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Watch Season 2 with Us:

  • June 17-23:  Watch Episode 7 - Reckoning  

  • June 24-30:  Watch Episode 8 - Beyond Mountains

  • June 30 at 7:00:  Conversation

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SEASON 2 QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

Episode 7

BACKGROUND NOTES

  • There are a few returning characters from season one that might be helpful to remember:
    - Quintus - Roman praetor who employed Matthew as tax collector and data collector
    - Gaius - Roman soldier who was Matthew’s guard, who was subsequently promoted
    - Tamar - Ethiopian woman who grew up in Egypt; she brings her paralyzed friend to Jesus (through the roof) for healing; Jesus says her faith is beautiful
    - Yussif - student of Nicodemus who greets Schmuel upon his return; he was at the healing of the paralyzed man (with Schmuel); late in the episode, he disguises himself and offers dvice to the disciples

  • The disciple that goes with Andrew after Jesus is Philip (John the Baptist’s follower).​

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

  • Jesus says to the disciples:  “Here's what I want each of you to understand... It's the ‘why’ of this sermon, hmm? It's not because we need to make our presence felt here in the region, and it's not about the details of how we make this happen. The details matter, yes, and all of you will make sure this is executed well. But what makes this sermon so important is each person who will be there... This sermon will have thousands of people, so I won't be directing it to one group of people over another. But what I will say will be for each and every one of them. They're coming because word is spreading from the signs and wonders, but what I'll be giving to them will be far more important... truth. This will define our whole ministry, and that's what we need to focus on.” 
    What does Jesus mean when he says that the details of the sermon won’t matter so much as each person that will be there?  How does this shed light on Jesus’ whole ministry?  What is the “truth” he’s bringing people?  How does this shape our ministry together? 

  • Andrew acts uncharacteristically.  He’s anxious about following Jesus’ directions to fish, the attention they are getting, breaking rules, Mary running off, the sermon being ruined, and all the progress they’ve made being for nothing.  What’s behind his anxiety?  Is it fear, grief about John the Baptist, uncertainty, the weight of responsibility, something else, or all of them together?  How does anxiety drive your life?  What do you get most anxious about?  How does it lead you to act different than who you are? 

  • On top of Andrew’s anxiety, everyone is concerned about Jesus being taken for questioning.  Read Matthew 6:25-34.  What does this tell you about worry?  How should we deal with it?

  • Atticus says to Gaius, “I must admit I am intrigued by your prey... I saw a man who had not stood on his own two feet in half a century, bounding like a boy. I watched a martyr throw down his weapon and take a knee. I saw a lunatic's eyes go clear. Jesus of Nazareth did those things. He doesn't strike me at all as threatening or scary... and that scares me.”  What kind of world does Atticus live in that loving and healing actions are scary?  What kind of world do you live in?  Have you ever been put off by someone who seems too joyful and nice?  Why? 

  • Simon the Zealot says, “Maybe it was a hint. That we are supposed to be the fulfillment of those words.”  Nathaniel replies, “Zealots, and your secret handshakes and codes!”  “I'm not a Zealot anymore, just zealous. There's a difference.”  “You just interpreted plain speech about trust and peacefulness as code for insurrection.”  How often do we interpret scripture to say exactly what we think it ought to be saying, rather than what God means? 

  • Jesus tells the disciples, “You're all going to have to learn how to do this regardless of what's happening, good or bad. Things are only going to get more difficult. You can't just shut down when you're fearful. And what are you going to do when I'm no longer here?”  Why does fear lead us to shut down?  Is it the powerlessness?  The lack of answers?  The uncertainty?  What tools do we have as humans and as followers of Jesus to keep moving when life is bad? 

  • Jesus prays after his conversation with Quintus and before he returns to the disciples.  He tells them, “Prayer is the first step in getting the mind and the heart right; it's why you see me go to it so often.”  What impact does prayer have on you when you pray?  If it’s so good for us, why don’t we do it more often?  What gets in the way of you being in more regular conversation with God?  What helps?

CONVERSATION FOLLOW-UP

  • During our Zoom conversation, we talked about the armor we carry to protect ourselves, and the work of storyteller and researcher Brené Brown that invites us to vulnerability, much like the disciples find they must do. 

  • If you’d like to learn more about this vulnerability, I encourage you to watch Brené Brown’s TED talk at https://youtu.be/_UoMXF73j0c

  • To explore the topic of armor deeper with Brené, watch https://youtu.be/pkte99B_xUc?t=52.   Note: Brené uses raw language, so if profanity upsets you, this video might not be a good fit.

