The Chosen, Season 1, Ep 6: “Indescribable Compassion”
In this episode of The Chosen, Jesus begins his public ministry of performing miracles, and we see the Pharisees and Romans sit up and take notice…and not because they’re looking forward to welcoming the new rabbi with open arms~
MAJOR SPOILER ALERT: Read this article AFTER you’ve seen the show to avoid spoilers. You can watch the show for free at https://watch.angelstudios.com/thechosen
You can find and read the other In-Depth Summaries & Reviews here:
What’s Happened So Far
In the last episode, we saw Jesus do his first public miracle: turning water into wine at the wedding of his mother’s friend’s son.
The newly called disciples travel with Jesus to his childhood friend’s wedding while his mother helps the groom’s mother prepare their courtyard for the festivities.
Elsewhere, the caterer Thomas and vintner’s daughter Ramah prepare their cart to bring food and wine to the celebrations.
But at the wedding itself, the wine runs out. Mary begs Jesus to help save face for her old friends in front of their guests and hypercritical inlaws. At first, Jesus seems resistance, but he agrees to his mother’s request, and tells the servants to fill the stone water jars to the brim.
He prays, and tells the Father he is ready. The water turns into wine, the best wine the guests have had.
Jesus calls Thomas and Ramah to follow him by meeting him in Samaria in 12 days.
A stranger goes into a pawn shop to sell his tools, which he says were made of quality material from Tyre and Sidon. When the merchant attempts to underpay him, the man protests.
As he lifts up his arms, his sleeves fall back, revealing rotting flesh underneath.
The merchant cries out: “Hades and Styx*! Leper*! You are marked! You couldn’t just die? You had to take us all to hell?”
The merchant shoves the stranger with a pole: “Take it and go!” he says, referring to the money.
And with that, we are ready for the fish song!
The story opens with Matthew and Gaius standing guard over a box of money — the results of the miraculously massive catch Simon, Andrew, James, and John had a few days ago at the Sea of Galilee.
They’re waiting for other Roman soldiers to come to pick up the treasure, which totals 2 years and 7 weeks’ worth of taxes, plus penalties.
“We’re sitting ducks here,” Gaius says, nervously. “Try to look natural.”
“I am natural,” Matthew says, “I look exactly how I feel.”
“Try to act like a normal person under normal circumstances!…uh, forget I said ‘normal.’”
Next, we have Nicodemus reporting to the Av Beit Din on his interview with John, concluding that he “presents no threat to Herod or the public peace.” But the Av Beit Din is not convinced. What about Brother Shmuel’s testimony?
Nicodemus dismisses John and his followers as just “seeking attention.” You only legitimized him by arresting him, he says. You gave him a pedestal.
It wasn’t me, the Av Beit Din says. At this moment, Shmuel steps out: “It was me.”
Why? “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord!” Shmuel quotes Proverbs 17:15.
John’s sin, in Shmuel’s eyes? By calling the Pharisees a “brood of vipers,” John has hate in his heart, or so interprets Shmuel. The Av Beit Din scolds him for not going through Nicodemus, his teacher, first.
Meanwhile, Jesus and the disciples are setting up their campsite in the middle of a field.
Simon asks Little James what he did before meeting Jesus, and Little James says he was on the way to join the Jerusalem Temple Choir.
When Simon expresses his disbelief, James demonstrates his abilities by singing from the Psalms, eliciting applause from all those present.
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
— Psalm 63:1
Jesus comes over to Simon and tells him to go on home ahead of the others. Jesus himself plans to escort his mom back to her home in Nazareth, and he says Simon has business to attend to at his home back in Capernaum.
“Yes, rabbi,” Simon says.
Quintus is impressed at the haul Matthew has brought in from Simon.
Matthew tells Quintus it wasn’t Simon, but Quintus believes that Simon and his accomplices tricked Matthew.
Matthew protests, but just then a messenger bursts in, shoving between Matthew and Gaius: King Herod’s envoy approaches.
Quintus fires off commands to his soldiers, then pauses and turns to Matthew and Gaius. He promotes Gaius to Primi, and praises Matthew…in a manner of speaking.
Quintus then asks Matthew for advice on how to deal with the unexpected arrival of a childhood rival whom one wants to make aware of one’s superiority.
Matthew advises showing his infrastructure plans, because “conquest is not simply about conquering nations, but imposing a way of life.”
Quintus is pleased by this idea and dismisses Matthew. Gaius thanks Quintus and drags Matthew away.
