Mercy and Not Sacrifice (Exploring The Chosen Season 2 Episode 6 with Youth)
Updated: 5 days ago
The Chosen Season 2 Episode 6, like Episode 5, is juggling several plots:
Matthew & Simon Peter play buddy cop as they search for Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene falls off the wagon, falling back into a life of drinking and gambling, only to be forgiven and restored by Jesus.
Mary (mother of Jesus) teaches Ramah about what it's like to trust God when you're poor
Thomas worries about the camp running out of food.
John and James (sons of Zebedee) reflect briefly on how there's still so much they all don't understand about following Jesus.
The disciples grieve the news of John the Baptizer's arrest & briefly contemplate getting Zealots to help break him out.
Shmuel and Yanni unsuccessfully try to get Jesus tried for heresy
Jesus takes the crew to a backwater synagogue, heals a man on Sabbath, lets the disciples eat grain from the field, and consequently gets berated by the leaders of the synagogue.
To be totally honest, because so many disparate plot threads were all being jammed together, Episode 6 of The Chosen Season 2 felt unfocused and several important moments felt kind of rushed. Ideally this would have been two episodes: an episode about Mary/Simon & Matthew (with a lot more tension built up between Simon & Matthew and also a slower resolution to Mary's struggle) and an episode about the disciples running out of food and all of the Sabbath controversies. Unfortunately, I fear that many of this season's conflicts (those involving Shmuel, John the Baptist, and Atticus especially) were introduced far too late in the game and as a result there's now not enough space for everything to happen at a proper pace.
But enough criticism. While Episode 6 of The Chosen Season 2 may have its weak points, there's still plenty to work with and discuss in your youth group. And, although Episode 6 feels a little all-over-the-place, I do believe there are underlying themes tying most of it together. The first half of Episode 6 focuses on the drama around Mary's relapse and the effort of Matthew and Simon to find her and return her to Jesus. The second half of Episode 6 culminates in the Sabbath controversies between Jesus and the leaders of a local synagogue. What ties these seemingly unrelated plots together is, as my title suggests, the theme of God's preference for mercy over personal righteousness demonstrated through close attention to ritualistic rules. This is what your youth will be exploring this session.
The Chosen Season 2 Episode 6 Intro Questions: Mercy & Not Sacrifice
In my guide exploring Episode 2 of The Chosen Season 1, I introduced the concept of Sabbath/Shabbat. If you haven't gone through that lesson with your group, you might want to review it and maybe incorporate some elements (eg. the Bible Study video introducing the Sabbath). This guide will continue to explore the Sabbath, but only in so far as it relates to the biblical theme of mercy.
To begin your time, have your youth read through the passage below from Isaiah:
“Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God. ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in. If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:1-14 ESV)
After reading the passage, I would point out to your youth:
Often we associate fasting and Sabbath with personal devotion and spirituality.
During the time of the New Testament, Sabbath and fasting were seen by many as works of personal righteousness that were necessary to please God and be considered good Jewish believers.
Hundreds of years before the New Testament, however, the Prophet Isaiah envisioned a different way of approaching Sabbath and fasting.
Now ask your students:
What does Isaiah say fasting is really all about? What does he say we should be focusing on?
After discussing this for a bit, I'd clarify:
It may seem like Isaiah is saying we should only focus on caring for the poor and oppressed and that personal devotion is completely worthless. The prophets often spoke in this exaggerated way to capture people's attention, but it's clear that they weren't actually against personal devotion. They were just bothered by how common it was for people to become so obsessed with personal spirituality that they completely ignored the poor and were oblivious to the oppressive ways they treated others. Their point was, without a life of mercy for the needy, personal devotional practices were pretty much worthless.
Although Isaiah mostly talks about fasting, it's clear that he views Sabbath the same way. When he says it's not a time for "doing your pleasure," he's not saying the Sabbath has to be a dull. He's referring to earlier in the passage, where "your pleasure" is tied to forcing other people to work while you're busy being religious. The point is that Sabbath is about giving rest to others, not forcing others to work while we put on a religious show.
Now I'd take your youth to one of the Sabbath stories we'll see in Episode 6:
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:1-8 ESV).