Episode 6

BACKGROUND NOTES

  • The episode opens in Nob, Israel 1008 BC with Abiathar (the young boy) and his father Ahimelech (a priest).  The man who comes to the door seeking bread is David (the future king).  At this point in his reign, King Saul has gone crazy and abandoned God.  He is at odds with David.  Saul will eventually kill all the priests at Nob (incl. Ahimelech).  Abiathar will be the only to escape and serve as High Priest when David becomes king.  Jesus will reference this story (in 1 Samuel 21:1-6) about breaking rules at the very end of the episode.

  • Recall that Simon and Matthew were sent by Jesus to look for Mary Magdalene.

  • When Mary is in the bar, she remembers her father saying, “What do we do when we’re afraid?  We say the words...”  At the beginning of Season 1, we learned those words from Isaiah 43:1, “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

  • Ramah and Mary (Jesus’ mother) forage.  James and Thomas talk about being short on food.  With everything Jesus can do, why can’t (or won’t) he make food come out of the air?  What about Jesus’ humanity and his solidarity with us is lost if he worked that way?  

  • Big James says that having Simon and Matthew work together is, “like asking a fox and a fish to go and team up and do something productive.”  So why do you think Jesus did it?  

  • Big James says, “I actually don't understand most of this; just pieces here and there, when good things happen, but the rest? I'm just following.”  John replies, “I have a sinking feeling . . . it's going to take a long time to understand . . . For everyone.”  How well do you understand God and what God wants of you?  Will you ever fully understand?  What is the value of following (even just going through the motions), even when we don’t understand?  

  • Mary says, “He already fixed me once... and I broke again. I can't face Him . . . I do have faith in Him, just not in me.”  When have you felt like this, like God could not possibly love you (again)?  Could your sin ever be greater than God’s grace?  Read Exodus 34:6-7.  How long-lasting is God’s judgment in verse 7 compared to God’s mercy in verse 6?  These verses are not about math or law, but about the magnitude of God’s grace.  

  • What do you think about Matthew’s confession to Mary:  “I'm a bad person, Mary . . . My whole life, all for me. No faith . . .”?  What impact does this moment have on Mary?  Simon?  Matthew?  Why is it a significant moment for them?  

  • Matthew tells Mary, “I'm learning more about Torah and God because of you. I'm studying harder because you are such a great student.”  How often do you underestimate your own gifts and talents?  Why is it easier to do that when we’re depressed and self-loathing?  

  • Jesus is in his tent crying over John the Baptist when Mary comes in.  What does Jesus’ emotional vulnerability say about God?  Recall this isn’t the only time Jesus cries--John 11:35.  

  • Mary’s conversation with Jesus is powerful:  M: “I don't know what to say.”  J: “I don't require much.”  M: “I'm just so ashamed. You redeemed me, and I just threw it all away.”  J: “Well, that's not much of a redemption if it can be lost in a day, is it?”  M: “I owe you everything... but I just don't think I can do it.”  J: “Do what?”  M: “Live up to it. Repay you”... J: “Well, that's true. But you don't have to. I just want your heart. The Father just wants your heart. Give Us that, which you already have, and the rest will come in time. Did you really think you'd never struggle or sin again? I know how painful that moment was for you.”  M: “I shouldn't.”  What does this conversation stir within you?  Mary feels guilt over her action, but also shame about the kind of person she is.  What’s the difference between guilt over a mistake and shame over the way we are?  What is Jesus’ response to that shame in our lives?  

  • What did you feel when Jesus forgives Mary?  What does he mean when he says, “It’s over”?  

  • Madai (the rabbi) and Lamech say of Elam (the man with the withered hand), “This affliction does not threaten his life!” and “It does not even affect his health!”  Do you think that’s true?  What does Jesus understand about Elam that they don’t?  What does God understand about you that others don’t understand?  

  • Lamech says, “All we can do is fulfill our duty to report the facts. And pray . . . for justice.”  What is justice?  What are we praying for when we ask for that?  

Episode 5

BACKGROUND NOTES

  • Many of the same characters from the previous episode return in this one, including Jesse (the man who was crippled and healed), Simon the Zealot (Jesse’s brother, the assassin), Atticus Aemilius (the undercover Roman preventing insurrection), Schmuel (the pharisee who studied under Nicodemus), and John the Baptist (also Jesus’ cousin). 

  • In this episode, Jesus and the disciples are headed east out of Jerusalem toward Jericho (about 18 miles away, a day’s walk). 

  • John the Baptist is particularly upset by Herod Antipas, who divorced his wife and is marrying Herodias, his brother's ex-wife.  Herod Antipas’s father was Herod the Great, who slaughtered the children of Israel after Jesus was born and he talked with the magi.  Herod Antipas was the ruler (tetrarch) of Galilee under the Roman Empire, essentially Rome’s puppet ruler. 

