If you’ve ever wondered whether a trip to the Holy Land is worth the time and expense, Father James Martin would tell you that the answer is “definitely yes!”
Martin, who’s probably best-known from his appearances on the Colbert Report, explains why in his recent book, “Jesus: A Pilgrimage.”
In it, Martin describes his visits to the various places mentioned in the Gospels, such as Bethlehem, Nazareth, Capernaum, and of course, Jerusalem. These experiences become the means by which he introduces readers to the Jesus, in Martin’s words, “I know and love, the person at the center of my life.”
Given Martin’s likely audience, one that includes non-believers as well as believers, it’s gratifying when he makes it clear from the start that he believes “in the traditional Christian understanding of Jesus Christ.” That understanding is that “Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine.”
He acknowledges that, for many people, Jesus’ divinity is a “stumbling block” and that “for a rational, modern mind, talk of the supernatural can be disturbing—an embarrassment.” However, believing in miracles “lies at the heart of the Gospels.”
So he tells his reader, “unless you want to follow Thomas Jefferson and scissor out whatever makes you uncomfortable or forces you out of the realm of whatever you consider possible, then you are invited to believe in changing water into wine, healing the sick, and raising the dead.”
While he wrote this in the chapter on the Annunciation, Martin’s belief in what the Gospels call Jesus’ “works of power” shows up in every chapter.
So do details that help us to immerse ourselves in the Gospel narratives. For instance, the storm that Jesus stilled in Mark was probably caused by the extreme difference in temperatures between the Sea of Galilee, which lies at 680 feet below sea level, and the surrounding hills that rise to 2,000 feet above sea level.
But whatever the cause of the storm, the cause of the disciples’ great fear was clear: Jesus had done what only God can do. And if Jesus can calm physical storms, will he not still the storms in our lives? As Martin tells us, Jesus’ “untroubled sleep” in the midst of the storm signaled his “trust in God’s protection even in the direst circumstances.”
“Trust.” It’s a word that figures prominently in Martin’s reflections on Jesus. In his chapters on the Annunciation and Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, he invites readers to put themselves, as it were, in Mary and Joseph’s sandals.
Both had been told something extraordinary about the child Mary was to bear. It was the kind of news that was both frightening and confusing. As Martin writes, “Mary says yes to a future that she does not know.” For his part, “Joseph, the righteous man, is involved in something that at first frightens him; he does not understand it. But then grace brings him a certain understanding, even if it remains incomplete.”
Incomplete indeed. But as Martin writes, they “did what God was asking of them anyway,” by listening, trusting and loving.
While Joseph is gone by the time Jesus begins his public ministry, as Martin reminds us, “in time, on Easter Sunday, Mary received the ultimate answer.”
He adds, “in time, so do we. But first comes trust.”
It’s a lesson all of us, regardless of our travel plans, should take to heart.
If you’d like a copy of James Martin’s “Jesus: A Pilgrimage,” come to our online book store at BreakPoint.org.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: July 7, 2014