Book Interview with Frank Viola: “The Day I Met Jesus”

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Frank, I am not going to lie; I cried throughout this whole book!  “The Day I Met Jesus: Revealing the Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels” by you and Mary Demuth was truly an alive piece of literature.  I thought it would be a quick read, but I ended up needing to take my time with it because there was so much depth to this 198 page book.

I am not kidding.  I would read a little and just become undone and have to put the book down to ponder a while.  Although I have always known Jesus had a “soft spot” for broken women, this book really brought this knowledge alive for me in a new way.  

I could relate to all five woman’s stories to some degree, but the one that spoke to my heart personally the most was the “Diary of a Woman with a Flow of Blood.”  I am a pro at “trooping along,” but I have suffered with chronic migraines since I was 13-years-old which have led to a whole host of issues. When we suffer with any type of chronic illness as Christians, it is easy to feel as if Jesus has left us.  I know I am going out of order, but will you tell us a little bit about Jesus’ heart for women suffering with chronic illness in the Bible? 

Jesus has a special place in His heart for those who suffer, both women and men. In fact, much of His earthly ministry was dedicated to alleviating it. In the book, Mary and I sketch out some of the principles at work which involve faith and patience. As you know from reading it, there’s a whole lot more to the woman with the issue of blood than we notice at first glance when we read the story in the Gospels.

My second favorite chapter was the “Diary of the Woman Whom Jesus Loved.” One of the questions I get a lot from those who challenge egalitarian views is this: “If women were meant to serve in the same ways as men in the ministry, then why did Jesus have only male disciples?”  How would you answer the skeptic’s question using Mary of Bethany’s example? 

He didn’t just have male disciples. As far as we know, Jesus was the first rabbi in the first-century to have female disciples. A group of women whom Luke calls “the Women” — which is the female counterpart to “the Twelve” — followed Jesus wherever He went. Luke says that that these women, in fact, took care of the Lord’s needs.

When Jesus was crucified, the women were the more faithful, for they stayed with Him until the bitter end and watched Him die. And even beyond that, they were still taking care of Him after He died, tending to His body. We bring all of this out in the book scripturally and from first-century Jewish culture, but it’s a shocker for many modern evangelicals today.

My third favorite story was the “Diary of a Prostitute Who Loved Much.”  One of the things I love about Jesus the most is his indifference to “law” and “scandal” when it comes to loving well.  He does not ever seem to mind breaking the rules of tradition, religion, and societal norms if it means loving well.  I think we become so use to hearing that “Jesus loved the sinner” that we don’t truly understand how many rules Jesus broke to do this well and how tolerant he was of human’s messy sexual conditions.  It is my opinion that the church struggles to love the sexual sinner more than any other sinner.  How can we do better in this and what can we learn from Jesus’ reaction to the prostitute who loved much?

When we look at the narratives in the Gospels as a whole, it’s quite clear that the self-righteous, “moral purists” of Jesus’ day who judged everyone else raised the ire of our Lord the greatest. By contract, Jesus had great compassion on and patience toward the “sinners,” the publicans, tax collectors and the sexually immoral.

In Paul’s lists of sins that bar one from the kingdom of God, slander ranks just as high as fornication. The bottom line is that all sin is wrong in God’s eyes, and there is (thankfully) redemption for all sin. But playing the “sin metrics” game (your sin is greater than mine) is dangerous and contains no points of contact with the spirit of the Lamb, who died for all sinners and for all sin.

Really understanding how Jesus views all sin, especially self-righteousness, is the cure for this problem. In the book, we explore this entire question in detail as we highlight the five women from the Gospels, giving us yet another fresh look at Jesus.

My fourth favorite chapter was the “Diary of a Desperate Samaritan Woman.” Again, we see Jesus breaking all the rules to have a respectful conversation with a despised “sexual sinner” who was married and divorced five times and currently living with a man she was not married to.  I related to her insecurity.  As women, we struggle with insecurity a lot and often resort to validation by mere men.  It amazes me how this women went from being so insecure that she avoided people to so secure that she ran into town as bold as can be to tell others about the Messiah.  How do you think Jesus makes insecure women confident in themselves again?

As we point out in the book, she was married five times, but she may not have been divorced that many times. Some of her husbands may have died. But it’s highly unlikely that they all did, so she was a multiple divorcee who was living in an illicit relationship (with a sixth man) when Jesus encountered her.

In answer to your question, when we truly encounter the King of this world and realize that He thinks the world of us, whether we are male or female, His love and acceptance instills confidence in us. This woman was so excited about who she had met and how He treated her that she forgot about what the townspeople thought of her. She had just met Someone who was far more important than they were and He had accepted her.

My fifth favorite story was the “Diary of the Woman Caught in Adultery.”  This biblical narrative never grows old and I love how you and Mary put a fresh spin on the story.  Women don’t just become adulterers normally, but are lacking in love somewhere in their lives.  Jesus seems to always choose the side of the broken sinner over the “unbroken” self-righteous.  The truth is that if we are honest we can all relate to the woman caught in the act of sin as God sees all.  What do you think we can learn from Jesus’ reaction to her messy life and His reaction to those who think they have it altogether? 

There’s a tremendous amount behind this short story in the Gospels when we pull back the curtain and read it with first-century eyes. To answer your question, your blog readers can read the entire chapter for themselves. They can click here to read it, which will also give them a taste of how the rest of the book reads.

I whole hardheartedly recommend this book to both women and men.  These five women and their stories allow us to see the very heart of God, His passion for gender equality, and His compassion for the broken sinner.  The love of Jesus is so attractive to the woman who knows she is broken and I can honestly say that I have grown closer with God after reading this book.  A special thank you to you and Mary for creating it.

Where is the best place for my readers to purchase this book? 

Your readers can go to The Day I Met Jesus website which has endorsements by the top female and male Christian leaders of our time, a sample chapter, and a link to get the book on discount. It also has a Master Course that brings readers much deeper into the themes discussed in the book.

Thank you so much for your time Frank!

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