In this episode, Matthew is sent to spy on Simon, who’s desperately trying to save his family from the Romans. And just when all seems lost, a certain rabbi shows up to turn everything upside-down…
Everything the writers have been setting up in the previous three episodes pays off in this one! And it is so. satisfying. Seriously. Those who are familiar with the Bible stories probably already know what I’m talking about. But if not, keep reading~
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.
In this article, I’ll be summarizing, reviewing, and giving relevant context for this episode of The Chosen.
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
(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!)
What’s Happened So Far
In the last episode, we saw Jesus spend several days teaching and spending time with a group of local children.
When Jesus leaves, he leaves behind a handmade gift for the little girl who found him first and invited all her friends to meet him.
But before THAT, we know that Simon skipped part of the traditional Sabbath dinner to go betray Jewish merchant fishermen to the Romans. And that’s where episode 4 picks up:
Ominous music plays in the background as Simon guides a boatful of Roman soldiers on the Sea of Galilee.
Simon tells them to stop when he spots a fishing bob, indicating that they are close to their quarry.
But when Simon picks up the bobber, he notices that on it is written a single letter: “Z”
Simon tells the soldiers to pull “hard to port, this way!” But when they follow his instructions, the soldiers run aground on a sand bar.
“Stupid sea rat!” curses the Roman guard.
“Why are you not listening to me? I told you to go this way!” Simon says, pointing in the opposite direction from where he’d pointed earlier.
The look on the soldier’s face indicates that he is not buying it.
Aaaand cue the fish song:
Back on shore, Simon is escorted by the grim Roman soldiers. “Accidents happen, boys, nothing to be ashamed of!” he says, nonchalantly.
“There’s no accident, you know the sea better than anyone. That’s why you smell of it,” says the leader of the guard as he cuts Simon’s ear and threatens him with Quintus’ savage violence on “those who betray him.”
“Think of Eden,” the soldier says, and when Simon tries to talk back, he gets punched in the stomach.
“Make good on your promises, dog.”
In the next scene, Simon is seated at a table, drinking with fellow fishermen (but new characters to us show watchers) Zebedee and his sons James and John.
When asked, Simon jokes about his injured ear: “Ran out of bait. Thought I’d give my ear a try.”
But then Simon tells them he’s made a deal with the Romans, and James and John immediately bristle. Their father calms them down.
Simon goes on to tell them that he nearly caught them fishing on the Sabbath. At the last minute, he drove the Romans away from their scent, unable to go through with betraying his friends.
Zeb and his sons are ambivalent about whether to be mad that Simon nearly betrayed them or grateful that he didn’t. But when Simon asks them to turn over their catch to him so they can pay off the Romans, they refuse.
Turns out there were 40 men that night and Zeb will not “steal food from the mouths of my men.”
Now we see Matthew, who has been summoned to Quintus’ office.
Quintus calls him a “single-minded machine” and asks for his help:
He suspects that Simon has indeed been playing him, and wants Matthew to spy on him and report back.
Matthew says all of this may be difficult, since he is not accepted anywhere in Jewish society.
“So go in disguise, I don’t care,” Quintus says, and gives Matthew a tablet to write on.
When Quintus asks if Matthew’s tax booth is protected, Matthew says yes, his dog guards it when he’s gone.
This makes Quintus laugh aloud. “Oh Matthew, you are a priceless treasure. Of course you have a dog.”*
Meanwhile, Shmuel the Pharisee is telling his fellow Pharisees about a strange new phenomenon:
Hordes of people are lining up to get baptized by a camel-skin-wearing man by the river (John the Baptist).
Nicodemus has heard of this wild man, who dares to oppose Herod* to his face, but he doesn’t know quite what to make of him.
Shmuel is upset that John called the Pharisees “snakes,” but Nicodemus dismisses his concerns and adjourns the meeting.
Simon returns home to see his brothers-in-law huddled around, talking to their sister. They tell him that their mother is ill and has come to stay at his house.
