Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"Jesus Mean and Wild" - Mark Galli

Mark Galli is one of those writers who couldn’t be boring if he tried. In Jesus Mean and Wild Galli presents those aspects of Jesus from the Gospels that tend to make the reader a bit uncomfortable. The book walks through selected passages from the Gospel of Mark and is illustrated with figures from Church History. This combination provides the reader with a depth not commonly found in popular treatments of Jesus.

Galli’s book is a helpful and balanced antidote to the all too common picture of Jesus as someone who was perennially nice and just walked about spouting gems of wisdom to passers by. The Jesus of the Gospels is far removed from this image. Galli observes how Jesus “sternly charged” people and was sometimes angry. He cursed the fig tree and destroyed a herd of swine. The reactions to Jesus’ actions are described as “amazed,” “utterly astounded,” “terrified,” “fear and trembling,” and “terror and amazement.”

A particular strength of the book is Galli’s pastoral experience and keen eye for avoiding extremes. Galli is a former pastor and a senior managing editor of Christianity Today. No where does this experience show better than when he carefully nuances his presentation. For example, chapter 16 begins with “Just when we need him most, God forsakes us.” (p.165) Galli acknowledges that “this is a disturbing thought . . . but it is a truth of human experience. We would do well to acknowledge it up front.” In a chapter that is brimming with the potential for pessimism Galli faces a truth of the Christian life and shows the silver lining.

This is a book that is forged in the realities of the Christian life. In the end we find Jesus—undomesticated, mean and wild but “pulsating with unnerving and irresistible love.”

By Louis

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