I’ve studied the Bible for years, and each time I read the same story I’ve studied before, I always seem to pull some new “golden nugget” of information God is trying to give me. Each time we read God’s Word, we are at a different point in our lives and have a different perspective than what we had the previous time we read the same verses, which is why reading the Bible never becomes “old”. A Second Look, Encountering the True Jesus (OSV 2016) by Mark Hart is so exciting to read because it takes those same stories and gives us a new look and new “golden nuggets” in each of the stories studied.
Mark Hart, an award-winning and best-selling Catholic author and speaker, takes many well-known stories from the life of Jesus where he touches the life of someone profoundly and allows the reader to encounter Jesus in that same way. Hart doesn’t just retell the story, but first wants us to read the Bible and then experience that encounter through the eyes of the person seeing Jesus; for example, the Magi, Peter or Zacchaeus. He details how this encounter fundamentally changes that person and how we too can be fundamentally changed by that encounter with Jesus. The Bible is not just a historical book or a book of nice stories; these accounts are meant for us to get to know who God is, who Jesus is, and live the way he wants us to live to gain eternal life. After detailing the scene and gleaning the lessons, Hart asks us to reflect on several questions to help us to understand what we might have done if it was us encountering Jesus or what we should be doing to grow our relationship with Jesus.
Just imagine being the Magi, watching before your very eyes old prophecy being fulfilled, following the star and worshiping the Lord as an infant child, so small and helpless. What would it have been like to ask to hold the Christ-Child? To hear his cry? To witness the love of this new family, between Mary and Joseph? WOW!
Or imagine being the young rich man longing to follow Jesus, calling out to Him, “What do I need to do to gain eternal life?” and receiving the answer to give up all his riches and follow Jesus. He was so self-assured that he was living a sin-free life, yet Jesus wanted him to give up his riches too. Hart writes:
”…in light of the rich young man and, in truth, in light of most of us (including myself): The urgency we assign to something is directly proportional to the value we place upon it. How eagerly do you want to experience the deepest love God has to offer? How deeply do you desire life to the fullest? How far are you willing to go for God? Are you willing to open your hands and to let go of all this world offers in order to experience what the next promises?”
Hart goes on to say, “The cost of eternal life is ongoing discipleship, constant conversion of heart, and reckless abandon to the will of the Father.” After a statement like that, how could we ever turn away from Jesus like the rich man did? Rather, we need to focus on our discipleship and do the will of the Father at all cost – even if we have to give up everything.
Hart allows us to have our own personal encounter with Jesus in each of the chapters. Each one offers us real life stories and applications which can call us to either move as that person did (like in the calling of Peter) or revealing to us our true purpose (through Hart’s own calling). Pondering these stories, just as Mary kept and pondered everything she experienced in her heart, will allow us to actually feel the love Jesus has for each of us and will increase our desire to come closer to him and have our own personal encounter with our Lord. Placing ourselves into these stories and taking a second look at the true meaning of these encounters will draw our hearts closer to Jesus himself and allow him to speak to us in new ways we could have never imagined.
Laura Hensley received a copy of the book for the purposes of this review.