Published by Crossway Books on April 14, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Theology
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The story of Jesus includes all kinds of characters. Some see these people as mere examples to follow or to avoid, and some have only heard about them in Sunday school stories. But their interactions with Jesus reveal much more about the person of Jesus himself and the message he has for us. Saints and Scoundrels in the Story of Jesus tells the story of 10 people or groups of people who are integral to the story of Jesus told in the Gospels. Each chapter takes a character off the Sunday school felt board and reveals them as a three-dimensional person with desires, motivations, flaws, and limitations. They are more than examples--they show us a unique angle on the grace available through Jesus for sinners. Each chapter also offers challenging applications to the lives of readers.
In Saints and Scoundrels in the Story of Jesus, Nancy Guthrie explores Jesus’s life and ministry from the perspective of the different people he interacted with. The chapters have titles like “the family,” “the hypocrites,” and “the priest,” and she portrays each person or group with complexity, helping her readers see them as more than just Flannel-graph figures. She vividly portrays the context and influences at play in each person’s story, and even though she occasionally reflects on what someone might have been thinking or feeling, she clearly distinguishes all personal speculation from the biblical record and her historical source material.
Guthrie writes in an engaging style, keeping each chapter unique. For the most part, they all focus on different narratives, but when there is overlap, it adds texture to the story by showing how different people viewed and responded to the same events. She also includes convicting questions and encouraging gospel applications in each chapter, helping her readers see themselves in the characters and understand Jesus’s love and mercy for them. Each chapter of Saints and Scoundrels in the Story of Jesus ends with a quotation from a hymn, which I think is a nice touch. Guthrie handles Scripture well throughout the entire book, quoting from biblical narratives and incorporating Old Testament and New Testament context.
Since I have already read extensively about the historical details of Jesus’s life, there was not a lot here that was new to me, but I appreciate Guthrie’s solid teaching and her sensitivity to keep the book accessible to anyone, regardless of their background with Jesus and the church. This book is a good resource for both Christians and seekers who want to better understand Jesus, his relationships and cultural context, and how he changes people’s lives.
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