Book Review: Jesus the Fool

Dan Bennett reviews Michael Frost, Jesus the Fool (Baker Books, 2010).

In Jesus The Fool: The Mission of the Unconventional Christ, Mike Frost explores ideas and examples of true followers of Jesus who, by the very nature of the call of Jesus, express themselves in seemingly foolish ways to the culture.

Frost seeks to show the “vital, lively, mischievous, dynamic, energetic way in which Jesus lived life and took a small band of men and women on a journey they would never forget.” In his chapter, “Jesus The Jester,” Frost suggests that not only did Jesus play the misguided fool in the face of prestige and influence through His humility, He also played the fool in order to enhance His ministry.

Frost explores various images of Jesus that seem contradictory to current evangelicalism’s picture of the put-together, westernized Messiah.Jesus amassed no earthly wealth, had no sons to carry on His name, was not widely traveled and was not well educated.

mike-frost

The Apostle Paul notes the foolishness of Christ in 1 Corinthians 1 and 3, attesting to the call for us to become fools as Christ was, for His sake. Frost works through how, in humility, Jesus reframes our perspective on everything from forgiveness and our relationship with God to our view of others and our attitude to the poor.

An example of Frost’s exploration of biblical parables is especially poignant. In the parable Jesus tells of the merciful manager—where the manager acts as a go-between for the landlord and his tenants—Frost shows how the manager shrewdly halves the bills owing of the tenants and gives the impression that he, the manager, had a hand in convincing the landlord of the reduction. “Imagine the response from the community! An impromptu celebration would have resulted…glasses would have been raised in toasts to their noble landlord” (p163).Frost explains that the landlord would have had to either consider firing the manager, which would lead to a bad relationship with the tenants, or, he could keep silent and let the manager bask in his glory as part of the landlord’s generous plan to bless them the tenants.

The parable is not what was expected to come out of Jesus’ mouth—it was foolishness—and yet it pointed to the way that the manager, in a tight situation, where he was at the end of his human capacities, “recognized his own impotence and gambled on the landlord’s grace” (p165). Which, of course, is what the kingdom of God is like. “Dishonest, disreputable people who have no way of earning salvation” who recognize their hopelessness can rely on the grace and mercy of God. This is foolishness to the world.

As my pastoral role includes equipping our church in the area of stewardship, I particularly appreciated the passage on page 174-170 on profaning money by making the evil power of filthy lucre impotent through the process that Jaques Ullul calls, “gracing.” In disempowering money through giving it away to the marginalized and poor, whom St.Francis of Assisi called “sacramental,” we call attention to the author of grace and mercy whom we truly worship.

Utter foolishness and yet, a deep challenge to consider the direction we choose to live.

Dan Bennett,
Southside Community Church

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