Simon is not happy about this new development and after kicking the brothers out, confesses to Eden that their financial troubles are worse than he let on.
Eden argues with him and asks him where his faith is.
Eden points out that Simon is no longer the man she married, using gambling and working to try to do everything himself, with no respect for God.
What about “Pikuach nephesh*?” Simon says.
Eden says his real problem is that he lost faith long before this, and tells him to leave. “I don’t want you here tonight anyway.” But then she adds: “I’m glad you were honest with me. But no more talking. Maybe God can get your attention now.”
Simon goes outside in a funk, and just then, a breathless Andrew runs on the scene to tell Simon: “We’re saved!”
Andrew tells Simon he was standing by the Jordan River when John the Baptist pointed at the Messiah and announced him as “He who takes away the sin of the world.”
Simon doesn’t react. Andrew is discombobulated by Simon’s indifference:
“Simon, are you listening?”
“Yeah, yeah, you’re just not saying anything,” Simon grumbles.
When Andrew presses, Simon asks: “Is he rich…maybe he’s a doctor…? No?… So pardon me if I’m not exactly jumping out of my sandals because Creepy John pointed at someone!”
Andrew continues to try to get Simon to understand, but all Simon says is: “Go help Eden, her brothers are trying to cook, I can smell it.”
As Simon leaves, Andrew spots Matthew hiding oh-so-innocently *cough, hack, wheeze* behind a palm frond.
And when Simon returns with his fishing net, he too sees Matthew.
Matthew advises him to turn himself in, but Simon insists on “pursuing every option.”
Matthew tells Simon that his deadline has shortened. He only has until sunup tomorrow to pay his debt.
Simon still chooses to go fishing, despite Matthew’s advice.
Meanwhile, at Nicodemus’ house, Nico and his wife are discussing how long they will be staying. Nicodemus wants to stay for his research, but his wife isn’t excited about the prospect of staying longer in little ole’ Capernaum.
They are interrupted by a Pharisee, Yussif, who announces that Romans have taken John the Baptist into their custody, likely because Shmuel turned him in to them despite the fact that Jews do not normally turn one another in to the Romans.
Nicodemus expresses interest in talking to John the Baptist personally.
It’s night-time on the Sea of Galilee, and Peter is alone on his boat, trying unsuccessfully to catch fish.
Meanwhile, Matthew is sitting on the shore, watching Simon, with his trusty new tablet in hand and a certain new furry companion by his side:
Frustrated as net after net turns up empty, Simon starts yelling at God:
“Make the chosen as many as the stars…only to let Egypt enslave us for generations! Bring us out of Egypt, part the Red Sea, only to let us wander in the desert for 40 years! Give us the land, only to let us be exiled in Babylon! Bring us back, only to be crushed by Rome!…You’re the God I’m supposed to thank. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you enjoy yanking us around like goats!”
But his cries attract a responding call: It’s Andrew, Zeb, James, and John, sent by Eden to come help him fish.
Simon tells them it’s his last night as a free man, thanks to Quintus, and with nothing else they can do to help, the men settle in to fish.
The men start discussing ways for Simon to escape to Egypt. But Simon declines leaving his ancestral homeland.
Andrew tries to start talking again about how John the Baptist pointed out the Messiah, the Lamb of God, but Simon stops him:
“We don’t need a lamb. We need fish.”
That morning, the men have obviously caught nothing and are preparing to row back to shore.
Meanwhile, Matthew has been sitting on the shore with his trusty sidekick, waiting for Simon.
The fishermen spot a small group of people on the shore.
“Roman scum! Couldn’t even wait!”
But the people aren’t Roman soldiers there to arrest Simon. As they get closer, they see it’s an ordinary man teaching a group of attentive listeners.
The man, of course, is Jesus, whom Andrew recognizes immediately, in excitement.
Jesus asks to borrow Simon and Andrew’s boat so he can project farther and the people can hear him.
