Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Jesus I Never Knew Review

The Jesus I Never Knew – Book Review

Rediscovering the man Jesus in the Gospel is something that as a Christian I constantly seem to have to do, put behind my preconceptions and past impressions of Christ and look at him once again afresh. In Philip Yanceys The Jesus I Never Knew, I found a fresh rousing rendition of who Jesus is in ways that I have previously not understood. Yancey portrays to his readers a Jesus which is not as easy to pin down as many have come to conceive him and view him. Philip Yancey Portrays Jesus in a way that is radical and shows the radicalism of Jesus’ mission, life, death and resurrection. He does not let his past preconceptions tame who Jesus is, but allows his discoveries challenge himself and his readership to live in a different way.

It very much seems to me that Yancey writes from a journalist’s perspective. He wants to get some answers to the questions he has. He wants to discover who Jesus is and find out the truth from the scene of the crime. It is a very personal story of discovering who Jesus was and what Jesus means to Yancey now. Yancey has both shared in and rebelled against churches which have portrayed Jesus in different light to the reality. He is a recovered racist, fundamentalist etcetera who has wrestled with God. Many of the books he has written have been about his own disappointment with God – for example Where is God When it Huts?, and Disappointment with God this. Out of it you come challenged to learn more about Jesus and to apply Jesus’ teaching in your own life.’ I found the writing of Philip Yancey honest and refreshing. Last year I did a paper on Jesus and the Gospels and the Kingdom of God. As much as this was good, I found the Yancey’s book a lot less state than the academic study of Jesus I did at university. As much as I found the Jesus I read about last year was challenging, I found reading about Jesus in The Jesus I Never Knew even more compelling and more challenging than some of my past academic study.

I realised through this book how much more I need to find out about my saviour and Lord, I learned more about his radicalism and his radical message. I realised that my attempt to put Jesus in a box many a times through my systematic is probably not the best thing to do. Containing Jesus is not the thing to do. Its funny the things that Philip Yancey says about God and Jesus continue to shock and challenge my thinking. Some of the things that Yancey says seem incredibly heretical when you first read them, and then you understand they have an aspect of truth to them that you didn’t earlier realise about God. I picked up new and challenging ideas about God and the character of God through reading this book.

My favourite parts of the book were on the incarnation and on the Sermon on the Mount. In Yancey’s reflections on Jesus’ birth into the world I again began to marvel at the fact that God became man and lived on earth. God took a risk in becoming human. I found Yanceys insights into the incarnation of God very revealing.

I enjoy Philip Yancey’s mix of allegory, personal experience, biblical reflections, and dead guy’s reflections; it makes for an enjoyable reading and diverse experience. I particularly liked his reflections on the sermon of the mount. Like many he has struggled with the radical message of the sermon of the mount. I myself have struggled with the teaching and message that Jesus gives. Both because it is radical, and I don’t know how it plays out all the time, and I am continually challenged to play it out in my own. Philip Yancey devotes a lot of time talking about Jesus’ teaching. He talks about the truths behind both the ethical teaching and the blessing that he has seen on those peoples lives who live out the sermon.

As usual Philip Yancey devotes a large amount of time on his favourite subject. That is, grace, linking it to the issues behind the sermon of the mount. He believes that we can never fully follow the strict ethical teaching we find in the Sermon on the Mount. I think he is probably right in some ways. He talks about Tolstoy, a man who became obsessed with his inability to fulfil Jesus’ ethical teaching. The man tried to promote peace, but his own temper stopped that from being possible in his own life. Though his treatises on the sermon of the mount have inspired both Martin Luther King and Ghandi’s own pacifism and have seen the world changed in amazing ways. Both through Ghandi’s establishment of a free Indian Nation-State, and Martin Luther Kings fight for civil rights in America. Tolstoy himself obsessed over this fact, and fell into depression and sorrow because of this. He failed to realise that at the end of the day, we have to fall back on grace. We are not perfect yet, and because of that we have to rely on the love and goodness of God. We strive to build the kingdom, live in a way that honours God, which is shown through the sermon on the mount and many other passages in the bible, so that Gods Kingdom will be established on this earth.

I must admit that I found this an enjoyable and refreshing read. Yancey is very graceful in his writing, and I found the book challenging, and it God me thinking about a lot of stuff again. I don’t want to constrain Jesus, or put God into a box, because I don’t agree with that part of the character of God or Jesus. I still want to be challenged, to come and know my saviour and friend more fully. I want to have my heart broken by the things that broke the heart of Jesus. I want to be fired up against Sin, injustice, poverty, destruction of the environment, pain in people’s lives ecetera. I want to honour God and live to see his kingdom established on earth.


Princess Petunia said...

"God took a risk in becoming human. "

If God is God, there is no such thing as "risk" to Him.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about that Petunia. God took a risk in giving humans the choice of whether or not to love and accept him. I believe He took a risk in giving us free will. Without risk, perhaps there is no love.

Anonymous said...

I would like to read the book first to really comment on the context of risk in the book.

But I believe Petunia is right on, God does not take risks, what He says or does is definite. The fact that He gave us choice, only shows that God does not want "puppits" to serve Him. Insteed He wants people to have a real relationship with Him because they want to.