One lockdown TV discovery for me has been a crowd-funded series called The Chosen.* It tells the story of Jesus from the perspective of those he chose as his disciples. It focuses on Peter and John and Matthew; along with the Marys (Mother and Magdalene) and all the others we know by name. The Chosen sees the story of Jesus from the follower’s viewpoint.

One episode touches on the scene from today’s gospel reading. When the disciples had come back from their missionary activities, Jesus invited them to come away with him for a while. But the crowds worked out where they were going, and hurried ahead. When Jesus and the disciples arrived, as we just heard, “he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.”

As the story unfolds in the TV episode, Jesus barely appears – the focus is on the disciples coming and going from their camp, taking shifts to be alongside Jesus as he taught the crowds, and cured those brought to him. We hear snippets of what Jesus was doing from people who had been healed or from the bits of news being shared among the disciples as they discussed what it could all mean. We get the impression of hours and hours of care being offered by our Good Shepherd, but we don’t see him until the end of the episode.

Here’s where the most dramatic part happens. Very late at night, Jesus comes back to the camp, having spent himself on everyone who had come to him. He is visibly fatigued, stumbling to get to his bed. He is utterly spent, and in no mood for chat. Most dramatically, his face reveals someone who is harrowed by what he has gone through.

Perhaps we might want to think that Jesus would have been extremely tired after such a day, but also happy for what had been achieved. Perhaps we might imagine him coming back to the camp, ready to share his own stories over a cup of wine and some bread, happy in all that had been done. But, no. The film, I think, captures more accurately what it might have meant for Jesus to have had mercy on all who had come to him.

For what Jesus had plunged himself into that day was death. The death of people overwhelmed by their sin, in need of forgiveness. The death of life-sapping illnesses from which debilitated sufferers sought relief. The death of the wounded and disabled, the broken and the desperate; the death of hopelessness and despair. All of this, Jesus had taken onto himself that day. To offer the people life meant immersing himself in their death. Jesus went to the darkest places of their lives and planted his own life there for them.

We profess that Jesus Christ is our Saviour. But do we accept what it took for him to save us? We so deeply desire to be found, but that means allowing Jesus to come to where we are lost. We hope for eternal life, but it will come to us only with Jesus taking on our death. “I have come that you may have life,” said the Good Shepherd. To receive that life God gave up his only Son. His death; our life. Thanks be to God.

*The Chosen is free to watch by downloading the App.

Image courtesy of The Chosen (VidAngel Studios)