  • Simon the Zealot carries a sica dagger, a long curved knife that could be concealed under the arm.  It was uniquely suited for getting around a Roman soldier’s shield and penetrating their armor. 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION 

  • Are demons real?  Some Christians suggest that what we call mental illness today was interpreted to be demons by people who didn’t understand it back then.  How might there be truth to this perspective?  How might this perspective be harmful to people with mental illness today?  If demons indeed possess people today, what might that look like? 

  • John the Baptist accuses Jesus of minimizing Herod’s sin.  Jesus replies, “I understand it's against the law of Moses, but I'm here for bigger purposes than the breaking of rules.”  What is his “bigger purpose”?  Do you think God minimizes sin or breaking of rules?  When are we called to focus on sin and rules, and when are we called to focus on God’s bigger purposes? 

  • What do you think about the conversations between Jesus and John the Baptist?  For two guys in this together, they sure don’t seem to agree on a lot of things.  Why does God use fast-moving talkers and slow-moving thinkers to work together to the same goal? 

  • Jesus tells John the Baptist:  “I'm going to tell stories that make sense to some people, but not to others, and that's just how it's going to be.”  Why not just tell things that make sense to everyone?  Is that even possible?  What’s the implication of this when you read the Bible or hear a sermon that doesn’t connect with you? 

  • Jesus says, “I'm always ready to do My Father's will... but that doesn't make it easy.”  May you take this to heart in your faith journey. 

  • Mary is emotionally and physically upset by her encounters with the Roman soldiers and the man with a demon.  Isn’t she past those things now that Jesus is in her life?  Could she be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?  Research in has demonstrated trauma (of all kinds) has a huge impact on our lives.  How does past trauma impact you today? 

  • Dr. Betsy Stone defines trauma as “a response to a deeply distressing event, which overwhelms our ability to cope, while causing feelings of helplessness, and diminishing our abilities to feel like ourselves or act in predictable ways.” 

  • Videos are available at https://www.css-elca.org/trauma in which Dr. Stone presents to the ELCA Council of Bishops about The Effect of Trauma on the Brain and Body, and on Growth from Trauma.  It can take some time to get into each 1-hour video, but I promise the information shared is well worth the time, especially as we deal with trauma from the pandemic and violence in our nation. 

  • It is worth noting that Jesus sees Mary’s distress and responds to it. 

  • Why does Jesus tell John the Baptist, “You're doing what you're supposed to do. I'm just reminding you to be sure to listen to God's voice as you do it.”  How is it possible for us to be “doing God’s work” and not listening to God?  What gets in the way of listening to God’s voice as we do good?  What’s the impact when we forget?  A good example is the conversation between Schmuel (who thinks he’s doing the good and faithful thing) and his compatriot.  You can see Schmuel getting uncomfortable, but he still gets sucked in.  Why? 

  • What do you make of Jesus thinking about and practicing what he will preach?  What does it reveal about Jesus that you hadn’t thought about before? 

  • Why does Jesus encourage Simon and Matthew to keep Psalm 139:8 in their thoughts as they go after Mary?  Reread Psalm 139.  What’s the message?  When would these words most benefit you?

Episode 4

BACKGROUND NOTES

  • Opens with boy (Jesse) who falls from a tree.  His parents pay healers to do something.  Then his mother dies in childbirth and his father remarries.  

  • Jesse’s younger brother Simon (not the one already a disciples) is beat up by Romans.  Simon joins the Zealots, a secret Jewish rebellion intent on overthrowing the Romans.  In the Bible, he’s referred to as Simon the Zealot.  

  • When Jesse is older, he ends up at the pool of Bethsaida (also called Bethesda) in Jerusalem.  Legend has it that when an angel stirs the water, the first person to touch it is healed.  

  • Later on, the episode moves to Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and the disciples, where they are building a “booth.”

  • The Feast of Booths (also called the Festival of Tabernacles or Sukkot) involved a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and building temporary booths to live in for a week.  It was a way of remembering what their ancestors experienced wandering 40 years in the wilderness during the Exodus.  It took place in August/September.

  • Cross are shown at the entrance to Jerusalem.  This punishment was not unique to Jesus.   Romans carried out these gruesome executions as a warning to all who entered and a reminder of who’s in control (the Romans).  

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

  • The Zealots were a group of insurrectionists plotting to kick out the Romans.  Some would say that they were faithful for it.  Others would call them revolutionaries and patriots.  Atticus Aemilius (the undercover Roman) calls them “martyrs with a persecution complex.”  They were not unlike Jihadists in the Holy Land these days.  Where is the line between faithfulness and patriotism, and extremism and domestic terrorism?  

