The Gospels – the first four books in the Christian New Testament – are a unique form of literature, and of Scripture.
Merriam-Webster defines the word “gospel” as follows:
a: the message concerning Christ, the kingdom of God, and salvation. b: one of the first four New Testament books telling of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
There are only four official Gospels – books recognized as part of the canon of Scripture (the Bible). They are all written by men.
But what if there were five other gospels? Five other tellings of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ? What if they were each written by a woman whose life was personally impacted by Jesus? What if they each encountered Him and even took on a significant role in the story of His ministry? What if they were five of the most prominent women who appear in the canonical four Gospels?
Now, hold on, villagers, put down those pitchforks and torches. I'm not going all “Dan Brown” on you. I'm not suggesting there are any “hidden” or “lost books” that need to be added to the Bible.
Nor am I about to tell you the whole of Christendom is about to come tumbling down because of some new and shocking historical revelation.
I am, however, going to recommend you read a book that is written from the viewpoint of five women who do appear in the canonical Gospels. This book does not contradict any doctrine of the Faith, and does not introduce any new doctrines, either. It does not purport to be ancient, but is written for modern Christians, by modern Christians.
Yet this book could bring you the gift of hearing the heart of the gospel fresh, as if you're hearing it for the very first time.
This Is An Unusual Post For Me
I read a lot of books, and I recommend a lot of books to friends. I believe, like my friend Jeff Brown of the Read to Lead Podcast, that “leaders are readers, and readers become leaders”.
Even though I read many books each year (I have a goal of reading 52 books this year, and as of this writing, mid-April 2015, I have already completed 23 books), there are few for which I post a review on this blog.
The books for which I write an individual are most often books that (a) have had a deep personal impact upon me, and (b) books I believe have lasting, timeless, and universal value.
The Day I Met Jesus, written by respected Christian authors Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth, is such a book as this. I've already published an interview with the two of them about the book. You can read that interview here.
This is post is my personal review.
The Day I Met Jesus is an entertaining narrative that reads like a great novel, full of characters, action, and intrigue. The book tells the stories of five women, from their own viewpoint, who each had a remarkable encounter with Jesus Christ. Each encounter was so remarkable that the stories came to be part of the sacred canon of scripture.
Seven Reasons Why You Should Read This Book
This is the first book in a long time that caused me to weep. I don't mean I got “misty-eyed”, or merely “choked up”. I mean tears flowed down my face as I was confronted with the inexplicable Grace of my Savior. Here are seven reasons I think you should read The Day I Met Jesus.
- The book is theologically sound and narratively compelling. While Frank is a wonderful storyteller, and Mary is well-grounded in Biblical theology, each of them specializes in the opposite discipline. Thus, Frank gives a firm theological framework to Mary's masterful ability to breathe life into characters and situations. The result: we can enjoy a compelling story while resting easy in the knowledge it doesn't wander off into a fanciful heresey.
- You'll hear the gospel again as if for the first time. For most modern Christians, we've been so well-versed in the “Easter Story” and the “Four Spiritual Laws” that we've forgotten the astonishing flood of relief and comfort we felt when we first heard the story of Jesus and His love for us. Because the authors freely use “sanctified imagination” to fill in parts of the story that are in alignment with the Sacred Text, the familiar stories take on fresh new life. We get to see the events of the Bible unfold from the viewpoints of the women who were there.
- You'll develop some deep “graduate level” insight into Scripture, but it will seem like you're just reading a great book. Facts and details about the history and culture, scholarly research that pieces together the threads of narratives to shed new light on connections between people, places, and events… these are seamlessly woven into the story. You will learn as you enjoy the narrative and benefit from centuries of Biblical scholarship, without even being aware of it. Reading Scripture through the lens of historical context, cultural norms, and prophetic eschatology was once the province of the privileged few who studied such things as a vocation. Now you can enjoy the privilege as well.
- Each story is accompanied by the corresponding Sacred Text. If you're like me, even if you trust the authors not to take away from or add to the Scripture, you feel more at ease when you check the actual biblical texts. You want to see the authoritative source from which the story you're reading is drawn. To that end, Frank and Mary have included all the relevant Scriptures (the actual Biblical narrative of the stories we are reading), along with Scripture references to back up any theological conclusions they have assumed. If you're one who likes to “check the work” of the authors, as am I, you will appreciate this feature.
- Each of the five stories is accompanied by a brief section called “Walking It Out”. The “Walking It Out” sections help take the timeless spiritual principles of the ancient stories and translate them into practical applications for us, in our present day and time. It's not enough to know what the events meant to those who lived them in the past – we also need to know how to apply what we've learned to our own lives.
- The book is perfect for small group or home church discussion. Each of the stories also include a “Talking It Over” section. This section will be especially helpful for those who wish to help their small group members or church congregation navigate the book, and stir up fruitful discussion.
- The book established the proper view of women in the Kingdom of God. From the beginning, God established men and women as co-laborers, equals, and helpers to one another. “Male and female” represent the full nature of God. Yet somehow, through the centuries, men perverted the words of God and used them to suppress and oppress women. Though this is changing today, it is a challenge that is far from being perfectly solved. As Bill Johnson has so eloquently observed, “Jesus is perfect theology.” Read this book, and see how Jesus values women in the Kingdom:
- Jesus accepted women as his disciples and treated them with such high esteem that it was a scandal to the religious professionals of his day.
- The Lord saw to it that it was women who accompanied Him to the cross, who cared for his body after His death, and who laid him to rest in the tomb.
- It was women who first witnessed His resurrection.
- Women were his first evangelists.
- It was a woman who was honored with the proclamation: “The story of what she has done will be told throughout the whole world, wherever the Good News is preached.” (Matthew [26:13] NLT)
- And of course, the Creator of the Universe chose to enter this world through the womb of a woman.
Because he was sensitive to the importance of telling these stories from the viewpoint of the women in the stories, Frank knew he needed a female co-author. That's why he sought out one of the best female Christian authors of our time, Mary DeMuth, to co-labor with him in the creation of this book. Together, they have created a wonderful work.
The Day I Met Jesus is written with elegance, adheres steadfastly to the best Biblical scholarship, and is uniquely stirring. I don't think I overstep in saying this is an anointed work that will impart wisdom, revelation, and grace to all who read it. I recommend you make it the next book on your reading list.