Updated: Aug 14
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After a long build up, episode 4 of The Chosen finally presents the story of when Jesus met Simon Peter. However if you are an astute Bible reader, going into your first view of the episode you may have asked yourself, which story of how Jesus met Simon will The Chosen choose to adapt? After all, while all four Gospels give us a story about Jesus meeting Simon, these stories don't all agree - at least on the surface level.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke (traditionally referred to as the Synoptic Gospels) give us the impression that the meeting between Jesus and Peter occurred by "chance" along the Sea of Galilee while Peter and Andrew were at work fishing, whereas John suggests that Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist who intentionally brought Jesus to meet his brother. Disagreements like these cause discomfort for students who expect the Gospels to read like a modern documentary, and so that's why this week we'll look at how to use episode 4 of The Chosen Season One to talk about the relationship between the Gospels.
Intro to The Chosen Episode 4: Harmonizing
To begin your time, ask your students:
How did Jesus and Simon Peter first meet?
I think students will most likely remember a story from the Synoptic Gospels first. If that's true, I would begin by sharing the narratives below from Mark and Luke (If they remember the story contained in the Gospel of John, reverse the plans below, beginning first with John and then moving on to Mark and Luke).
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. (Mark 1:16-20 ESV)
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:3-11 ESV)
After reading through these stories, note:
In these stories, the first meeting between Jesus, Simon, and Andrew seems to happen almost by chance - or, we would say, by God's providence. There aren't any hints that they had a previous relationship or that Andrew or Simon were seeking Jesus.
If you read through the Gospel of John, however, it describes the first encounter between Jesus, Andrew, and Simon in a way that seems kind of different.
Now share this narrative from the Gospel of John describing how Jesus, Andrew, and Simon met:
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). (John 1:35-42 ESV)
After reading this narrative, ask:
Can someone summarize what happened in the story we just read?
Now can someone remind us what happened in the stories from Mark and Luke that we read earlier?
On the surface, what are some differences between these two stories of how Jesus first met Andrew and Simon?
Students will likely feel uncomfortable attending to apparent discrepancies in the Bible. They may be tempted to harmonize prematurely as they summarize each story or discuss the differences. Affirm their desire to pursue unity in Scripture and promise them that together you will eventually discuss how these stories could fit with one another. Explain, however, that for the sake of this exercise you want to understand each story on its own terms before trying to make them fit together.
After you have spent some time discussing the differences, point out:
If we hear two people tell two significantly different stories about the same event, we often assume one person is either lying or mistaken and the other is telling the truth.
In the Bible, however, we often see multiple stories about the same event that all differ from one another - sometimes in small ways and sometimes in big ways. Sometimes these stories are even placed right next to each other, like the two stories 1 Samuel gives us about how David and Saul first met.
People in the time of the Bible were apparently more comfortable reading multiple different stories and accepting that there was truth in each of them, but it's also natural for us to try to create a head canon that explains how these stories fit together. This is called harmonization - and it's a practice that readers of the Bible began doing within just a few decades of when the Gospels were finished.
Before we try to harmonize stories in the Gospels, however, it helps to think about what details each Gospel focuses on and why.
Now, presenting each story on screen as you discuss it, ask:
What are some important details in the story of how Jesus met Simon and Andrew told in the Gospel of Mark? What do you think this Gospel is interested in showing us? (Mark is full of "immediately" moments; he really stresses the sudden disruption that Jesus brings. Its story emphasizes how sudden Jesus' entrance into the lives of Simon and Andrew felt and how they followed immediately.)
What are some important details in the story of how Jesus met Simon and Andrew told in the Gospel of Luke? What do you think this Gospel is interested in showing us? (Luke is really interested in how Jesus came for sinners and outcasts. Its story emphasizes how Simon saw himself as a sinful man.)
What are some important details in the story of how Jesus met Simon and Andrew told in the Gospel of John? What do you think this Gospel is interested in showing us? (John is interested in the importance of witnessing God's work in Jesus and telling others. Its story focuses on how Andrew was a witness.)
The Chosen attempts to harmonize the stories found in Mark, Luke, and John, showing how they could all be accurate and true descriptions of how Jesus first met Andrew and Simon. As we watch, think about how it weaves these stories together.
Viewing The Chosen Episode 4
Due to COVID restrictions, my youth group watched The Chosen online using Zoom. You can find episode 4 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 (especially since episode 3 creates a gap in the storyline that began in episode 1 and episode 2) and occasionally I briefly explained a reference or allusion that was confusing to my youth.
Discussing The Chosen Episode 4
To begin your discussion of The Chosen Episode 4, ask:
So, what did you think of the episode?
How do you think they did at harmonizing all three of the stories we looked at earlier?
Is there anything you would have done differently?
To conclude, I would point out:
Sometimes people talk about the Bible contradicting itself, but thinking of creative ways to reconcile these so-called contradictions usually isn't that hard. Moreover, if we think about what each Gospel is doing, we can begin to understand why the writers might have told their stories in ways that are quite different from each other.
One small way that Bible adaptations like The Chosen can help us is by presenting a compelling picture of how seemingly contradictory stories can fit together.
Of course, The Chosen isn't the Bible. We don't know for sure if this is exactly how these stories fit together, but it does show us that there are perfectly reasonable explanations for why the Bible presents us with multiple stories of an event like the first meeting between Jesus, Andrew, and Simon.
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