I first saw the scene on Instagram, but it went straight to my heart even out of context.
In the second episode of season 3 of “The Chosen,” Little James, who we’ve seen walks with a limp, comes to Jesus after He commissions the Apostles. He tells him he finds it hard to believe that he will be healing people, given that Jesus hasn’t healed him.
Jesus asks James, “Do you want to be healed?”
“Yes, of course,” James says, echoing us all, “if that’s possible.”
He’s been with Jesus long enough to know that it is possible, and Jesus tells him so.
“Why haven’t you?” he asks Jesus—again, a question so many of us pray, over and over again.
“Because I trust you,” Jesus says. “Little James. Precious Little James. I need you to listen to me very carefully, because what I am going to say defines your whole life to this point and will define the rest of your life. Do you understand?”
Jesus tells James that he has healed and will heal many, many people, and they will have a good story to tell. But, he tells him, think of your story, if I don’t heal you.
“To know how to proclaim that you still praise God in spite of this—to know how to focus on all that matters, so much more than the body—to show people that you can be patient with your suffering here on Earth, because you know you’ll spend eternity with no suffering—not everyone can understand that. How many people do you think the Father and I trust this with? Not many.”
“But the others,” James says, “they are so much more … stronger, better at this.”
“James, I love you,” Jesus says, “but I don’t want to hear that ever again.”
“I know how easy it is to say the Psalm of David, that I am beautifully and wonderfully made, but it doesn’t make this any easier,” says James, breaking down. “It doesn’t make me feel like any less of a burden.”
“When you pass from this earth,” Jesus says to James finally, “and you meet your Father in Heaven, where Isaiah promises you will leap like a deer, your reward will be great. So hold on a little longer. And when you discover yourself finding true strength because of your weakness, when you do great things in my Name in spite of this, the impact will last for generations. Do you understand?”
Like James, I cry, and I say, “Yes. Thank you, Master.”
Does Historical Accuracy Matter?
I’ve seen some people online criticize “The Chosen” for the liberties it takes with historical accuracy. St. Matthew is portrayed as autistic, for example, and St. James (“Little James”) is portrayed as physically disabled.
Of course, Matthew and James could have had these disabilities. But the critique is that we shouldn’t imagine them when they aren’t documented by Scripture (or even Church tradition).
While I am sure there are plotlines “The Chosen” could take that I would find distasteful or even sacrilegious, so far, I have to disagree with this criticism. I don’t think that “The Chosen” is for everybody, but for those of us whom it has touched, it has done so in a powerful way.
An Important Reminder
Let me tell you what that scene with Little James means to someone with chronic physical and mental illness.
This year, my endometriosis has returned (and/or I have adenomyosis and/or … well, let’s just say that diagnosis and treatment for women’s health conditions has a long way to go). My fibromyalgia is flared up. I am in constant pain, occasionally so severe that I can’t get off the couch. The pain exacerbates my anxiety, and my anxiety exacerbates my pain. There have been times when I have been angry with God and tempted to despair. I have felt forgotten, neglected, unloved.
That scene with Little James was a reminder that I am not forgotten. I am not neglected. I am not unloved. It was a reminder that God has a plan for me, and that plan, at least right now, includes pain. That scene reminded me that even if I never experience healing in this lifetime, I will experience it when, God willing, I reach Heaven. It reminded me that if I never experience healing, my suffering will be part of my path to Heaven.
It was like Jesus reached down and gave me a hug and told me, “I am with you.”
Art like “The Chosen”—TV shows, movies, books, plays, and other forms of art that convey God’s love literally or figuratively—is so important. They don’t replace reading the Gospels or having a prayer life, but they can augment those activities. They can help make our imaginative prayer more fruitful by get to know Jesus and talk to him.
I don’t see Jonathan Roumie when I close my eyes and picture Jesus, but thanks to Roumie’s acting, I do feel more of a connection with the real Jesus. I feel his compassion. I feel his presence. I feel his love.
While it may not bring me physical healing (at least, it hasn’t yet), it is bringing me great spiritual healing. And I am so, so grateful.