Rabbi Jesus, Shmuel, & the Pharisees [Exploring The Chosen with Youth]

Updated: Aug 14

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Episode 6 of The Chosen brings Jesus into his first direct confrontation with the Pharisees, embodied particularly in Shmuel, former student of Nicodemus. We also get to see the journey of Mary Magdalene, Simon, and Andrew as they figure out how to work together to enable Jesus' public teaching ministry. As you watch this episode with your youth group, one way to view it is as a case study of two different "schools": the school of the Pharisees, embodied in Shmuel, Nicodemus, and the Council, and the school of the Kingdom, embodied in Jesus and his disciples. This is the framework that I'll use in the discussion guide below.

Intro to The Chosen Episode 6: Two Schools

To begin your discussion, ask your youth:

  • When you hear the word "Pharisee," what comes to your mind?

I imagine you'll hear phrases like legalism, self-righteousness, works-righteousness, hypocrisy, rules, or religion. Affirm these answers, but also point out:

  • None of us have ever met a literal Pharisee before. Most of us only know what the Gospels tell us about them.

  • When we hear the harsh words Jesus speaks against the Pharisees in the Gospels, we get the impression that they're all mean, horrible religious bullies. But it's important to realize that this isn't how most people in Jesus' day viewed them. The average person respected the Pharisees as wise and devoted servants of Gods.

  • It's also helpful to know that the beliefs of Jesus and the Pharisees were actually very close. In fact, Jesus' beliefs were much closer to the Pharisees than they were to the priests and Sadducees.

  • When Jesus speaks strong words against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, he's not criticizing another religious group; he's criticizing his own people. It's kind of like a Christian leader today speaking out against the hypocrisy of other Christian leaders.

Now I would ask:

  • What do you think it was like to be an actual Pharisee?

Push your youth to think deeply on this question. You might want to delineate it a bit more with follow up questions like:

  • What do you think it was like to be a student of the Pharisees? What would they be focused on?

  • What do you think it was like to be a teacher of the Pharisees? What would they be focused on?

  • If you had two Pharisees who disagreed with each other, how do you think they would handle it?

  • How do you think Pharisees related to common people?

  • How do you think common people related to the Pharisees?

After you've helped your youth flesh out a picture of what it would be like to be a Pharisee, explain:

  • This episode gives us a picture of what life was like for two groups, two sets of teachers and students. On the one hand, we'll see what life was like for Rabbi Jesus and his students Mary Magdalene, Peter, Andrew, James, and John. On the other hand, we'll see what life was like for Rabbi Nicodemus, his student Shmuel, and their fellow Pharisees.

  • Imagine we're observing two schools - the School of Jesus and the School of the Pharisees. As we watch this episode, we can pay attention to how each school operates and how they compare to one another. We'll discuss this more after viewing.

Viewing The Chosen Episode 6

Due to COVID restrictions, my youth group watched The Chosen online using Zoom. You can find episode 6 on YouTube here. If you want to avoid the ads (there's a lot!) or the need to stream it, you can find it on Amazon.

While watching The Chosen, I made occasional comments through the chat but I tried to not do too much teaching. I wanted the youth to enjoy it and not just see The Chosen as an elaborate preaching illustration. For the most part, I just clarified who characters were and occasionally I briefly explained a reference or allusion that was confusing to my youth.

Discussing The Chosen Episode 6

To begin your discussion, ask your youth:

  • What did you think of the episode? What stuck out to you?

Now I would draw a big Venn Diagram on a whiteboard (physical or virtual) and label one circle "the School of Jesus" and the other circle "the School of the Pharisees." Remind your students:

  • As we watched the episode, we got to see these two "schools" at work, the School of Jesus and the School of the Pharisees. Obviously they aren't literally schools like we think of schools today, but we're just going to use that as a way to talk about them.

  • On the one hand, we got to see how Jesus' students, Mary Magdalene, Simon, Andrew, and the others responded as Jesus used various situations to teach them and empower them to minister to others.

  • On the other hand, we also got to see how Nicodemus, Shmuel, and the Council of the Pharisees responded to potential learning moments.

Now ask your youth:

  • What was life like in the School of the Pharisees?

You might want to revisit some of the questions you asked above (e.g. what was it like to be a student?). Alternatively, you might want to walk them through a few key scenes like:

  • The meeting where Shmuel is harshly rebuked for going behind Nicodemus' back

  • The more private conversation between Shmuel and Nicodemus

  • The confrontation between Shmuel and Jesus at the end of the episode

After you've constructed a good description of life as a Pharisee, turn to the other circle and ask:

  • What was life like in the School of Jesus?

Again, you could revisit some of the same questions you asked about the Pharisees (e.g. what was it like to be a student?), or you could walk through a few key scenes like:

  • When Jesus talks to Simon about taking care of his Eema

  • The way Jesus handles the situation with the Leper

  • The different ways Simon and Mary respond to the crowd gathering to listen to Jesus

  • The way Jesus responds when the man who was lowered down to him

As you start to accumulate examples and data, bring the two circles into conversation with one another. Make observations and ask questions. For example:

  • Jesus shows gentleness and concern for Simon. Do you think Shmuel has received that same tenderness from his teachers? What do you think the impact of that has been?

  • Jesus seems to take unexpected occurrences like the leper or the man being lowered down as a teaching opportunity. Do you think Shmuel or Nicodemus would respond the same way? Why?

Also don't forget to look for common ground - where the two circles overlap. For example:

  • Jesus isn't afraid to talk about very weighty matters like hell. He's probably closer to the Pharisees in his comfort with the idea of hell than he is to us.

  • Jesus and the Pharisees both place a high value on teaching others about what God requires of us vs. many Christians today who are hesitant to emphasize what obedience looks like.

To conclude, bring things closer to home by asking your youth:

  • Are there any ways that our church or youth group could end up resembling the School of the Pharisees?

  • What would it look like for us to instead live as students in the School of Jesus?

Have these posts about The Chosen helped you understand The Chosen or explore it with your ministry or family? Would you consider giving a few bucks to support my work as a writer? It's really simple to do using my account on Buy Me a Coffee. Thanks so much!

If you liked this post, I've done several other posts on The Chosen that you might want to check out, including explorations of how the show adapts key biblical characters and guides on how to lead your youth group in discussing each episode of The Chosen Seasons 1 & 2. You may also be interested in some of my other content on adaptation and youth ministry.

Adapting Biblical Characters Series

Exploring the Chosen with Youth [Guides for Youth Leaders]

Season 2

Season 1

Posts on the Nature of Adaptation

Youth Ministry and the Arts

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