Telling the Stories of Jesus

Although I’m not fond of the slogan “Binge Jesus,” that’s exactly what I did during the Christmas season as The Chosen Season 3 aired. Each rewatching of an episode or its aftershow yielded new nuggets to savor.

When I got to the point where I could say the lines along with the actors, though, I decided enough was enough. I returned to other stories of Jesus written by Marjorie Holmes: Two from Galilee, Three from Galilee, and The Messiah. I discovered this author as a young adult. She wrote several collections of inspirational poetry, Ann Landers and other columnists quoted her, and her wisdom is even enshrined on the web.

If only I could move others with my writing as Marjorie Holmes moved me!

When I was ten, I wrote my first fan letter (to Maud Hart Lovelace and the characters in her Betsy-Tacy series). Ms. Lovelace was no longer living, but “Tib” wrote me back and sent me a picture!

Why not write another fan letter? Fifteen years later, I did—to Marjorie Holmes. I took the bold step of enclosing some samples of my own writing!

She graciously responded that I did have talent (had I really asked her that?!) and suggested how to hone my craft. She also invited me to come to a book signing in DC later in the fall. Feeling honored and very professional, I wore my brown striped suit and my favorite blue blouse. I bought her new release, God and Vitamins, and chatted with her a bit before she signed the book, adding a personal note of encouragement.

Once again, I’m devouring her series about Jesus. Just as Dallas Jenkins and his team have done for The Chosen, Ms. Holmes supported her imaginative story with careful, respectful research. Her descriptions are rich and vivid, and I couldn’t resist copying a few. Here is a beautiful passage in Three from Galilee* describing Jesus’ increasing consciousness of his identity:

As he lay there he could hear the earth’s heart beating, feel every point of light that glittered overhead, feel the secret life force pulsing in the meadows, the wind, the stream, the precious sheep he was tending.…So beautiful and somehow pathetic, bending their heads so trustingly in the starlight, knowing he would look out for them. They were his children. The world and its people, were they not his sheep and his children? He was responsible for them, he was one with the Father who had created them. He must somehow help them, he must comfort and carry them all.*

Yes, writing styles have changed since Marjorie Holmes, but her stories still inspire and stir the imagination. Carve out some quality time to read these three lovely novels sometime soon. They are truly binge-worthy.

*Marjorie Holmes, Three from Galilee: the Young Man from Nazareth (New York: Harper & Row, 1985), 112-113.

His Own Did Not Receive Him

How can such an old book always be new and life-impacting when I read it?

I’m talking about the Bible, of course!

Usually, something catalyzes the epiphany I experience. The unconscious backdrop for my latest reading of John’s gospel has been “The Chosen.” I’m seeing the people of the New Testament in a new dimension thanks to this television show.

As a child of the sixties, I saw the same pictures of Jesus, the disciples, and the Jewish leaders in my Sunday school class that I saw in my beloved Egermeier’s Bible Story Book. Wearing spotless, wrinkle-free robes and standing or sitting placidly under a pastel blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds. For the most part. Even the beggars looked presentable. The Roman soldiers stood by stoically in their shiny armor, scarcely more menacing than the friendly policemen we trusted back then.

Let’s talk about the Jewish religious leaders we love to hate. Even the most vivid pictures of the scribes and the Pharisees failed to convey their arrogance. The best cinematographer of the day could only allot a few seconds to the swish of a Pharisee’s robe when telling the gospel story in a feature-length film. And while Jesus reproved them for their wide phylacteries, their long tassels, and their lust for adulation, familiarity drained His words of their bite.

Enter The Chosen. In this television series, the Pharisees parade through the marketplace, robes billowing, and the crowds part in awe. Their luxurious lifestyle grates on the viewer as it’s contrasted with the ragged poverty of the average person in the street. The Roman soldiers inspire fear reminiscent of Nazis. Their armor clanks. They fling the occasional anti-semitic remark. Cringe-worthy–but real.

And the political intrigue. The conniving. The scheming. I’d always known the Jewish leaders plotted to kill Jesus, but seeing the seeds of this plot being sown by “real” people in scenes that could be played by politicians on Capitol Hill–game-changing.

But this is not a review of The Chosen. It’s about another game changer: these leaders knew who Jesus was. John showcases Jesus’ claims to deity and Messiahship in a way that’s lost to the modern reader, even though we’ve read our Sunday school lessons. We “know” that His repeated “I AM” statements were not mere poetic metaphors, but they lacked a gut punch.

Those statements were blasphemy in the eyes of the religious elite.

But not really.

Jesus was their Messiah.

And these arrogant, officious religious leaders knew it. They had heard the I AMs. They had seen the authenticating miracles Jesus had performed.

Jesus was their long-awaited Messiah and they didn’t want Him.

They didn’t “receive” Him.

Some people truly didn’t understand, but these schemers did. What was really in the back of their minds as they murmured in their chambers about how the crowds would respond to Jesus if they figured out who He was? When they strategized about how to persuade the loathesome Romans to prop up their patriarchal puppet show of a trial?


They didn’t want their Messiah after all.

They wanted their power.

People haven’t changed at all.

Do you want your King Jesus? Have you received Him?

Illustration “Peter the Fisherman” is in the public domain, Creative Commons Mark 1.0