Every pariah has a backstory. Every sinner has hidden wounds. Every hero is driven by love.
In The Day I Met Jesus, authors Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth bring you into the minds of five New Testament women and invite you to see the world through their eyes. The book is poignant, moving, and masterfully executed. Its stated goal is to help see Jesus more clearly. But I think it accomplishes something else. Reading The Day I Met Jesus also gives you insight into the struggles of womanhood.
An example. When we meet the woman caught in adultery in John chapter 8, she is already an adulteress at that point. That is her label, her identity. What Viola and DeMuth do, through the artifice of the woman’s own first-person account, is to remind us that before she was an adulteress, the woman was a wife. Surely she once was desired and loved by her husband. What happened to bring her to the place where she could be shoved in front of a rabbi and pronounced guilty of a capital crime?
Or how about the prostitute who washed Jesus’s feet with perfumed ointment? The pharisees call her a sinner, but she once was an innocent little girl.
To see such women for what they once were, and what they could become again, is to look at them through eyes that are more like Jesus’s.
Drawing heavily from the historical milieu of first-century Palestine, The Day I Met Jesus reveals the tragic female figures behind these well-worn stories. The woman caught in adultery? Her once-loving husband had grown to despise her merely because she was not an excellent housekeeper? The prostitute who kissed the Lord’s feet? Most likely, she ended up on that path because she was a rape victim.
We also spend time with the Samaritan woman at the well, the woman who couldn’t stop bleeding, and Mary the sister of Lazarus. The book is challenging and informative.
And just because it’s a book about five women doesn’t mean it’s a book solely for women. First, the centerpiece of the book is Jesus. And we all need to be reminded about the qualities that made him so special, so fascinating, so radical, so redemptive. But second, I think it’s terribly important for men like me to hear the gospel message of deliverance from the perspective of women.
As I have previously written in regard to race, people with privilege cannot possibly understand the harms they inadvertently inflict on the less-privileged unless they sincerely listen. Reading these stories will remind men just how cruel we often are without even realizing it. First-century Judea (and most of the world today) is thoroughly a man’s world. Even in America, we have a long way to go.
As Paul instructed Timothy, men in Christ are to treat all women as their sisters or mothers (I Timothy 5:1-2). Too often, men see women as objects to possess and exploit at worst or strangers impossible-to-understand at best. If you want to be a better man, this book can help you by impressing on your psyche just how vulnerable women still can be, how badly we men can hurt them, and how important the radical acceptance of Jesus can be in healing those wounds.
Buy this book for your mother, your sister, your significant other. But also read it yourself.