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The Chosen Season 4 Episode 7: Recap, Review, & Analysis

Updated: May 31

Episode 7 of The Chosen Season 4 finally gives us the moment we’ve been waiting for: Jesus raising Lazarus up from the dead (John 11). I’ll say more in my review below, but for now I’ll just say that I was not disappointed. The Gospel of John suggests that this was a pivotal moment in Jesus’ ministry and The Chosen does an excellent job of conveying that sense of weightiness. Below, I’ll provide a detailed summary of what exactly happens in Season 4 Episode 7 and then go on to share my thoughts on the episode and its key themes.



Jesus, Mary, Mary, and Martha approach the tomb of Lazarus in The Chosen Season 4 Episode 7
Jesus, Mary, Mary, and Martha approach the tomb of Lazarus in The Chosen Season 4 Episode 7

What Happened in The Chosen Season 4 Episode 7

There are several stories in Episode 7 but they are all tightly wound together, so I'll only attempt to differentiate a few:


Matthew, Mary Magdalene, and Little James

Episode 7 begins with the farthest flash-forward to the future that we’ve seen so far. Sometime in the mid-first century AD, a hooded man approaches a mountain cave and is stopped by a female guard, armed with a bow. The man is revealed to be an aged Matthew, who has come to visit Mary Magdalene, who lives in the cave with her female guardian. Matthew has just completed his eponymous Gospel and wants Mary to read it. He also shares news of Little James’ death at the hands of the Roman King of Ostrakine in Lower Egypt - and efforts to move James’ wife Onya and their daughters to Colossae. As the two reflect on James’ death (and engage in some light flirting), Matthew notices that Mary has been writing something. Mary explains it is a personal document, written to help her process her dreams about darker times in life and not meant for the church like Matthew’s Gospel - still, she agrees to let Matthew read it.


Back in the main timeline, the story picks up the morning after Episode 6. Little James’ disability was exacerbated by the flight from Jerusalem and so Simon Z has to cut him a sturdier walking stick. As the disciples journey to Bethany to mourn Lazarus, Mary Magdalene and Little James talk along the road. The two ponder how Jesus likened Lazarus’ death to sleep in light of how Psalm 13 likens death to sleep. They also discuss Little James’ conversation with Jesus about not being healed from Season 3 Episode 2 and how Mary’s years of deep suffering and unrelenting darkness, which finally ended with her deliverance, have given her a sense of gratitude and acceptance of the moments of darkness that she endures. James acknowledges that he isn’t there yet but Mary can see his growth. Neither of them ever dreamed of where things were headed.


After the resurrection of Lazarus, Mary Magdalene stares into his dark tomb and at his grave clothes and seems to have a premonition of what lies ahead. Later, when the disciples regather, Little James reveals that his disability is growing even more painful. He receives help from Mary and Thad. The three of them, Jesus’ earliest disciples, have a sense of foreboding. Like Judas, they recognize that this sign changes everything - but unlike him, they dread what lies ahead.


The episode ends by returning to the flash-forward, intercut with shots from the main timeline. Mary explains to Matthew that she was inspired to write her own poem, like one of David’s songs, based on the death of Lazarus. As far as I can tell, what she shares is invented by The Chosen, not based on a historical document. Mary meditates on the nature of darkness - the sinister void where nothing can be seen or heard - and yet where God is present. She also reflects on how Jesus wept not for Lazarus but for his own death that was to come as a result, when time itself would want to die with him. She recognizes that with Jesus bitterness and sweetness always mingled and the bitter never fully departed. He tried to warn the disciples about this but the disciples hid their faces, unwilling to accept the grief to come until they couldn’t hide from it any longer. She still doesn’t understand why the bitter is often mingled with the sweet - and may never this side of… (heaven).


John, Thomas, Judas, and the Other Disciples

The disciples are somber as they prepare to travel to Bethany for Lazarus’ Shiva. On the road, John and Thomas walk together and Thomas expresses gratitude for the sandals. John asks about Thomas’ words in Episode 6 about going to Bethany to die with Lazarus. Thomas admits that part of him hopes that they will go and die and he won’t have to feel anything anymore. John warns him against wishing for death - noting how Deuteronomy ends with a decision between life and death, blessing and curse, and urges the Israelites to choose life (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). But Thomas counters by pointing out that death is a natural part of life and only time differentiates the two.


