Jesus: A Novel by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

Book Description:

Jesus: A Novel reviewed by Mesu Andrews

With eloquence and beauty, the award-winning author of Book of the Dun Cow, The Book of God, and Paul: A Novel turns his pen to history’s most compelling figure: Jesus of Nazareth. In vibrant language, Walter Wangerin Jr. sweeps away centuries of tradition and reveals a man of flesh-and-heart immediacy. Passionate, intelligent, and irresistibly real, this is a Jesus pulsing with life who will captivate you as thoroughly as he did the men and women who walked with him across Galilee’s golden countryside. Days of centuries past become today, lit with bright colors of the imagination. Wangerin shows you Jesus through the eyes of the two people who were with him at the very foot of the cross, the two who knew and loved him best: John the apostle, and Jesus’ beloved mother, Mary. . . .

“Angels in legions sang when you were born, my beautiful Yeshi! At midnight they poured down from the heavens, every one a whirling star, ten thousand voices in a skyborne choir. ‘Glory,’ they sang, and I felt the bedrock tremble. You popped your eyes open. You peered around, seeking the source of the music and waving your hands as if to catch the stars in them!”

Here is a magnum opus of image and emotion: Jesus bringing his father the sacrificial lamb in Jerusalem’s temple . . . Mary desperately searching for her son in the wind-lashed rain . . . the cry of gratitude from a leper’s lips . . . the loving intimacy of Jesus in prayer . . . the fury of religious leaders . . . the agony of an iron crucifixion spike piercing human sinew . . . Loving son, intimate friend, and brilliant teacher, tender in heart, fierce in anger, wholehearted in joy and in grief, deeply human yet unmistakably divine—this is the Jesus who lives and breathes in these pages. The Jesus of the Bible, revealing God’s heart in the midst of time and culture.

My Review:

☻☻☻☻☺ (4 out of 5 smiles)

Walter Wangerin writes like he speaks. I heard him speak at a conference in the late 90’s and thoroughly enjoyed his dramatic, poetic flare. He swept his audience into the biblical world with his rich, deep voice and lyrical prose. Breath-taking. Heart-stopping.

But 400 pages of it was a little more than I had bargained for.

I found myself tempted to skip over portions of the book because I knew that portion of the story, or I wasn’t interested in the character he was portraying at the moment. However, as I continued reading, I would be captured by some outrageously wonderful description or seized with such emotion for Mary that I couldn’t even see through my tears.

This book was the first of Wangerin’s work I’ve read from cover-to-cover. I’ve often read his fabulous Book of God to read a chronological retelling of a portion of Scripture. No one can write a description in the gritty, unspeakable obvious like Walt Wangerin.

He describes Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus: “Her great neck was so ringed with folds of flesh that they drove the lobes straight out below her ears.” Can’t you see a chubby Martha bustling around a house?

He describes Jesus, deep in thought: “…something was on his mind, some driving conviction which he seemed, by the fierce bunching of his jaw muscles, the muscles in his temple, to be chewing, chewing, never swallowing.”

But the most precious—and soul-searching—descriptions were of Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus. I’ve never before been so moved by the changes she endured as the mother of a miracle, and a boy, and the Messiah: “Mary doesn’t hate the holy mysteries; but they shut her out; and if they are capable of love, it is a love too noble and composed to care about white hairs or the flab above a woman’s elbow or the insufficiencies of her soul.”

Perhaps this book affected me so deeply because, a little like Mary, I’m discovering the exquisite pain of changing relationships with my children. Our family used to live in close proximity. We enjoyed Sunday afternoon dinners and almost daily contact. Now, I ache to be a part of my kids’ and grandkids’ lives. They live hundreds of miles away, but—also like Mary—it’s more than miles that separate us. They’re growing older, becoming less dependent on me…and I’m becoming less relevant in their everyday lives. They’re now the experts on culture and the world in which we live. I’ve become “cute” and “precious.” When did that happen? ☺

Lord, give me the wisdom and grace to transition into this new season with my children…without instilling guilt or regrets or pity. Teach me how my relationship with YOU must change to allow a more beautiful changing of season with my family.

Jesus: A Novel, was a good read for me during this season of the year and this season of my life. Perhaps it can speak to you of your own changing seasons.

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Comments

    • Hahaha! I’m not sure adding to your sighs is a good thing, Margaret. :-/ But happy to oblige. Tee-hee.

      Someday, you should take a pix of your TBR pile. I’m guessing you were happy when the digital age hit. Did your guilt factor plummet? E-books make much smaller piles, don’t they. I LOVE them!!!

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