I Thought I Knew the Apostles!

by | Mar 31, 2023 | Formation, Reflections | 2 comments

I have read and preached about the apostles for more than 50 years. I am just now discovering questions I wish I had asked… and prayed about.

I am one of an estimated 100 million people worldwide who have seen at least part of “The Chosen”. Total views now top just under 500 million in countless languages.

Three seasons and 24 episodes later have enriched my appreciation for the scriptures and led me to a more prayerful understanding.

In this Vincentian Mindwalk, I share a growing realization that the struggle we face as church today existed even among those Jesus himself chose.

Apostles – ordinary human beings

In my head, I knew that Jesus chose ordinary people. But imagining very possible “back stories” helps me better understand myself and the clashes we face in our times.

In each episode, we see they did not leave their personal struggles behind. These play out in their relationships with each other. Each had different work styles, attitudes, and biases.

Matthew, the hated tax collector.

He was an apostate who made a comfortable living as a collaborator of the hated Romans. Worse, he extorted more from his people than Rome asked.

We can easily imagine the eleven would have a hard time trusting or forgiving him.  I never really thought about that.

There are some moving scenes when his father disowns him for rejecting his heritage. Later there is a more powerful scene when Matthew returns to his father and mother and asks for forgiveness. Jesus taught, “Leave your gift at the altar and be reconciled…”

We also see the struggle of his father asking forgiveness for his rejection of Matthew. His father had also heard the Sermon on the mount.

I never thought of his relationship with his parents.

Simon the Zealot

Think of the struggle for Simon the Zealot. How did a member of a militant rightwing resistance movement cope with Jesus’ message of turning the other cheek?

Challenges after the Resurrection

The apostles thought they had figured things out by Palm Sunday and the celebration of their most sacred ritual of Passover. They were completely thrown by Good Friday even though Jesus had tried to prepare them. They cowered in an upper room, trying to make sense of it all.

Even with the gift of God’s spirit, they continue to argue about dietary and liturgical issues they thought were long settled by Moses and the prophets. Factions emerged.  They had to let go of practices that they thought were immutable.

They gathered in what we would call a synodal process of listening to the Spirit they had been given on Pentecost. Peter and Paul listened to the Spirit together.

The synodal process of today.

I don’t think it takes much to realize that as people who are chosen, we too bring our personal struggles, cultural backgrounds, and biases to sharing the Good News.  God calls each of us to be disciples and apostles.

We are still struggling to understand that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, man nor women in the eyes of the God who asks us to pray. and live… Our Father.

God calls us to wash one another’s feet and Jesus washed the feet of his followers. All this God asks is that we remember whatever we do to the least among us, we do to God who loves them as sons and daughters.

I invite you to view a few episodes. Perhaps they will lead you from questions to a deeper appreciation of the Apostles.

Go to https://www.angel.com/watch/the-chosen, scroll down on the left to WATCH, and then click the box “Watch”

Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk



  1. Sister Ann Mary Dougherty, DC

    Thank you, Father John, for this post. I believe you also posted on “The Chosen” some years ago, which is where I first heard about it. I saved the link on my laptop, but it was only in the past two weeks that I could really get into it. I have watched all of season one and most of season two. I am anxious to watch the remaining episodes. Everything you said about it is very true. It has helped me to pray, for which I thank you.

  2. Marty McGeough

    What I have found fascinating is that you actually have the story of Peter and his wife. Their story and struggle is a great part of the whole story.