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Peter Wallace: The Passionate Jesus
When we explore the emotions of Jesus in the gospels, we can discover his passionate authenticity, and learn to follow in his footsteps for a more abundant and engaged life.
ABOUT THE PASSIONATE JESUS: What We Can Learn from Jesus About Love, Fear, Grief, Joy and Living Authentically.
Many depictions of Jesus show him as a character who coolly and calmly floats above the grit and grime of human existence. He doesn’t hurt, he doesn’t fear, he doesn’t laugh, and most tragically, he doesn’t love very passionately. He seems not to feel at all. But a closer look at the Bible reveals something surprisingly different.
The Passionate Jesus presents a fresh and moving portrait of Jesus as a model for how to live more authentic, honest and meaningful lives by fully experiencing our emotions in the love of God. This spiritual study examines Jesus’s actions rather than just his teachings to uncover a passionate figure who was involved, present, connected, honest and direct with others. He was one who was “deeply moved,” as the writer of John’s gospel put it—one who knew and embodied the emotions he felt and expressed them in honest, clear and life-giving ways.
Through deeply personal insights, compelling stories, and in-depth examples in the gospels, readers will be encouraged to model this passionate Jesus by building personal authenticity in every area of their own lives, particularly in your self-acceptance and self-expression, their relationships with others and, above all, their relationship with God.
Praise for Peter Wallace’s new book, The Passionate Jesus:
“An illuminating and powerful personal meditation that underlines feeling and emotion as an important component of seeing and following Jesus.” —Marcus Borg, author of Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time and Speaking Christian
“At first blush, writing an analysis of Jesus’ emotional life would seem to be a shocking, edgy, almost heretical idea, but Wallace succeeds in every way. His explorations of the passions of the God/Man give us not only a more complete Jesus, but they also grant us license to find a more complete and candid emotional lives for ourselves as His followers.” —Phyllis Tickle, author, Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It Is Going, and Why It Matters
“Yes, Jesus was fully human, emotions and all, in spite of what you may think the Bible says! Wallace does a masterful job of pointing to the emotional-spiritual wholeness of the Word made flesh, who is clearly both fully human and fully divine. This work offers hope and encouragement to every human being seeking a more holy and wholly integrated life.” —The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop, The Episcopal Church, and author of Gathering at God’s Table: The Meaning of Mission in the Feast of Faith
“Through his own courageous story, Peter Wallace shakes us from hypocrisy and pretense. He breaks us free from a proper, suitable, ‘freshly shampooed’ Jesus and hits us in the solar plexus with a raw, firebrand messiah. This Jesus is a true composite of humanity; a Jesus in whom each of us sees a reflection of our broken soul; a Jesus that invites us into a fully integrated life of truth, intimacy and realness. Thank you, Peter Wallace, for inspiring us to rediscover Jesus—while rediscovering ourselves.” —Susan Sparks, senior pastor, Madison Avenue Baptist Church, and author, Laugh Your Way to Grace: Reclaiming the Spiritual Power of Humor
“In this book Peter Wallace has given us something I didn’t think possible: a truly fresh perspective on Jesus. Through this insightful exploration of the emotional life of Jesus we not only learn something new about him, we can also learn how to live more authentically with our own emotions.” —Martin B. Copenhaver, senior pastor, Wellesley Congregational Church (United Church of Christ), co-author, This Odd and Wondrous Calling
“To read this book is to experience the ‘off-kilter sense of deep familiarity juxtaposed by newness’ which Peter Wallace winsomely finds in the Gospel accounts—and in his real, embodied, Gospel-informed life. This is a kind of Christian midrash for 21st Century people looking for a whole-body, whole-spirit faithfulness between the lines and within the words of the Bible.” —Krista Tippett, “On Being,” American Public Media (http://onbeing.org)
“In The Passionate Jesus Peter Wallace helps open our eyes and expand our hearts to experience a new Jesus—one who feels as passionately as we do. You will not read the Gospels the same way after allowing Wallace’s finely-tuned reflections to seep into your consciousness.” —Father Edward L. Beck, author of God Underneath: Spiritual Memoirs of A Catholic Priest, and Religion and Faith Contributor for CBS News
“For all those who want to go beyond what they think they know about Jesus, this book is a must-read! Peter Wallace wipes off the pious veneer we often layer on our familiar portraits of Jesus and introduces us to a fully realized, passionate Companion, one who can help us consider our own love, and fear, and anger, and grief, and joy…and perhaps become more truly human in the process.” —The Rev. Canon C. K. Robertson, Ph.D., author of A Dangerous Dozen: 12 Christians Who Threatened the Status Quo but Taught Us to Live like Jesus
“In Jesus Christ, God Almighty has passionately, unreservedly loved us. In this eloquent book, Peter Wallace encourages us passionately to embrace the God who has so lovingly embraced us. Jesus called us to do more than to calmly think about him, consider him, or argue the merits of his way. In loving us, he called upon us to passionately love him. Peter’s book helps us to do just that.” —William H. Willimon, author and professor, Duke University Divinity School
“With Dorothy Sayers, Peter Wallace looks at common, emotionless portrayals of Jesus and laments that ‘We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild,” and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.’ Through this masterful look at Jesus and his emotions, Wallace not only puts the claws back on the Lion, but adds a passionate—and compassionate—heart and soul along with it. From page to page, you find Jesus becoming more three-dimensional, more real, and frankly, more like someone you’d throw your heart and soul into following.” —The Rev. Eric Elnes, Ph.D., minister, author, and host, “Darkwood Brew”
