James Martin, SJ
HarperOne, 384 pages | Published Sep. 5, 2023
It’s easy to accept Come Forth’s assertion that the raising of Lazarus is Jesus’ most powerful miracle, but does it lend itself to a full-length book, meaty enough to satisfy scholars yet accessible to a popular audience? Yes! Jesuit priest James Martin takes a satisfying approach that mines John 11 for new interpretations and translations — and even a few hot takes on common understandings of the story and its characters.
By first traveling to Lazarus’ tomb (then and now), Martin shares tales of modern pilgrims that make us eager to enter into the story. He visits each character as though starting with a blank slate, wondering if we’ve misunderstood Martha and Mary all along, even exploring more recent scholarship that suggests that Martha is a later insertion to the story. Martin probes the story’s key questions with a similar depth and openness, wondering why Jesus waited two days longer before responding to his friend’s plea for help, as well as inviting multiple explanations for Jesus’ tears. Martin explores the implications, inviting us to engage with Jesus as insistently as Martha did; his enthusiasm is infectious.
With particular sensitivity, Martin traces anti-Semitism in the Christian church back to the disparaging depiction of “the Jews” in John’s gospel, even apologizing for past sins. With reflection questions concluding each chapter, and photos and artwork throughout, Come Forth allows for personal reflection or thoughtful group discussion.
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