Updated: Apr 7
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A few months ago, after watching the first few episodes of The Chosen Season 2, I made some initial predictions about what lay ahead and what The Chosen Season 2 would end up being about. In a nutshell, my argument was that, in contrast to the focus of The Chosen Season 1 on personal encounters with Jesus, The Chosen Season 2 would focus on the struggle of the early Jesus movement to come together in spite of significant lines of division. In particular, I suspected that disagreements over Matthew's place among the disciples would reach a crisis point that would propel the season toward its climax and final resolution.
Looking back on my predictions, I was clearly wrong with regard to the particulars, but my overall sense of the thematic thrust of Season 2 seems to have borne itself out. The Chosen Season 2 wasn't nearly as interested in Matthew's place among the disciples as I guessed, but it certainly was focused on the struggle of the disciples to come together as a community and team.
Of course, Season 2 was about other things as well - Jesus preparing for the Sermon on the Mount, Shmuel's plot to convict Jesus of being a false prophet, Simon the Zealot, the arrest of John the Baptist, Roman suspicion over Jesus, and Mary's relapse in response to trauma - but I don't fault myself for failing to foresee any of these elements, given how little connection they had to the first half of Season 2. To be honest, a few of these elements - especially the Shmuel and Roman plots - would have been better kept until Season 3, since they didn't really go anywhere. Although I know Quintus is a fan favorite and this might not be a popular opinion, I felt like his inclusion in Season 2 was particularly irrelevant - literally nothing happened in his encounter with Jesus. Yes, the detainment of Jesus precipitated a climactic crisis among the disciples, but that same function could have been brought about through a variety of other plot devices more germane to Season 2.
But let's focus more on the struggle of the disciples to come together and how this theme wove its way through some of the major plot arcs in the second half of Season 2:
The Simon the Zealot Plot: I was surprised how Simon the Zealot was kept separate from Matthew and we didn't really get to see his reaction to the inclusion of a tax collector (i.e. a Roman collaborator) among the disciples, but Simon did create a few other minor points of tension among the disciples. When he first arrives, some of the disciples are admiring of his Zealot background, while others are suspicious or dismissive. At one point, the sons of Zebedee take issue with his focus on physical training (vs. spiritual training) . More importantly, during the climactic argument among the disciples in Episode 7, Simon's plan to rescue Jesus by force got a lot of pushback from the more cool-headed disciples - and, of course, the very fact that there was a climactic argument was indirectly Simon's fault. Jesus' willingness to include a zealot like Simon among his followers was part of what caused the Romans to be suspicious of him to begin with.
The Mary Magdalene Plot: Early on, Mary's trauma created a little friction between her and Ramah, her protege. Mary doesn't feel like she can share her burdens with anyone else among the disciples and so instead she flees back to her old life. The departure of Mary forced Simon (Peter) and Matthew to come together despite their differences in order to find her. Her restoration by Jesus was an opportunity for the community of disciples to come around her - but it also led to some pushback by Andrew in the climactic argument in Episode 7.
The John the Baptist Plot: When Philip, a follower of John the Baptist, shows up in Episode 2, he takes Matthew under his wing, which only serves to intensify Simon's resentment toward Matthew. The disciples have mixed feelings about John the Baptist, with Philip and Andrew being pro-John while Simon (Peter) writes him off as "crazy John." After John is arrested, Andrew's grief and his fear that something similar might happen to Jesus creates a lot of tension. When Jesus gets detained, in his emotional state, Andrew blames Mary Magdalene's hiatus.
The Food Plot: This was a weird little side plot. The disciples are running low on food for a couple of episodes. This causes Thomas to get aggravated, but it brings (mother) Mary and Ramah together, as Mary teaches Ramah about what flowers to eat when you don't have food.
