Open Letter to Dallas Jenkins

Posted on 2024-04-23
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OPINION –

Dear Chosen creative team, for whom I have been praying since I first fell in love with Jesus softly calling, “Mary” in the first episode:

The Lord has granted you a rare opportunity, a massive one. Views of The Chosen, on the app alone, have exceeded half a billion. How terribly important it is that you not blow it!

I’m standing on the edge of Blowing It Cliff, yelling and waving my arms: danger, my friends! Proceed no further until you check your resources.

At the end of Season Four, which will go to streaming after its theatrical run, Jesus and his band of beloved are about to enter Jerusalem. We, the audience have an anxious uneasiness since we know what’s coming, though the disciples, as yet, do not. Then Jesus and Peter have an exchange as Jesus mounts the colt, an exchange that does not belong there. Jesus asks his followers if they will desert him; Peter answers with the question, “Where else would we go?”

This conversation has been surgically removed from John 6 and transplanted onto John 12, from the Bread of Life discourse to the triumphal procession into the Holy City.

If you built a fireplace in your living room and put the chimney in your bedroom, what sense would that make? Or if your car blew out a tire, and the mechanic replaced the steering fluid? How much more serious it is to take Scripture out of context.

The hardest teaching of the New Testament is Jesus’s command to eat His flesh and drink His blood. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have a shiver at those words. How much more the apostles, hearing them for the first time: horror, disgust, fear that Jesus, in whom they’d placed all their hope, might be barking mad.

I am the bread of life, He says. I am the living bread, I am the bread of God which comes down from heaven. That was the introduction Jesus gave, before becoming more forceful and specific: “This bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh, and unless you eat it, you have no life in you. Those who eat of My flesh and drink of My blood will have eternal life, and will abide in me, as I abide in them.”

To these disciples, who lived under the dietary law forbidding the blood of animals, “for the life of the creature is in the blood,” it seemed to be the final evidence that Jesus was either a heretic from the Mosaic law, or had lost his senses altogether. How could anyone listen to such a person?

A large part of his following peeled off, no doubt relieved that they had finally seen the utter wrongness of Jesus before it was too late. No more indecision, no more wondering if the miracles were worth the danger of walking with someone under interdict. At last Jesus had exposed himself unequivocally, and it was time to go.

“Many of his disciples drew back and no longer walked with him.”

It is at that critical point, when Jesus was heartbroken for those who’d left, that He asks the apostles, “Will you also leave?” Simon Peter famously answers, “Lord, where else would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

What a massive leap of trust the apostles had to make. It looked like Jesus had cracked, but they have watched him for years, seen the miracles and the courage. They have lived within the glorious circle of His friendship.

In John’s gospel, this decision point is preceded by the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. Of course the Bread of Life teaching comes directly afterward. It was the best hope for the apostles to understand that what He was about to tell them would mean eternal life or eternal loss for them; He wanted to give them every chance to get it. They had just seen the absolutely impossible take place, and were still in a state of wonder.

In The Chosen, the feeding of the five thousand is the glorious climax of Season 3. In accord with Scripture, it should have been directly followed by Jesus’s famous words about himself as the Bread of Heaven which brings life to the world. That’s not an addendum to the story; it is its conclusion. Would you tell the story of the Civil War and leave off the part about slavery being abolished? There is no story if the finale, the whole point of the thing, is omitted.

Jesus didn’t just feed the five thousand because their bellies were grumbling. It is not the satisfaction of the body that is important, but of the true bread which gives eternal life. The miracle of the five loaves and two fish is precisely the herald of that true bread, the Eucharist.

How do we know what the miracle was intended to teach? Jesus says it over and over in John 6, and then to put the stamp of authenticity on it, Jesus sorrowfully allows the crowd of the unbelieving to walk away. Away from the living manna, away from salvation and eternal life.

It is at this point, and no other, that Jesus asks, “Will you also leave me?” And at this point, and no other, Simon Peter answers, “Where else would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” It is an answer to a specific question put to him at a particular time, after a particular event. It can’t be cut out and patched on somewhere else, without ruining the whole garment.

Dearest Chosen team, you have put Simon Peter’s words in a place where they are robbed of their context. This is no small thing, like wondering if Joseph was young or old, or if Jesus showed mirth. This is foundational.

The Eucharist cannot be severed from the Crucifixion, the saving event of our faith. On the last evening of His life, surrounded by the people He entrusted with the mission of His whole life, with one last chance to make sure they understand what He is about and what they must do, Jesus gives His body and blood. He has already told them that eternal life hangs in the balance. And now He shows them what they must do, how they will eat His flesh and drink His blood. It will be in a liturgy, the liturgy of the new covenant He is sealing with His coming death and resurrection. 

Towards the end of the meal, Jesus says, “I will not drink again the fruit of the vine until I drink it anew with you in the My Father’s kingdom.” And then He skips the final cup of the Passover, and goes out into the garden. So the meal is not concluded, not yet.

The following day, as His final human act, Jesus accepts sour wine from a sponge. “When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished” and bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” Now the meal is concluded, and the sacrifice laid down for the covenant. The other party to the covenant, those He loves, must now complete the sacred act.

The Crucifixion and Resurrection without the Eucharist is an incomplete story. Dear friends, as you approach the writing of the Last Supper, please plumb the Scriptures and the writings of the early Church.  If this whole series rolls out and misses the Eucharist, all your beautiful work will have been in vain.

Don’t miss Jesus in the Eucharist. He has given us Himself for just such a time as this.

Source:  Open Letter to Dallas Jenkins on Substack, https://sherylcollmer.substack.com/

Sheryl Collmer is an independent consultant for several non-profit organizations. She holds a Masters in Theological Studies from the University of Dallas, as well as an MBA. She lives in the diocese of Tyler, Texas and also serves as CFO, co-coordinator of Region 8, and national news editor for CORAC.

1 Comment

  1. bernard knier

    This open letter is right on target. Many of us really appreciate and love the “Chosen” series in its ability to open the Humanness of Jesus that we all can relate to. Yet there are many times, in the sincerity of the writers/producers to do this, that His image through their creed, small “c” comes through. This should impress on those of us who are Catholic to know our Catechism better. That will help us to understand in a deeper way what we truly believe as Catholics. We are not, “all the same.” Therefore, we should be held to a higher standard to make the World a better place.

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