Bill Easum Interviews Frank Viola on the new book JESUS MANFIESTO
I had a chance to chat with Frank Viola recently. You may recall, Frank has published some cutting edge books lately. Then along came Jesus Manifesto coauthored with Len Sweet, a long time friend. When I asked Frank if he would talk with me about the book, he was gracious to talk to me. Here are the results of our conversation.
Frank, it’s good to have you do this interview. I know our readers are to benefit greatly. What motivated you both to write this book?
For years, Len and I both shared a burden and concern that Jesus has been getting short-changed in many quarters of His church. In our observation, scores of Christians are excited about and majoring in things that are about Jesus, while Christ Himself is getting left out in the cold.
It appears that there’s a segment of the Christian church that wants to be the hands and feet of Jesus, while detaching themselves from the Head. Others want to bring attention to the work of Christ in the past, but don’t care too much about seeking His face or living by His Risen life in the present.
So we felt to do a project together that would not only give Christ His rightful place . . . that would not only exalt Him beyond the exosphere . . . but that would also unveil His breathtaking Person in ways that would re-introduce Him in a powerfully fresh way to many of God’s people, leaving them staggering to hunger and thirst for Him and Him alone. Our book seeks to bring together the atoning work of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus, and the Person of Christ into one enormous whole in the context of knowing Christ as our indwelling Lord as Galatians 2:20, Colossians 2, and Romans 8 vividly describe.
Let me give you an example of how deep the problem runs. Take for instance the four Gospels. A question sometimes asked is “What are the main themes of the four Gospels?” And so people will begin counting words and underling terms. “The Kingdom of God” is a popular answer. “Eternal Life” is another. “Salvation” another. But the governing theme of all four Gospels is none of the above. In fact, it’s as plain as the nose on an Italian’s face, yet we routinely and frequently miss it. (I’m Italian by the way 😉
The theme is JESUS CHRIST.
What are the four Gospels? Among other things, they are the content of what Twelve men who lived with God in human form for a little over 3 years presented to a new group of Christians beginning on the day of Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem. They preached Christ to those new believers for about four years. They told the stories of what it was like to live with Him. What He said, did, taught, etc.
The first church on earth was built on a revelation of Jesus Christ. And that revelation is partly contained in the four Gospels. Yet we very rarely hear the four Gospels described in this way.
Let me go a little further. One of the things that has fascinated me as a Christian is the fact that Paul of Tarsus would spend several months with a new church plant in heathen soil, and then return after a year to find them still gathering under Christ and following Him. In fact, last year, I wrote an entire book about this very subject. The question before the house for me was: “What on earth did Paul preach to those people in the space of a few months to cause that kind of dynamic and sustaining effect?” Remember, that was a day in which there was no NT available, the OT scrolls were scarce and locked up in the synagogues, and 90% of those new Christians were illiterate.
Right or wrong, I believe that some of what we have presented in Jesus Manifesto gets close to what Paul preached. He called it “the unsearchable riches of Christ” in Ephesians – something we don’t hear too often today. We feel (and hope) that Jesus Manifesto gives readers a glimpse of some of those riches.