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The Secret Message of Jesus

March 20, 2006

First let me say that I received an advance reader’s copy of this book. I was asked by the publisher to write a review and post it on my blog and on There was never any further requirements on what to say in this review.

Brian McLaren offers much to be discussed in The Secret Message of Jesus. The subtitle is “Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything”.

Everyone loves to hear a secret. And for many the message of this book may come as a secret. It may be news to them. McLaren draws on a number of others’ writings in this book. People like Dallas Willard, N.T. Wright, and others. I have read most but not all of McLaren’s books and one of his strengths is taking the thoughts of others and putting them in ways that are easily understood. This book follows that trend in his writings.

If you don’t want to know what the secret is then don’t read any further, just go buy the book and read it.

The book is about the “Kingdom of God” as it is expressed in the Bible. Or equally it is about “Life to the Full” or “Real Life” or “Eternal Life”. This was Jesus’ favorite subject. He talked about this constantly. But as McLaren points out the Church has watered this down over the centuries.

The books starts out establishing the Jewish culture and political scene that Jesus was born and lived within. McLaren does his usual job of deconstructing the culture so that it is easily understood. This is something he has done in the past to help express an understanding of the current culture.

The book builds on this understanding to show that Jesus’ message was not outside of the context which he lived. It further points out that the Kingdom, which he says would not be the analogy that Jesus would use today, is not just about atonement. That is that Jesus’ message is not just about life after death. It has profound implications to the here and now.

The last few chapters of the book are ones that I found particularly thought provoking. In one of those chapters McLaren draws back to the beginning of the book, and the different Jewish sects that existed. He then shows how each of those had a distinct view of the “afterlife”. Then he shows how that Jesus’ message didn’t fully fit into any of their concepts.

This book shows how radical Jesus’ message was and is. It is radical and has deep implications for today and how followers of Jesus should live.

In a chapter titled “The Scandal of the Message” it is pointed out that Jesus sometimes makes easily misunderstood statements, “exposing his neck, so to speak, to those who will take the chance to slit it….His critics interpret his statements in the worst possible light and again, in their ugly response, show what they’re made of and what drives them.” I am sure that some will find fault with this book, maybe their reaction will show more of what they’re made of than what the book is about.

The book contains three appendixes that deal with the Lord’s Prayer, Why this understanding was not seen sooner and the third titled “Plotting Goodness”. The book is worth the price of admission for these alone.

McLaren writes that this book is not meant to answer all your questions, but that he hopes it will make you hungry and thirsty for more. I think it will do just that.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 20, 2006 9:00 pm

    I can’t wait to read the book. I have thought a lot about “the kingdom as Jesus talked about it.

    I want all my questions answered, but I realize that no man is going to be able to do that for me.

  2. March 20, 2006 10:07 pm

    Thanks for a great review. I still haven’t picked up a McLaren book believe it or not. He is John’s favorite writer and one of mine via osmosis.

  3. March 21, 2006 10:26 am

    For what is worth, I would suggest starting with “A New Kind of Christian”.

  4. March 22, 2006 10:39 pm

    Thanks, Tommy. That is the one I was thinking of reading first to get introduced to his material.

  5. March 26, 2006 3:37 pm

    TCS, thanks for the SUPER review, and I am looking forward to devouring this book.

    Your brother,

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