Meanwhile, Peter and James reflect on how Jesus healed Jairus’ daughter and wonder whether he intends to do the same for Lazarus, especially given what Jesus said about being glad they weren’t there earlier. Ultimately, they aren’t sure but Peter insists they have nothing to fear.


Judas and Nathanael also have a brief conversation about what things were like before Judas joined the disciples. Nathanael recalls how things were quieter back then, before Jesus had such fame (and infamy). For Judas, the fact that they’re doing yet another Shiva in such a short period of time shows that something is going wrong. He believes the Messiah and his followers should be winning gloriously, not stumbling around in sackcloth and ashes. Nathanael notes that only Jesus knows what true glory looks like - but Judas insists this surely can’t be it.


When Jesus arrives and talks to Martha and Mary about resurrection life (see below), the disciples listen on confused - especially Thomas, who can barely deal with what he is hearing. John recognizes how hard this must be for Thomas and comforts him, while still urging him to follow the group to the tomb.


The disciples reluctantly help Jesus remove the stone from the tomb. After praying for the Father to use the moment to help them believe more fully, he calls Lazarus and the disciples are amazed like when Lazarus does indeed stumble out. The crowd is also  struck by the event and the disciples need to stop people from pressing in. Big James is confused by why Jesus did this miracle so publicly. Judas is ecstatic, seeing an opportunity to leverage this opportunity to unite the Jews together. Thomas collapses in grief and anger, unable to make sense of why Jesus resurrected Lazarus and not Ramah. Jesus sympathizes with how had it is to understand right now but insists that what he and the Father allow is for the growth of their faith and the growth of the church. He urges Thomas to stay with him (calling back to Ramah’s last words), but it’s too much for Thomas, who needs to be embraced by John. 


Later, in Lazarus’ home, Thomas continues to be furious. While talking to Lazarus, Jesus sees Thomas’ fury but insists that his brothers need to carry him right now. All will be laid out at Passover (i.e. the Last Supper) but Thomas is not ready for his words.


The other disciples struggle to contain Thomas’ rage. When Matthew insists they’ll have to replace a jar Thomas smashed, Thomas questions why Lazarus gets things restored and not him. Judas keeps pushing the idea of leveraging the moment, insisting that the religious leaders will have to fall in line. Simon Z recognizes that the leaders won’t like having their power challenged, but Judas insists Jesus could snuff them out with a word. This raises the question of why Jesus didn’t heal Lazarus from afar - but Tamar and Thad recognize that he wanted them to see and participate in the miracle. Judas begins to question whether Thomas is actually one of the true sheep Jesus talked about in his sermon - an insinuation that sparks fierce rebuke. Tamar reminds the disciples that Mary and Martha are probably waiting for them all to retire and that it’s rude for them to keep them up.


Little James and Mary Magdalene in Episode 7 of The Chosen Season 4
Little James and Mary Magdalene in Episode 7 of The Chosen Season 4


Jesus, Mary, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus

Mary of Nazareth, Mary of Bethany, and Martha are mourning together when Adnan (Yussif’s father) arrives to check in on them.Their conversation is interrupted by news that Jesus is approaching.


Martha rushes out to confront Jesus about why he didn’t come. She doesn’t want to be angry but she is confused and devastated and doesn’t understand. Jesus reassures her that her brother will rise. Taking this as a reference to the final resurrection, Martha finds little comfort in this - but Jesus clarifies that he himself is the resurrection and the life that overcomes death and tells Martha to get Mary.


Martha goes and retrieves Mary. When Mary encounters Jesus, she even more forcefully questions why he didn’t come. Jesus says he will show why and then asks where they’ve laid Lazarus. Martha tells him to come and see. But Jesus is temporarily overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment - not only Mary of Bethany’s grief but also the grief of his mother, Mary, who recognizes the significant consequences that will fall out from what’s ahead. Jesus weeps - and is comforted by his mother, while the disciples and the crowd look on in confusion. Finally, Jesus, Mary, Mary, and Martha rise together and walk to the tomb.