Now I'd explain to your students:
Because the Pharisees were so focused on seeing the Sabbath as a sign of personal religious devotion and righteousness, they developed an elaborate set of extra rules not found in the Bible to regulate what you could and couldn't do on Sabbath.
While the Bible did forbid people from doing work in the fields on Sabbath, the Pharisees went further and forbid hungry people from snagging a little food from a stalk to chew on.
Like Isaiah, Jesus believed the Sabbath wasn't just a sign of personal devotion. It was about setting the poor and the oppressed free. So he was outraged that the Pharisees got so critical of his poor, hungry disciples.
But Jesus goes further in his response to the Pharisees. He refers to a story about David's hungry men eating the forbidden bread that was placed in the Temple. He also alludes to how the Levites and Priests break the no-working-on-Sabbath rule in order to serve in the Temple. He then explains that he himself is "Something greater than the temple" - and therefore his disciples should be free to do what they need to follow him.
I know this was a bit long and lecture-y for an intro section, but I think a lot of these concepts will be helpful set up to frame what happens in the episode.
Review Questions: The Chosen Season 2 So Far
Since the Intro to Episode 6 is a bit long, I would go a little shorter on the review of Season 2, unless you've been watching through each episode in near real-time with your students and it's been about a month since you watched through Episode 5. Some key points I would review:
What role has Mary had among the disciples, especially for Matthew and Ramah?
Why was Mary so distraught last episode? As a result of the traumatic reminders of her past, where did she end up going at the end of the episode?
What was the plan of John the Baptizer at the end of last episode?
What were Shmuel, the Pharisee, and his friend Yanni up to last episode? What did Jesus do in Episode 4 to make them mad?
Viewing The Chosen Season 2 Episode 6
Although The Chosen Season 2 Episode 6 did livestream on YouTube and Facebook, new episodes are now only being left up for a limited time 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 6, 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 6 Discussion Questions: Something Greater Than the Temple
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?
During the episode, we saw Mary falling back into the old lifestyle she had before she encountered Jesus. How did you react when you saw how Mary was acting?
Eventually, when Matthew and Simon find Mary, she's hesitant to return to Jesus. Why? What is she feeling?
Have you ever felt like Jesus redeemed you from a sin but then fell back into that sin later? Did you feel something similar?
How do you think we should respond if we discover a friend has fallen back into an old sin? What would be helpful to say? What would be unhelpful?
How does Jesus respond to Mary when she returns back to him? Do you believe he has this attitude toward you as well?
When Jesus forgave Mary - where were they at? [his tent]
Does anyone recall another famous tent in the Old Testament? [the Tabernacle]
The last two questions may seem random, but they serve as a bridge to connect the two halves of the episode. While I'm not 100% sure that the tent/Tabernacle connection is intended, it's there, and so it's worth pointing out to your youth in order to drive home the connection between the Mary plot and the Sabbath plot:
In the Old Testament, the Tabernacle was a place where the people of God encountered his merciful presence and experienced cleansing and forgiveness for their ritual impurities. And in a similar way, Mary is encountering Jesus, God's merciful presence on earth, in a tent and experiencing cleansing and forgiveness for her sins.
The idea that Jesus is God's merciful presence also connects to the argument at the end of the episode between the synagogue leaders and Jesus. Jesus describes himself as something greater than the temple as a way of saying, he is God's merciful presence on earth, and therefore, just as the temple workers don't need to follow all the detailed Sabbath rules, his own disciples shouldn't have to worry about being so nit-picky about Sabbath rules when they're busy serving him.
The point of the show seems to be that Jesus and his Father are more concerned about extending mercy to struggling sinners like Mary and hungry men and women like the disciples than they are about whether we've perfectly carried out all the detailed rules humans have developed around personal acts of devotion like sacrifices and Sabbaths.
Now ask your youth:
In today's context what do you think it would look like to focus on being right about "sacrifices" (acts of personal righteousness and devotion) at the expense mercy (caring for sinners and the needy)?
Who do you think God is calling you to extend mercy today?
There's a lot there. And, while I criticized the episode as a whole, I thought the Jesus/Mary scene was well done, and will hopefully be quite affecting for some of your youth. Hope God uses this time to bless them!
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***