  • There are several times people quote scripture about God rooting out the enemies of Israel.  How do we justify the war and violence that seems to be God-ordained in the Old Testament?  How does that square with “Thou shalt not kill”?  When have Christians (perhaps wrongly) used God as an excuse to go to war, believing God is on their side?  

  • At the Pool of Bethsaida, you apparently have to be closer and less disabled to receive a “miracle.”  How is it in our world that those who need the most help often receive the least of it?  Is it wrong to help those with “less” need first sometimes?  

  • Jesus described the time of dwelling in booths is “a leveler of people. Wealthy, poor... everyone sleeps outside... as equals.”  Why difference does that make?  Why is levelling (at least temporarily) helpful (recall our conversation about why we share stories).  

  • When Simon quotes Zechariah 14:16 that “All the nations that have attacked Jerusalem shall . . . celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles,”  Big James and John object: “But the booths won't mean anything to them . . . We're the ones who dwelt in temporary shelters while we wandered the wilderness, not them.”  Jesus responds, “Everyone has wandered through the wilderness at some point.”  What happened to the Hebrew people when they wandered in the wilderness after exiting Egypt?  What happened to Jesus in the wilderness?  When have you felt like you’ve been in a wilderness, and how has it changed you?  

  • Jesse and his brother Simon the Zealot argue about God not pitting people against each other.  Then Simon quotes Ecclesiastes 3.  How does it apply to your life?  What “time” is it now for you?  For our congregation?  For our world?  

  • Simon quotes King David as saying, “Zeal for the Lord’s house will consume me.”  This comes from Psalm 69.  What does this psalm speak to you?  

  • Jesus has an emotional conversation with Jesse at the pool:  “Do you want to be healed?” . . .  “Sir, I have no one to help me into the water when it's stirred up. And when I do get close... the others step down in front of me... and so--”  “Look at Me... look at Me. That's not what I asked. I'm not asking you about who's helping you, or who's not helping, or who's getting in your way. I'm asking about you.”  Why does Jesus pursue this question?  

  • Jesus says to Jesse, “You don’t want false hope again.”  He knows the pool has nothing for him, but he’s still there.  Why does he stay?  What addictions do you turn to for hope or escape?  [Addictions can be more than drugs and alcohol, including money, appearance, popularity, smartphones, TV, books, food, or anything else in which we seek relief, but never can get enough.]  How do we abandon these false hopes?  Read through Alcoholics Anonymous’s 12 Steps.  How could they help with your false hopes?  

  • When Matthew asks, “Why did you do this on Shabbat?” Jesus replies, “Sometimes you have to stir up the water.”  But isn’t the “Christian way” to all get along and keep the peace?  Don’t we get frustrated with people who rock the boat? 
     

Episode 3

BACKGROUND NOTES

  • This episode takes place in Syria, not far from where the last one ended.  Jesus and the disciples are camped outside of town, and people are coming out of the cities to see Jesus. 

  • Read Matthew 4:23-25, for which this episode is named. 

  • The episode opens with Matthew and Philip, but soon the remainder to the disciples are all gathered together talking.  At one point, Mary the mother of Jesus arrives.  Jesus comes in only at the very end. 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

  • Philip teaches Matthew a line from Psalm 139.  Read the whole psalm.  How does reading the whole psalm open up the verse they repeat:  "If I ascend to heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”  Why would Philip think this is a good place for Matthew to start his study of scripture?  Why would it be a good place for you to start? 

  • The disciples talk about expecting the Messiah to be a warrior, not someone who heals people.  If God were going to appoint someone to come directly to “save” you, what do you hope that person would do?  Would your hope really change your life for the better?  How does your hope compare to what Jesus actually does?  Why is Jesus healing diseases instead of overthrowing the Romans?  What difference does that healing make to us now? 

  • Little James is annoyed that people are believing in Jesus and praising him because he’s healing them, and says without the healing they probably wouldn’t.  Who do you “follow”?  Who do you admire, listen to, and praise?  Why?  Is it because they are famous, or because they made a difference in your life?  What difference has Jesus made in your life that leads you to follow him? 

  • Thomas asks Little James about his disability, and why he hasn’t asked Jesus to heal him.  Little James responds:  “I don't know if I should. It just doesn't feel right. You know, and I suppose I've just been grateful that He called me to follow Him in spite of it, but-- it's never come up, not even once. I'm just afraid that if I mention it to Him, it will make Him change His mind about me, or something.”  Do you worry about God questioning your faith or changing his mind about you if you ask for too much?  Why is it so hard to ask for help sometimes?   

  • Mary the mother of Jesus says he has always been a worker.  Jesus helps people all day and then is exhausted.  Why?  If the healing is about more than just healing, couldn’t he finish 1 person (or 100 people) sooner, and still convey the same message?  Why continue? 

