Encounters with Jesus (by Philip Janvier)

I regularly look out for free Kindle books, when planning to travel. I discovered ‘Encounters with Jesus’ on one such search. I’d never heard of the author, Philip Janvier, but the blurb sounded interesting, so I downloaded it.

This book, with subtitle, ‘Writing in the Sand’ is a collection of twelve re-written accounts from the life of Jesus with notes and questions at the end of each one. Apparently it started as a series of talks. It’s intended for those who want to imagine or meditate on some of the incidents that stand out in Jesus’ life, and also for small group study.

The first chapter recounts the calling of the disciples. We are taken straight into the scene, with Andrew and John debating who Jesus might be, and whether or not it would be a good idea to follow him. It’s a tad confusing in that they talk about another John (though I quickly realised this was John the Baptist). For someone who did not know the story, it would not make a great deal of sense initially.

What I particularly like is the way the author brings Jesus alive: showing his compassion, and understanding, in clear contrast to the attitudes of everyone around him. Even those who follow him are full of doubts at times, displaying selfish or ignorant characteristics; but Jesus loves them anyway, and continues to lead them forward.

Further chapters look at different encounters Jesus has with other people, always demonstrating his perfect humanity. The final one covers the time when Peter and some of his friends go fishing, ending up having breakfast by the side of the lake with the risen Jesus. I very much appreciated the accounts which include much of the Scriptural descriptions and conversations, but enlarge on them. They show in some detail what the surroundings would have been like, adding extra fictional conversations that could well have happened.

The notes at the end of each chapter were, I thought, well thought out, not necessarily stating the obvious. After each story, the reader is encouraged to go to the Bible and read the passage on which the story is based, and then to consider a few points about it. After that comes a set of questions for individuals or groups. I didn’t go through these, but skimmed them and could see that there might well be plenty to think about or discuss.

My one gripe with the book (at least in my Kindle version) is that it has proofing errors on almost every page. Dialogue, in particular, is often lacking punctuation, and there are run-on sentences which are sometimes hard to deconstruct. Commas are missing in many places, and there are a few word errors too. It wasn’t sufficient to make it impossible to understand, but was disturbing enough that I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who cares about grammar and punctuation.

It’s a pity, because the content is good and on the whole I enjoyed read this book. It’s still free in Kindle edition, at the time of writing this post, so Amazon links are to the electronic versions. However this book is also published in paperback.

Review copyright 2018 Sue's Book Reviews

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