“With style and grace, Peter Wallace takes us on a journey into a spiritual practice that is passionate, compassionate, and courageous. The Passionate Jesus reminds us that a Jesus who feels deeply is our model to do the same and our truest guide to authentic life.” —Greg Garrett, author of Faithful Citizenship and The Other Jesus
“By exploring Jesus’ emotions, Wallace helps us to understand our own. With personal stories and deep questions at the end of each chapter, we come to know a Jesus who has all the complex emotions we do. This book is a treasure for both the introspective reader in search of inner awareness or the friendly book group in search of a more lasting intimacy with one another and with God.” —Lillian Daniel, senior minister, First Congregational Church UCC, Glen Ellyn, IL, co-author, This Odd and Wondrous Calling
“Peter Wallace is a beautiful thinker and a deep, humane soul.” —Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and Telegraph Avenue
Publishers Weekly (11/12/12) reviews The Passionate Jesus:
“The author (Living Loved: Knowing Jesus as the Lover of Your Soul)…looks at Christ through the lens of a Bible scholar. Knowing the text of the Bible is the key to knowing Jesus. ‘In all four gospels, strong and emotionally intense language dominates the Passion narratives,’ Wallace writes. For the reader looking for a Bible study, the author goes deeply into the scriptures that convey a loving Christ, seeking to portray Jesus as a man with human characteristics, a Jesus who is vividly there in times of fear and grief and joy. The Jesus of anger appears to enter into even the Jesus of joy. While there is nothing groundbreaking, the ‘authentic’ life the author wants the reader to lead is one of discernment and discovery in the manner of a living Christ. The writer himself is a passionate work in progress and he expects the reader will be, too. This book will appeal to the reader looking for a deep Bible meditation. (Jan.)”
One of my favorite rituals is to carve a few days out of my schedule each year and take off to St. Simons Island, Ga., for a creative retreat. Each year as I walk along the broad, white-sand beach, I am surprised by the changes in the shoreline. The sea breezes and tides have reformed the sand bars, eddies and shores. It always throws me off a little.
Not only is the landscape different, but each year I realize I am different. I bring a different set of plans and worries and experiences to the shore. I have lived through fresh heartaches, joys and terrors in the months since I've been away. Even the cells of my body have changed. I have aged; my body is different. My spirit has been wounded in new ways, and cracked open for new growth if I have been willing. My own landscape, internally and externally, has changed as much as the seashore.
It is this same phenomenon -- this off-kilter sense of familiarity in the midst of newness -- that I experience when I read the four Gospels in the Bible. I am familiar with the words and the stories, but each time I try to read them with fresh eyes. A phrase I never noticed before shines with relevant meaning. A minor gesture of Jesus' suddenly generates a sea change in perspective. A troubling question or doubt arises, demanding attention. I know this landscape, but it is different, reformed by the changes in my own understanding, my own spirit and needs.
During my visit to the island a few years ago, as I was dealing with the latest crises in my life, I noticed something different in the landscape of the Gospels. The emotions of Jesus started shining brightly on the pages, and I realized how passionate he truly was, how fully he experienced whatever he was feeling -- living it, expressing it, not apologizing for it but simply being who he was directly, wholly and authentically.
This shattered my own comfortable presuppositions about Jesus. So often in classic theological interpretations, movie portrayals or other fictionalized accounts, or even in our own heads, we see a Jesus who is cool, calm and collected. He is beyond emotion. Freshly shampooed and blue-eyed, enfolded by crisp, clean robes, he floats above the grit and grime of human existence. He doesn't hurt, he doesn't fear, he doesn't laugh and, most tragically, he doesn't love very passionately. In fact, nothing about him is passionate. He seems not to feel at all.
Unconsciously, I once adopted this approach to emotions as "Christlike." I kept the edge off how I was feeling so as to avoid conflict or inappropriate behavior or even deep, honest love. But this kind of living is as far as one can get from being truly like Jesus.
The picture revealed in the biblical account is that Jesus was fully present, connected and sometimes painfully direct with everyone with whom he came into contact. He was one who was "deeply moved" as John's Gospel tells us. He knew and embodied the emotions he felt and expressed them in honest, clear and life-giving ways. He lived life to the full.
We can learn a lot from Jesus about our own emotional authenticity. That's why I wrote "The Passionate Jesus." Because what we think we know about Jesus only gets in the way of our really knowing him. It's easy to be lulled by the familiar stories rather than to allow ourselves to be stimulated by the real life, full of emotions, that courses underneath the printed words of the Bible.
We may find ourselves surprised and even shocked by the gritty reality we discover. Jesus can become more real to us than perhaps ever before. It is difficult to sense the passion behind his words and deeds when reading the black and white texts in the Bible. The Jesus we meet in the four Gospels is a man of sorrows, but also a man of joy. He uses blunt language, expresses furious anger, he teases, he hangs out with an unruly crowd. He continually surprises those who meet him.
I think we've lost a lot of that surprise. I know I had. So as we meet Jesus again, as he weeps at the death of a beloved friend, or allows a heart-broken woman to massage his dirty feet with her oiled hair, or lashes out at the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, or speaks to a sorrowful thief on the cross next to him, or just playfully teases his friends, we can experience the emotion of the moment with Jesus. We can sense reality breaking through our carefully constructed self-protections as our souls come alive with passionate wonder.