March 17, 2001
"THE GOSPEL OF YESHUA"
Once again, it
is Lent. For Catholics and some Protestant liturgical churches, this is
an important season to take stock of our souls. Sadly, many Christians
ignore this time of preparation for Easter, commemorating the
Resurrection, the central event of Christianity.
fast or "give up" something such as alcohol or sweets as a modest
reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.
However, in this
season I'd like to suggest another way to make a memorable Lent. Read
the new novel about Jesus, "The Gospel of Yeshua: a Fresh Look at the
Life and Teaching of Jesus" by Skip Johnson, a former reporter and
editor of the Charleston, SC "News & Courier."
In reading this
book, you can steep yourself in the life and character of Jesus. In
fact, you may find some surprises.
in his Preface he found it almost impossible to write the story of
Jesus, because the Gospels of Mark, Luke and Matthew differ so radically
from John. "John shows Jesus declaring his Messiahship at the beginning
of his ministry, repeating the claim so often it almost became a mantra.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all show Jesus going to great lengths throughout
his ministry to specifically avoid being identified as the
Messiah....Also John says Jesus' career lasted three years" while the
other writers say it "lasted one year."
At a low point
in Johnson's life, after losing a job, he became intrigued with Jesus.
"It occurred to me that if his teaching were true, then I or anyone else
could prove it. All we would have to do is live his teaching. If we did,
we would either consistently realize his promises, in which case his
teaching must be true, or we would not consistently realize his
promises, in which case Jesus must have been either a liar, a madman or
Years of testing
convinced the author Jesus is who he said he was. As he has Jesus
explaining to his disciples: "It is a consistent, fundamental law of
life that you get out of life what you put into it. If you want to
receive, you must give. If you want mercy, you must be merciful. If you
want to be forgiven, you must forgive."
What I found
fascinating in this novel is the glimpse it gives into what Jesus and
his disciples might have been like as people.
When Yeshua (as
his contemporaries knew him) asks his cousin to baptize him, John is
confused: "I don't understand it. Ever since we were children you've
been the leader. You're the smart one. You always shared your knowledge
and wisdom with me, but you're the teacher. I can't baptize my teacher."
wilderness Jesus begins to address "a question too ludicrous to
consider, too blasphemous to speak, but too important to
If so, what is
his role? He's tempted to become "what most of his countrymen feel they
have been promised...a military Messiah who will destroy Rome...judge
the world and establish God's eternal reign on earth." Yeshua knows he
could do it, but "cannot persuade himself that God wants him to become a
warrior. The God he has grown to know and trust is the God of love, not
a God of force."
I found the
book's insight into what Jesus taught about love particularly profound.
Thomas asks, "I have to like everybody I meet?
"Of course not. You don't have to like anybody. You have to love
everybody. Love them regardless of whether you like them....The love I
speak of concerns much more than feelings of the heart. It is an act of
the will. It requires you to seek the highest good for others regardless
of whether you like them...
"If you refuse
to forgive someone who has wronged you, you force yourself to carry an
unnecessary burden - a useless dead weight - while the person you
are refusing to forgive suffers nothing. The moment you forgive,
however, that useless burden lifts from your shoulders."
On the night
before he was crucified, Jesus says, "The covenant I bring you depends
wholly on love, or on `the blood I shed for you.' ...There are no rules
to follow, no laws to obey. There is only love to be lived."
For Jesus it
meant offering no defense when charged, taking "absolute love into the
teeth of absolute evil," and defeating it. "He is walking toward death,
but he is striding toward life," asserts the author of this inspiring
book to read during Lent.
Copyright 2001 Michael J.