  • Andrew says that he thinks about being rich sometimes, and then feels guilty, “. . . for thinking about things I shouldn't, for wanting things I shouldn't care so much about. Sometimes, I feel like... like I'm living someone else's life. Like... when I look at myself from the outside... it doesn't always feel like me. It feels like someone who's... trying to live up to the heroes of our history, like, I have to do something great, but I know I'm not great. Know it even more now, being with Him.”  Do you ever feel guilty for wondering about such things?  What does it take to be great?  Read Mark 9:33-37

  • The disciples are surprised when Mary (his mother) tells them about when he was a baby.  She says he needed to be cleaned, he was cold, he was crying, and he needed his mom’s help.  They are also stunned to hear that Jesus’ father died.  What insight does this perspective give us on Jesus (particularly in the context of the end of the episode)? 

  • Mary Magdalene talks about leaving home and leaving all she knew, and the struggle to return to who she had been.  Do we get second chances in real life, or is that just something that happens in the Bible and movies?  Where do those second chances come from? 

  •  Talking around the fire, several of the disciples confess times they broke Jewish Law.  Thomas says, “I've grown to love being Jewish, and I've grown to love following the Law, but it can be exhausting.”  What about being Christian and “being good” is exhausting?  So why try? 

  • Simon calls out Matthew for “choosing” what happened to him, while others like Mary (and himself) had no control over their trauma.  Several others seem to agree with him.  Is that fair?  Is life that black and white?  How much are any of us in control of our actions?  If so much is beyond our control, how and why do we do different/better? 

  • Simon asks Matthew why he’s learning scripture and changing his ways now.  Matthew never gets around to answering.  How do you think he might have answered?  What is different in his life now? 

  • What do you think of the disciples arguing and attacking each other?  Have you ever considered them being so divided (and human)?  Aren’t they supposed to be good, faithful, and saintly?  What does their bickering mean is possible for us? 

  • Finally, Jesus arrives completely worn out.  Have you ever considered the suffering he endured before the cross?  Why might caring for those people have been so exhausting?  Do you ever think what it takes out of God to care for us every day?  How does this contrast with what weighs on the disciples’ minds? 

Episode 2

BACKGROUND NOTES

  • The opening scene is in present day Caesarea Philippi (a Roman city north of Judah), with Jewish architect Nathanael and his Roman supervisor Leontes.

  • The next scene involves Simon, Thomas, James and John in the Bashan (an area east of the Sea of Galilee, north of Samaria).  They run into Philip, a follower of John the Baptist.

  • The scripture they say together about making fires of the weapons comes from Ezekiel 39:1-10.  In this passage, God foretells Israel’s defeat of invaders from the north. They will come in such great numbers that people will be able to use the discarded weapons of the defeated army as firewood for seven years.  Some Christians who believe in the rapture see prophetic meaning in this passage.  Although we understand it speaks to God’s power to defeat bullies and Israel’s great victories, it’s not an important passage in our tradition. 

  • Next, the story goes back to Nathanael in a bar, talking about himself. 

  • The rest of the episode goes back and forth between various disciples and Nathanael until their stories merge at the end. 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

  • Philip (who becomes one of the 12 disciples) presents as an odd, wise, and enigmatic character.  Other than his calling with Nathanael and his baptizing an Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:5-40, there’s not much about him in the Bible.  How does his character come off to you?  What does he add to the human side of Jesus’ story? 

  • Nathanael claims that he “died of hubris” (excessive pride or self-confidence).  When has hubris caused complication or ruin for you?  If hubris (excessive pride) isn’t good for us, is there still room for healthy pride?  What’s the difference? 

  • Philip says to Matthew:  “I was something else once, too.  Once you've met the Messiah, am is all that matters.”  Instead of living in the past and dwelling on our past actions, how does Jesus compel us to focus on our present and future?  What difference does that make? 

  • Matthew draws a picture on the ground and says to Philip:  “Here's a circle-- It represents everything in the world and all the people that have ever been.  [Pointing to a place outside the circle...]  And that's me.  That's how I feel.”  Do you ever feel like Matthew?  If so, what’s different about you, and why are you made to feel outside?  With that in mind, how can you help others farther outside the “norm” feel more included? 

  • Matthew’s is wired differently than the other disciples.  Today we might call him “neurodivergent.”  Learn about neurodiversity at https://exceptionalindividuals.com/neurodiversity/.  If you want to go deeper, listen to this YouTuber with autism help explain it:  https://youtu.be/H6xl_yJKWVU.  How is neurodiversity a blessing, rather than a curse, such as in the case of Matthew? 