Arriving at the tomb, Jesus orders the stone removed. The disciples are hesitant and Martha reminds him of the odor, but Jesus insists and so finally Simon Z, Andrew, Peter, and Zebedee step up to heave the large stone, while the crowd - and a mysterious cloaked figure - look on. There is indeed an odor that’s released from the tomb, but Jesus is undeterred and calls Lazarus out.


After a moment of silent anticipation, a mummy-like Lazarus stumbles out, eliciting screams of terror. But Jesus directs Martha and his mother to unbind Lazarus, who is a bit confused about where he is and what’s happening - as if he woke from a dream. When Jesus expresses regret it had to be this way, he trusts that it was part of God’s plan. Hungry and naked, he is taken off by Mary and Martha.


Martha and Mary busy themselves cleaning and feeding Lazarus, while asking him about his experience. He can’t remember anything - it felt like deep sleep to him. When Jesus comes to check in, they lightheartedly point out that he didn’t fix the crick in Lazarus’ knee but he insists only one miracle per person.


Later, Martha and Mary sit at a table taking in everything. Mary doesn’t quite know what to say - other than to notice how Martha isn’t even worried about cleaning like she usually would be. They wonder what you can give to someone who raises the dead - there’s nothing he needs - but Mary realizes that’s the point - simply giving out of extravagant gratitude.


Lazarus and Jesus also sit down to process why Jesus did the miracle. Jesus explains he’s out of time - this is his last public sign this side of (the Resurrection). He shares about how he didn’t come right away because of the sermon he preached that almost got him stoned. He explains the Jerusalem elite will soon succeed. Lazarus can’t imagine how people will deny him after he performed such a great miracle, but on the contrary Jesus explains that this event will precipitate his execution. Lazarus shrinks at the thought - as have the disciples each time he’s tried to share. Jesus feels frustrated at how his students are still missing it, as are the religious leaders - and he dreads the cup that he must drink. When Lazarus continues to resist, Jesus points him to the prophecy of the suffering servant in Isaiah 52-53. Lazarus had never connected the story to his flesh and blood friend - but Jesus insists this story is nearing its end.


As the episode closes, Mary retrieves money from the safe and prepares to purchase the nard.


Adnan, Yussif, and Shmuel

Adnan, Yussif’s father, arrives to mourn Lazarus with Mary and Martha. He’s a friend and business partner of Lazarus and wants to make sure that the two sisters are taken care of. Most of their money is secured in a bank but some is left in a local safe. He promises to cover anything else that they need. 


Later, when Mary Mary goes out to see Jesus, Adnan and other visitors misunderstand. Assuming that Mary is going to weep at the tomb, they follow her and end up being witnesses to the resurrection. Afterward, Adnan sticks around and is concerned when a Sadducee leaves to report Jesus to the Sanhedrin. Jesus admits this is actually part of the reason why he did all of this.


At the close of the episode, Adnan hurries back to Jerusalem to report what happened to Yussif and Shmuel.


Review of The Chosen Season 4 Episode 7

Episode 7 was my favorite episode of the season (up until I saw Episode 8). That actually makes a review much harder to write - simply gushing isn’t that interesting. But I’ll try to capture at least some of what I loved about the episode:

  • I like the flash-forward. It helped contextualize the long-term significance of the moment. Plus, Mary Magdalene living as a hermit with a guard was cool and I love the idea of Matthew and Mary Magdalene still having a nearly-but-not-quite romantic relationship after like thirty years. I mostly liked Mary’s poem - and I certainly like the idea of it.

  • There were so many great moments of friendship and all of them felt earned, interesting, and appropriate for the flow of the story. The John-Thomas moments were probably my favorite, but I also loved Mary Magdalene-James, MaryB-Martha, and Jesus-Lazarus.

  • Having seen what they did with Thomas, I stand by the decision to have Ramah killed off. So much of the drama of this episode was driven by that moment and the questions that it raised. And Joey Vahedi did an excellent job of conveying his confusion, grief, and anger - often without any dialogue.

