These last several nights I’ve had a hard time sleeping. I lie in bed thinking and invariably I find myself staring into the darkness, praying the prayer that Ed prayed countless times in his book: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
This prayer and so many others I discovered while reading The Year of Living Like Jesus were not just inspirational–they were transformational. Ed, and ultimately Jesus, challenged me on so many levels: what does it really mean to do what Jesus would do? How do I pray and what are my true motives in prayer? Should I be observing a Sabbath? What do I eat and why, and do I ever truly deny myself as a choice? [not because I don’t have the money to indulge myself].
Because there is so much to unpack, I would like to post my review today and then spend at least one other day discussing some points that made me stop, dog-ear the page, set down the book, and think. Thank you to Zondervan publishers for sending me a copy of this book to review and for the opportunity to participate in being a voice for this book.
Most Christians I know would acknowledge that Jesus grew up in a Jewish home in what is now modern-day Palestine. He lived as a Jew, ate like a Jew, thought like a Jew, worshiped like a Jew.
Similarly, many would acknowledge that they view our modern Bible as a “compass” of sorts for life; a roadmap, a guidebook, God’s Word for us. We look to the Bible to understand who God is, who Jesus is, and what his plan was in sending Jesus to walk among us. And many of us think we’ve got it licked. Not that we’re perfect by any stretch, but we think “we get it.”
Yet, if we’re honest–brutally so, perhaps–how much do we actually know about Jesus, the person? How much time have we spent getting to know HIM, the person of Christ–versus the doctrines of Christianity? And likewise, how much do we understand the Jewish faith? The faith that shaped the very world of Jesus? That informed every decision, every choice?
Rather than meeting the familiar and expected beneath the cover, I opened this book and found page after page of things that challenged me. Ed, a man living with a degenerative terminal illness, set out to live like Jesus for a year. To do so, he committed to reading through the entire Gospels once a week. He began eating kosher and growing his beard. He went to Synagogue and kept company with people living on the fringes. To the best of his abilities, he took the Bible literally and used it as a filter for every fork in the road.
Ed also embarked on a personal journey to discover Jesus in other contexts, something I applaud. He explored what it is to pray the rosary, he purchased an Orthodox prayer rope which moved him deeply, he talked to priests and rabbis and learned folks in an array of different settings, all with the hope of understanding more fully who this person of Jesus was and is.
The Year… is arranged as a journal until August when he abandons this format for a broader, more topical analysis of Jesus and faith practicies. While I found that many of the Jewish synagogue prayers and procedures were a lot to take in during the month of October [due to Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur], I did come away with an appreciation for the history and faith of a people I still know little about. Isn’t it ironic, that so many Christians [I’m putting myself in this category] seem to all but ignore one of the most important components of Christ?
In the end I came away with many questions, many things I continue to ponder, and a truer, more accurate portrait of what it means to follow Jesus. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to those of you who would like to really measure the cost. Not that Ed did it perfectly! Not that you’ll agree with all he did, perhaps, or all of the decisions he made. But walking with every good intention and doing one’s best while confined in our sinful humanity is not as easy as we make it out to be when we wear a WWJD bracelet. Living for Jesus deserves a fresh lens, and I believe Ed Dobson has loaned us his, full of joy and struggle in equal measure.
As he nears the end of his year, he concludes: “This is what it means to follow Jesus. It’s more than keeping rules and regulations. It’s more than going to church and being baptized. It’s more than reading the Bible and praying. Rather, it’s the commitment of our life (mind, body, eyes, hands, feet, heart and everything) to him.” [pg. 272].
So true, and so…difficult.