by Brock and Bodie Thoene
Book Review by Mesu Andrews
LAZARUS—the man Jesus raised from the dead, but the life of Lazarus holds interest well beyond this miraculous event. Living in Bethany, near Jerusalem, Lazarus witnessed many of the most important events of Jesus’s life and ministry. Lazarus owned a vineyard and devoted his life to caring for its vines and fruit. But Jesus’ vineyard was the world, its fruit the eternal souls of men. When Lazarus’s story and the story of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection intersect in When Jesus Wept, we are offered a unique vision into the power and comfort of Christ’s love.
☻☻☻☻☻ (5 out of 5 smiles)
This is the first biblical novel I’ve read by Brock and Bodie Thoene, and it engaged every element I hope for in a great Bible story. The historical details were masterfully woven into the story, seasoning every character and scene perfectly—not so much that they overwhelmed or so little that they felt like an addendum.
The Thoenes presented familiar Bible characters in ways that challenged my long-held assumptions, making me re-think the identity of the woman caught in adultery, Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Bethany. Who were these women, and what was their relationship with Jesus, Lazarus, and Lazarus’ sisters? Scripture gives some detail, but what does Jewish tradition say? What could we imagine to be true—given the cultural information that Brock and Bodie bring to life in such a realistic way?
I expected to find a quaint story about Lazarus and his two sisters but discovered a truly moving account of a godly, less-than-perfect, hard-working man who dealt with unforgiveness and searched for answers to the same hard questions I’ve asked my Creator. At one point, while helping his hired hand deal with a matter of revenge, Lazarus asks this searching question: “Could it be that [your current] happiness [is] more important than revenge?”
Other poignant and challenging themes run through this novel, drawing us to look deeper into ourselves and God’s Word through the eyes of these characters.
With biblical novels, we always begin reading with some knowledge of the book’s direction and ending, right? I knew When Jesus Wept would detail the scene when Jesus stood before Lazarus’ tomb and wept with Martha over her brother’s death—but I wasn’t ready for the emotions I’d feel when I read those words.
After reading this book, I understand the shortest verse in the Bible differently. “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) for so much more than Martha’s grief or even His own grief at losing an earthly friend. The Thoenes describe Lazarus’ reaction to hearing Jesus’ weeping from the grave: “…his holy sob ripped me loose from the timeless conversation with the ageless ones.”
Have you ever wondered what/who Lazarus saw first when he walked out of that tomb? Brock and Bodie Thoene imagined it this way: “I [Lazarus] spotted Jesus over Mary’s shoulder. Sorrow for me filled his eyes. Of all those who witnessed my return from the vineyards of heaven to fallen earth, only Jesus knew what joy and beauty I had left behind.”
Beautifully written. Well researched. Spiritually challenging and uplifting. When Jesus Wept is a great addition to your biblical novel collection. Buy it. Read it. And then read it again.