Saturday, May 20, 2017

Jesus Journey: A Must-Read Review

How often do we meditate on or even think about the humanity of Jesus? I think the reason why is churches focus so much on his divinity and are extremely uncomfortable confronting the humanity of Jesus. We preach the Christ not the man.In his book Jesus Journey: Shattering the Glass Superhero and Discovering the Humanity of God, Trent Sheppard does just that: examines the humanity of Jesus. And he does so in such a way that it makes the reader long to go back into their Bibles and see Jesus with new eyes and a fresh perspective.

So often we come to the scriptures with our preconceived ideas of God and Jesus, or our perceptions are shaped by Sunday school stories (many never move past those), and so we never delve deeper into what did it really mean for Jesus to be fully God and fully man. But what exactly does that mean? Do we wrestle with this mystery of incarnation fully? Do we honestly stop to think about how Jesus was, indeed, flesh and blood? That the Word really and truly became flesh? That he was born an infant just as we all were, that he was breastfed and had to have his diapers changed as we all do. As he grew, did he struggle to fit in? If he had a hard time, is that where much of his connection to the outsiders and the fringe of society came from?

Do we think of Jesus experiencing pain, loneliness, joy, hunger, exhaustion, and the gamut of emotions and experiences that make someone human? Or do we prefer the Jesus from the felt board of our Sunday school classes?  Do we simply make him a kind of spiritual superhero?

Do we stop to think about his disciples and how young they really were (all between the ages of 15 and 25)? Certainly stopping to consider that makes me more compassionate towards their foibles and flaws; after all, when I consider what I was like in my own youth, what kind of bumbling and misguided disciple would I have been? What must it have been like for these young men, all good monotheistic Jews, to even begin to consider this man, their Rabbi, as God? Sheppard even makes the connection that Peter, stepping out of the boat to come to Jesus on the water, possibly did so, not because he understood that Jesus was divine, but because the man Jesus was walking on the water before him.

What Trent Sheppard does well in this book is to make us see the humanity of Jesus. By using the four gospels, the author takes a closer examination of Jesus' relationship to his parents Mary and Joseph and to his heavenly Abba, to his fellowship with his disciples, as well as his final days on earth. The book is an invitation to the reader to explore the life of Jesus as a Jew from Nazareth who is the son of God. In writing of Jesus' humanity, Sheppard does not, like Thomas Jefferson focus on the humanness and deny the divinity (as Jefferson created his own New Testament with only Christ's teachings and he cut out any mention of the miracles or the resurrection). This book restores the humanity and embraces the divinity. And Sheppard offers beautiful insight into both.

Jesus Journey is meant to be read as a 40 day devotional and each section ends with a call for the reader to Ponder, Pray, and Practice what they have just reflected on.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like an excellent book, Elliott. I noted your point about the disciples being very young. I just finished a Beth Moore study at church on the life and writings of John, and she focused a lot on how young John probably was (13 or 14 maybe) when he began to follow Jesus. And that probably the reason he was leaning against Jesus at the Last Supper was that he was the youngest "child" present and would be the one to ask the Passover questions, etc. This was eye-opening. I love it when a book or study allows us to read the Bible, esp the gospels, in a fresh way.