About this book: Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead in one of the most extraordinary encounters in all of Scripture. But the life of Lazarus holds interest well beyond this miraculous event. Living in Bethany, near Jerusalem, Lazarus witnessed many of the most important events of Jesus’s life and ministry. Lazarus owned a vineyard and devoted his life to caring for its vines and fruit. When Lazarus’s story and Jesus’s story intersect in When Jesus Wept, we are offered a unique vision into the power and comfort of Christ’s love.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Judge this book by its cover? Yes. Beautifully captures the story.
Reminds me of…The Robe. Titles in the Thoenes’ A.D. Chronicles series (First Light, Second Touch, etc.)
Buy or borrow? Buy if you enjoy the genre, especially if you’d like to collect the series.
Why did I read this book? Received it from Zondervan to review
Rating: 4/5 stars. Well-imagined history.
My take: As a Thoene fan for more than twenty years, I was delighted to have the opportunity to read and review their latest release. I happened to read When Jesus Wept during Holy Week, the days leading up to Easter, which as you might imagine proved the perfect time to immerse myself in a novel about Jesus.
The Thoenes say this about their fiction: “Jesus clearly believed in the power of stories. He told parables–stories–to stretch the minds and transform the hearts of his listeners. We too believe in the life-changing power of stories, and that’s why we’re passionate about writing fiction…. We weren’t here, on this earth, as Jesus walked among the people, but through the verses of Scripture and our imagination, we have portrayed to the best of our ability what he might have said and the way in which he might have said it.”
Thanks in large part to Brock’s meticulous research, we can know that whatever fiction they dream up is pretty close to the mark. Using the springboard of Scripture, the Thoenes jump into the pool of their imagination to flesh out the bare bones we find in the Gospels. Are you concerned about muddied waters in this melding of fact and fiction? The authors acknowledge this potential danger by carefully annotating their story. If a passage is taken directly from Scripture, they say so in a footnote. Everything else can be assumed to flow from their imaginations.
Despite the obviously thorough research, When Jesus Wept lacks the deep character dives and layered plot-lines I found so engaging in the Thoenes’ earlier fiction. (I’m thinking in particular of the Zion Covenant, Zion Chronicles and Shiloh Legacy series from years ago.)
That said, the story nonetheless connects the spare dots we find in Scripture, creatively yet credibly filling in the blanks of familiar Gospel stories. It suggests, for example, that Palestine’s Jewish community was much more tightly knit than we might suppose. That, for example, it was likely that well-known characters such as Lazarus, Mary and Martha were present at the wedding in Cana to witness Jesus’ first miracle. Similarly, by including characters from the British Isles, this novel reminds us that the Roman world was bigger than we tend to think.
All in all, When Jesus Wept enlarged my window of understanding of these historical times. Even better, it shows how absolutely unexpected the person of Jesus really was.
Thanks to Zondervan and Litfuse Publicity for providing me a copy of this book to review. All opinions are mine.
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