In 2004, the film The Passion of the Christ hit the big screen all over the world. It was not without controversy, but it quickly became the most impactful depiction of the Paschal Mystery in the history of motion pictures. From that moment on, in the minds of millions, Jim Caviezel was Jesus. In fact, at the 2023 March for Life in Washington, D.C., one of the speakers called Caviezel “movie Jesus.”
That speaker was Jonathan Roumie, who, only moments before, had begun his talk by stating that “God is real.” After loud cheers, he rhetorically asked, “How do I know this?” One of the people in the crowd actually shouted an answer to the question, but we couldn't hear what was said. Roumie certainly heard it because he laughed, and then he said, “I’m not Him. I’m not the real Jesus. Let’s just get that out of the way.” He then clarifies. Pointing to himself: “The ”
Since taking on the role of Jesus in the fan-funded series The Chosen, Roumie has, for many, many people, become the face and voice of the Incarnate Logos, the Son of God. This series has been like the proverbial mustard seed - starting small and growing into something that we, like the birds in the parable, can rest in and find solace and comfort.
The Passion, simply by its subject matter, did not afford us much of a look at the Jesus Who gathered His Apostles, made jokes with old friends from His youth, or missed His earthly father Joseph. I recall only once in the entire film - when Jesus is completing a dining room set and is lovingly teasing His mother - where Jesus smiles.
The Jesus of The Chosen, on the other hand, smiles often, revealing the “true man” Who is mysteriously united with the “true God.” The Jesus portrayed by Roumie is not averse to winking at one of his friends or saying something that makes people laugh or even groan - but always within the greater purpose of spreading the Good News.
One of my favorite moments in the series is a scene in the first episode of season two where a man confesses to Jesus that his seemingly permanent leg injury was caused by being thrown from a stolen horse.
The theft occurred when the man and an accomplice, hiding along a deserted stretch of road, had ambushed a man, beat him, took all that he had, and left him for dead. Not only does this prompt Jesus to tell the story of the Good Samaritan, but it allows Jesus to ease the man’s troubled conscience by telling him that the man whom he assaulted did not die. Upon hearing this, the man breaks down and weeps.
When he regains his composure, he can’t help but ask, “Why me?”
“The Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine on the mountain to search for the one that went astray.”
“What do you want?”
“Believe My words…listen to the Word read aloud and let it affect your heart.”
By this time, the hour is late and Simon Peter says they should be heading back to camp. A sly grin appears on the face of Jesus as he notes His pretended concern about the journey: “We never know what sort of men may lay in wait on the side of the road, huh?” Everyone stares at Him in disbelief until He breaks the tension, asking, with palms outstretched, “Too soon?” Smiles and light laughter fill the campsite.
Before leaving, Jesus hugs the man and tells him to sleep well. The love flowing from Jesus during the embrace is tangible, and this gesture clearly moves the man beyond words.
TV Jesus made everyone watching this episode feel the boundless love of God for all of His wandering sheep. Most probably, they would also have felt the stirrings of a desire to experience that same sort of embrace from the real Jesus. Hopefully, amidst all of the emotions of the scene, it was not lost that the embrace came after an honest and heart-felt confession, with the requisite “penance” imposed by the priest - and in this case, the Priest.
Many people watch The Passion of the Christ during Holy Week, which can be a profound way to enter the depth of the Paschal Mystery. In addition, taking time to watch The Chosen throughout these last few weeks of Lent may help bring us to a clearer realization of our own chosenness and our need to respond by confessing and thus experiencing the grace of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. It is the infinite love of Jesus, felt in such moments, that lets us know that God is indeed real and that it is never too soon to be healed of our sins.