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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rev. Joe: The Centurion: A Novel of the Ministry and Passion of Christ

[And Also: Lawrence O'Donnell had a good segment about the pope, Arizona and atheism last week.  One of the more gentle stabs of religion on his show.]
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. "Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly." Jesus said to him, "Shall I come and heal him?" The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, "Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed at that very hour.
I recently discovered that there was another book in the "Mouse That Roared" series after the last one about Wall Street (itself a bit weak as compared to the others).  Looking for a copy, which might exist in a library near a relative, found this book.  Leonard Wibberley wrote many books, but some might be surprised about this addition. It, however, is as enjoyable and human as a reader of the 'mouse' series might expect.  His Jesus is a gentle man, humorous, loving nature and sympathetic; his more tragic side comes out later, but not his more angry side. 

The book's first third focuses on the title character, a middle-aged veteran world weary but ultimately a fair man, one who never married,* basically agnostic on matters of faith. We also learn about his servant, not the young man perhaps hinted by the text, but an old chieftain that he came across during his time in Britain. The book then mainly shifts to Jesus' ministry, seen through the eyes of a few apostles, particularly Peter and John (assumed here to be the beloved disciple, which is to my understanding deemed fairly unlikely). It all is crafted into a fairly compelling narrative from Peter (whose wife here has died) and the others fishing to the crucifixion itself.  It ends on a wry note. 

Some intrigue involving Pilate and the high priest (and, this guy named Saul from Tarsus!) is mixed in. Takes the gospels (including the infant narratives, which even Pilate knows something about!) at face value, but mixes in other stuff. The centurion is a sympathetic character with just the right amount of doubt and realism for even a non-Christian to root for.  Strangely, the book has him witness the end, but not voice one of the lines the gospels has him say (Matthew ala John Wayne's portrayal has him declare Jesus is the Son of God, but some versions of Luke just has him say that he is surely innocent). It also leaves Judas hanging, especially after raising a generally sympathetic rationale for him. 

The side panel currently has a book told through the perspective of a person of the Muslim faith and am reading another by the author. [didn't like it as much] Christians can do much worse than works like the one here.


* Hint, hint? The centurion shoots down an implication of this sort at one point while also noting that he now and then has a chance to indulge in good old fashion heterosexuality with those around not quite as doctrinaire about things as the faith of the people demanded.  It's a good story, however you play it, and if there is no actual homosexual action involved (male friendship is not only of the sexual kind), it has value in that direction in any sense. After all, he still helped a non-Jew.

The servant at one point noted that some of the Jews were sinful since they did not honor the present, which to him was a gift, damning it for some future state of happiness.  Many Jews in fact do honor the present, like Muslims, more concerned about living their life as a whole following the law of their God than some who see religion as more of a special occasion sort of thing.  Enjoying the present is important though some then and now find it hard, since it has so much hardship. 

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