  • While under the tree, Nathanael recites Psalm 102.  The Psalms are not like other scripture.  They are prayers and songs that express raw and honest feelings.  Read the psalm.  Notice that the writer moves from lament (like Nathanael) to praise.  What brings that change for Nathanael?  What moves you from lament to praise? 

  • Nathanael asks if God sees him.  Does God see Nathanael?  How?  What difference does it make?  Does God see you? 

  • Much of this episode comes from John 1:43-51.  Is this how you imagined that passage?  What do you like or dislike about the way it’s depicted in The Chosen? 

  • Mary and Ramah want to learn more Torah (the first 5 books in our Bible, also called the “Books of Moses”).  Girls didn’t attend religious school as all boys did.  What is Thomas missing when he says that instead of learning for herself, Ramah could ask him anything she wants to know?  What difference does it make that you can read scripture for yourself, rather than relying on a relative or a pastor to tell you?  Do you take advantage of that privilege? 

  • Philip says to Nathanael several times, “Come and see.”  That’s the same line Jesus says in John 1:38-39 to hook Philip.  This phrase recurs over and over throughout the Gospel of John.  What’s the difference between “Come and see,” and “Trust what I’m telling you”?  What does this say about our God, who would rather show us than tell us? 

  • Philip tells Matthew, “What you think you know, it doesn't matter. Only that Jesus chose you. That's where your confidence comes from now.”  Matthew begrudgingly replies, “I know He knows what He's doing. I just wish I did.”  We confess God knows what God is doing.  But it’s an entirely different thing to trust that.  Have you been led down a hard road (like Matthew) or experienced defeat (like Nathanael) that led you exactly where you needed to be?  Why is it so hard to trust God that there’s a future for us after change or defeat?

Episode 1 

SCENES / BACKGROUND

  • The episode begins a few decades in the future with John interviewing various disciples
    - He ends up in conversation with Mary, the mother of Jesus (he calls her “mother” 
       because on the cross Jesus had them adopt each other).  

  • The next scene has Big James and John plowing a field.

  • Then Thomas (the wedding caterer) and Ramah (the wine producer) are traveling on the road to Samaria to find Jesus and the disciples.  They are talking with Ramah’s father, Kafni.

  • Simon, Matthew, Andrew, Mary, and others are in Sychar, near where Jesus met Photina, the woman at the well (who is his biggest champion in this episode).  Sychar is a city in Samaria, a place and people outside the Jewish faithful, and considered enemies.  

  • The have dinner with the Samaritans Melech, Chedva, and Rebecca.

  • They spend the night in the house of Nedim, Photina’s partner.

  • The episode ends in the synagogue.  As Jesus reads the scroll, there are flashes back to the beginning of the episode (in the future) with John writing.  

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

  • Why is there competition between disciples?  Simon and Matthew argue over numbers.  Matthew is put off by Thomas being good with numbers and precision.  Simon seems deflated when Jesus commends Big James and John for their work in the field.  Simon is resentful when they take charge of dinner preparation.  The later argue about the agenda for the time after Sychar.  Do you ever feel in competition with other people when it comes to being “good” or recognized?  Why is it so hard for us sometimes to be happy for others when they do good work?  Is it because we believe they aren’t worthy, or because we want to prove that we are good (secretly fearing that we are not)?  Read Philippians 3:2-11.  

  • In Kafni’s conversation with Jesus, he admits he doesn’t believe in what Jesus saying.  Then to Thomas, he says, “You may be stupid, but I am not.”  Have you ever felt foolish for believing in a God you can’t see?  Or worried that people will judge you as being deluded into wishful thinking with no basis in reason?  How do you feel about yourself when you have those thoughts?  Jesus says to Kafni, “I understand.  Thank you for your honesty.”  How do you talk back to the doubt and shame that come with these thoughts?  How do you respond to others who don’t believe.  Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

  • Melech (the lame man) says,  “What do want from me?”  What does Jesus want from him (hint: it’s not just belief)?  What does Jesus want from you?  To simply tell and listen to stories with you?  

  • Chedva (Melech’s wife) says, “When I was a little girl, my father told me the Messiah would bring an end to pain and suffering.  If you are who people are saying you are, when will you do that?”  Jesus responds, “In this world, bones will still break.  Hearts will still break.  But in the end, light will overcome darkness.”  Knowing the difficulties she faces, how would you answer Chedva if you were asked to speak for Jesus in this moment?   

  • Jesus says, “This is what we Jews do.  We tell and listen to stories.  Our stories connect us.  Tell me your story.”  When was the last time you listened to someone’s story?  When was the last time you told yours?  What was the impact of each?  

  • When talking about sheep, Jesus doesn’t do so much preaching, but asking a shepherd to describe what he would do.  When preparing to read scripture, he asks John to select his favorite scripture.  Why is that?  How might this be an example for how we share the Good News in our daily lives?  Is it all just preaching to people?