Next, we see Jesus and his disciples coming across a woman gathering flowers. When Jesus speaks to her in Egyptian, the woman responds in the same language and introduces herself as Tamar.
“I lived [in Egypt] when I was a boy,” Jesus says.
“You lived in Bethlehem during the Massacre of the Innocents*? Big James asks.
“Yes, it was very sad,” Jesus says. “Not to spoil this beautiful day or anything, huh? Come on.”
But before they can move, the leper from the opening scene appears and Mary shrieks. The men try to ward him off, but Jesus calms them and steps forward.
The leper falls on his knees and begs: “Please…please don’t turn away from me.”
“I won’t,” Jesus says.
“Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” [Matthew 8:2]
The man says he heard about Jesus via his sister, who was a servant at the wedding in Cana. Jesus bends down to look the man in the eye.
“I am willing,” Jesus says. “Be cleansed.” He lays his hands on the man’s shoulders, and before our eyes, we see the sores on the man’s arm and chest shrink and disappear.
The disciples gasp, and Tamar, who had swung back to look, drops her basket of flowers and runs off.
“Who has an extra tunic?” Jesus asks. The disciples scramble to volunteer but Jesus adds: “Just one.”
Jesus takes a green tunic that Thaddeus hands him, and wraps it around the man’s shoulders. “Green is definitely your color,” he says.
He also asks the man not to tell others about him just yet. But to just go and get himself inspected by the priests, and make the proper offerings in the Temple, as Moses commanded.
Back in Capernaum, Salome tells her husband Zebedee to spread out the flax on the roof. Zeb sees his sons coming home and shouts down to his wife: “They’re coming!”
He races downstairs and embraces his boys, kissing them on the head. Salome comes out too, and sees Jesus. “Hello,” he greets her. While still staring at Jesus, Salome tells her sons to listen to Jesus and stay with Jesus.
“Pleasure to meet you too, Salome,” Jesus says, and Salome welcomes everyone into their house.
Meanwhile, back in his own home, Simon nurses his feverish mother-in-law and sings a Psalm to her:
“May my meditation please you as I rejoice in you my Lord.”
— Psalm 104:34 paraphrase
Andrew is out in the kitchen, telling Eden all about the wedding miracle in Cana when Simon comes out. Andrew teases him about his singing and Eden laughs. The brothers head out to rendezvous at Salome and Zebedee’s.
As the brothers head to Zeb and Salome’s house to meet with the others, they bump into Matthew, who asks them about the man on the shore who made the fish appear.
Simon is majorly ticked off that Matthew has been telling Rome about Jesus, but Matthew says they don’t believe him. He wants the brothers to confirm that what he saw was real. Well, too bad, so sad, Simon tells him (in essence).
Back among the Pharisees, Nicodemus asks Shmuel to join him for something. What, we aren’t told yet.
At Zebedee and Salome’s, Jesus and the disciples are having snacks.
Zeb asks Jesus about his background, and Jesus tells him he was a carpenter, and that his dad Joseph has passed. Zeb also asks Jesus about his genealogy, and Salome guesses Judah.
Just then, neighbors (Mara and Eliel) come in to crash the party and ask Jesus questions.
Jesus talks with them about servants waiting for their master to appear. He uses it as a metaphor for how people must be ready for God to come at any time.
And then Barnaby and Shula show up, too:
Meanwhile, Simon whistles for John, and expresses his concern that it’s getting too crowded in the house.
John looks up to see that Jesus has gathered a crowd standing outside the house.
John reminds Simon that he doesn’t have to be Jesus’ bodyguard:
John: “He called you to catch men!”
Simon: “…I don’t know what that means.”
John: “Exactly. And if he needed you to know what it meant, he would have told you.”
Nicodemus has Shmuel read from Isaiah and asks him what that reminds him of:
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
— Isaiah 40:3
Shmuel says it reminds him of John. But John must be a heretic, because he’s applying those words to a human and God cannot take human form.
Nicodemus challenges Shmuel to be more open-minded about who God is and what He can or cannot do.
But Shmuel counters with verses from the Torah* to back up his point:
You saw no form of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire.
— Deuteronomy 4:15
“You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
— Exodus 33:20
Nicodemus points out that the Sadducees only take the first five books of the Torah as inspired scripture:
“Think of all they have missed: The psalms of David, the story of Ruth and Boaz, Esther and Mordecai…”
But Shmuel isn’t getting the picture: “God gave us His law, we must uphold it!”
They are interrupted by a Pharisee who says that a crowd has gathered in the Eastern quarters to see an “ordinary man” preaching. Nicodemus and Shmuel hurry off to see.
