If you ask Christians about Jesus, they will describe him as wise and loving, a philosopher, a teacher, and a religious leader who preached God’s word. But was he funny? Scholars contend that Jesus had a great sense of humor that is usually overlooked. Even so, you’ve probably never seen a Jesus as witty as the one in The Chosen. This Messiah and his disciples speak in a lighthearted, teasing tone as if their true holy scriptures include old American sitcoms.
The Friday Night Lights spin on faith
Despite directly borrowing from the New Testament, The Chosen has gained international notoriety largely because it does not regard the Gospels as authoritative. Dallas Jenkins created the series to make Bible stories genuinely binge-worthy.
An evangelical, Jenkins was inspired by secular shows like Friday Night Lights and sought to create a program with a naturalistic slant that explored the people and politics of Jesus’s day. This meant a shift away from the divine and toward the human.
Many filmmakers have attempted to modernize the Bible for modern audiences, but few have garnered the widespread attention or intense devotion that The Chosen received. It also became the most successful crowdfunded project ever in 2021.
When the show first aired in 2019 and became free to watch in early 2020, it was supported by 16,000 donors who contributed under $10 million. More than $40 million has been raised to cover production costs for at least a third of The Chosen’s seven planned seasons.
The Chosen streams for free on VidAngel and the show’s mobile app. Its episodes are available in fifty different languages. It reached the big screen when the film Christmas With the Chosen: The Messengers was shown in 1,700 theaters. After shattering presale records, it earned $4.2 million on opening day and $13.7 million by mid-month.
Appealing to skeptics
Converting skeptics is a tall order for any Christian entertainment. Many evangelicals believe that many films and television series about Jesus are preachy, with saintly portrayals that are too virtuous for an emotional connection to form.
The Chosen has the greatest chance to appeal to a broad audience. The show is a character-driven drama that portrays Jesus and his disciples as real, slightly neurotic people breaking free from the saintly stereotypes that have long surrounded them.
Jenkins admitted that some viewers were offended by the show’s treatment of Jesus as a “rock star” in the season two finale, in which Jesus was about to deliver his Sermon from a makeshift stage in front of thousands of fans. Jenkins dismissed those criticisms as absurd, stating that the scene illustrated Jesus’ rising popularity.
This approach is also more likely to appeal to younger audiences. The Chosen‘s liberal use of popular jargon, such as “freaked out” and “don’t be salty,” may irritate some purists. Yet, those instances significantly contribute to loosening up the show. Jesus even dances at a party in one episode!
The power of faith and humor
Even with its prestige TV-like allure, most of its viewers are drawn in by the power of faith, and there’s no avoiding The Chosen’s commitment to ministry. Every episode ultimately comes down to a teachable moment about the value of humility or forgiving others, which secular viewers are likely to find sanctimonious.
The story spans seven seasons, so The Chosen sometimes feels slow and repetitive. But, for those who wonder why “the greatest story ever told” couldn’t also have a little more humor or humanity, The Chosen is a bit of a miracle.