Are you looking for an excellent easy-to-read summary of the life of Jesus? Adam Hamilton’s thoughtful, pithy and yet accurate and perceptive volume, The Way, is just what you are looking for. It is part of a series that Hamilton is writing that are inspired by trips to the Holy Land and use on-location geographical insights and descriptions to enrich the exposition. Hamilton is Senior Pastor at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.
Each chapter focuses on an incident in Jesus’ life and the area of Palestine where it happened. Other incidents in Jesus’ ministry that happened in that same area are referenced too. The parallel DVD includes footage from the spot. In it Hamilton delivers a short devotional message related to Jesus’ ministry in that place. Places covered include: The Jordan River and the Wilderness, Capernaum, the Mountains, the Sea of Galilee, Samaria, and Jerusalem.
Hamilton’s exposition of the gospel is solid and biblical. His writing is to the point and insightful. He covers basic themes needed to understand salvation such as repentance, the meaning of Jesus death, and hearing Jesus’ call to become his disciple. Here are some excellent quotes.
About our baptisms:
For us, as Christ followers, baptism is also meant as a defining act. Through our baptism we are claimed by God, anointed with the Spirit, and set aside for God’s purposes. Our brokenness is recognized and God’s grace is promised. And in our baptisms we are initiated into, and become a part of, God’s covenant people. We are meant to remember our baptisms each day. Even if we don’t remember the act of baptism itself, remember that God has promised to forgive our sins, that we are called to ministry, that the Holy Spirit resides in us, and that we are God’s children. P. 32
About the wilderness of Judea where Jesus was tempted:
As I left the Monastery of the Temptation, I walked down a path where most visitors don’t go. It took me back to the mountainside, just below the monastery. I imagine to Jesus walking down this desolate path, with nothing to eat or drink, sleeping alone in a cave, and I was reminded that the wilderness is often a metaphor for those places we don’t want to go, when life seems barren and the road seems hard and we seem to be wrestling with evil… All of us sojourn in the wilderness at times in our lives, feeling hopeless and all alone. Yet when we pay attention and listen, God comes to us and uses the wilderness to strengthen and sanctify us. Pp. 35, 36
On Jesus healing of the sick man who was let down through a roof:
There are several things we can take away from this story. The first is that all of us need stretcher-bearers. At the church I serve, we talk about this a lot. I ask our members regularly: who are the people who would pick you up, tear off the roof, and lower you to Jesus. We all need friends like that, whose faith is strong even when ours is weak, who are our friends not just in word but in deed. These friendships don’t just happen; you have to invest in them. Pp. 61, 62
The chapter on Jesus’ final week is especially well done. It is ostensibly organized by each day of Holy week. But thematically, it is organized around the question, “What kind of a king is Jesus?” Hamilton draws vivid and enlightening contrasts between Pontius Pilate and Herod and the humble man from Nazareth who came riding into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey. Each day’s section builds with one more reason to praise and one more help to understanding our wonderful King of Kings.
Hamilton says he is often asked if he really believes in the resurrection of Jesus. Here is his answer:
I not only believe it; I’m counting on it. I’m counting on the fact that there is always hope. I’m counting on the fact that God walks with us through hell and back again. I’m counting on the fact that God forgives our sins and that He’s the God of the second chance. I’m counting on the fact that ultimately we don’t have to be afraid. I’m counting on the fact that sin and hate and sickness and death will not have the final word. When we walk in the footsteps of the resurrected Christ, we walk with hope. P. 167
I highly recommend this small volume and its accompanying DVD. I am using them as resources for a Lent/Easter sermon series. They would also serve admirably as study material for private devotion or for a small group. Resources for children and youth to study this are available too.