Imaginary Jesus—My Review
Who hasn't asked the eternal "Why?" question? In our effort to answer our own question when heaven seems silent, we often come up with all the wrong answers or, as in Matt Mikalatos' case, the wrong Jesus to believe in.
For me, Imaginary Jesus had the same shock value as The Shack, though the "irreverence," if you can call it that, of Imaginary Jesus is on the comic side rather than the heavier weight of Young's writing.
Mikalatos takes us on a chase through the ages in a search for the real Jesus. As we wade through the mind-boggling number of imaginary ones, including: Bargain Jesus, Conservative-Truth-Telling Jesus, Emergent Jesus, Feminist Jesus, and 8-ball Jesus, we are accompanied, among others, by the Apostle Peter, a donkey named Daisy, and a reformed prostitute.
Running through the book, like a red cord, is the eternal "Why?" question. Matt, in this denominated "not-quite-true" story, lost a child and has never been able to reconcile that lost with the Jesus he thought he knew.
Though the book is "comic" in many ways, it still hits hard and fast at our misconceptions about Jesus. From the beginning we are told what we need to do. Peter says: "If you never confront the imaginary Jesus, he'll keep popping up perverting what you know about the real Jesus. You need to look him in the face, recognize that he's fake and renounce him" (pg. 19). Matt chases his imaginary Jesus through the streets of Portand and through ancient Israel. The fakes are illusive and definitely do not like to be challenged. But when he finally meets the real Jesus, it is Matt who is challenged.
Many pages of my copy of the book are turned down. There are all kinds of underlinings and notes in the margins. I said a huge "amen" when, at the beginning of the book, Peter tells Matt that he would have followed Jesus without any promises. "I wanted to be like that man…I saw his life…Even without the promise of eternal life, I gave up everything to follow him, I didn't know him well. But I knew him well enough," he says (pg. 48). I was a little disappointed that this idea wasn't carried through to the end of the book and that it was all about what was received from Jesus that seemed to make a greater impact than who Jesus was. However, the lessons taught through this wild ride through time and space remain worthwhile lessons to learn.
For all the shock value of its style, Imaginary Jesus makes some excellent, heavy-duty, statements that made me think about some of my own "inventing" when it comes to Jesus. To my mind, that's a good thing and makes the book well worth the read.
Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of IMAGINARY JESUS for review purposes.