Oh goodness, what a book! As this hilarious “not-quite-true” story opens, Matt Mikalatos is in his favorite trendy little café with his hip personal Jesus when someone walks in and socks Matt’s Jesus on the nose. Jesus takes off, robes flapping in the wind, with Matt and the stranger Pete (aka the Apostle Peter) in hot pursuit. And so begins a wild journey to discover the real Jesus amidst all the fakes.
Because there are plenty of fakes. Along the way we meet a plethora of false Jesuses, each based on a particular trait or ideal Mikalatos has dreamed up. There’s Perpetually Angry Jesus and Harley Jesus and Testerone Jesus. There’s Political Power Jesus and Peacenik Jesus (those two end up brawling) and Free Will Jesus and Meticulous Jesus (those two also clash).
There are more Jesuses than I can enumerate here, and each one has a grain of truth that has been magnified to swallow up his whole character. What did Voltaire say — God created man in His own image, and we’ve been returning the favor ever since? So true!
This book is a crazy mixture of genres. There’s some autobiographical stuff mixed in with all the bizarre situations and characters. We have a talking donkey and a Frog of Hate. There is much loving parody of Christian culture (like when Mikalatos is transported to first-century Palestine and starts looking around for the modern-day kids from Christian animated movies who are time-warped to Bible times to be part of the adventure, haha). There are some laugh-out-loud lines, like this:
The first century smelled like what Christians call a “men’s retreat.” This is when men leave their wives and children for several days, go to the mountains, and yell at each other, “Stop neglecting your wife and children!”
And yet underneath all the highly entertaining humor and puns and ridiculous scenarios, Mikalatos really is saying something important. He raises questions of loss and pain, and what we do when Jesus doesn’t stop that terrible thing from happening to us. When He fails to meet our expectations. I was challenged to ask myself: what Jesus have I created? And how can I get rid of him for the real thing?
It’s a cliché to say a book made me laugh and cry, but this one actually did. I chuckled out loud at several points, and teared up at others that hit close to home. Mikalatos finally gets to the heart of his journey when he broaches the accusation he’d been silently holding against Jesus all those years. I wonder how many of us carry those accusing questions around with us that we never quite ask Him…
On the back cover blurb, author Gary Thomas compares Mikalatos’s writing with the “imaginative whimsy of C. S. Lewis,” and the comparison is apt. Witty, inventive, and unpredictable, this Sunday-School-lesson-gone-rogue is a fresh take on the tired, safe way we usually approach the Son of God. I look forward to reading more of Mikalatos’s particular brand of reverent hilarity and unexpected depth. Recommended! ()