Meanwhile, Jesus is preaching to the growing crowd. His words come from The Gospel record — The Book of Luke:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them — do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
— Luke 13:1–5
And The Book of Matthew:
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
— Matthew 6:2–4
Nearby, Tamar comes on the scene, spots the crowd around the house, and beckons to the friends following her:
Meanwhile, Gaius and Matthew are standing in an empty marketplace. Gaius asks Matthew if there’s some Jewish holiday he doesn’t know about:
But just then, some soldiers come to tell Gaius about the crowd gathering in the Eastern quarter. Gaius heads off to see and Matthew calls, I’m coming with you!
Back to Jesus teaching in Salome and Zebedee’s house. Simon is watching Jesus and he asks a bystander “He’s amazing, huh?”
Tamar shows up, trying to get her paralyzed friend in to see Jesus, but the crowd is too big. She begs the disciples to help.
“We’re trying to keep that under wraps,” Andrew says, but he and Simon are distracted by approaching Roman soldiers along with tagalong Matthew.
So Mary tries to help Tamar and her friends but the crowd is too thick. She starts to turn them away…
“What about the roof?” Tamar suggests.
Matthew is standing in the back trying to catch Jesus’ talk when he is pelted from behind by someone. “I just wanted to hear the Teacher teach!” he cries.
But when Matthew turns around, he sees that it’s not someone trying to drive him away:
Two kids, Abigail and Joshua, are sitting on the roof of a nearby house, and they want to invite him to come up and sit with them. It’s the same children from Episode 3.
Then, Simon shows up: “Where are your parents?” he asks the kids. They point to the crowd.
Nicodemus and Shmuel show up:
The Pharisees spot Mary on the roof with Tamar, and Shmuel is stunned to see her healthy.
Just then, Jesus’ sermon is interrupted by Tamar, who calls to him through the hole in the roof:
Tamar’s friends enlarge the hole and lower her paralyzed friend through the roof.
Simon climbs up to the neighboring roof and semi-sarcastically tells Matthew to take notes.
The crowd is shouting in excitement and Shmuel forces himself to the window, demanding to know by whose authority Jesus is teaching. But Jesus ignores him to look up and talk to Tamar:
Then Jesus says to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven.” Immediately, he turns to Shmuel, and the rest of the scene follows the gospel account:
Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”
— Matthew 9:4–6
But of course Shmuel has to go and ruin everything by calling the guards.
And so the disciples whisk Jesus away to safety.
But Nicodemus watches in awe as the formerly paralyzed man walks past him on his own two feet.
Nicodemus finds Mary and asks for a private interview with Jesus, but Mary is reluctant.
At last, Mary agrees to try.
Meanwhile, Matthew is discombobulated by what he’s seen. He turns in a slow circle. “Are you lost?” Abigail asks him.
Gaius finally busts into the house, but Jesus is long gone:
Jesus is following his disciples out the back way when he stops and turns to see Matthew staring at him from behind. He simply gives Matthew a look, and then he’s gone.
Okay, for our background context, let’s take a look at a few quotes and concepts from this episode:
Tyre and Sidon
Tyre and Sidon were important cities in Phoenicia (located near the Mediterranean sea). They were prophesied against in the Old Testament and were eventually overthrown by Alexander the Great.
So that’s what the leper was referring to when he mentioned selling tools from Tyre and Sidon.
Hades and Styx
For those unfamiliar with Greek mythology, Hades is the underworld, where dead people go. And Styx is the mythological river that the dead must cross before they can get into Hades proper.
In the Bible, leprosy actually referred to several different skin diseases, including, but not limited to, what we now know as leprosy — aka Hansen’s Disease— a specific bacterial disease that causes people to lose their skin and body parts over time.
Dr. Paul Brand wrote a really interesting book about leprosy called The Gift of Pain, in which he states that leprosy is actually a gift of painlessness. In other words, people who have the disease cannot feel pain (because the leprosy bacteria has damaged their peripheral nerves), and therefore can’t tell when they’re injured, resulting in them accidentally injuring their bodies and contributing to body decay and destruction.
Today, leprosy can be cured, but back in Biblical times, leprosy (and probably many other skin diseases) were completely devastating. Those who had it were forced to stay away from other people and shout “unclean!” so that healthy people wouldn’t bump into them accidentally and potentially catch the disease.
288 Jerusalem Temple Choir
1 Chronicles 25 refers to King David’s creation of a special group of musicians from the “sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, for the ministry of prophesying.” Altogether, these men numbered 288. Hence the name 288 Jerusalem Temple Choir.
