I can happily say that my new favourite show is officially The Chosen—not only marked by quality acting, sweet costumes, killer screenwriting, and loveable characters, but also featuring Jesus. Yeah, that's right. Jesus. Need I say more?
As far as cinematic Jesus depictions go, The Chosen paints my favourite picture. Unlike in the original Ben-Hur film, he is not a faceless figure who floats through scenes on strings of otherworldly music. And, unlike in the film version of The Shack, he is very much rooted in the context and culture of first-century Israel. Though any depiction of Jesus in media is speculative (we don't know exactly what he was like on earth), The Chosen comes closer than anything I've yet seen to capturing an aspect of Jesus I often overlook—his personality.
Yes, it may seem obvious, but I'm guilty of this. The Gospels present a clear picture of Jesus' teachings and actions, but we don't see a lot of his personality without reading between the lines. What was he like when he wasn't teaching? Did he ever chat with his disciples the way earthly friends do? Did he have a favourite food? Did he ever laugh at himself? Did he tease? Did he smile? And—I repeat—did he laugh?
Laughter. Jesus laughing. I love that image. Jesus tells us to take his yoke upon us and learn of him—a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light, but it doesn't always feel that way, does it? No, sometimes the Bible and all its wonderful red lettering can weigh us down with everything we're doing wrong, all the more we could be doing but aren't, all the ways we could be growing but haven't yet. Sometimes we can make the yoke so heavy that we forget about joy, forget to laugh. After all, Jesus was much too important and pious and spiritual to laugh. Right?
Wrong. I don't believe that. God gives us laughter—He gives us joy—and Jesus, as His Son, would have had more unobstructed access to that joy than any of us! There's a scene in The Chosen that I particularly love: it's the moment when Jesus tells Simon to cast his net in the water after an unsuccessful night of fishing. Simon is skeptical, but he goes with it, throwing his net one last time. And then, when the boat is groaning with the weight of hundreds of fish, James and John running to help, everyone marveling, the camera cuts to Jesus on the shore, laughing with the joy of seeing God work. Laughing with the joy of being a witness to Simon's newborn faith.
Jesus laughed. He had joy, and it must have spilled from him, trailed him like perfume wherever he went. How could it not? He was full of love and closer to God, the source of joy and all good things, than any human has ever been!
Jesus laughed. That means we can, too. And the deeper we dive into the well of joy that is Jesus, the more goodness we'll have to laugh about. Give it a try. You'll see.
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