His Unconditional Love
by Judy Barnes

"I am the resurrection, and the life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet will he live."

In her work, Barnes caters to all audiences, especially younger ones, by providing a more digestible version of scripture that most prominently features the New Testament from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus encounters a character named Benjamin, who is reeling after being robbed and beaten savagely by another group on the trail. With Benjamin as the observer and student, the representation of every man, the author tells the stories of Jesus’ miracles and his ultimate sacrifice.

Written from a narrative perspective, the stories of Jesus are ideal for Sunday School teachings. Where Barnes’ book stands out among similar works of faith is her unique character creation. Specifically, Benjamin is the eyes of the audience, and through him, the audience is transported right alongside Jesus, feeling the emotion, awe, and angst of Jesus' journey. Sifting through the density of language in the Bible—a work originally written in Hebrew and Greek, then translated into early modern English—the author allows youth to establish a more direct connection with the activities of Jesus Christ rather than simply being told of his sacrifices and hearing of his lore.

In Barnes’ text, Jesus of Nazareth embarked on a path to Jerusalem when his own people rebuked him for claiming that he had received the gospel directly from God. From changing water to wine and infusing a lifeless girl with breath in a room full of mourners to the story of John the Baptist and the angel and Mary, the Lord’s entire trajectory of events is incorporated into the endeavor. Through miracle after miracle and healing after healing, Jesus Christ lays out the pathway for wandering minds to defeat temptation and Satan in his many forms while staying the course of the Lord’s love. In particular, the segment on Satan’s attempt to tempt Jesus is especially intriguing as he pulls out all the stops to trap him, but to no avail.

Though simplified for those that are freshly acquainted with scripture, Barnes does not abandon her more scholarly audience. In fact, every reference to the stories detailed within the book is accompanied by a direct one to where the scripture can be found in its original translation. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of employing a narrative-based text when it comes to faith-based fiction is the ability to cover a wide range of moments in Jesus’ history—both those commonly known and many lesser-known ones as well. For instance, Jesus assuring his mother, Mary, that all would have enough to eat of lamb, fruit, and vegetables is incredibly refreshing.

From Benjamin’s perspective, Jesus’ every action is purposeful, with the sole intent to teach and provide a divine love to humanity—one that is unconditional, unassuming, and forgiving. Above all else, Barnes’ love for the story, particularly the story of the Lord, is on full display, as is her resolve to present the story of Christ to the modern generation where it becomes less of a text to study and more of one to embrace unconditionally.

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