  • It’s clear that James and John are prejudiced against the Samaritans (and many Samaritans against them).  When have you spoken or acted out of prejudice?  What did Jesus do (and ask them to do) to help them see past their prejudice?  Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.  

  • Jesus names James and John the Sons of Thunder.   They say, “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”  Jesus responds:  “Today, it was not good. But strong passion can be a good thing, when channeled for righteousness.”  Can you think of traits you possess that can be used for good or for bad?  How do you use them to plant seeds?  

  • The episode ends with Jesus reading the creation story of Genesis 1 interspersed with the beginning of John’s Gospel.  Read Genesis 1 and John 1:1-14. How does John’s experience and telling of creation bring depth to Genesis 1?  What does these have to do with what happened in this episode?  How does it impact your life?  

SEASON 1 QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

Episode 8 Questions for Reflection

  • In the opening scene, Jacob (from the Old Testament) is describing God to a Canaanite.  What was the Canaanite man’s impression of gods?  What was Jacob’s impression of God?  

  • What does Jacob mean when he says, “We didn’t choose God . . . God chose us”?  What does it mean to you to be chosen by God?  

  • Nicodemus calls up the story of Hagar (Genesis 16) and the “God who sees.”  Jesus mentions that he and Eden see the same thing in Simon.  He also tells Eden “I see you.”  Jesus shows that he knows the Samaritan at the well by naming her husbands.  What does it mean that God “sees” us?  What does God see in you?  

  • Jacob and the Canaanite man, and Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, have conversations about where we can worship God.  What is the benefit of an “invisible” God that you can worship anywhere?  Where are we supposed to God when we need God?  What does it mean to worship in “spirit and truth,” and with “heart and mind”?  

  • When Jesus shows up at Eden’s house, she says, “I didn’t expect you here,” and Jesus responds that people rarely expect him to be there.  The woman at the well claims God has never given her anything.  Why don’t we expect God to show up in our lives?  When and how has God showed up in your life?  When have you missed God’s presence in the moment?  

  • Would you rather that you see God, or God sees you?  

  • Jacob describes “an invisible God, whose promises take generations to come true, who makes you sojourn in a strange places, and who broke his hip.”  Eden says it’s “our peoples’ way.”  Why does it have to be this way?  

Episode 7 Questions for Reflection

  • In the first scene, Moses and Joshua talk about the unexplainable things God has done.  Moses notes that they were acts of faith, not reason.  What does that mean?  When have you acted on faith rather than reason?  Who did you have faith in?  God?  Yourself?  Someone else?  

  • Matthew explains to Gaias, “When you realize that nobody else in the world cares about what happens to you, you think only about yourself.”  How does rejection, isolation, and/or self-preservation lead us to sin?  

  • Quintas tells Nicodemus, “You and I want the same thing.  We want rules followed.  We want order.”  Why are rules and order desired?  Who makes the rules you live by?  When is it right to follow the rules and when is it right to break them?  

  • We’re getting to see Nicodemus’ faithfulness.  Mary describes him by saying, “He seemed earnest.  He wasn’t offended to learn that someone else had succeeded where he had failed. There was a hunger in his eyes, not fear.”  How well do you take it when someone else succeeds where you fail?  How does it hold you up when you don’t take it well?  How did it free Nicodemus?  

  • Jesus’ and Nicodemus’ conversation is deep.  What did you take from it?  Do Jesus’ explanations about the Spirit, being born again, and the Kingdom of God make sense to you?  Why or why not?  What would help them make more sense?  

  • What is the Kingdom of God?  

  • What would you give up to “follow” Jesus?  Why?  How might it following be better?  What would you not give up?  Why not?  

Episode 6 Questions for Reflection

  • People gathered around Jesus teaching after seeing others there.  Nicodemus says that people stood in line to see John the Baptist because others were standing in line.  Do we follow Jesus just because others have (maybe our parents or grandparents)?  

  • Reactions to the leper were severe--people backed away, they didn’t want to breathe the same air, and knives were even drawn.  What can make someone so afraid?  What do you know about lepers in Jesus’ time?  Who are the lepers of our day?  

  • Simon both wants to attract more followers (recall his advice for the wedding) and not draw attention.  Which is it?  Why is he split?  Who are the “right” people?  Why do you think people are drawn to Jesus?  

  • Nicodemus and Schmuel have a pointed argument about interpreting scripture.  Which side are you on?  Can’t we just follow what the Bible says and not interpret it?  When have we used scripture to place limits on God?  

  • Jesus talks a bit about repenting or perishing in this episode.  This may need to be a place where Biblical context (not necessarily context in The Chosen) and interpretation may be really important.  Do you think it’s so black and white to God?

