Published by Herald Press on February 1, 2022
Genres: Non-Fiction, Devotional
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Throughout Holy Week, two competing approaches to peacemaking collide. What if we’ve embraced the wrong one? At the start of Holy Week, tears streamed down Jesus’ face as he cried out, “If only you knew the things that make for peace." From that moment, until a week later when he triumphantly declared, “Peace be with you,” Jesus spent each day confronting injustice, calling out oppressors and contending for peace.
But what if—despite all our familiarity with the events of Holy Week—we still don’t know how Jesus makes peace? And what if—despite clinging to the cross of Christ for our salvation—we’ve actually embraced a different approach to peacemaking? One that justifies killing enemies. One whose methods include nailing criminals to crosses.
We desperately need to recover the radical vision of peacemaking that Jesus embodied throughout Holy Week. And we urgently need to be trained in his way of making peace. So, come. Let’s journey together day-by-day through Jesus’ final week and discover anew why he is called the Prince of Peace.
I read Fight Like Jesus over the course of Holy Week this year. It’s eight chapters—an introduction, then daily chapters from Palm Sunday to a combined Holy Saturday/Easter Sunday—and I read one chapter from the Saturday before Palm Sunday up through the day before Easter. (Easter itself was saved for church services, food with friends, too much candy, and a Sabbath nap.) By the end of the week, I felt differently about the events of Holy Week than I ever had before. Some of it had to do with currently being out of a pastoral context. I led a children’s service on Saturday and attended a service on Sunday. That was all. There was more time to reflect on the first Easter because less time was devoted to planning the current one. But most of it had to do with taking a daily, reflective look back at how Jesus waged peace throughout Holy Week.
Jason Porterfield sets up his central thesis in the opening chapter: The interpretive key to Holy Week is Jesus’s lament for Jerusalem (Lk. 19:41-44). If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace…What that verse means, what that peace is, and how Jesus brings it about is something that is then worked out throughout the book. Fight Like Jesus takes a day-by-day, blow-by-blow look at the final week of Jesus—at the events that would bring peace—and encourages readers to follow in those footsteps, even though they lead to a cross.
Despite its devotional tone, Fight Like Jesus is also very theological and very practical. In the chapter covering the cleansing of the Temple, Porterfield spends time debunking the popular imagery of Jesus acting violently and using whips on people. It’s perhaps an excessive explanation for a book of that tone and length, but it highlights the need to be clear that this was not a violent action. That also sets up the book’s practicality. Porterfield gives readers three lessons based on the Temple cleansing: (1) peacemakers assess before they act, (2) peacemakers are not passive, and (3) peacemakers channel their zeal into acts that heal and restore. Every chapter weaves in these clear lessons, summarized in single-sentence headers amid a thorough yet concise overview of the historical and cultural background of the week. The end result is a book that is rich historically and theologically, with ample opportunity for application.
Perhaps to make the book feel less like a typical devotional, discussion questions for each chapter are not included in the main text, but are offered as an appendix to the book. There are five or six questions included per chapter and they are meant to be reflective questions, not tests of memory or knowledge. Whether you’re working through this book alone, as I was, or in a group—which I plan on doing next year—the questions help you go beyond the text to bring you into the lessons the book is teaching.
Fight Like Jesus is one of those books that I’m going to return to time and time again. I’d love to see an official small group video series made from this to get even more content from Jason. If not, I’ll have to be content to adapt it for a small group use myself because this isn’t a book that’s just going back on the shelf, it’s one to share with others and talk about.