The Chosen

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.

John 1:35-36, 40-42

There have been many attempts to capture what Jesus and His disciples were like on film. Most of them either don’t get the story right or don’t get Jesus right. Either they manipulate the story to make Jesus seem more relatable or they keep the story and Jesus comes across as stiff and robotic.

But last night I watched in wonder at one of the best retellings of the gospel stories that I’ve ever seen. The Chosen, created by Dallas Jenkins, is a multi-season TV show about the life of those who knew Jesus best. In the midst of getting to know them, we discover Jesus.

I can’t quite describe what it is like to watch this show. I’ve only seen the first five episodes, but I find that two things are happening inside of me as I watch this masterful production. First, I feel like I am getting to know old friends that I’ve only read about. The life of Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, Thomas and Mary Magdalene come alive. Their life stories weave together and begin to coalesce around Jesus. I found myself knowing these characters, after decades of studying the Bible, and yet discovering them afresh. Aspects of their life and personality come alive in a way that brings new insight into scripture. This same thing happened when I spent a semester studying and living in Jerusalem. After that experience I could never read the Bible the same way again. The same is happening as I watch The Chosen.

The second thing that happens as I watch The Chosen is an almost visceral response to Jesus. As I watch Jesus speak and interact with his disciples, his mother, and the nearby children, I find myself getting emotional. The thought that keeps coming to mind is, “This is the Jesus I know and love! This is the Jesus who invited me to follow Him. This is the Jesus I gave my life to! This is the Jesus I interact with in prayer! This is Him!”

On multiple occasions during certain episodes, I had to stop watching and just worship. Tears welled up in my eyes and I lifted my hands to the heavens in prayer and praise. I am reminded all over again about who this Jesus really is and why He is worth leaving everything behind in order to follow Him. As I’ve watched, a burning desire for others to know this Jesus has stirred inside me.

I can’t think of a better way to prepare for Easter than to watch The Chosen. Please watch it! You won’t regret it!

Fire Fall

With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”

“Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.

“Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

1 Kings 18:32-38

We all may know the historical meaning of this passage. This is when Elijah, a prophet of the Lord, confronts the prophets of Baal. They cried out for their gods to bring fire down on the altar and they could not. Elijah soaks his sacrifice in a deluge of water, calls on the true God to bring down fire, and God answers by sending a consuming fire upon the whole sacrificial altar.

Yet, as I read this passage again, the Lord seemed to highlight the prophetic or metaphorical meaning of this passage. Scripture tends to have lots of layers to it. One layer of this passage is how it points to Easter and Pentecost.

Notice the elements involved: a sacrifice, wood, stones, dirt, water and fire. The sacrifice was laid on the wood. Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice, was also laid on wood as He was nailed to the cross. Just as there were stones and a dirt trench, so too Jesus was placed in a tomb with a stone rolled in front. He was buried in His own kind of dirt trench.

Next we see the water poured three times, symbolically representing the Trinity and the cleansing waters of baptism. What was once a trench in the dirt became a kind of baptismal pool. When Jesus rose from the grave, He enabled us to be buried with Him in baptism and raised into new life.

But God wasn’t done. The final element was fire. The Lord sent fire down for Elijah and sent fire down for the Church at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Notice what the fire does for Elijah. It was meant to just light the wood and burn the sacrifice, but the fire of the Lord does so much more. This passage says that the fire fell and, “burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.” The fire not only burned up the sacrifice and the wood, but also the stones, the soil and the water.

Metaphorically, the fire of the Holy Spirit enables us to live out the victory of the cross (the sacrifice and wood). The fire of the Holy Spirit also enables us to live out the victory over death and the grave (the stones and soil). Yet, there’s more! The fire of the Holy Spirit is even greater than the cleansing waters of baptism. Baptism in the fire of the Spirit refines us in a way that the waters of baptism never could. It is an all consuming fire!

Lord, turn our hearts back to you!

Lord, may Your fire fall on us once again until we are completely consumed by You!

He Has Risen

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

1 Corinthians 15:3-7

First, Paul lays out the simple gospel of Jesus Christ. Then he states the reality that the truth of the gospel hinges entirely on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead…

1 Corinthians 15:13-20

If we reject the truth of Jesus’s bodily resurrection from the dead, we reject the gospel–the whole of the Christian faith. We can call ourselves whatever we want, but if we leave behind the resurrection, we leave behind Jesus Himself. We might be able to construct a nice religious facade without the resurrection, a pseudo-Christian facsimile, but Jesus won’t be found anywhere inside. If we don’t embrace the resurrection, our faith is useless and we are still mired in our sin.

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead,” and that changes everything! HE IS RISEN! HE IS ALIVE! Death and sin have been defeated and our victory has been won!