I haven’t read much of Brian McLaren’s work until recently, but I would recommend getting your hands of The Secret Message of Jesus. It’s definitely worth a read. As always with McLaren, the idea of the book stemmed from a growing number of questions concerning the topic, namely Jesus in this case. Thus, like many other people, set out to discover just who Jesus was. He didn’t want to find the Jesus that we have concocted in our minds – long, wavy brown hair with piercing blue eyes. McLaren was seeking the Jesus in first-century Galilee, the man who actually said crazy things in crazy ways at crazy times.
Thus, McLaren divided the book into three parts: Excavation (digging to find the secret message of Jesus), Engagement (wrestling with the meaning of this message), and Imagination (wondering what this means for us today). A very fascinating book, especially if you have not studied the context of Jesus very much. At times I found the book quite redundant, like he was just trying to add pages to pages for the sake of length. At other times, I was turned off my whole paragraphs full of questions followed by paragraphs with more questions. But McLaren writes in order to get the reader to wrestle with it. I thought the best part of the book was his chapters about the Sermon on the Mount. Fascinating insight into this well-known passage but what stuck out to me the most was the three practices he brings to light that confront and combat the ways of the world: Giving to the poor, praying, and fasting. These are things that Christians know they are supposed to do and many do. But McLaren offers the significance behind why we do these things. This is what he writes:
The kingdom of God, then, is a revolutionary, counter-cultural movement – proclaiming a ceaseless rebellion against the tyrannical trinity of money, sex, and power. Its citizens resist the occupation of this invisible Caesar through three categories of spiritual practice. First, they practice a liberating generosity toward the poor to dethrone greed and topple the regime of money. Second, they practice a kind of prayer that is a defiant act of resistance against the prideful pursuit of power, pursuing forgiveness and reconciliation, not retaliation and revenge. Finally, they practice fasting to revolt against the dominating impulses of physical gratification – so that the sex drive and other physical appetites will not become our slave drivers.
A well-written book to say the least. If you want to know more about Jesus and his time period, this would be a good place to start.