The other book I mentioned in Sunday’s sermon is one which I picked up in college, but did not read until 2001. My copy has the provocative title I Came to Set the Earth on Fire: A Portrait of Jesus. I love that title.
When the first disciples made the choice to follow Jesus, it was a choice to follow JESUS. It was not a choice to adopt some theological propositions arranged in an orderly philosophical viewpoint, though Christianity does provide all that. They made the decision to follow Jesus because they saw Jesus as someone worth following.
I love the title of this book because it strikes at the placid lilly white image many have of Jesus. The book fulfills the promise of the title. It is engaging but not polemic. It respects the questions and doubts of the unbeliever, but presents Jesus in a way that if he did not exist, we would wish he had. It is a gospel for the modern era.
If I could, I’d put this book in the hands of every seeker and every Christian puzzling over his relationship with Christ. But I won’t give you mine. It’s too valuable to me.
I believe the content of the book is still available in this edition: Jesus the Radical: A Portrait of the Man they Crucified. This retains the content, but not at a price that makes it affordable for general passing around. But I can commend it to you.
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After reading this book nearly ten years ago, I looked far and wide for copies of it to give away. The original publisher suggested I write to the author, Dr. R. T. France who, I think, was in Australia or England at the time. I wrote, never really expecting to hear back.
Apparently, though, Dr. France is cut from the cloth of a gentleman scholar. He takes seriously correspondence from an anonymous American pastor of no renown. A number of weeks after writing him, I received a handwritten letter from him.
“It is nice to hear of someone still appreciating my little Jesus book after so long,” he told me, and explained the publishing history of it. He wanted to call it Jesus the Radical, which is the title under which it has since been republished.
He then signed it “Dick France” as if we’d known each other all our lives. His personal attention to my request made me appreciate his work all the more. If I were a younger man I’d be on the next plane to study under him.
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Perhaps there are better sources out there these days to introduce people to the Jesus of the Bible. I’ve not seen anything as well written and as concise as this to present us with a living portrait of this Man worth following.
3 thoughts on “A Portrait of Jesus”
Ah, now THIS was the title I was trying to remember and couldn't. . . (I bought it from Amazon, used, the older copy. . . They had several under $5.)
His book on Matthew's gospel is one of my favorite. Wish I were a younger man too!
Got it in the mail today. . . and this will be my lunchtime reading for now. Thanks for mentioning it in the sermon and here.
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