The Sermon on the Mount Plot: I was a bit caught off guard how much this plot line ended up dovetailing with the overall story of the disciples struggling to come together. In Episode 5, when we get the first hints of Jesus preparing for the sermon, it just seems like the show wants to give us a glimpse into Jesus' humanity by showing how his teaching didn't just spill out of his mouth but was rather a result of reflection and creativity. But in Episode 7 Jesus explains that his sermon isn't just about what he has to offer; everyone has a part to play in making it happen - in other words, we're being cued in that the disciples need to come together to make the Sermon on the Mount a reality. When Jesus is detained, the disciples freak out, not simply because of what it means for Jesus but because it threatens to disrupt the sermon that they've been planning. When Jesus finally returns, he brings the fractured disciples back together and gives them part of his sermon - the Lord's Prayer - as a tool for staying calm and unified in the face of opposition. Episode 8 begins with the disciples bickering over a variety of things as the sermon approaches, but we also see teamwork and collaboration - Mary writing notices that are distributed by the men, a team of disciples working together to find a location, women discussing what accent color Jesus should wear, etc. When Jesus comes up with the Beatitudes, we see that each Beatitude reflects the experience of one or more of his disciples in Season 2, which suggests that the way that they've come together very literally contributes to the production of his sermon. This is further hammered home in the very final scene, where all the disciples are gathered together as a team and Jesus makes eye contact with each of them (including Judas) on his way out to give his sermon - they have successfully come together despite the various obstacles throughout the season and the sermon on the mount is the product of their success.
Coming Together - Around Jesus
So, The Chosen Season 2 is about the disciples struggling to come together in spite of their various differences and the challenging experiences that threaten to tear them apart. But how exactly do they come together? If there was a more unified narrative arc to the season, it would be easier to pinpoint a specific moment that shows us the answer. But instead of getting one big climactic conflict, The Chosen Season 2 gives us a handful of small conflicts and asks us to look for a pattern. Now, The Chosen isn't exactly subtle about its themes or message and so you really don't need to think too hard to recognize the pattern. In fact, you could just ask a six year at Sunday School and she'd tell you the answer: "Jesus!" Let me put just a little more flesh on that answer though:
What tears the disciples apart: On several occasions throughout The Chosen Season 2, we see the disciples become too fixated on their own agendas, judgments, insecurities, or fears. This excess focus on self can cause them to fight each other (for the sake of their agenda), shame each other (because of they're being judgmental), hide/flee from each other (because of their insecurity), or fail to stick together (because of their fears).
What brings the disciples back together: Sometimes Jesus' appearance is the direct cause that brings the disciples back together - as in Episode 3, where their bickering is squelched when he appears, limping on his way back to the tent after a long day of healing others, or in Episode 7 where his appearance after detainment ends their crazy day. At other times, one disciple needs to help bring another disciple back to Jesus - as in Episode 6, when Simon and Matthew need to bring Mary back to Jesus. Mary's encounter with Jesus is quite emblematic: when she arrives, she's looking down (focusing on herself), but Jesus summons her to look up into his face to receive his forgiveness. In the same way, each time the disciples are in danger of being split apart, they need to stop looking down at themselves and they need to look up into the face of Jesus.
What happens when the disciples come together: As I noted above, The Chosen really hammers home how the Sermon on the Mount was a collaborative team effort and not just the product of pure inspiration. Matthew is the only disciples who plays a concrete role in shaping the teaching, but we see all the disciples contribute in order to make the sermon event possible and it seems like Jesus draws personal inspiration from his encounters with each of them. By placing the Sermon on the Mount at the end of Season 2, The Chosen is making a point about what is possible when disciples stop focusing so much on themselves and start looking up at Jesus: the united efforts of his followers are able to make his message resound to the surrounding world and bless countless lives.
The takeaway? If you're experiencing conflict or division in your church or Christian community, it's worth considering whether there are ways in which you need to focus a little less on yourself and a little more on Jesus. As you look into his face, Jesus has the power to bring you and other disciples together, and through your teamwork he can make his word reach the surrounding world in a powerful way. May that indeed be so for you today.
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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.
The Chosen Controversies Series
Adapting Biblical Characters Series
The Virgin Mary in The Chosen ***Season 2***
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