  • What is your reaction to Jesus healing the man who was paralyzed?  How would you react if you witnessed something like this today?  Would you be amazed and believe, or would you think it was a trick? 

Episode 5 Questions for Reflection

  • What do you make of the conversation between Nicodemus and John the Baptist?  What are they both looking for and hoping for?  Shouldn’t they both already know what’s going on? Is this how you pictured John?  

  • What do you make of the conversation and joking among Jesus’ followers?  

  • Why should anyone consider Jesus remarkable?  What is it about him?  Is it just the miracles?  

  • Both the bride’s father (Abner) and Simon seem to think wealth and power is important.  How does Jesus prove them both wrong (Simon in their conversation, and Abner with the wine)?  What is important?  

  • What kind of symbolism or allegory did you notice in this episode?  Consider the following:  Jesus in his “father’s” house, John the Baptist talking about preparing the way and quoting lots of scripture, Simon talking about learning how to fish, the purification jars, the good and cheap wine, Thaddeus explanation of smithing vs. stonecutting, etc.  Why is it meaningful to tie what Jesus is doing to the Old Testament?  

  • What is the question over whether Jesus’ “time” has come?  Time for what? 

  • How does Jesus “save” the wedding family?  

Episode 4 Questions for Reflection

  • Quintas tells Matthew, “You people want to be ruled.  You people want an excuse to complain.”  What is easier about being ruled than being responsible?  

  • What do family relationships look like in this episode?  Consider those of Simon, Andrew, Eden (Simon’s wife), Eden’s ima (mother), Zebedee and his sons James and John...

  • Eden accuses Simon of trying to fix everything himself.  What’s so wrong with that?  Isn’t he just trying to take responsibility?

  • Before the catch, why isn’t Simon as excited about the Messiah as Andrew is?  Why doesn’t he want to hear about it?

  • What do you think of Simon’s accusations of God?  What is his beef with God?  

  • Would you have been able to drop things and follow Jesus like Peter, Andrew, James, and John did?  What kind of miracle would you have needed to see?  What did Jesus offer them that is more than just a miracle?   

Episode 3 Questions for Reflection

  • What do you think of Jesus’ interactions with the children?  His silliness? His laughter?  His answering their questions?  Why do that for kids (and adults), when they haven’t given him any good reason to give his time and care to them? 

  • Why do the kids seem interested in Jesus from the start? Why do they do work for him?  What is it about him? 

  • Jesus invites the kids not only to watch, but to help him. How is that like God’s invitation to humanity to partner with God in creation? 

  • Jesus says, “Everyone has a much larger job than just their trade.  And you are more than just students.  You are at school to show love to one another.  And to take God’s Word and share it.  And at home to honor your father and mother.  And most important, from the Law of Moses, to love, who...?”  Joshua finishes, “The Lord your God, with all your heart.”  What is your larger job (or jobs)? 

  • If you had to name what Jesus’ job is, what would you say?

  • Jesus calls one of the kids “Joshua the brave.”  What name would Jesus give to you? 

  • Why does Jesus mean when he says, “Adults need the faith of children”?

Episode 2 Questions for Reflection

  • Several of the characters make distinct choices in this episode (Peter to turn in merchants, lie to wife; Matthew to keep talking to Quintas, not go in to his family; Mary to host Shabbat; Nicodemus to investigate Mary's healing instead of just celebrating the win).  What guides your decision-making?  How do you know what's "right" and "wrong"?

  • What do you learn about the Sabbath (Shabbat) from this episode?  Why do they observe it, and how? 

  • Why do we observe the Sabbath, and how?  Are we doing it well?  What would an ideal Sabbath (according to the purpose you learned in the episode) look like to you? 

  • What is the purpose of ritual?  What is the problem with ritual? 

  • What activity is most renewing for you?  In other words, what activity brings you to life? 

Episode 1 Questions for Reflection

  • How do the portrayals (so far) of Simon (Peter) and Mary Magdalene (Lilith) track with your past perceptions of them?  What is challenging about the differences?  What is thought-provoking about the differences? 

  • Fear is a common theme in Episode 1.  Considering the characters as portrayed, life in Bible times, and life in general as an actual human person... what do each of the following people have to be afraid of:  Mary Magdalene, Simon and Andrew, Matthew (and his cart driver), Nicodemus, and the Roman soldiers?  Why should they be afraid?  Deep down, what are you afraid of?  Why?

  • Where do characters seek hope (whether "right" and "wrong")?  Consider especially, but not exclusively, Peter's schemes, Nicodemus' teachings, and Mary's conversations with her father.  

  • What questions do you hear the characters asking?  

  • What questions, insights, or thoughts come to you while watching or afterwards?  What does the episode move in you?