One if the books that has made a big impact on me lately is The Gift, subtitled “God gave you more than you’ll ever know” by Kim Allan Johnson. I don’t think I can come up with a better way of summarizing the content of the book than to quote the back cover:
When was the last time you lay awake at night, too captivated by Christ’s love to sleep? When was the last time you wrestled with the astonishing risks involved in Jesus sacrifice? When was the last time your mind stretched to grasp the many layers of suffering He endured?
This book does just that. It starts with painting a picture of Jesus before His incarnation, then delves into the different aspects of His life that show what becoming a human actually cost Him. The author highlights key events in Christ’s life that trace the evidence of the gathering storm that broke with unbridled fury on the evening of His arrest in Gethsemane. Then instead of diving directly into a discussion of Christ’s physical sufferings, as so many writers and speakers do, he starts out with amplifying the internal pain that Jesus would have experienced every day: the pain of being misunderstood. He spends one chapter looking at The physical torture He endured, then in the next he tries to imagine what it must have been like for those that witnessed His sufferings and death. He spends a whole a whole chapter trying to grasp what kind of pain Jesus must have endured from the verbal abuse He suffered.
Up to this point, he has looked at the very human side of Jesus; He endured pain and misunderstanding much like any human would. But this book goes deeper, exploring what the depths of Christ’s internal sufferings.
If you are familiar with Ellen White, then you are probably familiar with statements like this one:
How few have any conception of the anguish that rent the heart of the Son of God during His thirty years of life upon the earth. The path from the manger to Calvary was shadowed by sorrow and grief. He was the man of sorrows, and endured such heartache as no human language can portray.
Human language may not be able to portray it, but Johnson comes pretty close as he looks at the various aspects if this world that caused Jesus pain–things like brutality in nature, human disease, the evils in human nature, and especially His pain over the lost of the world. Then he goes deeper into the sufferings that nearly crushed out His life in Gethsemane and broke His heart on the cross–being forsaken by God and feeling so helpless and alone, crushed by the weight of our sins. Finally, he sums up some of the lessons that Christ’s sufferings have to teach us.
This book is like none I have ever read on this topic. Some books use a narrative style that just talks about the subject, leaving the reader with the responsibility of trying to imagine everything. Other books use stories and word pictures the help the reader visualize the scene, kind of like watching a movie. This book has a good balance of both. Let me give you an example of each style. First, the narrative:
It was only because of His connection with God that Christ survived the relentless torrent of hate, criticism, and abuse that beat against Him from His earliest days. Intimate communion with God was as natural and necessary to Him as breathing. Ellen White reveals, “Jesus sought earnestly for strength from His Father. He regarded communication with God aside essential than His daily food.”
Here is a portion of one of the scenes he paints in graphic detail:
As Jesus hung on the cross, bleeding and gasping for air, the mob and the Jewish leaders had a field day mocking and ridiculing Him.
One of the many onlookers pointed at Christ and yelled, “What happened to all Your boasting, Mr. Carpenter? How can you destroy our great temple and build it again from up there? Can I get you a hammer so you can take out those nasty nails?” Hearty laughter ripples through the crowd.
Someone else cupped their hands over their mouth and shouted, “For a wretch like you to claim to be Israel’s holy Messiah makes me sick. Son of God? You’re the son of passion, the son of Mary’s lust!”
This mixture of narrative and story appeals to both the intellectual and emotional levels of our being. That mixture makes it a very powerful book. More powerful than any movie, because you can get a peek behind the scenes, as it were, to catch a glimpse of Jesus heart. But then it allows you to feel with your heart as well.
I haven’t even finished it yet, but I must say I highly recommend this book. It has given me a deeper appreciation for of Jesus love for me, and awakened in my heart a deeper love for Him. And that, I think, is the purpose of the book.
You can buy the book here: