jesus to be with us when we confront our past or the deep problems within us?
An adaptation like The Chosen isn't meant to replace the Bible; it's meant to drive us deeper into the Bible and spiritual reflection. The creators of The Chosen have produced an interactive Bible study that explores some of the biblical themes and Scripture that inspired Season 2.
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Contributing to The Bible Artist
Have my posts about Bible adaptation helped you learn more about the Bible and explore it with your ministry or family? I offer my work for free and rely on the generous support of readers like you. Your contributions mean so much. Thank you!
If you liked this post, you might want to check out some of my other posts on The Chosen and Bible adaptation. I have Bible studies/discussion guides for each episode of The Chosen Seasons 1-3, blogs exploring how The Chosen adapts key biblical figures, and articles exploring the controversial nature of adaptation. I hope you enjoy them!
The Chosen Season 4
The Chosen Season 4 Controversy? (The Transfiguration of Jesus & the Second Commandment)
Reflecting on The Chosen Season 3 & Anticipating Season 4: What Worked & What to Fix
The Chosen Season 3
The Chosen Season 3 Episode 1 & Episode 2: Reaction and Analysis
The Chosen Season 3 Episodes 7 & 8: Recap, Review, & Analysis
The Chosen Season 3 Episodes 1 & 2: Questions to Discuss Before the Premiere
Adapting Biblical Characters Series
Thomas & Ramah in The Chosen & Scripture ***Season 3***
Yussif, Jairus, & Shmuel in The Chosen ***Season 3***
Quintus, Gaius, Atticus, and the Romans in The Chosen ***Season 3 Update***
Little James in The Chosen & Scripture ***Season 3***
Pontius Pilate & his Wife in The Chosen ***Season 3***
Judas in The Chosen ***Season 3 Update***
Matthew in The Chosen ***Season 3 Update***