By Angela Hunt
Bethany House, 2015, 320 pages
“Risen,” a major film production, is due out in theaters on Friday, February 19th. I came across this novelization of the screenplay at my local Barnes and Noble and thought I’d give it a try.
With Jesus crucified and his dead body entombed, the Jewish religious leaders are able to breathe a BIG sigh of relief. The “imposter,” who said he was the Messiah and had caused great unrest, had finally been eliminated. But if the Nazarene’s body was removed from the tomb by his disciples, they could claim he had risen just as he had predicted, “making the last deception worst than the first.” The Roman governor, Pilate, agrees to seal the tomb and post a contingent of Roman soldiers under the command of Tribune Clavius Aquila Valerius Niger, who had also supervised Jesus’ crucifixion. Clavius, a hardened veteran of many military campaigns and dedicated to the cause of the empire so far as it advances his career, has struck up an unlikely relationship with Rachel, a lonely Jewish widow looking for love. Their clandestine affair appears to have absolutely no future.
Incredibly disturbing news soon reaches Pilate: Jesus’ tomb is empty! The governor angrily orders Clavius to find the missing body, or else! The tribune desperately searches for clues to the whereabouts of the Nazarene’s body, leading to MUCH more than he bargained for.
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Ms. Hunt does a decent job of weaving the Biblical account of Jesus’ resurrection with fictional embroidery. As would be expected, the book generally avoids doctrinal controversy; both Christians and quasi-christian legalists can read this book without getting their feathers too ruffled. But I did appreciate the book’s stand on salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus alone:
“I (the risen Yeshua) loved you enough to present my blood as your sin offering. Enough to give my life as your peace offering. Forgiveness is yours, if you will only accept it.”
“It cannot be that simple,” I (Clavius) argued. “Even the Jews know that a man has to live a holy life, do certain things, offer sacrifices-.”
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” Yeshua said. “Because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
He (Yeshua) straightened his back, hugging his knees as he lifted his gaze toward the heavens again. “The work of salvation…is finished. Even for you.” – pp.292-293.
Clavius comes face-to-face with the risen Christ and must choose; will he continue his life as before or will he accept Jesus as his Savior and follow Him? Boy, can I relate to wrestling with that choice!
We often think about Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross for our sins. We’ll never be able to fathom the depths of that love. But His glorious resurrection was His absolute victory over sin and death! He offers eternal life and fellowship with God to all who accept Him as Savior. I shed a few tears reading this book contemplating ALL my Savior has done for me. Thinking about His magnificent resurrection sent chills down my spine.
I pray the Holy Spirit uses “Risen” to draw people to the Savior and that many will accept Him.