With Season 2 of “The Chosen” now streaming (and showing up on social media everywhere), I thought I’d re-post this clip from a sermon I gave back in September on Matthew 1:1. Here’s the excerpt from the video and manuscript; I’ve added some additional comments at the bottom.
Did you notice how Matthew begins? “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.” God preserved and passed on the truth about Jesus to us in a book. A book that can be read and thought about and studied.
God chose to use the written word to communicate the truth about Jesus to us. And this has been the case from the beginning.
Just think about the Israelites coming out of Egypt, a very visual culture where their alphabet itself was pictures. And yet God told them in the second commandment not to make a carved image to represent Him. From the beginning of His relationship with His people, He wanted to be known through words, not through images, no matter how difficult this was for them.
Now it’s true that Jesus was born as a man, a man who could be looked at and seen. But we can’t miss what He left behind: no statues or portraits capturing his facial expressions. And not even writing that emphasized his mannerisms or tone of voice or emotions. But rather, four books, like Matthew, which tell us the objective truth of who Jesus is, what He did, and what He said.
Here’s what I’m getting at: if we want to get to know Jesus, we need to get to know Him on these terms, the terms that God has set for us. On the one hand, that means really knowing the Bible. And on the other hand, I’m suggesting this means being really careful about non-Bible representations of Jesus, especially pictures, and perhaps especially movies.
That might seem really strange to you, because we’re so used to pictures and movies of Jesus, especially in the last few decades. You might be surprised that many Christians throughout history, especially around the time of the Reformation, have expressed this same caution over making images of Jesus.
And I think we need to be especially careful of that these days in the movie era, where a human actor portraying Jesus needs to fill in all kinds of blanks in terms of facial expression and body language and tone of voice. Those are all things which really impact how we hear the words that are being spoken, and yet they all need to essentially be made up because they’re not actually in the text.
This is a factor even if the actors are only speaking words that come straight out of the Bible, because they still need to supplement those words with tone of voice and facial expression and body language. This caution grows even more when we’re dealing with movies or shows that portray Jesus saying and doing things which aren’t found in the Bible. I’m thinking of “The Chosen” here, which has been really popular lately. I have a lot of concerns about “The Chosen,” especially because some of the things it portrays Jesus saying and doing flatly contradict some of what we do see in Scripture.
I think this kind of thing is especially dangerous these days when so many Christians know so little of the Bible itself. I’m especially concerned for children, who might read the Bible in a certain way for the rest of their life because those images are so strongly impressed in their minds.
Here’s the big idea here: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are books about Jesus, and this is not by accident. Getting to know Jesus on His own terms means reading and studying and thinking deeply about the written word, just like we’ve done here this morning.From https://ebcnipawin.ca/sermons/the-gospel-of-the-kingdom/this-is-our-king/
I was tempted to supplement these (brief) comments with some specific examples of where The Chosen strays from the Biblical text and puts words in Jesus’ mouth which are either non-biblical or even un-biblical. But therein lies the issue itself: the fact that I’d even need to to that. Should not God’s people know the Bible well enough that they could spot these examples themselves?
And so I’ll put it in the form of a question: if you’ve enjoyed The Chosen or are wondering about checking it out, are you familiar enough with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that you could spot every time where The Chosen strays from, adds to, or removes from the Biblical account?
If not, are you sure it’s wise for you to be watching The Chosen? Should you be spending all that time with a very human interpretation of Jesus when you’ve not spent enough time with the real thing?
If it takes a TV show to make us feel like we’ve really connected with Jesus, what does that say about how, and how often, we’ve been reading the Bible? Is God’s word, read in the power of the Holy Spirit, really enough for us?
Even if you love The Chosen and are unpersuaded by my arguments here, I hope we can all agree that when it comes to the Bible, we can’t skip the book to watch the movie. God chose to communicate with us using words; the Bible is His appointed means for knowing His Son. Let’s not ever assume we know better than Him or have improved on His methods.