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Why Jesus? Paperback – October 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
A United Methodist bishop and prolific author, Willimon (Pastor: The Theological Practice of Ordained Ministry) makes dual use of the title question, offering nuanced arguments for following Jesus (some of which subtly counter popular contemporaries who preach pragmatic Christianity) and interrogating Jesus about his personal spiritual struggles. Addressing numerous gospel accounts from Jesus' ministry, particularly the miracles, parables, and resurrection, chapters explore interpretations of Jesus both familiar (story teller, preacher, savior) and provocative (vagabond, magician, home wrecker). Willimon offers his "own meager testimony," throughout, acknowledging his discomfort with challenges Jesus makes to religious leaders such as himself, while at the same time claiming his vocation as preacher and writer, called to "help Jesus get hold of you--with nothing but words." Conversational, boxed "Asides to Jesus" provide tongue-in-cheek humor and opportunities for reflection--for example, "I confess that I'm guilty of thinking that God is somewhat like me, only nicer"--while citations following each chapter under the heading "You Can Look it Up" challenge the reader to personally engage the discussed texts. This is accessible wisdom from a seasoned theologian. (Oct.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Feeling most at home behind a pulpit, Will Willimon’s deepest calling is to be a preacher and truth-teller of Jesus Christ. He is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at Duke University Divinity School and retired Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church, after serving for 20 years as faculty member and Dean of the Chapel at Duke University. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.
Will Willimon has published many books, including his preaching subscription service on MinistryMatters.com, Pulpit Resource, and Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love, both published by Abingdon Press.
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Each of the twelve brief (none are more than fourteen pages) chapters focuses on one aspect of who Jesus is: vagabond, peacemaker, storyteller, party person, preacher, magician, home wrecker, savior, sovereign, lover, delegator, and body. In addition to the many stories, each chapter includes a listing of all Scripture passages referenced and sidebars featuring conversation "aside to Jesus" remarks in which Willimon interacts with the text (e.g. as "Aside to Jesus: Some people buy books like this one hoping that the book will explain you, make the complicated simple and the mysterious comprehensible, and thereby make you easier to swallow without choking. I guess you aren't going to let us get away with that, are you?" - p. 29).
Sometimes the book will shock the reader, but instead of being offended, the reader will meditate on the truthfulness of the idea. This is because the book's author does not seem to wish to accomplish what most writings on Jesus do in this modern society, which is to comfort and make the reader feel good about himself. Instead the book confronts the Christian with the radical life that the Lord lived. In reading the chapter about Jesus the Vagabond, one is impressed with the life of Jesus. He was poor, he never could stay in one place long, and he was always going to another home. Sometimes as modern Christians, we have dressed Jesus up in middle class clothes; he is living in a middle class home, driving a SUV donkey. The chapter confronts the Christian with how deeply different Jesus' time on earth was in comparison to our own.
The next chapter that seems to be a shocker is the one on "Home-Wrecker." Much of modern Christianity focuses on improving the home. This is not a bad thing. There are classes on child rearing, on having good marriages, and on developing the perfect home life. But this is only half of the call of Christianity. At times, Jesus calls his people out of the safety of the home for the purpose of his mission. He seems to break up the home of many of his disciples. He tells people to leave "father and mother" and follow him. Sometimes discipleship means to be torn from your family.
These are just some of the thought-provoking chapters. Almost all of the chapters will cause the reader to dwell on the true nature of Jesus. The work perhaps provides a different view of the nature of God.
The book is a little "in your face," but this is not all bad. It will cause you to meditate on the true nature of Jesus. One might not agree with all of the author's statements, but one will be challenged by his words. One must remember that when people encountered Jesus, there was a time of reflection to dwell on his teachings. This is one of those books. It is not filled with error, but it is filled with an "untamed" perspective of Jesus. The book presents a counter-cultural Jesus, but the book does not react to sinful society's images of Christ. It instead reacts to some of the ideas that the modern view of Jesus has of the Lord. Instead of having one's faith weakened, after reading this book, his faith will cause him to say, "truly this was the Son of God!"
Terse: "In parables, the joke is on us."
Acerbic: "Jesus was crucified for the company he kept. Still is."
Confrontational: "It's medicine when we believe it works and the government certifies it. It's magic when we afluent, respectable people don't believe in it."
Shocking: "Jesus put most of his followers in greater pain than they would have had if he had not called them."
Humble: "The cross is not what God demands of Jesus for our sin but rather what Jesus got for bringing the love of God so close to sinners like us."
And all the while, thoroughly faithful: "Jesus' challenge was not, 'How can I have a more purposeful life?' but rather, 'How can I get my life aligned with God's purposes for creation?'"
Why Jesus? is an approachable, edifying, and altogether challenging conversation with the risen Christ.