Vol. 4, Issue 2: "Coming to Know Jesus" by Tim Harkin (Expanded Version)

Sep 8, 2023

The Chosen: How Watching the Series Helped Tim Come to Know Jesus
Reflections by Tim Harken

What impact did watching the Chosen have on you personally?

We all suffer from conditions we need to be rescued from, and only Jesus can do that. As a child, I was instilled with a deep belief in Jesus, but as life wore on, I experienced a series of seemingly never-ending traumas, and like many I blamed God for allowing me to suffer and blamed Jesus for not rescuing me. My faith and relationship with Jesus were severely wounded and society seemed to offer many resources to soothe my suffering. Of course, that was clearly the wrong avenue and I only continued to slip further into depression and sin.

I was terribly lost and had no relationship with Jesus. I thought that I still had faith that Jesus was the Son of God and died for the forgiveness of my sins, but that was something I kept in the back of my mind. I had a major disagreement with God in my late teens and rebelled against Him for the better part of 20 years. I had no real relationship with Jesus at all. How could I? I didn't know Him. Sure, I knew who He was. I had the best parents in the world, and they instilled in me from my early childhood knowledge and a belief in Jesus. But my seemingly endless bad choices in life resulted in my never knowing Him.

It’s so easy to find escapes from pain, boredom, depression, loneliness in this world. I had no relationship with Jesus, so I naturally never honestly turned to Him. Again, I knew who He was, but I did not know Him. How could I? What I knew of Jesus came from Sunday Mass, and the Gospel readings. Awesome stories, for sure, and I didn’t deny their truth. But I was also never really moved by them. Knowing of Jesus is not the same as knowing Jesus. It seemed that the world and its distractions were an easier way to mask my own sufferings. And I absolutely indulged.

I got custody of my son when he was an infant. Although I felt lost to God, I at least wanted to make sure my son grew up with the same faith my parents brought to me; so, I started going to Church again. It had been 20 years, and thankfully the faith ingrained in me from an early age still had some influence on me. I honestly wanted to reconnect with God and really tried to believe. But I was still a slave to the world. And even though I looked like a decent Catholic on the outside, on the inside I was only going through the motions.

Of course, being back in Church on a regular basis, I found myself amid a lot of folks that genuinely seemed to have personal relationships with Christ. Father Steve was brand new at Resurrection, and I have to say that for the first time in my life, I felt myself drawn to Jesus listening to his sermons. I felt he was a true modern-day Apostle, and his preaching reinvigorated my faith. I genuinely wanted to know Him, to be in a relationship with Him. But I never seemed to be able to get over that hump. I tried.

I went to mass faithfully, went to confession occasionally, attended several Alpha courses; but I still never heard the Lord speaking to me. I never felt His presence. I never felt like there was anything personal between us. So, I still turned to the world’s distractions. It seemed that my reinvigorated faith only served to make my guilt from sin that much more distressing. I must have uttered the words, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” a million times. Where was He? Why couldn’t I have that feeling that so many around me seemed to have? I swore my love to Him, and my desire to serve Him, and my hopes to be redeemed by Him. But at the same time, I was addicted to the world’s distractions. I was a fraud. My “faith” was more of an act. I had no relationship with Jesus, as much as I wanted to have one. I did not know Him.

I’d read bible passages from time to time and other Christian texts, but I never felt anything stirring within me (except a never-ending feeling of guilt and shame). I don’t know if it’s the way my brain is wired being so inundated with modern media, or maybe that I had already heard the Scripture readings so many times through life that they seemed more redundant and repetitive than anything else, but the bottom line was they just didn’t inspire. I never felt like I knew Jesus – only knew of Him. I’d pray for signs or miracles. I’d beg Him to just give me something, anything, that I would know was a message from Him just proving that He was there and that I meant something to Him. But it never happened. My faith it seemed was destined to be based on hope alone, and not from the truth that comes from having a real relationship with Him. I did not know Him.

The Chosen was already into Season 2 before I ever even thought of watching it. I had seen many shows about Jesus growing up, but truthfully, although they were moving, they weren’t really inspiring to me. A two-hour movie pretty much always seemed to be the same; a very solemn Jesus repeating the same words I’ve already heard through Sunday Masses for years, His trial, His crucifixion, an empty tomb and flying away to Heaven. Always encouraging, but never anything different. Until The Chosen.

For 53 years, I had known the narrative that Jesus was ‘born a man’ but was still God. Walking the earth, conducting His ministry, and even suffering, although I knew he was a man, it never struck me of the importance of that condition. I knew he was God, which really seemed to ultimately be what really mattered. The Chosen changed all of that. It completely changed the way that I saw Jesus. Not that Him being a man was more important, but that for all intents and purposes He was a man, like me. His followers were ordinary people, like me. The people He preached His message to were ordinary people, like me.

