Updated: Aug 14
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The Chosen begins with two episodes that follow the arc of Mary Magdalene (Lilith) very closely. As Season One of The Chosen progresses, Mary's story fades into the background and the show becomes more male-dominated, focusing primarily on Simon, Nicodemus, and Matthew. Episode 8 returns Season One of The Chosen back to where it began, with a storyline that features female characters in much more prominent roles and explores the effect that Jesus' ministry brought to women in a variety of situations. In particular, this episode of The Chosen shows us the impact of Jesus on Simon's wife (Eden), her mother, Nicodemus' wife (Zohara), Mary, and Photina (the Samaritan Woman at the Well from the well-known passage in John 4) - all against the backdrop of the unjust patriarchal society of ancient Israel. While there are plenty of other interesting topics in the episode, as we see several male storylines wrapped up, The Chosen Episode 8 presents a great opportunity to talk to youth about women, patriarchy, and the impact of Jesus on the gender dynamics of society.
Intro to The Chosen Season 1 Episode 8: Jesus Treated Women Differently
To begin, ask your students:
Have you ever been concerned about how women are sometimes treated in the Old Testament?
Can you think of specific examples of women being treated unfairly in the Old Testament?
Why do you think women were treated this way?
I realize asking these questions might feel like opening up a can of worms. You might get worried about raising doubts and concerns for some of your students that make them question the goodness of God or of the Bible. In reality, most kids either have had or will have concerns about how women are treated in the Bible - they just don't always feel safe expressing them. By raising these issues to the surface, you will hopefully encourage your youth to feel safe expressing their difficulties with Scripture (instead of never talking about them until they get older and then deconstructing). Moreover, by bringing these concerns to the surface as a context for watching Episode 8 of The Chosen, you highlight the radical difference between how Jesus treated women and how women were treated by biblical figures like Abraham and David.
After your youth list a few examples, I would point out:
When we read the Bible and see women being mistreated by men it's good to keep in mind that the Bible is not endorsing these behaviors, it's simply describing events as they happened.
In the beginning of the biblical story, men and women are created to be in a loving and respectful relationship to one another. After men and women sin, their relational intimacy is broken and they're warned that conflict and power struggles will become the new normal in how they relate to each other (Genesis 3:16)
When Genesis depicts unhealthy and unfair relationships between men and women, it's not saying that's okay. It intends for us to see these broken relationships as a consequence of the Fall. This is even true when the men are major biblical characters like Abraham or Jacob. Genesis doesn't claim that these men are good examples of morality in every area of life. In fact, it goes out of its way to highlight their moral failures. God doesn't use them because they're good people; God uses them because they trusted his promises.
Some laws in the Old Testament might sound unfair to women - and they might not be as fair as some standards we have today. But they were more fair and just than the laws that other cultures at the time had about women. Jesus tells us that some civil laws God gave to his people in the Old Testament were accommodations to their hard and sinful hearts (Matthew 19:1-9). God met the Israelites where they were at and urged them toward a slightly better society.But as God pushed his people forward with the coming of Jesus, we see even greater equity between the sexes.
Now ask your students:
Can you think of some stories about Jesus' interactions with women?
How would you describe the way that Jesus treated women? Can you think of any instances where it brought Jesus into conflict with other men who were in power?
During first several decades after Jesus' resurrection, Christianity was known as a religion predominantly of women and slaves. Why do you think that might have been? How do you think it might have related back to the way Jesus treated women?
Your youth might not have a good sense of history and context, in which case they won't fully appreciate the uniqueness of Jesus. You may want to supplement with your own knowledge of first century Jewish and Roman culture, but keep in mind that the episode itself will provide plenty of concrete snapshots of the life of women in Jesus' day.
Now explain to your youth:
This episode brings a conclusion to Season One of The Chosen. It's wrapping up a lot of different storylines that we've been watching. We'll get to see whether Nicodemus follows Jesus and what happens to Matthew, now that he's left his tax stall.
But what we're going to focus on today is the way Jesus has an impact on women in a variety of different circumstances - in particular, Peter's wife (Eden), Nicodemus' wife (Zohara), and a Samaritan woman that he meets at a well.
Viewing The Chosen Episode 8
Due to COVID restrictions, my youth group watched The Chosen online using Zoom. You can find episode 8 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 Season 1 Episode 8
To begin your discussion, ask your youth:
What did you think of the episode? What stuck out to you?
