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Thousands Have A Priceless Gift But Will Never Discover It
on June 12, 2003
The renowned Christian book author, Philip Yancey, deserves "five gold stars" for his thought-provoking book, The Jesus I Never Knew. Yancey's training and experience as a journalist is evident in his exploration and historical detailed life analysis of the human being we call "Jesus." His book tells the story of this great Man who changed history, but that's not why he wrote it. As explained in Part One, "Who He Was," Jesus was the dividing point in Yancey's life. Although Jesus lived over 2,000 years ago, Yancey and Jesus have a very personal relationship. He states: "Nothing, not even the murder of God's own Son-can end the relationship between God and human beings." Yancey reminds us "too easily we forget what it cost Jesus to win for us all-ordinary people, not just priests-immediate access to God's presence. How important is that? Yancey states, "According to Jesus, what I think about Him and how I respond will determine my destiny for all eternity." I'd say it's the most important decision you could ever make.
As I read his book, I began to wonder, should this be a Wiley Publishing, Jesus For Dummies book? The Jesus we learned about while growing up, the typical Sunday school stereotype is a humble, soft-spoken, longhaired, modest Man. This is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords of all creation? This is the man that battled Satan? This is the man that hung on the cross by nails pounded into his flesh? Through extensive use of biblical references, Yancey explains how our preconceived ideas about Jesus' personality and looks may be misconceptions. Yancey also explains that Jesus purposefully walked through life and was comfortable meeting folks from every walk of life. Would you be comfortable associating with prostitutes, leprosy victims, and thieves? Jesus was, and still is. Yancey reminds us: "In God's kingdom there are no undesirables."
Yancey's work opens our eyes to the circumstances encompassing the birth of Jesus. He asks, "If Jesus came to reveal God to us, then what do I learn about God from that first Christmas?" How about a God that is a humble, approachable, courageous underdog? Yancey's questions regarding the birth cause us to ponder why God would send His Son to earth as a tiny infant human being. God could have sent Jesus to earth in a fire engulfed chariot surrounded by legions of angels, but He didn't. Yancey further explores the Jewish connection and how "Jesus failed to meet the expectations of Messiah the Jews were awaiting." Reading the book helps you to discover why God chose the Virgin Mary, and the challenging circumstances surrounding the birth of the Messiah. Although, it wasn't clear to me why God chose that time and place for the birth of Jesus.
Does Yancey create a paradigm shift in thinking? Yes. In the chapter, Mission: A Revolution of Grace, he asks: "Why do so few of the millions of prayers for physical healing get answered?" Humans afflicted with mental and physical woes daily ask, "Why me God?" When tragedy strikes my life, I ask God, "Why?" Yancey's response is simply, "I don't know." Yancey refers to a bible passage when Jesus is asked a similar question. Jesus responded, "...this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his [recipient's] life." In my youth, when something bad happened to my mom or dad, I would promise Jesus I would "be good" and "never do <something bad> ever again. I knew God was punishing me for my bad deeds. I would pray extra hard, maybe even kneel by the side of the bed. I never heard God tell me everything was going to be ok. I prayed and prayed for miracles but the angels never came down to help me. How can I believe in God if he doesn't help me when I need it? Yancey illustrates that: "Although faith may produce miracles, miracles do not necessarily produce faith." Why did Jesus perform only a few miracles? They "give us a glimpse of what the world was meant to be and instill hope that one day God will right its wrongs."
Yancey's book will open your eyes and mind to a new way of thinking. He will challenge your stereotypes and expose you to uncomfortable views. He supports his observations with evidence and builds his case like Lieutenant Columbo; except, Yancey doesn't bumble through the bible. Yancey is an expert communicator and articulates well his beliefs. I think you will find this book to be a good investment, monetarily and eternally.
Reviewer's note: The title for this book review is officially listed in The Top 100 Greatest Headlines Ever Written. I thought it was applicable to this review since Yancey helps readers to discover the gift they already have, the unconditional love of Jesus Christ.