  • The Martha and Mary confrontations with Jesus were totally in line with what I expected and hoped. Great job by all the actors.

  • I was moved by the knowing glances between Jesus and his mother, Mary and her efforts to comfort him in his grief. These moments made me think of the “Mother, behold, I make all things new” moment in The Passion of the Christ (my favorite scene in that film).

  • The actual emergence of Lazarus - and especially the screaming and terrified reaction from the crowd - was so powerful. I never considered how terrifying this miracle would have been, but it makes perfect sense. The Gospels often mention how people are terrified by Jesus’ deeds and, if there was ever a miracle to be frightened by, it would be raising the dead. The reunion between the siblings was well done too - a good mixture of shock, joy, and concern. I suspect this scene will have a more profound impact on my imagination than any other biblical scene adapted by The Chosen.

  • Judas’ inconsiderate response to Thomas was terrible - which is exactly what the show was going for. I suspect it's also setting up an interesting dynamic for the Last Supper.


Judas in The Chosen Season 4
Judas in The Chosen Season 4

I only have a couple minor quibbles:

  • The “darkness is not a mere absence of light” line was theologically confusing. The idea that evil/darkness is a privation (absence) of good and not a separate form of being is a fairly standard (but not universal) Christian view of evil. Based on other lines in the poem, I don’t think the show is actually going against the idea of evil as a privation (Mary also talks about it as a void), but I think this early portion of the poem could have been crafted in a way that was clearer theologically - and no less poetic.

  • It might have helped if the show briefly introduced Adnan’s relationship with Lazarus back in Episode 5 (or maybe had him mention Lazarus to Yussif in Episode 7). I also don't know why we needed the second guy.


Key Themes of The Chosen Season 4 Episode 7

Episode 7 of The Chosen Season 4 contained several rich themes that are worth exploring:


Awakening From the Sleep of Death and Darkness

Mary Magdalene’s poem begins with a meditation on the nature of darkness. Darkness is not the absence of light but something far more uncontrollable and sinister, not a place but a void. This is where Mary dwelled for many years (while demonized), unable to see or hear until Jesus saw and saved her. 


Earlier in the episode, we hear similar ideas in the conversation between Mary and Little James. They begin their conversation by pondering whether Jesus was speaking metaphorically when he said that Lazarus was asleep and needed to be awakened. They recall how in Psalm 13, the speaker metaphorically equates sleep with death [“light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death” (Psalm 13:3)] and questions how long it will be until the Lord delivers him. Mary recalls how, while demonized, darkness overshadowed her entire life, even the daylight hours. Brief glimpses of light were an unexpected exception, not the norm. Since Jesus delivered her, the world has inverted: glimpses of darkness come but they are not the norm. Recognizing this helps her feel gratitude and contentment during the dark spells.


The darkness that Mary is referring to is the state of spiritual death and ignorance experienced by those who are separated from God. I’m reminded of similar language used by the Apostle Paul [e.g. Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. (Ephesians 4:17-19)]. When she says that darkness is not merely an absence of light, she isn’t speaking about the ontological nature of evil. What she means is that those who are apart from God aren’t merely lacking in truth/hope - they are actively oppressed and burdened by sinister and deceptive forces.


Mary’s insight into the nature of darkness/sleep/death helps illuminate why John is so concerned about Thomas. Thomas wishes for death because he believes it will relieve the anguish he’s feeling over Ramah. But that is to think of death/darkness as a mere absence - a nothingness that we can enter into in order to escape from the harsh realities of this world. But Mary’s experience demonstrates that the darkness of death is not a neutral nothingness - it is a state of active anguish and oppression. This is what John tries to help Thomas see by pointing him back to the words of Deuteronomy, which frames reality as a choice between two states: life and death, good and evil, blessing and curse (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).


Jesus brings even more clarity to this idea in his famous “I am the resurrection and the life” (or “I am the life that overcomes death”) speech. To be connected to Jesus is to experience life and light and hope - even if one temporarily experiences physical death. That’s why for Lazarus, death feels like nothing more than a long nap. Because he has remained connected to Jesus, there’s a sense in which he never truly “died” - he’s just experienced a temporarily disrupted connection. If he had died apart from Jesus, his experience of death would have almost certainly sounded more like Mary’s experience of demonic possession - an oppressive and all-consuming darkness. But because he’s connected to Jesus, Lazarus is able to hear and be awakened when Jesus speaks words of life and calls him out of the tomb.


One From Whom Men Hide Their Faces

In Isaiah 53, we’re told that the Suffering Servant will be despised, “as one from whom men hide their faces (Isaiah 53:3). In its original context, this line is about how people will despise the Servant on account of his suffering. That might seem strange to modern readers, because many of us have been socialized in a culture that (because of the influence of Christianity) is sympathetic to those who suffer. In ancient honor-shame cultures, however, there was stigma and shame attached to suffering. Those of a higher status might hide their faces to avoid being infected by the shame of those beneath them. 


Mary Magdalene’s poem offers an alternative - and novel - interpretation: she applies this line to describe how the disciples refused to accept what was about to happen to Jesus - even though he warned them multiple times. It’s an interesting application of a familiar line, even if I don’t think this is what Isaiah originally meant (and perhaps the writers of the show would agree with me - Mary may be adopting Isaiah’s words poetically, not in their original sense). 


Future Matthew begins Episode 7 with his face hidden by a cloak, but this is only a superficial reflection of the theme. The disciple who most obviously hides his face (in the sense that Mary is talking about) is Judas. His enthusiastic expectation that the resurrection of Lazarus will help unify the Jews against Rome runs squarely in the face of what he just heard Jesus predict. Indeed, the intensity of his enthusiasm - and the harsh way that he responds to Thomas - may indicate that Judas’ optimism is really just a coping mechanism. Jesus’ words must linger somewhere in his subconscious - but he’s trying to “hide his face” from them by doubling down on a more cheerful alternative vision.


The only disciples who aren’t completely “hiding their faces” are Mary Magdalene, Little James, and Thaddeus. In Episode 4, we saw Little James and Thaddeus express a sense of dread and anxiety to Jesus over what was coming. In Episode 6, Jesus acknowledged Mary’s grief by noting that she’s the only disciple with her eyes open. And in Episode 7, we see the three of them confide in one another. Far from giving them a sense of renewed hope and optimism, the resurrection of Lazarus deepens their sense of dread and anticipation of what may lie ahead.


We also see Lazarus’ struggle to “hide his face” a little more explicitly than any of Jesus’ other supporters. In his conversation with Jesus after being raised, he expresses how painful it is for him to even contemplate the suffering that Jesus will soon face. It’s not until Jesus walks him through Isaiah’s prophecy that he’s forced to accept what lies ahead.


I suspect the reason why Mary Magdalene, Little James, and Lazarus have not completely hidden their faces from Jesus’ approaching doom is because each of them has dwelled in the realm of darkness and death. Mary explicitly talks about her life before Jesus as a time of darkness. Little James resonates with Mary’s experience because of his lifelong chronic suffering. Lazarus, on the other hand, has actually experienced literal death. Being acquainted with suffering and death makes the three more capable of recognizing what lies ahead for Jesus - even though they still experience internal resistance.


The only character (other than Jesus) who doesn’t seem to be hiding her face from what lies ahead is Mary, Jesus’ mother. Throughout Episode 7, she seems to be the only character who recognizes the real weight of what’s happening and what it will mean for her son. This is why, in Episode 8, she chooses to not remain in Bethany but to instead support her son by walking with him hand and hand toward his dreadful destiny.


Thomas in The Chosen Season 4 episode 7
Thomas in The Chosen Season 4 Episode 7

The Bitter with the Sweet

Throughout the season, the mingling of bitter and sweet moments has been a key motif, and we see it crop up again, highlighted explicitly through Mary’s poem. Chiefly, we see how the sweetness of Lazarus’ resurrection and his reunion with Mary and Martha is mingled with the bitterness of Thomas’ grief and Jesus’ dread. Outside of Jesus’ inner circle, we see responses to the resurrection of Lazarus that are both bitter (the Sadducees) and sweet (the crowd). We also see a similar dynamic present in the flash-forward, where the sweetness of the reunion of Matthew and Mary and the completion of Matthew’s Gospel is mingled with the bitter news of the death of Little James. 


