All too often, I feel that to understand Jesus more closely, we know that He is our Lord and God, but to know that Jesus shared in our human-ness and felt our pain, felt hunger, fear, happiness and joy, torment, and death puts skin on Him making Him tangible and real. George Martin’s “Meeting Jesus in the Gospels” by Servant Books, brings Jesus to life beautifully. Mr. Martin is a widely known author of numerous books, including Bringing the Gospel of Matthew to Life, Bringing the Gospel of Mark to Life, and the bestselling Reading Scripture as the Word of God. He is also the publisher and editor of the monthly magazine God's Word Today.
As a junkie for all scripture studies and Catholic materials, I dove into this book with excitement. This small, 145-paged resource is packed with enough enlightenment and information to fill a book twice the size. I found myself reading and referring to the Bible verses like I never felt compelled to do before. The book opens with “What did Jesus look like?” As a carpenter’s son, Jesus learned the trade without power tools, working side by side with Joseph, building stone walled homes, repairing furniture, and many other handyman needs of Nazareth. Jesus, Mr. Martin feels, must have been, “a rather rugged man, with heavily callused hands and well-developed muscles.” So, when Jesus said, “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29), “we should not use this verse to form a mental image of Jesus as a soft, delicate person, someone who might have made his living by posing for holy cards. Rather, Jesus may have needed to reassure his listeners of his gentleness because he looked like a sturdy village (tekton) carpenter.”
My favorite chapter and most compelling was about “Living Water” in chapter 2, “Pondering God’s love” how Jesus cried out in John 7:37-39 “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and let the one who believes in me drink…” and refers us to Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 47:1-12) of the stream. This is powerful imagery that helps us understand “to be touched by the Spirit is to be transformed. No matter how barren we are in ourselves, the Spirit can bring us to life. No matter how overwhelming our difficulties may appear the Spirit has the power to overcome them.” After each subtopic, reflection questions are posed to help the reader put to work how better to relate the message of Jesus personally.
Jesus’ friends were an interesting collection of mismatched individuals for a reason. In the discussion about Zacchaeus, “The Man in the Tree” Mr. Martin points out something I had never thought of before. As a tax collector, Zacchaeus was a wealthy dignitary, living in a culture that prized dignity and honor, but he let go of his status to get a closer look at Jesus. Are we eager enough to meet Jesus that we are willing to set aside our pretenses and self-concerns?
Following Jesus, chapter four, we are asked, “Have we left at all?” What might Jesus be asking me to leave behind at this point in my life? Like the rich man that asked Jesus what he needed to do to have the kingdom of God, we may not want to give ALL our possessions away. “To leave all to follow Jesus may be like peeling an onion. We peel away all the sin and encumbrances that we can see, and we think we have gotten rid of everything – but there is another layer beneath…” It’s a process that takes a lifetime to achieve, so we need to be easy on ourselves.
Throughout my reading, I met Jesus in a new light, having several “Ah-ha” moments. Thinking about Jesus’ miracles, as “a down payment on the wholeness we will enjoy when we are fully incorporated into God’s reign through resurrection; they were a foreshadowing of what will happen at the end of time. (Rev 21:3-4)
“Meeting Jesus in the Gospels” was one of the most enjoyable, “can’t put the book down” read in quite awhile. Mr. George Martin puts skin on Jesus easily and makes the reader see Gospels come alive and able to relate to daily living more clearly. A message that I went away with after reading this book is that “when in doubt, look to what Jesus did in a similar situation, and imitate that.” This is a great resource for study groups as well as individual study and should be in every parish library.
I wrote this review of "Meeting Jesus in the Gospels" for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, the largest online Catholic store.
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