Published on August 8, 2014 by Fred Zaspel

1975; reprint, Regent College Publishing, 1989 | 224 pages

A Brief Book Notice

Books that survey the life of Christ are easy to find, as well they should be. But not many come with the grasp of detail and significance as this from the noted first-rate New Testament scholar, R.T. France. Jesus the Radical: A Portrait of the Man they Crucified is not so much a detailed tracking as a summary of the life of our Lord in his historical setting and theological significance.

This book goes back a few years (originally published in 1975, updated 1989), but it is still very worthy of note for students of the Gospels and the life of Jesus. Marked throughout by informed scholarship this insightful book is rich with learning and devotional impact on every page.

France assumes that the reader has at least some familiarity with the Gospels, but he writes for the church – “the Christian in the pew” – as well as the academy and provides a deeply informed and warmly devotional portrait of Jesus as he is presented to us in the Gospels – highlighting Jesus’ miracles, behavior, and teaching that led to conflict with the Jewish authorities, and that climaxed in his crucifixion and resurrection from the dead. His close acquaintance with the biblical text and historical details as well as the related theological literature make for an interpretive reading that will inform the mind and delight the heart every Christian. A Marvelous resource.

A Taste …

Here’s an excerpt from the final chapter that gives you a taste of where his study is intended to take us:

     Jesus often made people uncomfortable, for he confronted them with a choice they would rather not have made.

     A typical occasion was when he was asked to heal a cripple. To everyone’s surprise, he declared instead, ‘My son, your sins are forgiven.’ It was not only apparently irrelevant; it was practically blasphemous, as some of the scribes immediately realized, because only God can forgive sins. But Jesus was unrepentant. ‘I will prove to you, then, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’, he said, and did so by healing the man with a word. It left the scribes a difficult choice: either he was an imposter, in which case they had to explain away his miraculous cure, or he wielded an authority which by common consent was God’s sole prerogative. They would rather not have had to decide.

     It was this calm assumption of authority which made Jesus so conspicuous, and so uncomfortable. Both his words and his deeds, the gospels tell us, impressed the crowds above all with his authority. It was not that he went out of his way to claim authority; indeed he even refused to argue the matter when his authority was challenged. But it was there, all the more unmistakable because it was so coolly taken for granted.

     We have seen how his cures of both physical and spiritual illness by a simple word of command must have contrasted with the rigmarole of the professional Jewish healers and exorcists….

     It was even more obvious when they listened to his teaching….

     It was the same cool assumption of authority which carried all before him when Jesus waded, single-handed, into the commercial bustle of the Court of the Gentiles, and cleared it with a stroke. There was, apparently, something irresistible about the impact of Jesus.

     Perhaps the most remarkable proof of this authority is the fact that hard-headed men were prepared to leave their homes and livelihood, to accept impossibly exacting demands, with the promise of hardship, unpopularity, and outright persecution, and for what? For the mere ‘Follow me’ of a man whose mission they only dimly understood, but whom it was impossible for them to refuse. The wonder is not that some found the pace too hot, but that any stuck with him at all. But they did, and they still do. Once you have met Jesus, it is hard to shrug him off.


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Jesus The Radical: A Portrait Of The Man They Crucified

1975; reprint, Regent College Publishing, 1989 | 224 pages

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