Point out to your students:
Eden (Peter's wife) and Zohara (Nicodemus' wife) both have husbands who have been called to follow Jesus. This would be a major sacrifice for them.
Peter ultimately accepts the call and follows Jesus. Nicodemus struggles with the call but ultimately has cold feet and doesn't follow Jesus.
Peter's decision to follow Jesus is encouraged strongly by Eden. Meanwhile, Zohara discourages Nicodemus from his spiritual struggle and questioning. She urges him to bring her back to their old life, and this seems to be one of the main pressures that prevents him from pursuing Jesus.
It's good to keep in mind that Eden has met Jesus, whereas Zohara apparently hasn't even heard about him - it doesn't seem like Nicodemus ever told her about his "born again" conversation in the previous episode.
Now ask your youth:
What did you observe about the way Jesus interacted with Eden and her mother? How did he treat them?
How did meeting Jesus have an impact on Eden and her mother?
If Zohara met Jesus, do you think she would respond differently to Nicodemus' spiritual struggle? How so?
What did you discover about Jesus' heart for women who have their lives disrupted by the coming of his kingdom?
Today, what are some ways that women might have their lives disrupted by Jesus' kingdom? What do you think Jesus desires for women in these situations?
Turning to Photina (the Samaritan Woman at the Well), remind your students:
In biblical times, getting remarried multiple times and living with someone you weren't married to were not common practices like they are today. These would have been seen as marks of poor character - that's why Photina had to get water in the hot afternoon instead of going early in the morning when it's cool - the other women looked down on her.
You might have also noticed discussion of how Photina was a Samaritan and how Jews and Samaritans hated each other. Although they were both descendants from the first Israelites, the Samaritans had mixed in with other people groups and adopted a different temple and other disagreements over how to worship.
As Photina pointed out, most rabbis wouldn't be caught dead talking to a Samaritan woman with her past. But Jesus wasn't like most rabbis.
Now ask your youth:
What did you notice about how Jesus interacted with Photina?
Sometimes their conversation got a little tense. Why do you think Photina sometimes responded a little harshly to Jesus?
Did you notice how Jesus responded back when that happened? Why do you think he did that?
What did you discover about Jesus' heart for women who have had a past filled with shame and regret?
Today, what are some examples of situations that cause women to experience a sense of shame and regret like Photina? What do you think Jesus' heart is for women in these situations? What would it look like for us as a community to demonstrate this?
And that's it for our exploration of The Chosen Season 1 with youth! But if you haven't heard, The Chosen Season 2 is just around the corner! Episode 1 of Season 2 is airing this Sunday at 8PM Eastern. Check back next week for my thoughts!
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
Judas in The Chosen ***Season 2***
James & John in The Chosen ***Season 2***
Mary Magdalene in The Chosen ***Season 2 Update***
Simon and Andrew in The Chosen ***Season 2 Update***
Exploring the Chosen with Youth [Guides for Youth Leaders]
Season 2 Reflection P1: What is The Chosen Season 2 about?
Season 2 Reflection P2: What was The Chosen Season 2 about? (Plots & Theme)
Episode 1 Guide: The Beloved Disciple
Episode 2 Guide: Philip, Nathanael, & Matthew
Episode 3 Guide: Life Among the Disciples of Jesus
Episode 4 Guide: Simon the Zealot & the Man at the Bethesda Pool
Episode 5 Guide: Mary's Demons & the Destiny of John the Baptist
Episode 6 Guide: Mercy and Not Sacrifice
Episode 7 Guide: Quintus Returns
Episode 8 Guide: Judas, Matthew, & the Sermon on the Mount
Episode 1 Guide: Mary Magdalene, Lilith, and the Redeemer
Episode 2 Guide: Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus, and Shabbat
Episode 3 Guide: Depicting Jesus in Art, Film, and TV
Episode 4 Guide: When Jesus Met Simon (Peter)
Episode 5 Guide: Mary, Mother of Jesus
Episode 6 Guide: Jesus, Shmuel, & the Pharisees
Episode 7 Guide: Did Nicodemus Follow Jesus?
Episode 8 Guide: The Woman at the Well, Eden, & Zohara
Posts on the Nature of Adaptation
Youth Ministry and the Arts