Unlike the typical show that really only provided a synopsis of Jesus’ last three years crammed into a two-hour movie, The Chosen provides the most intimate understanding of who Jesus is, why He came, and that He loves me. It didn’t take very many episodes before I realized that for the first time in my pathetic life, I was finally beginning to know Him. And through knowing Him, I began to feel Him. And through that feeling I realized that I had finally begun having a relationship with Him.

The Chosen series creators set the stage for this possibility of knowing Jesus by sharing the story of Jesus through the lens of who He was, as seen through the eyes of His Apostles and those He called – the Chosen. His Chosen. His 12 Apostles are not the old men in Michelangelo-type paintings I’ve seen all my life; they are normal, average, every-day guys like those you might see in your own neighborhood. They were: Four blue-collar fisherman; an architect; a vineyard manager; a tax collector; a revolutionary; a singer; a stonemason; a businessman; and a religious follower. And Mary Magdalene, a woman from the red quarter, possessed by 7 demons. They could be the crowd at Flap Jack on a Saturday morning! They could be you. They could be me!

Can you imagine sitting at the beach at Lake Lansing, and a strange man walks up to you and says, “Follow me?” Of course, there are a couple incredible miracles thrown in there, but for many of the Apostles, it was that simple. The Chosen allows you to put yourself into the show, to imagine yourself in 1st century Galilee, and to feel and see and come to believe Jesus in the most personal way you’ve ever experienced. It’s the first time in my life that I have felt that I know Jesus, and that He knows me. And that I am one of the Chosen.

What inspired you to organize others watching the series, and what fruit came from having other people watch the show and discuss it?

Two years ago, Father Steve began screening the television series. “Band of Brothers” every Wednesday night in the parish hall. He was trying to give the men of our parish the opportunity to witness men and their actions from a period of our nation’s history when men were patriotic, masculine, moral, righteous, supportive, and loyal to their fellow man. Dozens of men showed up each week to watch an episode and have a small group discussion afterwards. It was a terrific experience of fraternity and comradery for many of us who participated, and for myself, the first time I felt genuine friendship in many years.

After the season ended, the men at my table decided our newfound friendship was too important to let slip so we decided to continue to meet each week at my house. We share a terrific meal, a couple cold beers, and we generally watch a program with a Christian narrative, or a biography of a saint, or occasionally just something purely fun. Naturally we have screened all three seasons of the Chosen, and they have been the source of our most meaningful and thought-provoking discussions. The beauty of The Chosen is that it bears witness to the promise of Redemption and Salvation to everyone, no matter if your faith is borderline sainthood or struggling sinner. It is impossible for anyone to watch without laughing and crying and coming away with the knowledge and feeling that you’re a little closer to God than you were before the episode.

I would hardly describe myself as an evangelist, but the life changing experience I have encountered from watching this series has prompted me to share it, and recommend the show, to countless people so far. It is my greatest hope that those who suffer from having no relationship with Jesus find The Chosen and allow it to change their lives. It will change your life. I promise. In some way, great or small.

How did the viewing of the first season go and is there a plan for the parish to host more viewings moving forward?

The Chosen has been viewed over half a billion times in virtually every country in the world. The amount of discussion groups and chats devoted to the series is staggering. I believe it’s almost like a mini example of what Heaven must be like; people from all ends of the Earth being touched by Jesus and coming together in faith and praise of our Lord.

Certainly, this phenomenon has not gone unnoticed by our parish. Father Steve graciously allowed us to screen season one of The Chosen in the parish hall early this summer. Summer, being summer, with vacations and other activities, limited us from achieving my personal hopes of seeing a hundred or more people each week, but I wouldn’t say that it was an unsuccessful endeavor as there were regularly 40-60 participants. The beauty of the show was tremendously enhanced by the group discussions following the episodes which typically lasted an hour or more. As I mentioned earlier, it's impossible to experience an episode and the harmony from group discussion without feeling closer to Jesus.

The parish is graciously going to continue this amity this fall by screening season two of The Chosen beginning in October in the Parish Hall again. This season, we are planning on the event being a potluck lunch beginning at 2PM on Sundays. The hope is that this would be a terrific opportunity for Church fellowship to share a meal together, watch an episode, break out into small groups, and finish just in time to attend 5PM mass for those who hadn’t gone already. I think it’s a terrific plan and am praying for it to be a successful endeavor.

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