I’ve been privileged and blessed to hear Claudia Barba speak a few times, so when I saw she had written a book called When Christ Was Here: a Woman’s Bible Study, I was happy to order it. I was just finishing the gospels in my reading through the Bible, so the book was timely for me.
Claudia opens with the importance of studying the doctrine of Christ’s incarnation, because “every false religion is an open denial or some sort of distortion of this doctrine” (p. 1). The first chapters study the claims and testimony in Scripture about Jesus’s deity, then one chapter is devoted to His humanity. The remaining chapters focus on Jesus and different types of people (His earthly family, the self-righteous, social and moral outcasts, people in pain, people who fail, the discouraged) and different situations (trials and temptation), because, she points out, “You need to know how He lived on earth because you are commanded to live as He lived. “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” (I John 2:6).
Much of the book was familiar territory (I had forgotten until halfway through the book that Claudia’s father, Dr. Otis Holmes, had been the professor for my Life of Christ class in college! Though I can’t remember specifics from the class, I am sure its truths became a part of my thinking.) But it was good to go over it again: we’re instructed often in Scripture to remember what we’ve been taught, and if we don’t, all too often we can veer off the straight path of Scripture.
Some thoughts were new to me, though, or opened my understanding a bit more.
For instance, in John 5:19, Jesus said, “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” Claudia comments, “He was not saying that He did not have adequate power alone but that because of their essential union, He could not act independently of His Father” (p. 15).
A particularly interesting chapter was the one on Jesus’s earthly family. “Doesn’t it seem strange that those who lived so closely with Jesus did not believe on Him? Even His example of perfect holiness in daily living was not enough to bring belief to their hearts. Their rejection says nothing at all about Him but everything about them” (p. 40). This should be enlightening in considering “lifestyle evangelism,” the thought of just being a witness by our godly lifestyles without verbally witnessing: even a perfect lifestyle does not convert people (though our lives must back up what we believe). I am sure Jesus spoke truth to His family as well as living it, and thankfully some of them did come to believe on Him after the resurrection, and I am sure His godly life as well as the words He had spoken had new meaning to them then.
Another eye-opening section to me in the chapter on moral outcasts had to do with Simon and the woman known as a sinner who washed His feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed them with ointment from an alabaster box (from Luke 7).
Simon had thought that Jesus didn’t recognize the real sinner in the room. But He did, of course. It just wasn’t the one Simon thought it was! (p. 74).
There’s irony here, for the sinner is praised as a saint, and the “saint” is exposed as the real sinner (p. 74).
Simon loved little, not because he had fewer sins, but because he thought he didn’t need forgiveness (p. 75).
This was the first time it dawned on me that when Jesus said, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little” (Luke 7:47), the point was not just her great sin which had been forgiven: it was also that Simon had great sin as well, but he just didn’t realize it. It’s not that her sins were big and his were little: it was that she loved much because hers were forgiven, but he didn’t love much (he didn’t even extend the common courtesies of the day to Jesus) because his sins weren’t forgiven because he had not acknowledged them.
In “Jesus and People in Pain,” part of the chapter deals with Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus died, and Jesus had not come to them when they sent word that Lazarus was sick. “[Jesus] doesn’t delay because He doesn’t know, doesn’t love, or doesn’t care. His delays are for our good. They are designed to accomplish much greater purposes’ (p. 82).
In “Jesus and People Who Fail”:
Jesus allowed Peter to be sifted as wheat (Luke 22:31). This is not the sort of sifting of flour you are familiar with. It’s a winnowing process, the tossing of grain in a bowl that allows the breeze to blow away the chaff (hulls, dust), and leave behind only the good grain. The Lord let Satan “shake up” Peter through this failure, and as a result, much fleshly self-reliance was filtered from his character. (p. 99)
If you have failed, don’t despair. Repent and begin again! But never forget what you are capable of, and use your experience to help others (p. 101).
That phrase “never forget what you are capable of” is most sobering to me. That is one good thing that comes out of failure, though: the reminder of what we’re capable of when we lean on our own strength instead of His, the reminder of how we need to stay every close to Him and in His Word and to rely on Him to keep us.
From “Jesus and Temptation”:
Temptation is not designed to make you fail or give you an excuse to sin. Instead, it is an opportunity for you to find the way of escape, to glorify God by defeating Satan. (p. 130).
If you are looking for a rich, meaty Bible study, if you feel the need to “turn your eyes upon Jesus,” this book is for you.
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)