In this retelling of the gospel story, The Chosen writers decided to make Little James a musician on his way to join this Temple Choir, before he turned to follow Jesus.
Massacre of the Innocents
Herod the Great, who was the ruler of Judea when Jesus was a baby, ordered the killing of all the children under the age of 2 who lived in Bethlehem.
Why? Because he had heard of Jesus’ birth and thought that this new infant prophesied to one day be a king, would threaten his own power.
This story is told in the Bible in Matthew 2. Herod heard of Jesus’ birth and wanted to kill this baby who he saw as a threat to his power. But the men he sent to report to him Jesus’ whereabouts (the Magi from the East) were warned to not tell him anything. Then:
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
That’s what Jesus and the disciples were talking about when Jesus meets Tamar.
Speaking of which, Jesus DID live in Egypt as a youngster because of the whole Herod-murdering-the-toddlers thing, but contrary to how it’s portrayed in The Chosen, he likely didn’t stay there long enough to actually learn how to speak Egyptian (which was a different language than modern Egyptian Arabic. Fun fact ;D)
The Torah is the Jewish scriptures, the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Jewish boys in Jesus’ time were expected to go to school to study the Torah, and many even memorized huge chunks of it — even the entire thing.
Thoughts on Storytelling, Writing, and Craft
Oh no, the singing. Little James’ singing. Not great. Not great at all.
On pitch much of the time, but not always. And breathy and not well supported. Granted, I’m not an expert on ancient Jewish singing preferences, but…urgle. Definitely not my cup of tea. And not what I would imagine would even close to qualify for the Jerusalem Temple Choir.
I always get a little itchy when a story character who is supposed to “sing good” doesn’t, in reality.
The most recent other example of this is when Katniss Everdeen was supposed to sing in The Hunger Games series. Because the actress who played Katniss actually doesn’t have the kind of voice described in the books, she mostly whistled instead, as I recall.
I suppose that works, in a pinch.
But pretty please. If you write a musician or singer character, try to find an actor who can actually sing or “music” well.
- Train him to sing
- Dub him with someone who can sing, or
- Make him a visual artist instead — it’s easier to fake. And less likely to jar the suspension of disbelief that is necessary for a viewer to enjoy a show.
(I listened to a couple of the dubbed singing versions, and unfortunately, they didn’t follow that piece of advice with the foreign language voice actors, either. Sigh)
Alright, that’s all I’ll say about that. Please forgive my little rant. Moving on.
Aside from the “singing stumble,” the rest of this episode was solid, as usual.
And some pearls that stood out to me are in the increasing depth of characterization for multiple characters:
I love the way Quintus insults Matthew:
- “You’re a fine reporter, but you’re a bit of a rube.”
- “You did well, Matthew. Fortunately, you have ME to interpret for you.”
And my personal favorite zinger:
- “You’re so wonderfully…odd. How you’re not a stain on a cartwheel is a mystery we will have many moons to unravel, my new friend.”
To use an outdated internet slang term:
Quintus thinks he knows better than Matthew what’s going on, when in reality he has no clue whatsoever. The irony. It’s delicious.
Quintus himself is starting to be a little more three-dimensional. In his conversation with Matthew we find out that he has some insecurities regarding his past, and a rival who threatens his sense of well-being.
He isn’t just an evil giggling villain. He also has past hurts that make him who he is today.
Meanwhile, Jesus’ character continues to be expertly depicted and played, with gentleness and authority. And…
Other fun moments
I love how Simon says “I don’t know what that means.” When John reminds him that Jesus asked him to catch men. HAHAH. So true. The way he says that is so innocently helpless, and don’t we all feel that way sometimes? Like we don’t know what’s going on, when most of the time we pretend we do?
And finally, it was heartwarming to see that the kids weren’t prejudiced against Matthew, and invite him to sit with them. And sad that Matthew’s first reaction is to cower and say “I just wanted to see the teacher teach!” He is so used to being stomped on that when the kids throw a few friendly grapes (olives?) at him, he immediately assumes he’s being attacked. Sigh.
Aaand that’s it for this episode! On to the next one 😀
About The Chosen
The Chosen is a multi-season “binge-able” TV series based on the life of Christ and his disciples. It’s the biggest crowdfunded project in the history of TV crowdfunding, not just for faith-based projects, but ever.
(Note: I am not affiliated with the show or its creators in any way, I’m just a regular ole’ fan impressed by their storytelling skills and interested in studying it to learn more!)
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