But Simon is unimpressed. He just wants to go, but Jesus asks him to stay a moment.
Andrew adds his plea: “Simon, trust me as I have trusted you. This man is the Messiah.”
So Simon reluctantly stays to hear what Jesus has to say.
Using fishing as a metaphor, Jesus teaches the people that in the last days, the kingdom of heaven will be like a fisherman who brings in all kinds of fish, and then separates the good from the bad fish.
For those interested, here’s the verse this scene comes from:
“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
— Matthew 13:47–50
Jesus then dismisses the audience and tells Simon and Andrew to put the net out for a catch, “a little farther out.”
Andrew immediately jumps to his feet to obey. But Simon tells Jesus, with exhaustion in his voice: “We’ve been doing this all night: nothing.”
Jesus says nothing, just looks at Simon, who finally agrees with a sigh. “Alright. At your word.”
Simon and Andrew toss the net in, and for a second, nothing happens. Simon looks back at Jesus and tilts his head, as if saying, you see what I mean?
Jesus merely raises his eyebrows in response: just wait.
At that instant, the boat jerks sharply to the right and Simon nearly loses his footing. The water in the net is churning white as cheerful Irish jig music starts up in the background.
“Help!” Simon cries to Zebedee, James, and John nearby, who race through the water to help them pull their enormous catch out of the water.
Jesus watches with a smile and Matthew watches in amazement as the fishermen haul in an unbelievably large catch.
There are so many fish that the men have to get off the boat to reduce the weight so it won’t sink.
The men stare at their catch in awe, whooping and laughing.
“Simon…I told you, I told you!” Andrew yells in joy.
Simon hops out of the boat and falls to his knees before Jesus, weeping that Jesus should depart from him, because he is a sinful man.
Jesus tells him to lift up his head, and Simon asks what he would have him do. “Anything you ask, I will do!”
Jesus gets down to his level and says just two words: “Follow me.”
“I will,” Simon says, and Andrew jumps down from the boat to join him. Then Jesus turns to James and Jon and calls them too. Zebedee sends them off and says he’ll take the fish to market to settle Simon’s debt.
The men run after Jesus who tells Simon, “From now on, I will make you fishers of men.”
Meanwhile, back on the beach, Matthew approaches Zebedee:
Matthew: “This catch is worth a lot!”
Zebedee: “It’s amazing!”
Matthew: “It’s impossible.”
Now we cut to a Roman prison, where Nicodemus has come to visit John the Baptist, a scraggly man with a wiry beard who isn’t in the least intimidated by his surroundings or his august visitor.
Nicodemus wants to ask him about miracles, but before John can answer, the scene ends.
Okay, for our background context, let’s take a look at a few quotes and concepts from this episode:
The Rock on Which it is Built
The title of this episode refers to Simon’s other name, Peter, which Jesus gives him later on. The name “Peter” means “rock,” and Jesus says that Peter himself will be the “rock on which the church is built.”
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
— Matthew 16:13–18
Et voila, appropriate episode title for an episode that ends with the calling of the first disciple (first not in chronological order, but in stature and leadership) — that is, Simon Peter.
“Of course you have a dog”
Dogs were not looked on as pets in that time and society. People often struggled to feed themselves and their work animals/farm animals, they wouldn’t have had pet dogs the way modern first world people do.
In fact, dogs were probably considered vermin, almost akin to rats in today’s society.
Which is the likely reason why Quintus was so amused to find out that Matthew had a dog. He probably thought that was extremely appropriate.
Pikuach nephesh is the concept that it is permissible to break a law in order to save a life.
Simon uses this as an excuse to Andrew and Eden when he breaks the law to rest on the Sabbath in order to go fishing. Because, he argues, if he doesn’t, they will lose their livelihoods and possibly their lives, thanks to heavy Roman taxation.