That They May Believe

As in the Gospels, Jesus explains that he allowed Lazarus to die and then resurrected him, so that his disciples could believe. In response, one of the disciples points out that they already believe in Jesus. But, as Peter points out while looking at Thomas, not everyone believes in Jesus for everything - that is, many have superficial faith that needs to be deepened.


It’s easier to talk about God allowing us to suffer in order to deepen our faith when our suffering is ultimately rectified (as in the case of Lazarus). It’s much more difficult to grapple with such thoughts in the times when we receive no reparations for what we’ve lost. This is the struggle that Little James has been undergoing, particularly since his conversation in Season 3 Episode 2, which we’re invited to recall through his conversation with Mary and the deterioration of his condition over the course of Episode 7. Now Thomas must undergo a similar struggle. Jesus acknowledges that what he and the Father allow to deepen faith can be crushing. It’s crushing for Jesus as well - as we can see earlier in Episode 7 when he breaks down and weeps, not on account of Lazarus being dead but on account of the overwhelming weight that he’s currently bearing - and his dread of what’s to come. Still, Jesus pleads with Thomas to stay with him in the hope that he will understand in time.


On the surface level, the resurrection of Lazarus appears to have achieved its intended effect on Judas: his belief that Jesus truly is the Messiah and has the power to unite the Jewish people seems stronger than ever after the raising of Lazarus. And yet we all know that this confident belief will also be short lived - like a seed that springs up quickly from the soil but just as quickly wilts because of its shallow roots. Belief that is only rooted in Jesus’ miraculous signs is incomplete. What God truly desires is not simply for us to trust that he has the ability to do great miracles but also to trust that he is wise and good when he withholds those miracles from us. 


This Side Of…

The tantalizingly incomplete phrase, “This side of…” pops up at least twice in Episode 7 and is worth considering. In the first instance, Jesus says that raising Lazarus will be the last public, miraculous sign “this side of…” In context, Jesus is almost certainly eliding over his crucifixion (i.e. “this side of my death”). The phrase invites us to think of Jesus’ public ministry as an era that is coming to a close, which will in turn be succeeded by a new era with new rules. Based on what we know in Scripture, we know that the new era initiated by his death and resurrection will be one filled with public signs - but instead of being performed directly by Jesus, most of these will be performed through the hands of his Apostles.


The other instance in which the phrase “this side of…” comes up is in Mary Magdalene’s poem at the end of the episode. In the poem, Mary opines on how she doesn’t understand why the bitter parts of life are so often mingled with the sweet - and she may never understand “this side of…” In context, she’s almost certainly thinking of either her death (i.e. when she’ll go to heaven) or Jesus’ return (i.e. when heaven will come down to earth). Again, we’re invited to think of two eras: the present era, in which God’s ways are a baffling mystery, which will ultimately come to a close and give way to a new era, in which we may finally gain understanding.


This idea of one era ending and another beginning is implicit in various conversations throughout the episode. Mary recalls to James the sharp contrast between the oppressive era before she met Jesus and the hopeful era that followed. Nathanael recalls to Judas the contrast between the quiet era that preceded the Sermon on the Mount and the busy and more controversial era that followed. In the flash-forward, the writing of Matthew’s Gospel and the death of Little James signals a transition from the era of the Apostles to an era of the Church. Perhaps most importantly, Jesus promises that if Thomas stays with him, the things which he cannot understand in the present era. We live in an Era of eras. That is, seasons and conditions are prone to shift. Change is one of the few constants in life - or, at least, it is this side of…


 

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3 Comments


I searched for any historical/apocryphal background of Mary's poem, but haven't located it yet. Is that something wholly created by the show, or is it based on something? It feels like it's based on something.

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If you watch the after show of the episode 7, there is an interview with the writers of the show who admit that the monologue is not some lost scripture written by Mary but something that they made up to convey Mary's thoughts about how she felt, looking back at that event after many years.

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