Nephesh loosely translates to what we today would call the soul. As you can see in this informational video:
Herod Antipas (aka Herod the Tetrarch or King Herod) was the ruler of Galilee in the time of Jesus. He was the son of Herod I the Great, and he divorced his first wife (Phasaelis) to marry his half brother’s wife (Herodias), which offended many people, including John the Baptist.
When John confronted Herod for this transgression, Herod had him arrested. You can read more about what happened next in Mark 6, Matthew 14, and/or Luke 3 (not telling what happens to avoid spoilers, but many people already know).
Thoughts on Storytelling, Writing, Etc.
Whoot! This is one of our biggest payoff scenes. After all the setup in the previous episodes, with Simon especially, that final fish scene is just. so. satisfying.
So, in the words of the title song, let’s jump in:
Simon v Matthew Characterization
In this episode, we get to dive deeper into Simon and Matthew’s characters. The Chosen writers are really good with playing off two characters or situations against each other and Matthew and Simon make a great pair for that.
On one side, we have the “emotionless,” logically-minded Matthew whose persecution of Simon isn’t really personal — he just sees it as his job.
On the other, we have the passionate, natural leader Simon, who personally hates Matthew, and cannot conceive of any possible acceptable or understandable reason why Matthew would choose to be a tax collector.
Their confrontation scene right before Simon heads off for a night of fishing is particularly revealing:
Simon faces Matthew and says, “You’re a little off, aren’t you?…you use a lot of big words.”
Matthew responds: “But no one listens to me. Not like they do you.”
I love how both characters see understand each other in that moment. Simon does have natural charisma and leadership, which Matthew recognizes. And Simon recognizes Matthew’s social awkwardness.
(But at this moment, Simon doesn’t have much compassion for Matthew, considering how Matthew is the tool the Romans are using to torture him, in his view)
It’s understandable why they are who they are, and why they hate each other (or rather, why Simon hates Matthew), which builds anticipation for the coming episodes, because we know that both of these men are going to be called to be Jesus’ disciples, which means they will have to work together and learn to love each other in the future.
In other words: They see each others’ most obvious personality traits, but it’s going to take time for them to learn each others’ more interesting hidden characteristics. Great way to set up satisfying character arcs and (hopefully) friendship for them.
Simon and Matthew are unprepared for what happens next, when Jesus gives Simon the miraculous catch of fish. Simon immediately realizes he is a sinner, and he says the famous “depart from me, I am a sinful man!” line, which is actually in the Bible.
What isn’t explicitly told in the Bible, and what the show fills in pretty well is why Simon feels like he’s a sinner. It’s not just a generic “I’m a sinner because we humans are all sinners,” which is a legitimate point, of course — but having had a recent episode where he nearly betrayed his fishermen friends to the hated enemy (doing basically what he’s pissed off at Matthew for doing), Simon has a more immediate reason to recognize his own fallenness.
There’s less about Matthew in the Bible, besides what you can read between the lines when observing how Matthew writes his gospel, but the show writers do a great job giving him a backstory here, too.
Overall, two thumbs up for creating characters that viewers can connect to and care about.
There’s another funny moment when Matthew is spying on Simon who is trying to catch fish all night. Simon starts screaming at God in frustration, and on the shore, the dog whines. Matthew pats the dog and says, “It’s okay, sometimes people bark too.”
So cute 😀
What would we do without our dogs?
And then there is the scene where over-eager Andrew is falling all over himself to invite Jesus into his boat after Jesus asks to borrow it:
“Yes, yes, of course! Stand on my boat. Please. Thank you.”
I’m really starting to like Andrew more as a character. At first he was pretty one-dimensional, but we’re getting more of his personality starting in this episode.
Speaking of which, Simon’s harangue brings up the name “The Chosen,” which I always thought of as referring to the disciples, because obviously Jesus chose them, personally.
But actually, that title also applies to the Jews as a group. They are known as The Chosen People, of course. And you could say this story, while it’s a microcosm focused on the lives of Jesus and the disciples, includes the stories of the Jewish people as a whole — and beyond.
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